Leo's Answers #140 – August 12, 2008

Leo's Answers
A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom

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*** Contents

*** This Week's New Articles on Ask Leo!

How do I block Windows XP Service Pack 3?

My machine can't handle Windows XP SP3. How do I prevent Windows Update from continually trying to install it?

Window XP SP3 has had a fairly reasonable success rate, but it definitely causes some people problems. While I don't think it's a long term solution, you can indeed prevent Windows Update from trying to install SP3.

Continue reading: "How do I block Windows XP Service Pack 3?"
http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_block_windows_xp_service_pack_3.html

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How do I fix errors on my hard disk?

Hi, I have a Computer running Windows XP SP2 that keeps returning a G:|$mft corrupt error. I have looked everywhere to try and find a fix for this, but to no avail. It would appear to not effect anything except for the error message popping up and the system wanting to check disk on boot every time. Any clues?

I don't have anything specific to that error, but what I'll do instead is outline the various steps I take when attempting to diagnose and repair a problem of this nature.

Depending on the underlying cause, this could be a simple fix, or a disaster waiting to happen.

Continue reading: "How do I fix errors on my hard disk?"
http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_fix_errors_on_my_hard_disk.html

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How do I reduce the amount of computer maintenance I'm supposed to do?

Sitting again at my PC, doing maintenance...... it seems that doing maintenance takes more time than actually using the PC for surfing or e-mailing. I have by now 9 cleaning-.. virus-... spyware-... backup-....adaware-.... etc.-programs accumulated which I am now trying to run only once a week. Before, I was spending an inordinate amount of time just doing maintenance. There is something very wrong with this picture and the amount of garbage floating around the internet is insane and against which one has to protect oneself. If you have a suggestion on how this can be handled more efficiently, please, let us all know. And I do not want to run my PC at night to do this maintenance automatically.

Leaving your computer running overnight is one common and easy way to deal with this issue. It's certainly what I do.

But it doesn't have to be the only solution.

But I also have to ask: NINE MAINTENANCE PROGRAMS? For starters, it sounds to me like you're doing more maintenance than you need to.

Continue reading: "How do I reduce the amount of computer maintenance I'm supposed to do?"
http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_reduce_the_amount_of_computer_maintenance_im_supposed_to_do.html

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How do I remove a pesky message in Windows Mail?

I now have 5 "Message cannot be displayed" "Windows Mail encountered an unexpected problem while displaying this message" and these messages cannot be deleted. The 3 in my "Drafts" and 1 in my "Inbox" do not stop functioning but the 1 in my "Outbox" stops me from sending mail. Can you help me?

Perhaps.

Long time readers will know that my opinion of Outlook Express, and its Vista equivalent, Windows Mail, is not very high. That's based mostly on problem reports I see every day.

The two programs are nearly identical, but in this case there's a difference that, if you're lucky, might serve you very well.

Continue reading: "How do I remove a pesky message in Windows Mail?"
http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_remove_a_pesky_message_in_windows_mail.html

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How should I save files before reformatting my computer?

My husband wants to reformat his computer, because of a virus. He wants to save certain files, and wants to know the best way to save those files.

First, I want to commend you on realizing that a reformat of your machine erases everything. Sadly, many people don't realize or overlook this aspect.

There are two approaches that I recommend, and the choice boils down to understanding exactly how confident you are that you won't miss anything.

And for the record, I'm never that confident, myself.

Continue reading: "How should I save files before reformatting my computer?"
http://ask-leo.com/how_should_i_save_files_before_reformatting_my_computer.html

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Why am I being told I'm connected when I'm not?

Every once in a while the notification balloon saying that "magnesia is now connected, speed 44.0 bps...." comes up while I am definitely not connected. I am suspecting a software glitch but can not, of course identify it since I am just an ordinary user of a PC. I have run all kinds of cleaning programs to no avail. If you have some idea what could cause this, I would be grateful if you would let me know. Running Windows XP, Home and SP3 installed.

"definitely not connected."?

I beg to differ. That's exactly what that little balloon means.

And depending on what you mean by "cleaning program", I'm not at all surprised they didn't help.

Continue reading: "Why am I being told I'm connected when I'm not?"
http://ask-leo.com/why_am_i_being_told_im_connected_when_im_not.html

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*** Featured Comments

A sampling of some of the comments that have been posted recently on Ask Leo!

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Parental Monitoring Software: My child figured out how to turn it off - what can I do?

JL writes:

I agree - you cannot protect your children, or teens 24/7. However, if my 18 yr old has a beer at someone else's house, I have neither allowed it or condoned it. Our home has rules. Period.

Children are exposed to way too many things, but they have to use a computer regularly for school, and enjoy games of all types (even learning games). So, we protect them the best we can. Allow what we have to. Nazi's maybe, so be it. Children are regularly mad at parents for disallowing things. It's the way of the world.

The program "I am big brother" did wonders for me. What did I find? That my son had a punk friend he was no longer allowed to stay over night there, and otherwise, nothing much. The kids cussed much more than I thought to their frineds, but basically used the computer well. The pay-off, a sound mind that my children had a brain, even when they didn't know I was watching (I did not block access to anything & I was often at work after school). And, then I uninstalled it.

But, you know.. when drug dealers can hang out by our schools, when kids are no longer safe outside alone to play, when grown adults pretend to be kids to prey on our children, why can't parents hang out in the computer. It's a war to protect our kids. Do what you have to do to keep them safe and healthy.

And, the teens on here who feel oppressed, think about the kid at school you know who's parents are doped up or drunk, and don't care what their kid does. Your parents love you, when you were born - they didn't get a rule book or step by step instructions, and there's no help menu on your forehead. It's not easy deciding what to do, someday, you'll really see that.

The program for http://www.iambigbrother.com/ hides in the background of your computer and slows it down some. But it does not show up anywhere after you delete the install files shortcuts, and is password protected. (at least back when I used it)

How should I save files before reformatting my computer?

Ziggie writes:

Leo, since the reader mentioned a virus, wouldn't an image of the hard drive also capture that virus? How would anyone be protected if they're re-instating the virus whenever they restore from backup?

Ken B writes:

Yes, a full system backup would also back up the viruses. However, so would just backing up a single infected file.

The idea here is to make sure that you didn't miss an important file before the wipe-and-reinstall, because after the wipe, you're not going to get anything that you missed.

Once the system is reinstalled, and an up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware program are installed, they should pick up any infected files that you try to copy back. (In fact, if you back up to a writable media, such as an external HD, you can scan it before restoring anything.)

And, once you have everything that you need restored, and the system is "clean", you can do another full system backup at that point.

Phil writes:

I'm confused - why can't a simple antivirus scan solve the problem? - Surely if the virus can be found and healed on the external hard drive back-up(or other media) before re-copying, then surely this can be done on the existing machine - Can someone please explain?

Ken B writes:

Well, some people are of the opinion that "the only way to be sure you got rid of the infection is to reformat and reinstall".

Beyond that, however, is the fact that many infections actively target and disable the antivirus/antispyware/etc. programs. If your system is infected, you many not be able to run the program.

The typical end-user, and many technicians, simply don't have the tools and the experience to remove many of the really nasty programs out there.

There are several good questions and responses above. I want to touch briefly on the issues raised:

Zigg: you're absolutely correct, a full backup would also backup the virus infection. Note that I'm not suggesting that the machine be restored completely from that backup. The point is that the backup includes all the files on the machine, and as they're needed they can be extracted from the backup (and presumably virus scanned as well).

Phil: no, a simple anti-virus cannot be trusted to just fix the problem. The very definition of viruses and malware is that they go out of their way to be undetectable. In an absolute sense, once you've been infected by almost anything you've lost total control of your machine. You can run an anti-malware scan, but how do you know, I mean really know, that it caught and cleaned everything? You don't.

The closest any anti-malware scanner can ever get is: "we believe you're clear of everything we know about and everything that we could find". The corollary to that statement is that "you could still be infected by malware we don't know about, or that hid from us too well."

The reason that most people simply rely on anti-malware scanners to do the job is that most, but not all of the time even though there's no guarantee, it's enough. And it's generally impractical and very painful to reformat after every infection.

That's why prevention is so much less painful than the cure.

Thanks Ken B for your comments above as well; right on target.

-Leo

*** This Week's Most Popular

The ten most popular articles in the last 7 days on Ask Leo!

  1. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar?
  2. How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?
  3. How do I put a picture in a comment on myspace.com?
  4. How do I put a picture into the caption of a picture on myspace.com?
  5. What are MSN HotMail's POP3 and SMTP settings for Outlook Express?
  6. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?
  7. My desktop Recycle Bin has disappeared - why, and how do I get it back?
  8. What are the POP3 and SMTP settings for Hotmail?
  9. How do I hack into someone's account?
  10. How do I delete my Hotmail account?

*** Leo Recommends

Acronis TrueImage Home
Backup Software

As long time readers know I frequently mention backing up as one of the biggest and most important missed opportunities that too many people are overlooking to protect themselves. And I get reports every day of people who've lost important data, sometimes everything, that a simple backup solution would have protected them against.

If you're still without a backup solution I recommend Acronis True Image Home as an easy to use solution for anyone who should be backing up but isn't. Acronis is easy to set up, can back up files and folders, or your entire machine, and can similarly restore individual files and folders, or your an entire machine image, quickly and easily.

When used with an external hard drive Acronis True Image can be a nearly "set it and forget it" backup solution.

In fact, it's what's running on the very machine I'm using as I write this.

Continue reading my recommendation: "Acronis TrueImage Home - Backup Software", or just order Acronis True Image Home now.

I recommend it.

Each week I recommend a specific product or resource that I've found valuable and that I think you may as well. What does my recommendation mean?

*** Popular Articles from the Archives

Here's one thing you should all be doing to avoid asking for more spam.

Why shouldn't I post my email address in a public forum?

So many discussion forums and technical assistance sites, including yours, ask for an email address to post comments, and yet friends tell me never to put my real address in. Sometimes I need to include my email address as part of my comment or question, but I'm told that's even worse! Why is that, and what should I do?

The why is easy.

The what to do? Not so much.

Why is it a bad idea? In a word, spam.

Continue reading...
Why shouldn't I post my email address in a public forum?
http://ask-leo.com/why_shouldnt_i_post_my_email_address_in_a_public_forum.html

*** Thoughts and Comments

As I mentioned briefly last week, Sunday marked the 5th anniversary of Ask Leo!. It's hard to believe that I've been doing it that long. And aside from a virtual assistant helping me filter some of the comments and questions, it's still a one-man show. Just me: Leo Notenboom.

If you follow me on Twitter you'll already know that I posted this years collection of goofy questions out on my personal blog, as I do every year around this time. Once again this year saw no shortage of odd, strange and other questions in my inbox. (And yes, within moments of publishing that, the collection for next year has already started.)

And those following me on following me on Twitter also found out that I "celebrated" my anniversary by coming down with a head cold. As I write this (Monday morning), it still feels like I'm only on half power. World of Warcraft seems to be a good diversion though. Smile

Thank you for reading, subscribing and commenting. Without you Ask Leo! wouldn't be here, and I appreciate it more than I can say.

Onward into year six we go...

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'till next time...

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

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