Leo's Answers #155 – December 2, 2008

Leo's Answers
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Leo Notenboom

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*** Contents

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

Where did my folders go in Windows Live Hotmail?

I'm getting several reports of people who are unable to access the folders that they may have set up in Hotmail. Typically, the claim is that the folders are "gone" after the Hotmail UI update.

I did a little looking into it, and found at least a couple of possibilities that would indicate that the folders aren't gone at all.

They're just hiding.

Continue reading: "Where did my folders go in Windows Live Hotmail?"

* * *

Why does copying a large file sometimes slow down or fail?

In Windows XP, 250 GB Harddrive, 1GB Ram, I am experiencing a bog down / hang-up when copying files larger than 10 MB; the PC will have to be restarted to clear this. Any idea what could cause this annoying problem?

These types of problems are very difficult to diagnose, even with access to the machine. So what I'll offer is the list of things that come to mind and what I'd look at in your shoes.

I'll also ask readers to contribute ideas as well.

Continue reading: "Why does copying a large file sometimes slow down or fail?"

* * *

Just what is the Malicious Software Removal Tool that I keep getting in Windows Updates?

This Malicious Software Removal Tool which Microsoft sends around every month; usually, I download this tool and have it installed automatically, but I really do not know what it is doing. Is it doing it automatically or does it have to be activated?

I once downloaded this tool as a separate item and then I could run it on it's own, however, I ended up in Windows Defender. Does that mean that this tool is a part of Windows Defender and sort of an update? I could not find anything about this in all my computer books.

Microsoft's "Malicious Software Removal Tool" is somewhat mysterious. It shows up in Windows updates, apparently gets installed, and then ...


Not quite. Let's look at what Microsoft says, how I interpret it, and just what the MSRT does.

Continue reading: "Just what is the Malicious Software Removal Tool that I keep getting in Windows Updates?"

* * *

What kind of maintenance should I do to avoid software rot?

I have an older laptop (about 3 yrs old) running XP Pro w/SP3 and IE7. I was a complete newbie when I first started receiving your newsletter and my learning process has had me installing / uninstalling many programs, applications, etc. Rather than clutter up my hard drive with something I might use only once as a learning tool, or just once in a while, I'll uninstall the program. Then I'll use disk cleanup; search the hard drive for any remaining files or folders; use regedit to delete any registry entries; maybe run CCleaner; defrag; and once every couple of months run a check disk. Knock on wood and lighting a candle to my little shrine of Redmond, my computer is humming right along.

So my question is this: Is my preventive maintenance routine enough, too much, or would you recommend something entirely different? I still enjoy playing with different software but I'm also trying to forestall my laptop's demise.

"Software rot" is what happens to your machine slowly over time as you install and uninstall, and in some cases simply use, software. Settings get left behind, files don't get properly uninstalled, and things just get slightly messy. Eventually it can lead to some amount of instability.

The question is, can it be avoided or delayed, and if so, how?

Continue reading: "What kind of maintenance should I do to avoid software rot?"

* * *

My computer was stolen. It's password protected, what files can the thieves see?

My mid-tower computer was recently stolen in a burglary. The Windows Vista home ultimate system was password protected at start-up. What files can be accessed by those trying to enter the system?

It'll take a computer savvy thief about 5 minutes to gain access to everything on your computer.

Yep. Everything.

Everything that you haven't otherwise protected, that is.

Continue reading: "My computer was stolen. It's password protected, what files can the thieves see?"

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*** Featured Comments

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

* * *

My computer has started to shut down randomly, could it be the fan?

Randy writes:

I've found that improper cleaning can cause more harm than good. Regarding using a vacuum to clean the interior of your PC, this can be dangerous since static electricity can be generated by the vacuum and cause damage to PC components. A bit more troublesome but safer way to clean the interior of a PC is with short bursts of compressed air making sure that the can is not shaken or that moisture is expelled from the can while cleaning.

Personally I've not had problems with careful use of a vacuum, particularly for the exterior. But you are very correct, care and caution are called for particularly when cleaning the inside.


My computer has started to shut down randomly, could it be the fan?

Bob writes:

Two things: 1. The dust can cause a lot of noise, too, depending on how the fan is structured. 2. You forgot to mention that one doesn't have to "lose all" when the computer shuts down. Any old hand will tell you he saves what he is doing every few minutes, and sometimes every few seconds. I automatically do a CTRL-S after virtually every editing change, and every paragraph input. After "losing all" once, there's really no excuse for getting caught a second time. Whatever the program you're using, just think, "Would I want to have to type all this in again?" When you do that, you'll automatically do a "save" often.

Yes, I confess to being a CTRL+S addict as well. Been burned too many times. Even wrote an article on it: My computer froze, and I lost my work in progress - what can I do?


My computer was stolen. It's password protected, what files can the thieves see?

Rahul Mehta writes:

I find this password protection akin to that lock on the door of your home. Enough protection against a casual passerby but pick-able to a seasoned burglar. And of course total annoyance to you when you have forgotten the key.

I totally agree with Leo that encryption is the real protection but would add that do not leave the key on the machine itself. And don't forget it either. Encryption works better when the key is long and not easily guessable and that includes using difficult but words in a common dictionary. That is a real temptation to leave the key somewhere near by defeating the purpose.

Goes on to prove that it is not easy to protect your possessions.

*** 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. I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin in Vista - how do I get it back?
  5. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?
  6. How do I delete my Hotmail account?
  7. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  8. How do I put a picture into the caption of a picture on myspace.com?
  9. How do I resolve my MSN Hotmail sign in problems?
  10. What are MSN HotMail's POP3 and SMTP settings for Outlook Express?

*** Leo Recommends

Security Now

From the site:

"TechTV's Leo Laporte and [Steve Gibson] take 30 to 60 minutes near the end of each week to discuss important issues of personal computer security. Sometimes we'll discuss something that just happened. Sometimes we'll talk about long-standing problems, concerns, or solutions. Either way, every week we endeavor to produce something interesting and important for every personal computer user."

I subscribe to a number of podcasts, as you might imagine. There are few - very few - that get my attention nearly 100% of the time.

Security Now with Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte is one of those podcasts.

And it's not because the co-host's name is also "Leo".

Continue reading: "Security Now"

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

Three years after this article was published, SVCHOST still causes problems, and confusion...

Where is it alright for svchost.exe to be?

I was told that the file svchost.exe should only exist in the windowssystem32 directory. I was also told that if I find it in another directory, it is part of a virus. I have WinXP and found the svchost.exe file in the windowssystem32 directory. However, I also found it in the windowsServicePackFilei386 directory and in the windows$NtServicePackUnistall$ directory. Is this a problem? Should I delete the svchost.exe files in the non system32 directories?

Indeed, you were told correctly ... kind of.

I just took a look at my machine, and found all those copies and one more. Fortunately they are not the result of a virus, and you and I are quite safe.

Let's look a little more closely as to why.

Continue reading...
Where is it alright for svchost.exe to be?

*** Thoughts and Comments

From the "It Happens to Me Too" department...

The server that hosts the Ask Leo! web site is, essentially, a PC. It's an industrial strength PC to be sure, but in it's heart of hearts, it's just a PC (running Linux).

About three weeks ago we upgraded its RAM from 2 to 3 gigabytes. Unfortunately after doing to the server, which normally would run for months if not years without a problem, started to crash, hard, roughly every other day. Replacing the RAM did not help. The next step would be to replace the motherboard and chassis, including things like the power supply. Unfortunately the system is old enough (Ask Leo!'s been around for a while), that this was no longer an option at my hosting company.

Perhaps you can guess where this is headed.

A) the extra RAM has been removed and we're back at 2 gig. The server's been up for over 5 days as I write this, which is longer than would have happened with 3 gig.

B) sometime next year, Ask Leo! will get an upgrade to newer, faster hardware.

C) in the mean time, I'm slowly migrating some other sites on that server to a second sever. (That server's been up for 384 days and counting. Smile)

I mention all this not for sympathy or ideas or anything like that. It's a part of doing business, and of course it'll get dealt with.

I mention it because it's similar to many problems that I hear about every day. I think it helps to realize that it's not just you, that these types of problems happen all the time, and like mine, they're often never explained. Yes, ultimately, I'll be moving to a new machine because this one crashes if you add a gig of RAM, and we don't know why. It shouldn't be that way; things should just work.

But the reality is, for my computers as well as yours, sometimes things simply are what they are and we do what we need to keep working.

'till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom

* * *

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

Posted: December 2, 2008 in: 2008
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3580
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