Leo's Answers #150 – October 28, 2008

Leo's Answers
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Leo Notenboom

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*** Contents

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

How do I send someone a large file?

OK, I get that using email to send large files has lots of problems. So how am I supposed to do it? I have a large file I need to send to someone; if I shouldn't use email, what can I do?

A fair question.

Email certainly has the convenience factor nailed: add an attachment, press send, and off it goes. The problem is that it might not get wherever you want it to go.

When it comes to large files in particular, we need to look at things just a little differently.

Continue reading: "How do I send someone a large file?"

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Why are emails I send with attachments not being delivered?

I have noticed that a number of my emails w/attachments have not been delivered. One ISP actually told me the email was not delivered. I divided it into 2 emails w/attachments of less than 100kb and it seemed to be delivered. Could this be my problem (I have and pay for Hotmail and receive large files up to 20mb regularly) or a problem with my correspondent's email account?

There are many, many, many reasons that emails with attachments often fail to get delivered. There are a lot of potential problems in the scenario you outline, and I'll try and touch on a few of them.

We can start by blaming viruses.

Continue reading: "Why are emails I send with attachments not being delivered?"

* * *

Just what is PDF format, how do I view it, and why do people use it?

I got a manual for a monitor, but it was not a paper printed manual, it was in PDF form! Question: How do I convert those 1's and 0's and all that other stuff into simple plain English?? And why do they put it in PDF in the first place? Why not simply put it in English to begin with? Seems like an avoidable second step.

Oh, the English (assuming that manual was written in English, that is) is in there. You just have to look at the PDF the right way, and with the right tools.

As for why, the clue is in what PDF stands for: "Portable Document Format".

Continue reading: "Just what is PDF format, how do I view it, and why do people use it?"

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What is the prefetch folder, and why are there copies of system files there?

I found a SVCHOST.EXE-2d5fbd18.pf located in C:windowsPrefetch. Should I delete it? I regularly run an up to date anti virus scan and it hasn't noted this as a virus.

Ignore the prefetch folder.

Seriously, there's nothing you need to do with it, and unlike some tips sites might suggest, there's nothing you should do with it.

You can delete files in it if you like, but it'll just slow down your system a little, and they'll probably reappear quickly anyway.

Now, as to why? It's Windows, trying to be fast.

Continue reading: "What is the prefetch folder, and why are there copies of system files there?"

* * *

What does "Pri Master HDD Error" mean on boot?

When powering up my friend's computer, it comes up "Pri Master HDD Error". Then it says to insert boot diskette in A. He is running Windows XP. What does this mean?

It means that your friend's computer has a problem.

The fact that it's supposed to be running Windows XP is actually beside the point ... the computer hasn't even gotten that far yet.

Continue reading: "What does "Pri Master HDD Error" mean on boot?"

* * *

How do I backup my computer?

How do I "back up" my computer? I am sure my question is ridiculous to you but I honestly have no clue what I should be doing.

Your question's not ridiculous at all, and in fact I'm certain that one reason so many people don't back up is exactly that: they don't know how.

Let's first look at what it means to back up a computer, what your options are, and then what I typically recommend for average users.

Continue reading: "How do I backup my computer?"

* * *

Why does answering cordless phones cause some wireless connections to drop?

When I answer my cordless phone, I get knocked off the internet on my wireless connection. What can I do to resolve this problem?

This is a problem that many people are unaware of, but happens quite often: household wireless phones and computer wireless (WiFi) connections can come into conflict.

There are a couple of solutions.

Continue reading: "Why does answering cordless phones cause some wireless connections to drop?"

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*** Featured Comments

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

* * *

Outsourcing Tech Support Good, or Evil?

Sarah writes:

Alright, I just need to say I am sick of people bashing support wether it's being outsourced or not. You, as a customer, are dealing with international companies and then become irate when you talk to some one who is not a five minute drive away. You want to know where HP support is coming from? Ontario (Canada), Oregon (US), New Delhi(India), New York (US), New Brunswick(Canada), British Columbia(Canada), Costa Rica & yes the Philippines. Is this a bad thing? Have we as a society become so close minded we can't take a moment to work through an accent or a time zone?

I know that there are a lot of folks who are prejudiced against any tech support that doesn't "sound" native. But that's not the issue here, I don't think.

What people care about is getting their problem solved, and being able to communicate - both ways - is critical to that process. It's about much more than an accent; if the tech support person doesn't understand me, or if I can't understand them, then the problem will not get solved.

What people want is tech support that is competent, nothing more, nothing less. That means not just technical competence in the areas that they're supporting, but competence in one-on-one communication as well.

Personally, as long as the support is competent and effective, I don't care where on the planet they are.



How do I backup my computer?

Rahul Mehta writes:

One concern I have is the availability of the backup program for restoring the data when you need it. Personally I like a backup set that can be read normally by an OS - one that does not require the same program to restore. This takes up more disk space for the backup set but these days space comes cheap.

Another space hog is the accumulation of data. No one takes a risk to really delete a backup set or files within. That means it grows... and grows....

I have a backup set on an 5.25" floppy. Does anyone have an 5.25" drive?

I agree proprietary formats can be a little off-putting. I'm comfortable because I've had good experience with what I use. However there are backup utilities that store in a more standard "zip" format that can be read by any zip-capable tool which would get you compression without a proprietary format.


Why won't some files defrag?

Jimmy Moore writes:

I have 57.23 gigs total on my NTFS,hard drive with only 13.24 gigs, (23%) free space. There's an enormous amount of fragmented files, (about as much as total contiguous files and unmovable files combined.) Up until a few weeks ago, when I defragged, I got a pretty clean slate and had plenty of free space, but the fragmented file(s)started growing and has continued to grow and my free disc space has dropped from 34% down to the current 23%. I've checked and none of my files are in use by another user,entity, etc. I've exhausted my defragging efforts and my question is - What happens when I run out of space? Is my computer going to lock up or what? Thanks, Jimmy

Fragmentation is not related to free space. In your case I would absolutely investigate where your hard disk space is going, but focusing on fragmentation is not going to get you there. I would have you start with this article: Where's my disk space going?


How should I save files before reformatting my computer?

Lisa writes:

I have read through all of this and I was wondering if you know what to do in a situation where you can't start up windows, can't get to a DOS prompt, etc.... How can I get to my files to back them up now? I have an external hard drive and I want to do a full system recovery but I can't bring myself to do it until I have copied all my pictures, music files and documents over to the external hd. Please help if you can. The manufacturer suggested going to someplace which services my brand of laptop, but that just reeks $$$$$. I'm fairly good at figuring things out myself and would rather give myself a headache fixing this instead of paying someone else to do something as simple as backing up a file. I just need to know if there is some way to get these files out of harms way.. . . Thanks, Lisa

There are a couple of approaches, but none of them what I would call "simple". You could temporarily put your hard disk as the second drive in another machine. You could try booting from a Linux live CD and if it recognizes both your hard drive and your external drive you could use it to copy the files. Most everything else would a variation on either of those themes: take the drive elsewhere, or boot from something that will read it.

All this assumes that the drive is actually working, by the way. If not then it's probably time for a technician's advice on the specific failure.

Finally, I have to point out that regular backups would prevent this crisis, so once you're set up again be sure to start backing up.


*** This Week's Most Popular

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

  1. How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?
  2. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar?
  3. My desktop Recycle Bin has disappeared - why, and how do I get it back?
  4. Why is my Task Manager disabled, and how do I fix it?
  5. How do I put a picture in a comment on myspace.com?
  6. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  7. I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin in Vista - how do I get it back?
  8. How do I delete my Hotmail account?
  9. What are MSN HotMail's POP3 and SMTP settings for Outlook Express?
  10. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?

*** Leo Recommends

Process Explorer
A Free Powerful Replacement for Windows Task Manager

OK, I admit it, I'm a geek. And part of the reason I say that is because I actually have Process Explorer as an auto-start entry on my two primary machines. It runs automatically whenever I boot up. Not only do I find that I refer to it that often, but I'm just the kind of person who likes to know what's going on inside his computer. You know, a geek.

Now, you may not need or even want to know what's going on under the hood. Let's face it, for most computer users you shouldn't have to. Computers are supposed to "just work", and you should never need to be bothered with things like processes or resource utilization or what not.

And we all know how well that's working. Smile

This is where process explorer comes in. Process Explorer - or frequently just "procexp" - provides a window into the world of all the programs running on your computer, and offers up a level of detailed information that Task Manager could never hope to approach.

Continue reading: Process Explorer - A Free Powerful Replacement for Windows Task Manager

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 a podcast from three years ago (with transcript) discussing the spyware crisis. Yes, it really is that bad.

Spyware - is the crisis really that bad?

In recent months and weeks we've seen a number of reports that claim that some frighteningly high percentage of computers examined at random are infested with spyware of some sort. Depending on the report, numbers quoted reach as high as 90 percent.

In my opinion reports that go that high aren't taking into account the severity of the threat, and typically include tracking cookies of some sort as "spyware". Technically, yes, I suppose they're spyware - but in my mind they're an acceptable cost of doing business on the internet. Certainly they're not in the same league as key loggers, browser hijackers, and other forms of true malware.

Continue reading...
Spyware - is the crisis really that bad?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Not a lot to add here this week, as time is kinda short. My wife's business - you know, the one we're closing - was selected at random for an audit by our state. As the bookkeeper (I wear way too many hats), I now have a lot of prep work ahead of me.

Life just keeps getting more and more interesting.

'till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom

* * *

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Newsletter contents Copyright © 2008, Leo A. Notenboom & Puget Sound Software, LLC.

Posted: October 28, 2008 in: 2008
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3547
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