Leo's Answers #195 – September 8, 2009

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

Is Windows Live Hotmail about to close my account?

I keep getting this email from Hotmail – is it legit?

Subject: Account Alert
From:  WINDOW TEAM (*****@hotmail.com)
To:  *****@hotmail.com

Dear Account Users




This is an old, old scam. Delete it. Ignore it. Do not follow its instructions or your account will be hacked or your identity stolen.

Clear enough?

Apparently not, since I keep getting asked about this scam over and over and over again.

And it’s not even that good a scam.

Let me walk through the many ways it’s so obviously bogus.

Continue reading: Is Windows Live Hotmail about to close my account?

* * *

Restoring A File Using Acronis TrueImage Home

After scheduling our backups to happen every night, it’s time to see what they’re good for. We’re going to delete a file, and then restore it from a backup.

In fact, we’re going to restore it from a backup of a couple of days earlier, so that not only will we restore it, but we’ll restore it to an earlier point in time.

Continue reading: Restoring A File Using Acronis TrueImage Home

* * *

Why does the mouse on one computer move the pointer on another?

When my son uses his mouse on his laptop upstairs it moves the mouse on the computer downstairs? Can you help?


I’m not certain that I can, but I can certainly give you a few things to look into.

The real reason I’m addressing this question is that it raises a very interesting privacy issue that most people aren’t aware of.

Continue reading: Why does the mouse on one computer move the pointer on another?

* * *

How do I disable my laptop touchpad?

On my laptop I have a touch pad which I hate. So I have attached an external mouse but how do I now disable the touch pad so that a shirt sleeve brushing across it (or a lazy finger) won’t seen the cursor where it is not wanted?


The laptop touch pad (or track pad) is an alternative to using your mouse. Using your finger you can move the mouse pointer around the screen, and with buttons near the touchpad, click.

It’s all well and good until you accidentally brush something across the touchpad when you didn’t intend. Exactly what can do this – be it a finger or a shirt sleeve – depends on the specific touch pad.

In fact – everything depends on the touchpad, it’s drivers, and whether or not those drivers even give you the control you’re looking for.

Continue reading: How do I disable my laptop touchpad?

* * *

Is Yahoo (or Gmail or Hotmail or …) reading my email?

I noticed the banner ads on Yahoo Mail reflect the subjects of my mail. To test this, I created a few fake messages to myself with subjects having topics of no interest to me like dog food, new car, landscaping, new shoes, etc. and noticed the ad banners change to reflect them. I see ads for exactly my mail subjects. Is Yahoo reading my mail?


Not to get pedantic on you, but it really depends on what exactly you mean by “reading”.

Of course Yahoo “reads” your mail. The question is really, how much, and to what end?

Continue reading: Is Yahoo (or Gmail or Hotmail or …) reading my email?

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*** Comments

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

* * *

Making a Full Backup using Acronis TrueImage

Frank D writes:

Leo, I’d appreciate your comments on an alternate way of creating a full disk backup of the system drive (OS: WinXP Pro, SP3).

I use _Paragon Disk Copy 8_ to generate a full disk copy of my C: drive (the boot drive) to my D: drive (an identical drive, which is installed as a slave). When the disk copy is done, I have two identical, bootable drives — but of course only the C: drive is currently bootable. The D: (slave) drive is there as just another drive, and it can be written to or read from normally, and it has all the data, down to the last byte that was on the C: drive at the time the drive copy was made. If my C: drive ever crashes or is trashed, all I have to do is remove it from the PC, switch over the slave drive (after jumpering it as master) and boot into Windows normally. I would then either replace the trashed C: drive, or reformat and reinstall it if it is working order.

Can you see anything wrong with that procedure?

Not really, it’s a fairly reasonable approach. The biggest risk is that your backup is live and inside your system – meaning that if your system suffers physical trauma or theft, it’s gone. Also, like an always connected external drive, if some rouge process goes out and starts deleting (or infecting) things it has access to the backup as well.



How do these emergency recovery options compare?

John Pen writes:

I’m a great fan of the image backup option. It’s dug me out of more than one problem situation. Having regular image backups is just so much simpler than trying to resolve one of those “something’s recently gone wrong but I don’t know what or how to fix it” problems that are so common in these interconnected times, and sure beats spending a couple of days hard work to rebuild everything from scratch. (I’ve done that too, and I can’t say I fancy doing it again!) I run regular backups each night after I’m done for the day, checking the “shut down when completed” box in the final dialogue. Then I just walk away and the PC shuts itself down when the backup is done.

I purchased a popular internet security suite from a national retail chain here in the UK and it’s been running fine for quite a while. Recently I got an email, purportedly from a survey company engaged by that retail chain asking me how satisfied I was with the product and with their service. Clearly they new I had that particular product and where I had acquired it. It all sounded very reasonable so I decided to respond.

I committed the cardinal sin by following a link to a customer satisfaction survey given in this unsolicited email – big mistake! Within a day or so of completing the survey telling them how satisfied I was that very same product crashed at boot time, and thereafter failed to work at all. It didn’t take me long to realize I’d been stupid and had paid the price for it.

Instead of chasing after customer support and burning lots of time trying to pin down and fix the damage, I just booted from my rescue CD, restored a recent backup image from an external backup drive, and an hour or so later I was up and running as though the problem had never happened. My very latest documents could then be retrieved from an even more recent backup so that I lost nothing at all except a couple of hours of my time. A minute of my time each night had been well rewarded once more, and a potential disaster had been reduced to a minor inconvenience.


I thought my posts were private/anonymous/protected?

Lutz Pansegrau writes:

Dear Leo,

As said “it is (technically) possible to trace someone back, for what ever reasons”, I wonder why it is than not possible to get rid of those persons/institutions who spread virus software, malware etc over the internet? On the other hand realizing that there has been established a huge industry which sells with great profit software to fight against such intrusions, I must come to the conclusion that it is (technically) Not possible. Or is it? Why must we use a pill to superimpose the disease instead of eradicating it?

Remember, “possible” is not the same as “easy”. In spammers cases specifically they have adopted techniques that make it extremely difficult and time consuming to trace them back. So much so that the amount of work required to do it is often simply out of reach of all but the largest and most well funded organizations. And even after having done so (because it has been done, repeatedly) a hundred new spammers shows up to take their place, and the expensive process repeats.


*** Leo Recommends

Darik’s Boot And Nuke

I get questions surrounding data recovery fairly often. People are often concerned that files they’ve deleted might be recoverable after the fact, and it’s good and security conscious of them to be concerned.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who give no thought at all to the potential recoverability of their data, and discard old computers and hard drives without giving it a second thought. We often hear about people who’ve picked up an old computer at a recycler or yard sale, only to find that the hard disk is full of the previous owner’s sensitive data.

Identity theft often follows.

DBAN, short for Darik’s Boot And Nuke, is a free utility dedicated to doing one thing, and one thing well…

Erasing hard drives.

Continue Reading…
DBAN – Darik’s Boot And Nuke


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

Haven’t we all been here?

Why can’t I open this file?

I saved a copy of important excel files back in 2004. When I tried to open what I was looking for, I was unsuccessful. A window popped up and said “xyz.xls file cannot be accessed. The file may be read-only (which it shows in properties) or you may be trying to access a read-only location, or the server the doc is stored on may not be responding”. I know it’s possible to take ownership of a hard drive in order to change read-only status, however I forgot how, plus I don’t know if its possible to do it with a CD. Can you help?

Besides accessing files that may have been written to CD as a backup, this is a common trap people fall into when moving files from machine to machine.

There are many programs that will refuse to open files that are marked read-only. The problem is that files can appear as “read-only” for several different reasons.

I’ll look at those reasons, as well as the most common scenario where people run into this problem. And of course I’ll outline what you can do.

Continue reading…
Why can’t I open this file?

*** Thoughts and Comments

This week on Twitter:

askleo: Why I Love Thunderbird: copied the entire folder tree from one computer (a backup copy on a PC) to my another (Mac) and It Just Works.

askleo: RT @KING5Seattle: Woman tricked into wiring $4,000 to England via fake Facebook msg. http://bit.ly/xKqwL [Leo: yep, scams still happen.]

askleo: For the record, I tweet less serious stuff (aka stupid & silly stuff, even lunch) over here: @leonot – follow at your own risk

askleo: RT @skydiver: Auto-Responder Email replies: Ur doin it WRONG. http://is.gd/2OfyS [Leo: Yes! OOF replies are EVIL: http://ask-leo.com/C2368

Remember that you can get those (and more) by following me on Twitter, if you like.



Just so you know you’re not alone.

On Friday morning I woke up to “The Nightmare” – or rather what could be a nightmare for many people.

My trusty laptop – my Dell Latitude D620 – had breathed it’s last. Sometime over night it black-screened, and never came back. No amount of diagnosing I was prepared to do would tell me any thing more than “it don’t work”. No BIOS messages, no beeps, no nothing. Dead.

And this, my friends, is why I preach backups. It can happen any time, any place, and to any one, without warning.

Fortunately, the machine’s nightly backup had completed properly before the machine’s death, so I lost nothing, other than the time involved setting up elsewhere. (For the record, even had the nightly backup not completed, there was only a small chance I would have lost at most one day’s worth of work on some files. Everything else would have been recoverable with a little more effort.) My laptop was my mobile home, and the primary repository of my email so its loss definitely called for a plan B, and quickly.

My initial plan B was GMail. Yes, a free email service. It was a convenient way to carry on with email almost instantly and from any other machine I happened to have handy.

The current plan B is my Mac. I’ve moved my email (in Thunderbird) to my MacBook Pro, and it moved almost seamlessly. I copied one folder from my backup to the appropriate place on the Mac, and It Just Worked. Between native apps on the Mac, and a Parallels virtual machine that lets me simultaneously run Windows XP, I’m set for the time being. In fact, I wrote a good portion of these comments using it.

But I’ll reiterate: there was no data loss.

That’s why I back up.

And that’s why you should.

(As a side note: I’m actually not sure what I’m doing next. I do plan to replace the laptop with another Windows machine, likely another Dell since my track record with them has been great. In the mean time I’ve scavenged the hard drive, battery pack and RAM out of the old laptop, in the hopes that they might be useful elsewhere.)

’till next time…

Leo A. Notenboom

Your advice was right on the money! I owe you big time!
– Tom

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Posted: September 8, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3864
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.