Leo's Answers #205 – November 17, 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

Does forwarding email introduce risk?

I have several mail accounts. One is on an exchange server and usually accessed with Outlook, which works poorly and is not accessible from outside a certain protected network. I therefore asked for my email to this exchange account to be automatically forwarded to my mail account on Google. The exchange server administrator agreed, but now he is whining that this is a security risk. How on Earth can simply forwarding mail messages be a security risk??


Ah, those whiny administrators. Why can’t they just get out of the way and let us do our work, right? Smile

Having worked in a corporate environment in the past, I do understand your frustration. Not all of the decisions or rules make sense.

The problem is I can also understand your administrator’s position.

It all boils down to the definition of “security risk”.

Continue reading: Does forwarding email introduce risk?

* * *

How do I change my browser home page back to what I want?

I upgraded Internet Explorer to Version 8, and I’ve always had MSN as my homepage. Now, suddenly, the MSN homepage has changed to something called “Preview MSN”. It has a white background. I hate it. Can I change it back, and if so, how do I do it?


It’s actually fairly annoying, but many software installation programs these days will offer to change your browser’s home page “for you” to whatever they think it should be. Sometimes they don’t even ask and just do it, which to me is simply unacceptable.

Since I create and use my own custom browser home page, it’s more than a little annoying when it gets changed out from underneath me.

So yes, let me show you how to reset it, and throw out a tip or two to avoid it being changed again “for you” in the future.

Continue reading: How do I change my browser home page back to what I want?

* * *

What do I do when my backup drive fills up?

I have what I thought was a fairly big (230GB) extra hard drive fitted to my PC which I use for backup purposes. The drive is slowly filling up with all these Incremental backups (58GB free space) left! Can I get rid of any of these old backups? If so, how do I choose?


No matter what tool you use, a properly configured backup is likely to simply collect more and more data in the form of backups as time goes on. If you’re backing up to an external drive eventually it will fill up, no matter how big it is.

What to do, meaning what to remove, depends on the type of backup you’re doing, what you expect to be able to use your backups for and what other storage options you might want to use.

Continue reading: What do I do when my backup drive fills up?

* * *

How do I stay safe in an internet cafe?

I’ve read your articles about how a secure home wireless network is important. But lets say I’m in a cafe, and I’m connected to their public wireless, is all my privacy compromised? I have a firewall and I suppose that will block any attacks into my laptop, but what about the information I send out such as online banking and the like on that public wireless?


You are absolutely right to be concerned.

There are steps that you need to take to ensure both your security and your privacy.

Continue reading: How do I stay safe in an internet cafe?

* * *

If all I do is web browsing, email and video, do I still need to back up?

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think I need to back-up because all I use my machine for is internet browsing, e-mail, YouTube videos, and a foreign language subscription online. I have the hard copy of Windows XP if I need to reformat and reinstall. I purposely use and run it leanly so I don’t have to back-up.


You need to back up.

Your approach is a fine one, and you likely don’t absolutely need to back up everything that I might otherwise suggest, but I still think you need to back up.

In fact, I hear often from people in your position who are very sorry that they did not.

Continue reading: If all I do is web browsing, email and video, do I still need to back up?

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*** Comments

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

* * *

How do I close my Windows Live Hotmail account?

Kathy writes:

I just got an email from the “Windows Live Hotmail Team” last Friday stating that they were shutting down some accounts and mine was on that list. Now my friends are getting an email saying to please send $1500 right away to my sick cousin in England…I don’t have any relatives in England…I have always trusted Hotmail but not anymore, nor ever again. My advice: STOP USING HOTMAIL IMMEDIATELY!

This has nothing to do with Hotmail. You simply fell for a phishing scam: Is Windows Live Hotmail about to close my account?



How should I protect myself when other people use my computer?

isthisthingon writes:

Personally, I think the writer was the one downloading the kiddie porn and is trying to wiggle out by playing dumb. I simply can’t believe anybody would just let a herd of teenagers stampede into his or her place of business and use the computer. I don’t even let my son’s friends use our computer let alone a bunch of kids I don’t know. It’s meshuga.

A lot of people seem to be falling into your camp, and suspicious of the person asking the question. Obviously I don’t know for certain, but I can say this: there are most definitely a lot of people out there who have about this person’s level of computer sophistication and knowledge – i.e. nearly none. I hear from them all the time. I think it’s at least plausible that this person is exactly as represented.



Is changing my password enough?

Tony M. writes:

This may be the most valuable information regarding personal cyber security that I have ever seen. All the anti-virus programs and firewalls in the world will do little good if you’re blabbing your “secret” information to the world via social networking sites.

This is precisely how Sarah Palin’s e-mail account was hacked. A malicious individual, seeing publicly-available details about her, was successfully able to provide the correct answers to the security questions Mrs. Palin used for one of her e-mail accounts. Through this vulnerability, the hacker obtained access to the governor’s personal e-mail.

Thank you, Leo, for such thorough coverage of this personal security problem.

*** Leo Recommends

Inexpensive Domain Registration … with Service

As of yesterday, I own 69 internet domains. I’ve registered them all through SimpleURL, a service of Simple Online Solutions.

It’s easy to get wrapped up around pricing when looking to register a domain. SimpleURL’s prices are quite inexpensive, but certainly not the absolute lowest that you’ll find around. You might be able to save a buck or two by going elsewhere.

But in my experience – it’ll cost ya.

Continue reading: SimpleURL – Inexpensive Domain Registration … with Service


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

I get a fairly steady stream of questions asking if some file or folder can be deleted safely, in order to free up the disk space that it’s using. The blanket answer can only be “I have no idea” – but if important, there’s an approach to try.

Is it safe to delete this file?

My C: and D: drives have many gigabytes of .DAT files under “Documents and Settings”. I’m trying to free up space on the C: drive. Can I delete any of these files? I really don’t know what they are, how they got there, or why they occupy so much space on my computer!

I don’t know.

Honestly, I have no idea either as to what they are, how they got there, or why they occupy so much space. That’s the problem with “.dat” files – there’s no way to know what they are without more information.

But I do have some ideas on how to determine if deleting them is ok, and ways to do it safely. And those ideas apply to any file type, not just “.dat”.

Continue reading…
Is it safe to delete this file?

*** Thoughts and Comments

And thus we mark the completion of year 4 of the Ask Leo! newsletter. Who’d a thunk it?

A big THANK YOU for subscribing. I really appreciate it, and hope you continue to find value in my ramblings.

And speaking of newsletters, coming up in January / February 2010 the newsletter will be on hiatus for three or four weeks. Something about my 30th wedding anniversary, a trip, and Travels With Leo.

I’ll have more to say as the date gets closer.


And yes, I own 69 internet domains. That may seem like a lot, but honestly, I’m a lightweight in some circles. Smile

’till next time…

Leo A. Notenboom

Bless you for the help!
– Ed

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Posted: November 17, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3927
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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.