Leo's Answers #226 – April 13, 2010

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

Why do messages I compose in Hotmail now start with an ad that looks like it’s from me?

My hotmail account was hacked after I opened an email claiming to be from the hotmail support team. I sent a reply and the next day my account was hacked. I changed my password and I have had no more problems. Unfortunately whenever I send a new email I must delete the following message:

~hey dude. I find a place for iPhone, blackberry 9700, SONY, Laptop even HONDA Motorcycle, price incredible low as wholesale & retail business. All are original quality with international warranty. If you like you can have a look : www.[removed].com
E-mail : [removed]
MSN: [removed]

How do I get rid of that?


This is a new twist on account compromise that’s come up a lot in recent months. In short, hackers access your account, fiddle with it, and then let you recover it.

The “fiddle with it”, of course, is adding that horribly written junk at the end of every message you send thereafter.

Fortunately this one’s not rocket science. They’re relying on your not knowing about a fairly simple feature in Hotmail.

So, it’s time to learn…

Continue reading: Why do messages I compose in Hotmail now start with an ad that looks like it’s from me?

* * *

Does private browsing or stealth mode count as anonymous surfing?

Does Google Chrome’s “stealth mode “, FireFox’s “Private Browsing” or IE’s “InPrivate” features count as anonymous web surfing?


No. Not even close.

These privacy modes do something completely different, perhaps even something important, but they in no way deal with your anonymity as you surf the web.

I’ll look at what they do, and perhaps as importantly, what they don’t.

Continue reading: Does private browsing or stealth mode count as anonymous surfing?

* * *

How can I close my deceased relative’s Hotmail account?

I have recently received what I suspect are phishing or spam attempts from my son’s hotmail account. He died just over two years ago. Several of his friends have also recently received messages from his account. How can I close the hotmail account (I can’t find any direct contact info available without having a hotmail account) and will it likely have an impact on the bogus messages? I have tried blocking his address, but have received a message since then.


First, let me express my condolences for your loss.

Let me also assure you that you are not alone – I get a surprising number of requests along almost these exact lines: a family member has passed away, and yet email continues to be received from the deceased’s account.

I can’t print the words that I would use to describe the individuals who are responsible for this.

And unfortunately the practical outlook for this situation actually isn’t very good. I’ll review a few things to try, though.

Continue reading: How can I close my deceased relative’s Hotmail account?

* * *

How should I protect my computer from theft when I leave home?

I’m going to go on a trip soon for about two weeks. I would like to set-up my computer so if some dirtball breaks into my house, he won’t be able to use it (well, if he steals it, I’m just out of luck). Is there some method to “lock” the computer so no one will be able to access it in my absence? Of even greater concern is will I be able to access it when I get back. I need something simple (I was thinking of just unplugging the damned thing and hiding the cord somewhere, but I’m really trying to learn all this techno-stuff).


Unfortunately there’s scale. Complete protection isn’t really simple, and simple protection isn’t really complete.

Ultimately you kinda need to decide how sophisticated your thief will be.

Continue reading: How should I protect my computer from theft when I leave home?

* * *

How do I gain access to files that Windows says I don’t have permission to access?

In one of your articles on recovering files after a hard disk crash you stated: “Another alternative is to take the old drive and place it into an external USB enclosure, …”

I’ve done that – even though all my old files are on the HD, I can’t access them due to Windows 7 file permissions. Is there a simplistic command I can execute to change all file permissions on the ext hard drive so I can finally access them? Thanks in advance for your time and response.


Yes, there are a couple of approaches. I’ll touch briefly on the Windows GUI approach, but then I’ll show you how I really do it, using the Windows Command Prompt.

Windows 7 has (apparently) tightened up some of the file-level security so that frequently when sharing hard drives and removable media across machines this scenario comes up more often than just when recovering files from a damaged hard drive.

Continue reading: How do I gain access to files that Windows says I don’t have permission to access?

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*** Comments

What’s the difference between an ad and your recommendation?

Ron Ricklefs writes:

I was just ready to comment on one of your ads as to its use of FEAR to get people to buy the product. The Typical: “We scanned your computer and find 2234 bad things; we will fix six of them free but beware that your computer is in danger unless you send the $29.95”. Can now appreciate your circumstance, but know many will blame YOU for the consternation of dealing with the after-fact.

I do get it. But understand, this issue isn’t just about me or my web site – people need to recognize ads everywhere. They’re often much worse than what shows up here. (And no, an ad cannot have scanned your machine. As you point out, an ad that says so lies, plain and simple. Often the wording is nuanced so as to be misleading and just short of a blatant lie.)



If I let my neighbor share my WiFi, can they see my network traffic?

John writes:

I agree with Leo. Any un-trusted machines on your network can potentially spread viruses to computers on your domain even if they don’t specifically connect to the domain.

I write software for detection of unknown computers on networks, and generally my customers are much more worried about viruses from home laptops then from someone cracking the WEP or WPA encryption and especially targeting their business.

It’s just a much more likely scenario.

I believe that many years ago this is exactly what brought a portion of Microsoft internally to it’s knees: a virus that someone had brought in from home on their personal or portable computer. Fortunately I was on sabbatical at the time.



Does getting porn spam mean that you’ve been surfing porn sites?

Mark writes:

I’ve found that some email addresses seem to attract more spam than others. I think it’s because of the random email address generators spammers use. It seems yahoo etc get more spam than lesser known providers, and more obscure names get less spam. I do have one question: It seems like gmail gets less spam than anybody. Do they have a pre-filter that doesn’t even let some spam providers get into the spam box? I know hotmail does this, sometimes with disastrous results, often blacklisting entire email providers. (I’m saying this based on personal experience).

Not that I’m aware of. I know I have a healthy collection of spam in my GMail spam folder Smile. (And yes, Hotmail’s pre-screening often does lead to disastrous results.)



Is is safe to leave a flash drive plugged in all the time?

Umair writes:

The person could use Live Mesh or Dropbox for automatically backing up documents online. These services are pretty much replacements for many of the things I used to with flash drives.

These services transfer data via https, however, I am not sure whether they also store in encrypted form. One can use 7-zip etc for that, I suppose.

Good suggestion, assuming there’s an acceptable internet connection in all cases. I happen to use Evernote to the same effect. I do believe that they store data encrypted, but it’s always wise to be cautious if you’re not certain.


*** Leo Recommends

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Uninstall Things That Won’t

One of the more common scenarios I hear about frequently are incomplete or failed uninstalls. People attempt to uninstall a program and that process fails, leaving some data around, and leaving the program itself in a kind of in-between state. The program remains, but the uninstaller is either missing or non-functional.

This is where Revo Uninstaller comes in.

Continue reading: Revo Uninstaller – Uninstall Things That Won’t


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

People continue to have expectations of System Restore that it was never designed to fulfill…

Why isn’t there a restore point where I want to go back to?

I want to restore my Windows XP laptop to a previous restore point but when I go to system restore I only see this month’s. Where did all my other restore points go? System Restore is turned on, and I’ve set the system restore point disk space to maximum.

In short – because System Restore can only remember so much.

Unfortunately people’s expectations are often otherwise.

Continue reading…
Why isn’t there a restore point where I want to go back to?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Not a lot to share this week … I’ve left the wife and dogs at home and hit the road to Albuquerque! By the time you read this the meetup will have happened, and I’ll (hopefully) be soaking up some sun and warm weather – a welcome change from the cold and wet weather we’ve been experiencing in the Seattle area lately.

’till next week…

Leo A. Notenboom

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Posted: April 13, 2010 in: 2010
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4271
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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.