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 just looking at a file leave a trail?
If I open and view, but do not ever save a file on my hard drive - in other words it is opened from and only stored on other media like CD or flash drive - can such a file be recovered, opened, viewed or otherwise identified?
This is another of those cases where it really, really, really depends on the characteristics of the file, the system, and the program used to view it.
More often than you might think the answer to at least some of the scenarios you raise is yes.
Continue reading: Does just looking at a file leave a trail?
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What's the difference between AppData and Application Data folders? (And why have both?)
I use Vista which I find far more difficult to navigate than the XP used formerly. For some reason all my files seem to have duplicated themselves and I cannot access them. For example I have two folders entitled application data and another app data. I can access one but when I try to access the other I am told that the folder is inaccessible and access is denied. Did I perhaps inadvertently initiate a share or something equally stupid?
Nope, nothing you did at all, stupid or otherwise.
This is part of some kind of redesign that Microsoft initiated in Windows Vista that folks just now upgrading to Windows 7 are encountering as well.
And I agree, it's confusing. I can take some guesses as to why they both exist, but first let's look at exactly what they are, and perhaps more importantly, what they are not.
Continue reading: What's the difference between AppData and Application Data folders? (And why have both?)
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Can hackers see data going to and from my computer?
I've heard that instant messages through AOL/Yahoo/MSN can be read by hackers that "sniff" the messages leaving my network. Is this true?
It's actually true for all the data that comes and goes on your internet connection: web pages, emails, instant messaging conversations and more.
Most of the time it simply doesn't matter. Honest.
On the other hand, there are definitely times and situations when you really do need to be careful.
Continue reading: Can hackers see data going to and from my computer?
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Where does Outlook Express put my mail folders?
Can you please tell me in what folder the Outlook Express e-mails are stored? I am using Windows XP SP3.
Sure. I'll tell you where the probably are, but then I'll also tell you how you can find out where they definitely are yourself.
I'll do that last part for Windows Mail in Windows Vista, and then again for Windows Live Mail.
Continue reading: Where does Outlook Express put my mail folders?
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How do I fix this problem uninstalling Microsoft Office 2010 (Beta)?
I tried to install Microsoft Office 2010 (Beta), for some reason it failed, it said that it rolled out the installation, but I can see the software on my hard drive, when I try to remove it with uninstaller it denies the access to it. Also, when I start Word document by clicking on .doc document it gives me an error as follows: "Click-2-Run Application Manager: Click-2-Run configuration failure"
How can I fix this?
I don't know.
But the reason I'm addressing this question is that it's an important and cautionary tale. There's a reason things are called "Beta".
OK, I do have one simple answer that will indeed fix the problem, but since you're asking and not already doing it, you probably can't take the steps I'll recommend.
I have another answer that promises hope, but I'm guessing that's not available to you either.
And finally, I do have a few straws to grasp at, as well as a last resort.
Continue reading: How do I fix this problem uninstalling Microsoft Office 2010 (Beta)?
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How do I remove the sender's address before forwarding an email?
How do I remove the senders address form an email before forwarding it? I am using Mozilla Thunderbird email.
I'm kinda surprised at how often I get this question. As someone who's used email now for well over a quarter century, I take for granted how conceptually easy it is.
Clearly, given the number of times I get asked this, it's certainly not obvious to everyone, so I'll walk through the steps.
I'll use Thunderbird, but the same concepts apply to almost every email program I've ever encountered.
Continue reading: How do I remove the sender's address before forwarding an email?
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A sampling of some of the comments that have been posted recently on Ask Leo!
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Ken B writes:
Many computers have the ability to set a boot password, which will prevent (most) people from even getting to the point where they could boot from CD. Though, as you said, "If it's not physically secure, it's not secure", since the computers all have some method of clearing that password. (Typically, this involves opening the computer and shorting two pins.) It's the slightly-less-cheap padlock on the outside door that they need to get through before they can remove the other cheap padlock. :-)
Of course, if someone was that determined to get in, they'd probably just walk off with the entire computer. Not very subtle, but they'll still have access to all the data on the computer.
Yep. Or remove the hard drive and install it on some other machine.
Alan Smith writes:
Hello Leo, Find your site both informative & enjoyable.
Re Safe Lock Up of Your Computer.
Assuming my LT computer is stolen & unlocked by the thief.
If I store sensitive info within Gmail [like in 'Gmail contact notes] & create a solid pw for my Gmail sign on. How secure would this be?
My laymans logic tells me that Google could not be hacked easily & even if a hacker did this, crunching a Google sign on pw would also be difficult for an external hacker?
I have coupled the above set up with a Nortons Identity pw on my computer which i assume will make it doubly difficult for a thief ever gets his hands on my LT & unlocks it.
He would have to crack both the Nortons + my Gmail Sign On pw's to get amongst my sensitive stuff. Good Idea, or am I missing something?
I just back my Ho Hum files up on multi Flash Drives.
The risk is not hacking anything, but rather gaining access to your GMail password. If you've ever allowed your browser to remember your password, then it can be trivially recovered buy thief who has access to your machine. This on a different site might scare you a little: Forgot Gmail Password? Use your browser to recover it!
Tom R writes:
"I remember reading somewhere that once somebody has physical access to the computer (or at least the HDD), no encryption is good enough."
Absolutely and completely untrue. The 256-bit AES encryption algorithm as a practical matter is unbreakable for the foreseeable future. AES is so mathematically complex that today's fastest supercomputers would have to work on the problem for many, many decades before they would be able to break it.
Physical access or not, AES (which TrueCrypt uses) will keep valuable personal information safe, as long as a strong password is used.
I agree, and want to emphasize the importance of the password - or rather pass phrase. All the encryption in the world won't save you from having chosen an easy to guess or compromised passphrase.
*** Leo Recommends
Password Manager and more
I think that I have about 80 - 100 passwords that I use on a regular or somewhat regular basis. I always remember my network and computer logon passwords, but beyond that I often have to check my a) Outlook notes on my PC at work, or b) when at home on my Mac, my little black notebook stuffed in the bottom of drawer.
Is storing my passwords on Outlook notes safe for my bank and tax filing accounts? Are online password managers or 'safes' secure? Do you have any suggestions for how best to manage the proliferation of passwords for online accounts?
I don't really have a good cross-platform solution for you, though I do have a couple of odd ideas.
However, I have developed a very strong recommendation over the past couple of months for a product called RoboForm - which happily includes a free version!
Let me touch on your first two questions first...
RoboForm Password Manager and more
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
"Zombies" and "botnets" and "spam", oh my! All terms that actually represent one of the most common threats on the internet today.
What's a botnet? Or zombie? And how do I protect myself from whatever it is?
How can I identify if my computer is a member of a "Zombie" network created by botnets? Can I use "procexp.exe" to identify if my computer has been captured? If a computer is captured does it have to be on for it to be used and how can a botnet be eliminated. Lastly is there a defense?
You are right to be concerned. Botnets are considered responsible for the massive increase in spam we've all seen in the past years and months.
The really sad part is that it's really easy to protect yourself. The fact that botnets are so successful indicates that too many people still aren't taking the simple steps they need to keep their machines safe.
What's a botnet? Or zombie? And how do I protect myself from whatever it is?
*** Thoughts and Comments
Thanks to everyone who responded to my survey request last week. We're tallying the results, and I'll give you the "top 5" most common responses next week. This weak I'll simply tease you and say that the early results are pretty interesting, and a little surprising.
Thanks also to those of you who dropped me comments and recommendations regarding my plans to make a charitable grant next year. Please hold off on your recommendations - to be honest, I'm not ready for them. After I return from my vacation next month I'll publish specific guidelines describing exactly what I'm looking for, and the specific mechanism I'll be asking you to use when you make a submission.
I'll announce all that here, so just keep your eyes on this spot. (And to hint at an answer to perhaps the most common question/suggestion so far: Ask Leo! serves an international audience, so I don't plan to restrict the scope of suggestions based on geography.)
OK, this week I start packing... vacation's only a little over a week away.
See you next week,
Leo A. Notenboom
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Leo A. Notenboom & Puget Sound Software, LLC.