Ask Leo! #454 – Running CHKDSK, Lost passwords, night time hacking, government waste and more…

*** Featured

How do I change my Hotmail or password if I forgot it?

Passwords have always been a hot topic here on Ask Leo! and particularly among Hotmail – now – users. Apparently, people lose passwords frequently because I get a lot of questions relating to password loss and theft.

If you’ve simply forgotten your password, does provide a couple of approaches to regaining access to your account. Nothing is guaranteed, but if you’ve taken the time to set up recovery information or you can remember various details of your account without being logged into it, then there’s a relatively good chance that you can get it back.

Here’s the approach to take when you’ve lost your password.

Continue Reading: How do I change my Hotmail or password if I forgot it?

Checking and repairing a disk with CHKDSK

CHKDSK has been around since before the days of Windows. This utility has in some ways changed dramatically for new environments and new disk formats. Yet in other ways, it’s pretty much the same old disk checking utility that we’ve been using since the days of DOS.

Regardless of its age or origins, CHKDSK is an important tool for disk maintenance and recovery (in some cases) from a variety of disk-related issues.

Let’s run CHKDSK.

Continue Reading: Checking and repairing a disk with CHKDSK

*** Answercast

AnswerCast #117 - Unstable systems, night time hacking, faster processors, throwing away computers and more...

Wondering if you should upgrade to a 64 bit system or if more hackers come at night? Is your fan whirring a lot or Windows using more and more memory? Do you know what crazy thing officials have done now? All that and more in this Answercast from Ask Leo!

Listen Now!
(Includes the raw transcript on which the articles below were based.)

Why is my computer's fan coming on?
You've checked for dust, but the computer is still running hot. I'll point you in the direction of a few more things that could be causing this heat wave... including a heat wave itself.

Continue reading: Why is my computer's fan coming on?

Should I upgrade to a 64-bit operating system?

You may want to switch to 64-bit just for the speed that comes from being able to use all of the RAM on your computer. Ultimately, it comes down to what you use your machine for and your own time and resources.

Continue reading: Should I upgrade to a 64-bit operating system?

What determines the transfer speed on my home network?
The communication path between two end points will be the slowest piece of the connection path. That will be the maximum speed that you can achieve on any network.

Continue reading: What determines the transfer speed on my home network?

Does an unstable system imply a hardware problem?
System instability is often the result of what we call "software rot." It can be the result of installing and uninstalling lots of programs - and the cure isn't easy.

Continue reading: Does an unstable system imply a hardware problem?

Why is Windows using more memory over time?

It's best not to read too much into available memory. Windows memory management is the stuff of nightmares even for the people who understand it. For the rest of us, it’s just magic.

Continue reading: Why is Windows using more memory over time?

How do I keep my computer from being hacked at night?

Hacking attempts happen all day long. You really need to protect yourself 24/7. Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to stay safe.

Continue reading: How do I keep my computer from being hacked at night?

Can I replace my processor with a faster one?
Replacing your computer's CPU will depend on your motherboard. But there is actually another option to get more speed.

Continue reading: Can I replace my processor with a faster one?

My computer is infected with malware. Should I just throw it out?
Malware is just software. It doesn't destroy your computer hardware in any way. Some work, albeit perhaps significant work, will get you back up and running without needing to destroy anything.

Continue reading: My computer is infected with malware. Should I just throw it out?

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*** Last Issue's Articles

*** Word o' the Week


A hash is a mathematical formula that takes a collection of digital data, like a file, and calculates from it a number. A good hash algorithm has three important properties:

  • It’s one-way. You can calculate the hash from the data, but you can’t recover the original data from the hash.
  • It’s unique. The odds of any two files generating the exact same hash are infinitesimal.
  • It’s unpredictable. That means that it’s basically impossible (technically just “infeasible”) to come up with a file that would produce a specific hash value

For example, a hash generated from a digital document can be used to verify that the digital document isn’t later tampered with. If the document is modified in any way, the hash generated from the modified document will be different than the originally calculated hash. By comparing the hash of the original document with a hash of the current document, it’s possible to say that the document has been altered or not. This is used as an important part of digital signatures.

Hashes are occasionally referred to as checksums or digests.

Examples of common hash algorithms include MD5, SHA1, SHA256.

As an example of a hash, the MD5 has of the text of this article up to and including the dashed line is ee6e045d62e3b5df37273ce791e32f5b. (Hashes are typically represented in hexadecimal. As a decimal number, that would be 316,927,504,179,711,153,212,985,404,493,689,728,859. I think. You can see why we use hex.)

Word o' the Week features a computer term or acronym taken from the Ask Leo! Glossary. If there's a word you're not sure of and would like to see defined, click here to let me know.

*** Featured Reader Comments

Are humans getting more stupid because of computers?

Jason writes:

I'm 31. I can read, write and perform arithmetic, even though I've been around computers and calculators my whole life. Computer is to a pencil and paper what a chainsaw is to an axe. 100 years ago man carried a sharpened wedge mounted to a stick into the woods and felled a tree. Today a man carries a chainsaw and fells the same tree in a lot less time, and he can probably fell a tree with an axe too, maybe not as quickly as a man who has more experience with an axe, but he can still do it if he needs to.

Three tips to make Windows 8 less annoying

W8convert writes:

My most favorite scene in Star Trek is where Scottie is on earth back in time and needs to use an old computer, which he speaks to . "Computer" ... no response, he is then handed a mouse and states "How quaint." We need to get with the times, it's 2013, in the 1970's ours was the era of speeding hover cars and vacationing on Mars.

Has anyone here complaining about Windows 8 purchased a new car or even a second hand car? Some have the gear stick with reverse forward, others back. Some put the indicators and washers on opposing sides of the steering column which makes us turn the wipers on when we turn a corner :) and some hide the high beams on the floor! But hey! We adjust! We don't waste time writing about how our last car had this or that and complain about the manufacturer for making us adjust to left hand indicators!

Truly guys, you have to evolve with the technology. I remember my grandmother saying how hard it was for her when grandad bought her an electric refrigerator, took her ages to adjust not having to put an ice block somewhere.

Come on. I'm sure if we went far enough back, we would read exactly the same complaints about the transition from Windows 95 to XP.

It's here, it's staying and there ain't nothing you can do about it so get on board and enjoy the journey. Who knows, Windows 10 maybe voice activated!

How do webcams get hacked?

Bob writes:

Leo's advice is sound as ever. Avoid the problem in the first place :)

However - some low-tech solutions....

If it's a separate webcam, simply unplug it when you don't want to use it.

If it's built into the monitor (like almost all laptops these days) cover it with something. This may or may not work with the microphone as well - if they are hacking into the vision, they may well be getting the sound too.

On a different note, I have seen references to this used as a scare tactic in messaging programs - a 'stranger' implies they have access to your cam when in fact they don't (they gamble that you actually have a cam connected)

*** Thoughts and Comments

Garbled Characters

I'm still tracking down some garbled characters in the newsletter. Drop me a line if you see any. Also this week, mailers that have been asking about some kind of temporary font to display the newsletter now shouldn't. And the masthead should be "prettier" ... well, as "pretty" as anything that has my 5 year old headshot in it can be. Smile

Do you use the same password all over? How about the same password just in "a lot" of sites, perhaps with different passwords for the few that you feel are "important"?

Yeah, me too.

Same login name too.

I know, I know, but I want you to at least see that even those of us that preach not doing that for security reasons often fall into the same traps. On one hand it's difficult sometimes to deal with the large number of sites on which I have accounts (probably 100 or more) that I've accumulated over the years and go back and change them all. On the other hand when in a hurry it's still quicker to type "the old favorite" - even twice - than it is to whip out the Secure Password Generator (I use LastPass's, when I do).

I know it's probably the same for you as well. Old habits, and convenience conspire to make it too easy to do things that are less than completely secure.

You may or may not have heard of the recent hack of the Ubuntu forums where hackers got away with login names, email addresses, and "hashed" passwords. Note that they did not get the actual password, but an internal representation that - when created properly - cannot be reversed back into the real password. On the other hand, if created improperly that hashed password can still be used for evil. (All indications are that the Ubuntu forums did things right, so I'm not immediately concerned.)

The "evil" of course is that the hash could be reverse-calculated into your real password, and either the login name / password, or login name / hash can be used to compromise your account on other systems.

Other systems that have not been hacked, but where you happened to use the same username and password ... you know, because it's easy.

Like I said, me too.

As I visit sites on which I have those accounts I'm slowly changing passwords to be more secure and more importantly unique.

I'm also using this particular hack of the Ubuntu forums to remind you - and myself- that even the less important sites are often more important than you may realize, if it's one that uses the same username and password as others.

Leo A. Notenboom
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