Ask Leo! #473 – To Worry or Not? Breaking into that second hand computer, closing Hotmail and more…

*** Featured

Do I need to worry about the latest security breach?

I just heard about a security breach that has exposed something like a couple of million accounts across several servers.

I have accounts on those services. How concerned should I be? Have I been hacked? What do I need to do next?

That's a composite of several questions that I've received relating to a recent theft of something like two million user accounts and passwords.

I'll address this specific incident, but I also want to discuss some things to consider with any large scale account theft.

Continue Reading: Do I need to worry about the latest security breach?

How do I gain administrative access to a second-hand computer?

My dad bought a computer from a yard sale. The problem is that they forgot to take off the password. I'm logged in as a user, but not an administrator, so I don't have admin privileges. How do I become an administrator?

This is frightening for many reasons.

But it's not you who should be scared. We'll get you into the computer quite easily. It's the previous owner who should be concerned because it's clear that they didn't take a few important steps before giving away their computer.

You still need to tread very, very carefully. I'll explain why.

Continue Reading: How do I gain administrative access to a second-hand computer?

How do I close my Hotmail or account?

I need to close my Hotmail account. I'm getting too much spam and besides, I think it's been hacked. I just want to close it and stop it from bothering anyone anymore. How do I do that?

I'd actually suggest that you seriously reconsider closing your account.

If your account has been hacked, even if you still have access to it, it's quite possible that the hacker will just access it again and stop the closure. If you don't have access … well, then you can't close it anyway.

And even if it's not hacked, but people are getting spam from your account, it's not likely that closing it will help at all.

That being said, if you still want to close it, I'll walk you through the steps; it's not really that hard.

Continue Reading: How do I close my Hotmail or account?

*** Answercast

Answercast #136 - Crash proof computers, criminal records, spamming your friends, DNS routers and more...

Are you spamming your friends every time you forward something cute, or worried about sites that seem to report you as a criminal? Can your router act as a DNS server? Would you like to make your computer crash proof? All that and more in this Answercast from Ask Leo!

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

How can I make a computer "Crash Proof?"
Do I have to say it? The only crash-proof technology is a good and recent backup!

Continue reading: How can I make a computer "Crash Proof?"

Why does mail hang around in my outbox before being sent?
There are many steps between your email and it's journey out of the "Outbox." Any one of those steps could be slowing you down.

Continue reading: Why does mail hang around in my outbox before being sent?

Why does this ad imply I have a criminal record?
It can be pretty frightening when a search result delivers back to you the term you were searching for as an ad... particularly if you were searching for your name. But it might not be any more sinister than that.

Continue reading: Why does this ad imply I have a criminal record?

Why do some people get 60 copies of messages I forward?
We'll try to isolate the reason your forwards are getting multiplied, and then look at the only way to really stop the problem once and for all!

Continue reading: Why do some people get 60 copies of messages I forward?

Is my router acting as a DNS server?
Some smart routers can act as a local DNS servers in an attempt to speed things up.

Continue reading: Is my router acting as a DNS server?

Can I combine two drives into one?
You can put whatever you want on your new computer; it's just a matter of transferring the data and organizing it!

Continue reading: Can I combine two drives into one?

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*** Last Issue's Articles

*** Word o' the Week


When discussing computers, memory specifically refers to a computer's RAM or Random Access Memory.

RAM is the memory in which running programs, including Windows itself, and data currently in use are kept. This is the memory that is lost when the computer is powered off, and the memory that is reloaded when the computer boots.

Many people erroneously use the term memory to refer to a computer's hard disk drive (HDD) or persistent storage – the storage that is not lost when the computer is turned off. This often leads to confusion about exactly what is being discussed.

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

One Reason Why You Don't Need a New Computer

Lee writes:

Leo, I agree with your assessment of unit replacement. Like you, I have often seen people go out at the first sign of a malware problem and purchase a new unit. Then the next step is to throw the old unit in the trash or give it away. There are, to me, only two reasons that the purchase of a new unit should be considered. First, if the unit is diagnosed with hardware problems that repair cost will equal 50% or greater the purchase price of a new unit. Second, if the unit does not have sufficient resources to support a major Microsoft operating system upgrade. Of course, for those units there is always an alternative enabled by the use of one of many distributions of Linux that are available. Ubuntu is the most popular choice. For units with extremely limited resources, Puppy is a good alternative. Thanks for all that you do for all of us. We sincerely appreciate all your efforts and hope that you and your family have a really great holiday season.

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

Doclocke writes:

I've used Opera for many years, specifically because its cache is much-better designed than those in the other browsers you mentioned. If you do lots of downloading of web videos, and wish to save them to your hard disk or other media, Opera's cache is an excellent choice. All you have to do is clear the cache before starting a download, and then when it's done, move the download from there to a folder on your hard drive, or any removable media you choose.

How do I keep a program from loading at startup?

bedlamb writes:

Autoruns is my go-to program for startup entrees. However, while I was learning what *not* to disable, I found that I could more safely use CCleaner's startup options. It's a much shorter list, and -most- of the items can be safely disabled. One thing that helps is to keep track of what you disable, so that you can re-enable things if a program you use stops working properly.

As an aside..... One of the first things I do in Autoruns is to disable the 25 startup items for 'Windows movie maker'. I don't use that program, and it has 25(!!) startup entrees.

As Leo has mentioned a time or two, remember to backup before you make system changes.

One Reason Why You Don't Need a New Computer

Mike writes:

What's worse, if you do buy a new machine, odds are you'll make exactly the same mistake you made on the OLD machine, and the new machine will be infected in the same way. Lather, rinse, repeat...

S Bullock writes:

Thank you. You have stopped me from thinking I need a new machine, when I haven't got the money to buy one anyway.

You do a marvellous job and I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles. Performing a public service whilst so many others are trying hard to sell us things we don't really need. Thank you again!

*** Thoughts and Comments

So I'm playing with video.

I've attempted to set some things up to make a semi-professional looking video easier to produce. (Amateurish videos are trivial Smile.) You might note that last week's clearing browser cache article now includes three videos: a demonstration for each browser I covered. This week's article about the security breach includes one as well.

I'm hoping that they're helpful. I know different people learn in different ways, and combined with my weekly answercast this might round out the big three: reading about something, listening to something, and watching something.

Almost all of the videos I produce are put onto the newly revamped Ask Leo! Youtube channel, so head out there and subscribe and you'll get 'em as I post 'em.

I say "almost all", because I also produce companion videos for some of the books I publish, and those, of course, are available only after you register the book.

Till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom
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