Ask Leo! #472 – Why you don’t need a new machine, clearing browser caches, targeted advertising and more…

*** Featured

One Reason Why You Don't Need a New Computer

I run into this so often that I want to record this here for posterity:

Malware does NOT *physically* harm your computer. Period.

You do not need to get a new hard drive due to malware. You do not need to buy a new machine because of malware.

You just don't.

Here's why…

Continue Reading: One Reason Why You Don't Need a New Computer

How can newsletter senders tell that I haven't opened a newsletter?

I am sure that I read in one of your newsletter emails that people don't know if we read emails that we send them. I don't know who reads my emails that I send on. So can you please explain this email that I received today? I just copied the body of the email, and yes, I guess I had subscribed at some point, but I haven't had much in the way of emails from them in a long long time. Here is the email content:

Dear Reader,

We've noticed you haven't been reading our emails lately.

Maybe you're getting too many emails in your inbox. Maybe the information we're sending isn't useful to you anymore.

Whatever the reason, we don't want to send you anything you don't want.

If you'd like to unsubscribe, please do so now.

Or, if we're wrong and you want to keep your current subscription, just let us know.

Please choose from one of the following options:

Keep me subscribed

Unsubscribe me

How did they know I hadn't been reading?

There's perhaps a too-subtle turn of phrase that I use when talking about email tracking that probably leads to your confusion.

I didn't say they "can't" tell if you've opened the mail – what I said was they "can't reliably" tell.

That's a pretty important difference.

Continue Reading: How can newsletter senders tell that I haven't opened a newsletter?

What's a browser cache? How do I clear it? Why would I want to?

The browser cache comes up in more of my answers than questions, but when I recommend it, the direction probably causes even more questions. Even when following instructions to empty the cache, many people aren't clear on what this piece of magic really is and why clearing the cache would do anything at all.

Let's review the browser cache, what it is, and why it exists. Along the way, we'll review the steps to clear it in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome, and try to dream up some reasons why that sometimes helps.

Continue Reading: What's a browser cache? How do I clear it? Why would I want to?

*** Answercast

Answercast #135 - Time for IE 11, new anti-virus, removing startup items, network email and more...

Are you ready for Internet Explorer 11? Looking for a way to disable startup items or get email on more than one computer? Wondering how to install a new anti-virus? All that and more in this Answercast from Ask Leo!

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

Do I need to deactivate my old anti-virus before installing the new one?
It's best to uninstall old anti-virus software before installing a new one, assuming you make sure to stay safe during the transition.

Continue reading: Do I need to deactivate my old anti-virus before installing the new one?

Is Gmail's targeted advertising a bad thing?
Of course Gmail can read your email. How else would they be able to filter it for spam? But "who" or "what" is reading it, and does it really matter?

Continue reading: Is Gmail's targeted advertising a bad thing?

Do I need to install IE 11?
Internet Explorer has become a better browser over time and updating regularly is just a good idea. Especially when it comes to IE 11.

Continue reading: Do I need to install IE 11?

How do I prevent Hotmail from locking me out when I travel overseas?
A sudden change in location in accessing your account could mean that someone other than you has logged in. So Hotmail has added some extra security.

Continue reading: How do I prevent Hotmail from locking me out when I travel overseas?

Can I access the mail on my desktop from a networked machine?
There are several ways to share email accounts across computers. The best ones have to be set up before you need them.

Continue reading: Can I access the mail on my desktop from a networked machine?

How do I keep a program from loading at startup?
Be careful what you disable from starting up with your computer. You might end up with unexpected results.

Continue reading: How do I keep a program from loading at startup?

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*** Last Issue's Articles

*** Word o' the Week


In technology a buffer or cache is typically a region of memory set aside to collect or hold data as it is being transferred between programs or devices that have differing speeds.

One example might be a buffer used when transmitting information to a server on the internet. A program on a PC might be able to write data very quickly, but because the internet connection is typically slow in comparison that data is instead placed in a buffer. This allows the computer program to continue to run without waiting, while the data is then transmitted across the internet connection by the communications software or drivers on the PC.

Naturally how much can be buffered depends on the amount of memory set aside for a buffer. Some software creates buffers as needed and of varying sizes, while others might allocate a fixed size buffer. If the buffer fills up then the process of placing data into the buffer must wait for the room to be created as data is removed.

One risk of buffering can, if not properly implemented, include data loss. Writing information to disk is a classic case of buffering being necessary to allow computers to operate at a reasonable speed. Data being written is collected in disk buffers, and physically written once the buffer is full. If the computer crashes before the data has been written to disk, that data can be lost.

The concept of buffering is not limited to input or output, but can also be used between running programs, or even internally within a single program to manage its own data flow.

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

Can you recommend a good external hard drive?

Tim Turner writes:

I'm surprised at your favoring Seagate. In my months of reviewing and shopping for external hard drives, I found Seagate, by far, had the most unfavorable reviews and worst performance and durability ratings of most all other brands. I have also purchased WD drives and had them fail within a month. I've had extremely good luck with Fantom Drives and will continue buying them as long as I do.

Leo writes:

I'm not terribly surprised. It's possible that Seagate is on the downside of the cycle that I mention in the article and that others are cycling up. My experience has been quite good over the past 5 years or so. Most importantly is simply to be aware that there does appear to be a cycle. And to purchase from vendors with good return policies. :-)

Should my anti-virus scans include my external drives?

Bman writes:

My understanding is that the recent "cryptolocker" attack will encrypt files on all attached drives. I use an external USB hard drive for backup which I used to keep permanently attached but I now disconnect when not actually backing up.

Leo writes:

It does not encrypt ALL files. It encrypts all files of certain types. So it will encrypt all your .doc files and .jpg and so on. As of today is does not encrypt backup images.

Also, the fact that it might encrypt files on external drives has NO bearing on whether those drives should be scanned for malware. The malware typically resides on, and is installed on, and runs from the system drive (C:) - it then reaches out to mangle data on the other attached drives.

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

Steve R writes:

It's hard to argue against a fool-proof backup strategy, but most of us have merely a not-a-complete-fool backup strategy. Case in point is I use Macrium Reflect for an occasional full image. And my really current documents, password keepers, etc. are backed up on multiple systems and clouds. Despite these pretty-good safeguards, my Win 7 system was recently clobbered with an invalid windows and activation problem. As near as I can tell, the pop-up was legit and Windows Update would not work because the system believed it was a counterfeit copy of Windows. Seems the system had lost the Windows registration number within moments of a Microsoft Essentials update and installation of IE 11. So yeah, my big time backup strategies would have resolved things but guess what? I used system restore, went back a few days, restored and everything is swell again: clouds parted, birds sang, Windows registration number was back in place, and this time the two Updates went off without a hitch. So, Restore has a place in my gameplan, though there is no substitute for a real backup strategy.

Alex writes:


For those who want the convenience of a registry backup ,that is much more reliable than System restore, try the free ERUNT system. This will automatically make a daily registry backup but you can also ask it to make further backups whenever you wish. When I have used this program it has never failed.

*** Thoughts and Comments

Facebook Fan Fridays!

As I mentioned last week, I popped into the the Ask Leo! Facebook page this last Friday, posted a "Facebook Fan Friday" post, and then proceeded to answer (or at least respond to) every comment that was made on that post for the next hour.

Yes, I enjoyed it, and yes, I'll be doing it again. I can't commit to doing it absolutely every Friday, but I'm going to try. Look for the timing to change a little as well - it wont' always be at 1PM US Pacific.

Sometimes I rant...

Speaking of Facebook, this week's article on never needing to buy hardware to deal with a malware related issue is actually a post that I first made on Facebook. I decided it needed a more permanent and visible home on Ask Leo! proper. If you know someone who's about to shell out money on a new machine or component simply because they have a nasty malware infestation, be sure to point them at it.

There may still be a lot of pain recovering from the malware, but at least they won't be spending more money than they need to, or discarding perfectly good hardware.

Till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom
Facebook - Google+
YouTube - Twitter

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