Ask Leo! #519 – Backing up to DVD, Huge PSTs, More Secure Open Wi-Fi, A Story of Data Loss and more…


Should I back up to DVDs?

I get variations of this question all the time. I also get questions about backing up in general where folks are backing up to DVDs.

This is also one of those questions where the answer has changed over time. What was once a reasonable and common practice is now something that at best is impractical, and at worst a disaster waiting to happen.

The short answer: heck no! You should not back up to DVDs.

The longer answer has several reasons behind it.

Continue Reading: Should I back up to DVDs?

Does a login page on open Wi-Fi hotspot mean it's a secure connection?

Many hotels and airports and other places with an open Wi-Fi hotspot display a page that I need to login to before I can connect to the internet. Does that login mean that it's a secure connection?

No. Absolutely not.

It's a very important distinction to make, and one that I'm afraid many people misunderstand.

Continue Reading: Does a login page on open Wi-Fi hotspot mean it's a secure connection?

How do I make an Outlook PST file smaller?

My Outlook PST file is huge! It takes forever to back up, and is just generally incredibly unwieldy. How can I make it smaller?

Outlook PST files are Outlook's repositories for email, contacts, calendar information, and much more. (Not to be confused with or Outlook Express – those are completely different and unrelated products.)

Outlook PST files can become very, very large if you're not paying attention, and practical considerations like speed and backups often make us want to control the size well before reaching that stage.

Continue Reading: How do I make an Outlook PST file smaller?


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Glossary Term


Shell refers to a computer operating system's primary user interface.

Shell is actually a very old term, pre-dating even MS-DOS itself. Originally it referred to the program that accepted typed in commands, interpreted them and ran corresponding programs to carry out the desired actions. In Windows the program "cmd.exe" can be considered one shell, operating in much the same way. The "Windows PowerShell" is essentially an enhanced version, and a very similar program.

The concept of multiple, different shells is also not new. Early versions of Unix included a standard shell, "sh", but was soon augmented with a variant known as "csh", or c-shell, whose command syntax was designed to more closely resemble the "C" programming language. In today's modern Linux distributions not only do sh and csh remain, but a third option, "bash" is also present.

With the advent of graphical operating systems the term shell has been somewhat deprecated, but can still be used to refer to the program that displays and controls the operating system's primary user interface. In Windows that program is "explorer.exe", which when initially run displays the desktop, task bar, start menu and more. (It's only on subsequent runs that the same explorer.exe acts as a stand-alone file-management program.)

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

Just what is 'common sense'?

James writes:

"... but there is simply no such thing as 'free' on the internet."

I think the open source community would tend to disagree with you :)

And even if you want to consider licenses such as GPL, BSD, etc as not-entirely-free, there is plenty of true freeware out there, open-source (where applicable) and licensed with no restrictions. Not only software, but images, music, etc as well (e.g. think public domain). Real free is there if you know what to look for.

But as far as the "normal" internet consumer is concerned with seeing ads for "free" things, you are of course absolutely right.

Reverend Jim writes:

Most people, when walking down the street and seeing an item of food lying on the sidewalk, would not even consider picking it up and eating it. Why is it that many of these same people would not think twice about installing an unknown program on their computers? The next time you are tempted to install a program that you didn't actively search for and research to see if it comes with nasty little "extras", ask yourself, "would I put it in my mouth"? Sure, it's a kind of gross way of looking at it, but perhaps you'll think twice before installing.

Lucy writes:

Thanks once again Leo for reminding me to be careful.

As someone who is too old to have learned computer science in school I have just figured it out as I went along.

Your informative web site has played a huge part in my education and I have recently purchased your book on backing up with Macrium Reflect (yes, I finally realized I should be doing a better job of backing up)!

"Saved! - Backing Up with Macrium Reflect: Prepare for the worst - Recover from the inevitable"

I also read and trust the Bob Rankin site, any others I am extremely wary of.

Please continue to share your knowledge in the understandable way that you do.

Resist Those Dancing Bunnies

HA writes:

There's only one. We want MORE dancing bunnies.

Phishing: How to Know it When You See It

j weegan writes:

Leo, where else do we see so much information for free.

Every week we learn more, about windows, and the net.

I am 81 years old , but still love to learn from you.

Please, never leave us !!


Leo's Blog

External hard disk not recognized? A story of data loss.

I have a WD elements external hard disk. It is not recognized anywhere. Not in connected devices nor in disk management or anywhere. Before that I could not format it. I need help. I tried it on other 3 laptops but it was same problem. Please help me, it's urgent . It have very important data on it.

And a short while later:

Please, I could not find a solution for my problem. I would greatly appreciate it if you could give me some small tip for my problem.

I do have a tip, but you're not going to like it.

The problem is that this is a question I see all too often. It's something that, quite honestly, frustrates the heck out of me every time; I see something like this at least once a week, if not more.

I'll share what I would do.

More importantly, I'll share what you should have done, and what you must do from here on out to avoid ever being in this situation again.

Continue Reading: External hard disk not recognized? A story of data loss.

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Backing Up 101 Saved! - Backing Up with Macrium Reflect Saved! - Backing Up with Windows 7 Backup Saved! - Backing Up with Windows 8 Backup
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