Leo's Answers #198 – September 29, 2009

A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom


Do you have a question for me? Don’t hit reply! Head instead for the Ask Leo! home page and search the site first – seriously, around half the questions people ask are already answered there. You can also browse the archives, past newsletters and more. If you still can’t find the answer you’re looking for then by all means ask your question here (it’s the fastest way).

*** New Articles

What’s the difference between anti-virus, anti-spyware and internet security software?

What is difference between antivirus and internet security? How to compare two products for their dependability when both offer same services?


I’ll start by saying that it’s a confusing mess.

I’ll also start by lumping them all together as “security software”, and then point out that the confusion is really in some security software vendor’s best interest.

Why? In the name of fear, people purchase more security software than they need.

So let’s compare the various terms.

Continue reading: What’s the difference between anti-virus, anti-spyware and internet security software?

* * *

What’s a firewall, and how do I set one up?

I keep hearing the term “firewall” and how I need one when I connect my computer to the internet. What’s a firewall, why do I need one and how do I set one up?


The bottom line is that a large class of viruses and other types of malware can be prevented simply by using a good firewall.

What’s a firewall? Well, in your car it’s the “wall” of metal behind the dashboard that sits between you and the engine. Its purpose is to prevent engine fires from roasting you and your passengers.

A firewall for your computer is much the same – its purpose is to keep you from getting burned.

Continue reading: What’s a firewall, and how do I set one up?

* * *

Why did my email apparently get delivered to the wrong person?

I sent an e-mail to my cousin, *****14 at comcast.net and got back a reply telling me not to contact her again. It says I sent it to ?????14 at comcast.net where ????? is completely different than *****.

How can this happen? Isn’t an e-mail address exact? If I sent an e-mail to person1@somerandomservice.com why would it show up as sent to someotherperson@somerandomservice.com? if so, is there a way to prevent such events from happening?



I will say that you’ve got a bit of a mystery here. While I have a couple of ideas, I can’t actually say “this is it” and give you a single solution.

In fact, I’m hoping my readers have some other theories as to why this might have happened.

Continue reading: Why did my email apparently get delivered to the wrong person?

* * *

What are Root Certificates, and why do I need to update them?

Windows Update has a download for “Windows Root Certificates”. It was not critical and I did not know what it was. So a long time ago, I did not download it and turned the download off.

A search on Google gives me differing information on whether Windows Root Certificates are good or bad, or maybe even dangerous?

What are Windows Root Certificates and should I download and install them?


Root Certificates are one of the fundamental pieces of public key cryptography used by browsers and other services to validate certain types of encryption. For example, the root certificates are used whenever you connect via an https connection to make sure that you’re connecting to who you think you are.

Continue reading: What are Root Certificates, and why do I need to update them?

* * *

Restoring An Image Using Acronis TrueImage Home

You’re going along happily until one day your machine dies. It turns out to be the hard drive, and everything on it has been lost. Not to worry – you’ve been backing up regularly!

In this video, part of our backing up series, we’ll walk through restoring your entire machine from one of your backups.

Continue reading: Restoring An Image Using Acronis TrueImage Home

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*** Comments

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

* * *

How do I make system tray icons go away permanently?

Dennis Jackson writes:

While having a bunch of icons in the Taskbar is annoying, the more important issue (as was pointed out in the response to the question) is the number of programs(many unnecessary) running in the background – each one consumes memory and CPU cycles. Many programs and drivers when installed seem to think that you can’t live without their background process to at least check for updates for their application, so they install a background utility to start up automatically when the OS boots. One of the best ways I’ve found to control this behavior, without having to become an expert in MSConfig and/or Services.msc is to install and use Mike Lin’s Control Panel (currently version 2.8), a freeware utility available over the internet. This little program installs in the Control Panel in XP or as a standalone utility in Vista (be sure to set the utility to run with administrative privledges in Vista) and allows the user to easily control what background programs are allowed to start up when the computer boots up. You have to be careful what you turn off (look up what each listed program does by Googling it on the internet first), but the more unnecessary background programs you disable, the less icons will appear in the Taskbar, and the faster your computer will run. If, after turning off a background program, you decide that it’s necessary after all, you can just turn it back on to start on boot-up through Startup Control Panel.


Can I be traced by my email address?

Ralph writes:

First I must say I thought it was hilarious that the person was going to call the police on the other for ruining his day. I wish I could do that when someone ruins my day Other than that Leo one thing you should mention in this article is that many of the free email providers show the ip address of the sender in the headers. So if the person you emailed has this they can potentially get a lot of information if they key it in at arin.net. Possibly where you work if that is listed on the record. Also if they do a tracert that can give them some info too. So even if you have a totally anonymous free throwaway email you still can share info to someone who is really looking.

True, although as I’ve written many times, IP tracing isn’t nearly what people think it is. The average person can get very little useful information (though law enforcement, of course, can).



What’s the difference between a recovery disk and an installation disk?

Fred Deats writes:

I just made recovery disks (2 DVD’s) off a dying hard drive, replaced the hard drive, and booted. It formated the hard drive, re-installed XP and all the original drivers off the recovery disks. Computer works fine now, am I missing something here?

Only that there’s no definition for what a “recovery disk” should be. You’re lucky, in that whatever they are for you worked very well. Other, perhaps most, “recovery disks” simply do not do what you’ve described.


*** Leo Recommends

Ask Dave Taylor
More free tech support online

You might find it surprising that I’d be recommending what looks very much like competition to Ask Leo!. Well, the internet’s a big place and there’s room for all of us. I’m happy to point you to resources that I know might help you get your questions answered.

Dave Taylor’s Ask Dave Taylor is indeed very similar to Ask Leo! – in fact over the years we’ve occasionally acted as resources to each other and traded questions.

Dave’s a respected author of many books, and has a strong Macintosh background – something I lack. Dave tends to take on a wider range of topics than I do, ranging from business issues to Mac, the iPhone, Linux, Web design and much more.

Continue reading…
Ask Dave Taylor – More free tech support online


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

The frighteningly large number accounts are lost simply due to not understanding this one simple principle.

What’s a good password?

I told my friend my password, and she said it was a really bad one. What does it mean to have a “bad” password? And what’s a “good” one, then?

You told someone else your password? Yikes! I’ve seen more accounts get stolen by that one simple act than by any other single cause. I sure hope you know what you’re doing – most people that have told a friend their password have come to regret it.

So what’s a bad password? One that someone could easily guess.

A good password? One that’s hard to guess, of course.

The problem is that people are way better guessers than you think. And it gets worse if the guesser starts using a computer to do the “guessing” for them.

Continue reading…
What’s a good password?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Nathan Segal’s updated his Speed Up My Computer: In 30 Minutes or Less ebook, and is throwing in a bunch of free bonus items as well. The package includes not only the book, but videos showing you exactly what to do, as well as bonuses that’ll help you to avoid frauds and scams. It’s well worth a look, especially since Nathan offers a 100% money back guarantee. (And nope, nothing in it for me – I mention this simply because I know Nathan, and it’s potentially very useful information for you.)

OK, so I don’t normally spend a lot of time reading murder mysteries, yet you’ll notice that in the “what I’m reading” section to the right is “Pitch Black”, the second of three books in the “Black CATs” series by author Leslie Parrish. I won’t spoil the reason here, but let’s just say if you check out the acknowledgements in the book it’ll be clear. (OK, and on her website if you can’t wait.)

Fun books, and a nice break from some of the heavier fare I’ve been immersed in of late.

’till next time…

Leo A. Notenboom

Wow….this was as easy as ABC…123! Thanks!
– Amy

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Posted: September 29, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3881
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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.