Leo's Answers #200 – October 13, 2009

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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 a safe web site?

How do I know if a site I’m about to visit is a safe web site? Is there any software I can use to know this, or some other technique?


This turns out to be a frustratingly difficult problem to solve.

It’s not that there aren’t some solutions to identifying safe web sites, but rather that the solutions themselves can often be inconsistent.

But used properly, there are some ways you can at least gather a little additional data before taking the plunge and clicking that link.

Continue reading: What’s a safe web site?

* * *

My anti-spyware tool is reporting errors in my hosts file. What is that, and why?

I tried a different anti-spyware program which reported a stream of different trojans all related to my HOSTS file. This list (1677 in all) are listed on my hosts file as inserted by Spybot. The program I was testing told me to delete them immediately. I am very confused, should I remove all these entries?? I understood that they were placed there by Spybot so that these sites could not be accessed. Each entry follows the loopback address


You’re bumping into a classic problem that results from running more than one anti-spyware program. One program thinks that the other is itself spyware.

Who do you believe?

In this case, if we understand why the hosts file is so important and how it can be used and misused, we’ll have our answer.

Continue reading: My anti-spyware tool is reporting errors in my hosts file. What is that, and why?

* * *

Is keeping an image backup of my cleanly installed machine a good idea?

As you keep saying we should do backups of our system so I found an easy Disk Imaging System which I use to make full backups of my system.

The idea I had was to do a reinstall of my system using the manufacturers installation disk then download all my programs , clean off as much junk as possible and then make a disk image of what should be as clean a system as possible.

After say six months I was planning to reformat the disk and put the backup on. I would then bring everything up to date and make another image for use in six months time. A bit like spring cleaning.

My question is how will this work regarding my security programs which update once or twice a day? When I put a six month old backup back on will my anti virus and anti malware programs update correctly or will they be missing updates from months previously?


First, I like your idea. The basic idea is an approach I endorse, though I don’t know if I’d do it every six months.

In fact, it’s an idea I strongly recommend for people that have purchased machines with Windows preinstalled, and did not receive original installation media.

I’ll review the technique, and then also address your question: what to do about updates that happen after the initial image is taken.

Continue reading: Is keeping an image backup of my cleanly installed machine a good idea?

* * *

What are hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys? (And how do I remove them?)

I recently noticed two huge files named hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys occupying something like 2.5GB. I can’t delete ’em, or if I do they come back when I reboot. What are they and how do I get rid of them?


As you might guess, hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys are two system files, managed by Windows.

They are support files for two features in Windows. While you might be able to get rid of them, you might not actually want to.

But you can at least manage one of them a little bit.

Continue reading: What are hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys? (And how do I remove them?)

* * *

What does “relaying denied” mean?

I hope you might be able to help with the following problem. When attempting to send email from ‘Outlook Express’ the error message “The message could not be sent because one of the recipients was rejected by the server. Relaying denied. Proper authentication required.'”

What does that mean, and how do I fix it?


To understand what situations can result in this error, and thus how or if we can solve them, we need to look at exactly how email gets from your computer to its recipient.

It can be a short trip, or a lengthy one, depending on a number of factors.

And one of those factors is the relay.

Continue reading: What does “relaying denied” mean?

* * *

Viruses: How do I keep myself safe from Viruses?

Computer viruses are a fact of modern, internet-connected life. At best, they’re annoying performance sucking beasts, but at worst … kiss all your data, and perhaps your bank account or identity, goodbye.

We all need to take steps to make sure that our computers are safe, or we risk infection. Complacency is simply not an option.

And yet, even after all the news, all the horror stories, all the warnings, and even after all this time …

complacency remains all too common.

Continue reading: Viruses: How do I keep myself safe from Viruses?

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*** Comments

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

* * *

How do I type in characters and symbols that aren’t on my keyboard?

Glenn P. writes:

“Character Map” — CharMap.EXE — is located within your “C:WINDOWSSystem32” directory (or “folder” to use Microsoft-speak). I place a shortcut to it on my (classic view) Start Menu, so that it’s immediately available if I need it.

Be aware that using CharMap does have two very distinct disadvantages:

First, to be used correctly, you need to switch it to whatever font you happen to be writing/editing in at the moment, which — on a system with a couple of hundred fonts on it — can be rather time consuming!

And Second, after selecting the correct font, you do need to (tediously) peruse the table of characters to hunt out the character you need — which may (or may not!) be a hunt in vain, since not every font has every available character. If you happen to be using a font which omits the character you need, you’re out of luck — all you can do is switch to some other, more complete, font!

Still, if the latter’s the case, CharMap’s your quickest and most definitive way of finding that out! And if you don’t want to mess around with memorizing “ALT” codes, CharMap’s “point-&-click” interface can’t be beat.      🙂


Why does my email program ask for a username or password when I try to download mail?

Jim Calvert writes:

Setting up a new email address so that the password is not asked for repeatedly is, to say the least, VERY frustrating. It seems that EVERY time someone creates a new email address with their ISP, Yahoo, Gmail, or whoever – and then sets it up under “accounts” in their email program, they MUST go through this agravating hassle. and hope that eventually the request to enter the password stops appearing.

This problem is like going through a rite of passage. You apparently must keep trying to use that new email address until the gods are finally satisfied.

Complaints of this nature has been going on for years, and AFAIK no one has come up with an improved method for setting up new email addresses yet!

And it shouldn’t be happening. In fact, it doesn’t happen to the vast majority of users. The program needs to ask for the password at least once, but as long as you check “remember this password”, or whatever the equivalent is in your email program, that should be the end of it, until you set up a new email program, change your password, or create a new email account. I’ve listed a number of possibilities in the article of things that can go wrong. I don’t mean to minimize the problem you’re having but I do need to be clear that it’s not by design, as you make it out to be. It’s a problem, and has some kind of root cause that can and should be fixed.


*** Leo Recommends

Internet and Technology dictionary and search engine

Ever come across an internet or computer related term or acronym that made absolutely NO sense? And yet the writer, perhaps even me, uses it as if everyone on the planet should know what it means?

Webopedia is the site for you. “The only online dictionary and search engine you need for computer and Internet technology definitions.”

Continue reading…
Webopedia – Internet and Technology dictionary and search engine


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

This article got a ton of traffic last week when it was announced that a number of Hotmail passwords may have been compromised. Do you have a good password? (Hotmail or anywhere else, for that matter).

How do I change my Windows Live Hotmail password?

I can’t figure out how to change my password since they changed MSN Hotmail to that new Windows Live Hotmail. How do I change my password now?

This remains an extremely common question.

Let’s walk through, step by step.

Continue reading…
How do I change my Windows Live Hotmail password?

*** Thoughts and Comments

200. Wow. Who’d a thunk it?

My replacement laptop’s been delayed, so I’ll be traveling with my MacBook Pro for the first time this week. Should be interesting. Thunderbird makes moving my email from machine to machine pretty much a snap, so that part’s easy, as is any web browsing.

My bigger concern is whatever it is I haven’t thought about, and won’t realize until I’m miles from home.

That new laptop, a Dell XPS 16, is probably going to arrive with 64bit Vista on it – which given the timing I’ll probably just immediately replace with 64bit Windows 7 which I pre-ordered a couple of days ago. I ordered the laptop too soon to have Windows 7 preinstalled, but it certainly seems like the way to go for a new machine based on everything I’ve read, and my own experimentation with the release candidate.

In the mean time – Albuquerque, here I come. As you read this, I’m likely in an airport, or in the air. (Keep an eye on my Twitter stream, if so inclined – perhaps I’ll do an impromptu “Tweet-Up” Smile.)

’till next time…

Leo A. Notenboom

Thanks Leo, and please keep up your great work.
– Jeanne

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Posted: October 13, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3899
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