Leo's Answers #204 – November 10, 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 do I do if my machine didn’t include installation or driver disks?

Hey Leo, I just bought a new laptop and I was very disappointed when I found out that my computer didn’t have any drivers or cd-roms. As a consumer, can I demand to the manufacturer to send me a copy of the cd-roms system back up? I read about the c:I386 but I feel like I should have a copy of the system without having to make a copy myself … am I correct on this?


The only right you have as a consumer is the right to take your business elsewhere if you don’t like the practices or service of the vendor you’re using. The vendors are actually under no obligation to give you CDs in addition to what’s pre-installed on your system, as long as they didn’t somewhere state that they would. As we’ve seen in recent years, they often don’t, presumably as some kind of cost cutting measure.

That being said, there’s at least one potential confusion in your question that I want to clear up, and before you walk away from your vendor some alternatives that I’d encourage you to pursue.

Continue reading: What do I do if my machine didn’t include installation or driver disks?

* * *

How can I sign a digital document without needing to print it?

I am often asked to return a signed and dated copy of a pdf contract. The only way I know to do this is to print it on paper, sign and date it and then re-scan it. Is there some way do this (to create a replica of my signature, the current date, and sometimes a printed version of my name) that doesn’t require a scanner and printer and avoids the use of paper?


It’s possible, though sometimes it’s not as easy as we might like.

But aside from the technical aspects of what you’re attempting, the more practical aspect is simply this: it might not be valid to do so.

And honestly, when it is valid, it kinda scares me.

Continue reading: How can I sign a digital document without needing to print it?

* * *

Is changing my password enough?

I regularly hear from people who’ve had their email or other online account compromised, who somehow are able to recover access to it and change their password, only to have the account stolen almost immediately again.

The problem is actually quite simple, though the solution is a bit of work.

First, you have to realize that while someone else has access to your account they have access to everything related to that account.

Second, you have to realize that because of that, changing your password just isn’t enough.

Continue reading: Is changing my password enough?

* * *

How many copies are made when I email a picture?

When I insert pictures into an email from my hard drive and then send that email, are those pictures saved to my hard drive again? And when I receive a reply with the same pictures inserted, are the pictures now on my hard drive three times?


Quite possibly. Plus one, even.

It’s going to depend on your email program, and what options you may have selected, and how the picture was inserted into the email.

Let’s run down the variations.

Continue reading: How many copies are made when I email a picture?

* * *

Why is Outlook Express sending multiple copies of my email?

There is something strange going on with my Outlook Express version 6. When I send an Email with an attachment it’s sent something like 40 times! Of course, while sending that mail I notice on my screen nothing at all about this curious fact. It seems to me – but I certainly do not know why or how – that probably my Outlook Express duplicates that mail and delivers it 40 times! I checked my configuration but I see nothing strange with that. Can you tell me what is the problem and how to solve this?


I did a little research, and I’m finding a couple of common causes.

The good news here is that either should be easy to fix.

Continue reading: Why is Outlook Express sending multiple copies of my email?

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*** Comments

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

* * *

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

Al Lowe writes:

I follow a similar plan, but add one more: I use a one-line DOS command to update a straight file for file backup on an external hard drive of everything! That way, when I mess up just a simple file or three, I can go get it directly from the similar file structure on the external drive without messing with a restore program.

This command in a batch file will copy only those files that have changed since the last time the batch file ran. It takes a while the first time, of course, but after that, it takes just minutes. It’s all in one line, of course:

xcopy C: “Q:BackupsLaptop” /D/S/R/Y/H/I/C/EXCLUDE:C:batchNObackup.lst > “C:Backup.lst”

You can omit the EXCLUDE command, but I don’t bother backing up temp dirs, etc.

And you can then look in C:Backup.lst to see every file that got copied.

If you wonder what all those parameters mean, open a DOS prompt and type xcopy /? and it will explain them and many more.

I’ve been using this approach for 20 years. It’s simple, effective, and fast.

This is similar to a technique I use to backup some of my machines. The limitation is that this will not backup your operating system. If you suffer a complete system meltdown your data will have been saved, but you’ll still be faced with a complete reinstall of the operating system and all applications. (A price I’m willing to pay, but only for, as I said, some of my machines.)



Why is my “generic volume in use” when removing my external hard drive?

Ian writes:

Hi Leo,

As a tip, I created a folder called “My Downloaded Applications” and inside placed two subfolders called “Bought” and “Freeware” respectively. It now contains every bought or free application or codec Install File I’ve ever downloaded, including current updates to software originally supplied on disks. I copy this folder to all my machines and when reformatting, it’s one of the first folders to be transferred to the clean copy of Windows. Then, once Windows is installed and running, everything else needed to bring that machine up to the same state of functionality as my others is all available from that one convenient folder and nothing vital gets overlooked. Another tip is to download any information webpages that accompanied the application downloads and save them together in individual subfolders so you’ve got all the install notes and caveats to hand too.


How do I transfer my data if I do a clean install of Windows 7?

Mark writes:

I made 2 backups (1 image and 1 manual file copy including the entire documents and settings folder), but after installing win7 it was all still there under windows.old. Don’t take this as an excuse not to back-up as anything can happen when installing an OS. Use the not hard to find Easy Transfer migwiz.exe from your win7 DVD to back-up your settings and migration will be much easier.

Yes, windows.old is what’s left behind if you elect not to reformat your hard disk at installation time. I prefer to use the OS installation as an opportunity to really clean up and remove everything that I’m no longer using and anything that isn’t needed for the new system.


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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

If one is good, two must be better, right? Not always…

Can I run more than one anti-virus program? Anti-spyware program? Firewall? Should I?

With regards to firewalls, anti-virus programs and anti-spyware programs; can I have more than one of each of these programs installed in my computer? For example, I run ZoneAlarm; does that mean I should I turn off Windows firewall?

I’ve touched on this before but only addressed anti-spyware programs. The question is more common and more general than that, so in this article I’ll tackle all of the big three: firewall, anti-spyware, and anti-virus.

Naturally, the answer on running more than one each of those three categories is different, and varies depending on exactly what you’re doing.

Continue reading…
Can I run more than one anti-virus program? Anti-spyware program? Firewall? Should I?

*** Thoughts and Comments

My Windows 7 saga continues to be a relatively good one. It’s been nearly two weeks and I’m still quite happy. The majority of things I care about all just work.

Not that there haven’t been hiccups. I mentioned my printer driver issue last week. This week I encountered at least one crash in a video editing applications (haven’t tracked that down yet), my favorite FTP software doesn’t quite work (working with the vendor on that one), and – perhaps the silliest – the HP16C calculator emulator that I just love appears to work, but the display remains blank. Apparently it’s emulating a broken LCD.

It’s way too soon for me to just blanket endorse Windows 7. There’s still too much to learn about it, and it needs to build up a track record before I’d feel confident actually recommending it. Many people ask “do I have to upgrade?” and of course the answer is no. If you’re happy doing what you’re doing with what you have, then keep on doing so.

I have built up enough confidence to say this though: if you’re on XP, and you plan to upgrade – just skip Vista completely. There’s no need. Windows 7 is probably a safer upgrade overall.

’till next time…

Leo A. Notenboom

Your comments are always so helpful…
– Alta

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Posted: November 10, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3920
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