Ask Leo! #471 – Reinstalling IE, Leo’s Toolkit, What External Hard Drive to Get and more…

*** Featured

What's in your toolkit?

I was recently asked where one gets a toolkit. That was about as clear and complete as the question was. I suspect that it was actually a student in some computer technician certification class who was asking.

My response: a toolkit isn't something that you just find or purchase. It's something that most computer geeks collect and assemble themselves, often over time, consisting of an assortment of tools and utilities that they've found helpful in the past.

As I'm about to go visit a friend with computer troubles, let me show you mine.

Continue Reading: What's in your toolkit?

How do I reinstall Internet Explorer?

Internet Explorer is an odd beast. Treated like an application, it's also considered a Windows component. In fact, it's such a component of Windows that you may be able to make the shortcuts and icons related to IE go away, but you can never really get rid of everything. Some components simply are parts of Windows.

Unfortunately, there are times when we'd really like to treat it like a "normal" application. Specifically, it would be good to be able to uninstall it completely and then reinstall it from scratch.

While we can't do exactly that, I'll walk you through what we can do that gets us fairly close; as close as we can get without reinstalling Windows itself, anyway.

Continue Reading: How do I reinstall Internet Explorer?

*** Answercast

Answercast #134 - Lost files, Shockwave player, Good drives, Failing System Restore and more...

Does it seem like MSE is messing with your restore points? Have you lost your files through an upgrade or wondering about iCloud? Are you looking for a good hard drive? All that and more in this Answercast from Ask Leo!

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

I reinstalled Windows and lost a file on my desktop, what can I do?
When you reinstall an operating system it overwrites everything on your computer. If you didn't backup a file, you are going to have a hard time finding it.

Continue reading: I reinstalled Windows and lost a file on my desktop, what can I do?

Should my anti-virus scans include my external drives?
Malware can certainly insert itself on external drives. The question is how high is the risk?

Continue reading: Should my anti-virus scans include my external drives?

How safe is iCloud?
When you put your privacy in the hands of online companies it's going to boil down to: How much do you trust them?

Continue reading: How safe is iCloud?

Is Shockwave Player safe?
The security of Shockwave, like many programs, depends on how you use it, and if you keep it up to date.

Continue reading: Is Shockwave Player safe?

Can you recommend a good external hard drive?
Quality and features in hard drives can change over time. So first, look at your needs.

Continue reading: Can you recommend a good external hard drive?

Why does Microsoft Security Essentials seem to interfere with System Restore?
System restore just doesn't seem to work reliably. There is actually a much better way to protect your system from corruption and mistakes.

Continue reading: Why does Microsoft Security Essentials seem to interfere with System Restore?

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*** Last Issue's Articles

*** Word o' the Week

dialog box

A dialog box is a window that typically appears on top of a main application or other window, or occasionally no window at all, that requests user input. Dialog boxes are characterized by one or more input fields such as edit boxes, check boxes, selection lists and others, and an "OK" or equivalent button and a "Cancel" button. Dialog boxes may or may not have title bars across the top, and while usually movable they are most often not resizable.

If presented by an application a dialog box is typically smaller than the application window so as to appear to be a part of that application.

The term "dialog" refers to the metaphor that the computer is having a conversation or dialog with the user – typically asking for some form of input and processing that input when supplied.

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

Why is it so important to use a different password on every site?

DavidW writes:

Ridiculous FUD, as is the recommendation to change your password often. Also the correct term is "crackers", not "hackers". I expected more from Leo as he's usually spot on with his articles.

As a (computer) system builder and repairer I've never seen a password compromised unless there was a key logger on the system. Key loggers are quite rare and must be downloaded and installed. If you get one on your system, all your various passwords, encryption, and password storage systems become useless. Every key that you type is seen on some criminal's monitor. The more complex a password is, the more it stands out as a password.

Crackers "used to" obtain passwords with cracker tools, which is no longer possible. A program would manually enter a character until it got a positive result, and move on to the next character. Browsers, security, and websites have come a long ways since then. Now you usually get 3-5 tries before you're locked out.

Ask any expert, identity theft is now obtained by phishing scams. I challenge anyone to give an example of identity theft in the last 10 years which was obtained by cracking a password. 1000s of systems repaired from malware, I've never seen it nor heard of it happening.

I use one password for all forums, Facebook, websites, etc., and a different password for online banking - so I have to remember the same 2 passwords that I've been using for over 20 years.

If they get my (everything) password I couldn't care less.

If they get my online banking password my bank would catch the first transactions not made by me, alert me, and cancel the transactions. It's part of banking services now for any bank worth having.

I ran a chat room server for over a decade and was constantly under attack. Not once did anyone crack my password. Not once.

On the other hand my credit cards have been compromised a half dozen times over the last decade - which had nothing to do with password protection and everything to do with dodgy retail websites. The fix was to open another bank account which is used only for online transactions, and keeping only enough in it to cover my transactions. It's the same password for both of my bank accounts.

Users' time and money is much better spent on Malwarebytes Pro and Avast (Free Edition) - to stop the malware before it gets on your machine. Remember that anti-malware without active protection (such as Malwarebytes Free Edition) is only useful for finding malware after you're infected.

Leo writes:

Needless to say we disagree.

I don't consider this FUD or scare-mongering, as another commenter put it, at all. The fact that you've safely used the same passwords for 20 years is, pretty much, irrelevant in my opinion. While they've always been possible, to a certain degree, the majority of the issues that are forcing many security experts to more strongly recommend different passwords for all sites have become more prevalent in recent years. This is in part because so many more people are doing so much more online than 20 years ago, and in part because some of the targets that are getting hacked are themselves becoming enormous and thus enormously tantalizing for those interested in hacking in.

The most recent attack that actually caused me to finally write this article was the Adobe compromise a few weeks ago. Not only were millions of accounts compromised, but apparently Adobe's password storage was also less than stellar and could potentially be compromised. As a result the scenario I outline in the article is very real - those attackers can potentially steal email accounts just by trying the same usernames and passwords that they found in the Adobe database at popular email service providers. Once email accounts are compromised, then all matter of maliciousness can follow.

Naturally it's up to you if you believe this is a real threat or so much noise. But with the number of security experts, as well as compromised services, reacting with this "use a different password everywhere" recommendation I wanted people to understand why they - and I - take that position.

PS: One things we do agree on, though, is the "change your password periodically" nonsense. I write more about that here: Is a periodic password change a good thing?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Just a heads up for early January - I decided to do something I haven't done at all in 10 years: take the weeks of Christmas and New Years off. Given our production schedule (boy, doesn't that sound all big and fancy) what that really means is that the newsletters on 12/31 and 1/7 will be "fun sized", something that we can assemble and schedule up before the holidays.

We'll still be watching website comments so that the spammers don't take over, and I might still show up on Facebook occasionally, but the focus will be less on answering questions and more on taking a break and enjoying the holidays.

Facebook Fan Fridays?

I had fun with something on Facebook the other day, and I think I want to see if it's worth doing periodically.

I posted on the Ask Leo! Facebook page "If I could answer one question for you, what would it be?". The result was a very interesting string of comments and thoughtful questions (and a few fun ones) ... so I started answering. I think I responded to almost all of them in some way.

So, some time this Friday I'll devote an hour or two and simply do it again. Look for a post from me on the Ask Leo! Facebook page to kick it off. I'm not going to commit to a specific time, but I'd expect Friday afternoon (remember that I'm on U.S. Pacific Coast time). We'll see if it's as fun the second time around.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For those in the assortment of countries that celebrate it this week, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

One of the things that I'm exceptionally grateful for is your support.

Thank you, as always, for being here.

Till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom
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