Ask Leo! #529 – 2014’s hits, Firewalls, Deleting Setup Files, Let’s Get People to Back Up!


2014's Most Popular Articles

2014 marked the eleventh year of Ask Leo!.

What's remarkable about the most popular articles of this year is that they show how little some things change. And, of course, how little our reaction to change itself changes.

Continue Reading: 2014's Most Popular Articles

Do I need a firewall, and if so, what kind?

I keep hearing about "firewalls" for my computer and that there are different types. Do I need one? If I do, what kind of firewall do I need?

The very short, very easy answer is: hell yes! Absolutely, positively you need a firewall.

With all that happens on the internet these days, it's simply too risky to let your computer sit "naked" on the internet unless you really know what you're doing. The real question is what kind of firewall do you need?

The very good news these days is that it's very likely that you're already behind a firewall and don't need to do a thing.

But you should make sure.

Continue Reading: Do I need a firewall, and if so, what kind?

Can I Delete Setup Files I've Downloaded?

Can you safely delete set-up files of programs or updates that you have downloaded from the internet? My C: drive's Windows' Downloads folder has files as far back as five years. Since these were set-up or update files, I assume they were zipped, and that upon installation, the electronic carapace for lack of a better word became discardable? Is this correct, or is the downloaded file necessary to the proper functioning of the file or update that has been downloaded (like a Jack-in-the-Box, that would stop being a Jack-in-the-Box if you removed the box)? Which types of downloaded set-up files or updates are safe to delete, and which MUST remain (if any MUST remain)?

The answer is both yes and no.

Assuming you've run the set up to install the programs they contained then yes, you can delete setup files safely. The programs will continue to work without them.

However, the answer is also no: you don't want to delete them. You want to do something else instead, for reasons that aren't always obvious.‹...

Continue Reading: Can I Delete Setup Files I've Downloaded?


The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet
You can use the internet safely!

Learn how to protect your computer, your data, your accounts,
and most of all, yourself!

All digital formats included.
The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet

Previous Issue

Glossary Term


A firewall is a barrier between something that is potentially dangerous and something that you want to keep safe.

The term comes from the automotive industry where there is a wall of metal behind your dashboard that is designed to keep the passengers safe should the engine catch on fire. Hence, the term "fire wall".

In computing, a firewall is typically a networking device, often a router, that is designed to understand network traffic to some degree. Its job is to block malicious or unauthorized network traffic from crossing the firewall into a protected network.

The most common example of a firewall are most consumer and small-business routers. These devices not only allow multiple computers to be connected to a single internet connection but they also act as a type of firewall, protecting against malicious traffic from the internet. There are also dedicated hardware appliances that act only as firewalls and there is software that can be installed on PCs to act as a firewall as well. Recent versions of Windows include a built-in software firewall.

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

Featured Comments

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

Reid writes:

Per Leo's comments about an external drive enclosure, those of you who are inclined to troubleshoot your own hard drive issues would be well served owning a hard drive dock. Just search Amazon for "hard drive dock usb 3" to see a whole list of options. One that holds both 3.5" and 2.5" drives is preferred. Having one on had is beautiful when things go wrong. Note that they will almost all have the SATA interface. If you're dealing with an IDE drive, you can acquire a USB hard drive adapter/converter. Something like this would suffice for both,, but the docks are much cleaner for a few dollars more.

Leo writes:

I own a cable pretty much like that as well, and yes, it can come in handy. It's this one:

I prefer the full enclosure approach for people that don't do this often because when done they're typically left with a quite useful external drive for just the cost of that enclosure.

10 steps to keep from getting your account hacked

wschloss writes:

Hi, do you know if most sites store alternative email addresses, and secret question answers, hashed, similar to passwords?

Leo writes:

Typically they do not for email addresses at least. Secret answers - also probably not. Unlike passwords, most answers are not case sensitive, and that breaks the ability to use a hash.

Can I Delete Setup Files I've Downloaded?

Glen writes:

the person said they have files that go back as far as 5 years. wouldn`t those downloads be out of date? to say the least. but it sounds like this person is in need of a clean re-install. wasn`t it you Leo who we should do a clean re-install at least twice a year? if they`re trying to speed up their computer that`d be the first place i`d look. 5 years! imagine the clutter.

Leo writes:

Not twice a year, no, but periodically is indeed a good idea. Two years is what I've been doing, but of course it depends on how you use your computer. Setup files won't be impacting speed however - they're just benignly taking up space.

Leo's Blog

Let's Get More People to Back Up

In an editorial post a few years ago, I bemoaned the state of backing up. The post, entitled "Why don't people back up?" discussed the many varied (and somewhat reasonable) reasons individuals might not be backing up their precious data.

I also discussed many scenarios in which people lose that precious data completely and forever… scenarios in which a backup solution would have protected them in some way. In fact, almost any backup solution would have helped. As I say in What backup program should I use?, "Asking what backup program to use is very much like asking, ‘What's the best exercise program?' The best program for exercise or backup is whichever one you'll actually do."

Anything is better than nothing.

The good news is that more people are backing up – or at least attempting to.

The bad news is that we still have a long way to go to get more people to back up. I know this by the number of panic-stricken emails I receive.

Continue Reading: Let's Get More People to Back Up

Facebook - YouTube - Google+ - Twitter

Leo's Books

Backing Up 101 Saved! - Backing Up with Macrium Reflect Saved! - Backing Up with Windows 7 Backup Saved! - Backing Up with Windows 8 Backup
The Ask Leo! Guide to Internet Safety The Ask Leo! Guide to Routine Maintenance Maintaining Windows XP - A Practical Guide


Need more help with or have questions about the newsletter? Check out the newsletter administration page.

Help Ask Leo! Just forward this message, in its entirety (but without your unsubscribe link below) to your friends. Or, just point them at for their own FREE subscription!

Newsletter contents Copyright © 2015,
Leo A. Notenboom & Puget Sound Software, LLC.
Ask Leo! is a registered trademark ® of Puget Sound Software, LLC