Ask Leo! #528 – Hard drives in dead computers, Deleting multiple emails, Are they really deleted?, Avoiding Bitlocker, and more…


How do I get data off of the hard drive in a dead computer?

My computer has died on me. I can't get it to boot up. I need to take the hard drive out and pull my files off from it. How do I retrieve the files from the hard drive in a dead computer? Thanks for any help you can give me.

This is a pretty common scenario. Depending on what caused the computer's demise, there's a relatively good chance you can retrieve the information off that hard drive.

Of course, if it's the drive itself that caused the failure, things get a little more interesting.

There are several approaches to this problem. I'll start with my favorite: not needing to do it at all.

Continue Reading: How do I get data off of the hard drive in a dead computer?

How do I delete multiple emails when I have a lot to delete?

I have over 15000 e-mails. How do I delete multiple emails without having to delete them one at a time?

Deleting multiple emails can be easy, or it can be really, really cumbersome.

Two factors determine which it's going to be: your criteria for which emails you want to delete, and the capabilities of your email program.

While I can't show you what will work in every email program or interface, I'll review a couple of very common techniques that will make this easier. Those techniques are also useful for more than just deleting email, and they work in arenas other than email, too.

Continue Reading: How do I delete multiple emails when I have a lot to delete?

Are deleted emails really deleted?

It is said that "deleted files" are never completely erased unless you actually do so with the proper software. Does this also refer to emails? Once I erase an email (incoming or outgoing copy), does that stick around somewhere also?

In order to make the operation fast, when you delete a file, the operating system typically just sets a flag or removes an entry from a directory – the actual data within the file is left on disk until that space is needed, when it gets overwritten. Does the same apply to email messages?

It depends.

Continue Reading: Are deleted emails really deleted?


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Glossary Term


BSOD is an acronym for the semi-facetiously named "Blue Screen of Death".

The BSOD is an error reporting mechanism included in all versions of Windows that presents a single screen full of information about a serious failure, and halts the computer completely – hence "death". The information happens to be displayed as white text on a blue background, hence "blue screen".

Windows attempts to handle errors transparently, safely and without interrupting the normal operation of the system. Unfortunately some errors are so disruptive to Windows own ability to operate that it simply can't figure out what to do. The only thing it can do, as a kind of "last ditch effort", is to halt the system to prevent possible damage, and present the information about the failure in the infamous BSOD.

The information presented on a blue screen is in no way intended to be understood by the average computer user. Typically Windows has found itself in such a state that it's simply not safe for it try to analyze the error any further itself to present more useful information. It simply provides what amounts to highly technical information in the hopes that it can help a technician or someone versed in technical diagnosis.

In an ideal world a BSOD would never, ever happen. In the real world incidents of blue screens have been steadily decreasing with each successive version of Windows. The most common culprit for the BSOD today are poorly written drivers and hardware failure.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
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Featured Comments

The easily avoidable risk of two-factor authentication

Vivian Weseloh writes:

Leo, here is my problem with Gmail 2-step authentication. I have used it off and on, but always end up doing away with it. Here is the reason: no matter how many times I check the box that says "Do not ask for codes on this computer", it asks me every single time, and I simply get sick of that. Can you help me solve that issue? If so, I will be happy to do the 2-step with Gmail again. Many thanks!

Leo writes:

That'll happen if you clear cookies for any reason. Your "remember me" state is saved in a cookie.

How do I get rid of all this spam?!?!

David writes:


Can you tell me why I receive emails such as this "This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

Delivery to the following recipients failed." when I never emailed to the address that is in question? Thank you.


Leo writes:

A spammer, sending spam that is faked to look like it came from you, sent spam to an email address that had whatever problem is listed in the bounce message. Since the message was faked to look like it came from you, you get the bounce. This is very common, and there's nothing to be done.

My initial reactions to Windows 10 backup

Tony2 writes:

Leo I thought you'd suggested avoiding the Windows built-in backup even before Windows 8. Didn't think of going back there again.

I'm currently using Macrium Reflect on Windows 7 and I assume this is still your first choice. Would continue with the same program even if I upgraded my computer.

Leo writes:

Windows 7's backup was the first and apparently only Windows-included backup that I believe is marginally "good enough" that I feel OK with people using it. Even wrote a book on it. For all others I, like you, prefer and recommend Reflect. (There's a book on that too. Both are at )

Leo's Blog

Why I Avoid BitLocker

BitLocker is Microsoft's full-disk encryption technology available in Windows Pro, Enterprise or Ultimate editions from Vista onwards.

I typically recommend avoiding it, for one simple reason: it's too easy encrypt yourself into a corner and lose access to your encrypted data.

I'll review why I feel that way, and what steps you need to take if you want to use BitLocker safely.

Continue Reading: Why I Avoid BitLocker

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