Leo's Answers #235 – June 15, 2010

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

How do I get people to stop asking me to fix their computers?

I am a techie. I have numerous close friends that seek technical help from me and I am more than happy to help a friend out. But things have changed for me. I now have a 1 yr old baby and don’t have time to help everyone out. I get frustrated at the volume of requests I receive from friends. But since I have helped them for so many years, they have become dependant on me. How do I stop being the techie everyone relies on? I understand why they come to me, but when does casual help turn into common abuse. (Since i can fix, install almost anything, my friends think things are easy; when in-fact it takes extreme amounts of time and energy). I am sure you get plenty on people in your personal life asking for technical advice. How do you handle this?


You could start giving out bad advice. Perhaps lose some data here and there? Blame it on pressures at home, of course.

No, no, I’m not really being serious about that. Although it would solve the problem it would not only lose you a few friends, it would simply be wrong. Tempting as it may be.

My solution was to start a web site, but if you think trying to help a few friends takes time, you can only imagine what an enterprise taking questions from the entire world has turned into. (It also helps that I have fairly techie friends.)

But I absolutely do understand your situation, and I’ll share what little advice I have.

Continue reading: How do I get people to stop asking me to fix their computers?

* * *

How do I get rid of this msconfig startup error after making changes?

There are items showing up on msconfig’s start-up list that I want to disable. But, when I do so, and re-boot, I get the “System Configuration Utility” error windows that seem to want me to go back to starting what Windows wants me to start, not what I want to start.

How do I disable entries on msconfig and make Windows happy with my decision?


Actually Windows is quite happy.

The problem is simply that, like so many of us, it’s having a hard time expressing itself clearly.

I’ll try to interpret.

Continue reading: How do I get rid of this msconfig startup error after making changes?

* * *

How do I cancel a Yahoo email account?

How to remove yahoo account?


Sometimes the questions really are that short. Smile

Like many similar services Yahoo has a vest interest in keeping you as a customer, even if it’s services are free. As a result the approach to cancel a Yahoo email account or deleting your Yahoo account entirely is actually fairly well hidden.

It’s not hard to find if you search, but for example I couldn’t find the direct links to the process in the standard Yahoo interface once I logged in.

No matter. I’ll give you the link and show you the process to cancel a Yahoo account.

Continue reading: How do I cancel a Yahoo email account?

* * *

Why is my system slow if only the system idle process is using nearly 100% of my CPU?

I understand, Leo, that in your article What is the System Idle Process and why is it using most of the CPU? you are saying the System Idle Process (or SIP) is actually doing nothing. But I, like several others, do find that, while we are using the computer (so it is not idle), all processing slows down and becomes sporadic. When that happens, Task Manager (in XP) shows only SIP using the CPU. If SIP is not causing the slowdown, what is?


I do get a lot of pushback on that article from people who are absolutely convinced the system idle process is somehow evil and must be eradicated simply because their computer is slow and “System Idle Process” is what’s at the top of the CPU usage list.

They, of course, are wrong.

System idle is benign. The CPU has to do something 100% of the time, so when it has nothing to do for you or for the system, it’s assigned the idle task to while away the time. It’s the CPU equivalent of twiddling your thumbs, waiting for something to do.

So why’s your system as slow as molasses?

Well, I’ll give you one hint: the CPU is not the only thing in your computer that affects its speed.

Continue reading: Why is my system slow if only the system idle process is using nearly 100% of my CPU?

* * *

Should I install optional Windows driver updates?

Microsoft Windows update lists an optional driver update available: nVidia Geforce 8800 GTX display software update size 110.5 Mb dated 4-22-2010.

Should I download and install these kinds of optional driver updates? My graphics card is working properly, why should I install something that might mess things up?


In a case like this there’s certainly some merit to the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach that you’re suggesting.

In fact you don’t have to take the update – that’s one reason it’s marked as optional.

However I typically do, and I’ll explain why.

Continue reading: Should I install optional Windows driver updates?

* * *

How do I best extend my wireless network for laptop access?

I have a basic D-Link “n” router. The signal does not penetrate well throughout my house. What is the best way to get excellent coverage everywhere? I was thinking of adding a wireless access point at the opposite end of the house.


There are a couple of good approaches to extending your wireless network for your laptop or other wireless devices. Depending on the characteristics of your home, adding one or more wireless access points may well be the best approach.

On the other hand, they’re not appropriate for all situations, so I’ll look at a couple of common alternatives as well.

Continue reading: How do I best extend my wireless network for laptop access?

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*** Comments

Why is my system slow if the only the system idle process is using nearly 100% of my CPU?

Ken B writes:

Then there are people who say that there’s something wrong if the CPU usage ever gets to 100%. (ie: some program is “broken” and “hogging the CPU”.) They can’t grasp the concept of “CPU-bound computation”, and the report generator’s sorting routine is not “stealing” the CPU away from anything else. It’s simply using up the otherwise idle time.

On a separate-but-related question, when the CPU is not at 100%, but the system is dragging its feet and the HD light is on nearly continuously, is there a way to find out what process is causing the disk thrashing? (It’s not caused by over-swapping in my case, as there is still physical memory available.) I have Process Explorer, but I can’t seem to find a “sort by who’s using the HD most” type of option.


I actually have a couple of techniques that I use. With Process Explorer I add the “I/O Delta Reads” and “I/O Delta Writes” columns, and just sort by those to see what process is doing the most. That’s a good 90% solution to the question “who’s thrashing?”.

To answer the inevitable “why?” I fire up Process Monitor which will show all disk activity right down the level of what objects are being accessed. More here: I have constant disk activity, and I don’t know why. How can I tell what program is doing it? – the only problem is that to do this Process Monitor can itself eat up resources and affect the problem, particularly if that problem is swap/memory and not application activity related.



Terms of Service Violation: Why won’t my email provider tell me what I did wrong?

kb writes:

I had my main yahoo account deactivated recently. I posted some apparently unwanted political opinions about South Africa. I think.

Or, I did some posts with my avatar as a famous comedian (copyrighted?)–and the posts were, although intelligent, obnoxious.

In any case, they deactivated my account without warning.

Now, I didn’t know they had done it. I just knew I couldn’t get into the account, so I freaked thinking I was hacked.

I quickly redirected all of my external information to another email account and later called Yahoo and talked to someone.

TOS violation.

The long and the short of it is, Yahoo basically lost a long-time customer in me. I had spent money through them buying different PPV stuff and what not. I also primarily used Yahoo for everything. I learned a hard lesson here.

My email (used for many, many years# is linked #as all of ours are# to our profiles to comment on news articles and all of that. I guess the only choice they have to to deactivate you entirely instead of just prevent you from posting on articles or something.

In any case, in the grand scheme of things, this is a very hard lesson. Now I will only use email I sponsor though another party #at my own expense#. I am not upset that the account is closed and all of the email lost, but this is a hard, hard lesson for all of us.

When people talk about cloud computing, and doing all of your computer and file-based work online, where it’s saved online, and all of that, then just remember, if they boot you #for any reason, really, like posting unpopular opinions), you can basically lose everything, instantly.

I think the real lesson here is to BACK UP. Don’t keep information in only one place, especially if that one place is a) in the cloud and b) under someone else’s ultimate control. A backup would save immeasurable grief.



What happens if I let my email account expire?

Ken B writes:

Given that domain names are available for just a few dollars a year, and virtually all registrars include free e-mail addresses. I don’t understand why people in cases like this don’t use their own domain name. Even if you simply forward the e-mail to your free e-mail account, you still retain control of your domain’s e-mail address, even if you change or lose your free address.

My sentiments exactly.



Would you please reopen my Hotmail account?!

Jacob writes:

LOL, If people are contacting you Leo about getting Hotmail access than my guess is they are not tech savvy enough to figure out how to buy a domain, hosting service and setup their own e-mail.

I know you love helping people but having your inbox fill up with questions like the one you posted above is just a waist of your time.

When we had a brief discussion out on the wall of my Facebook fan page and someone raised the stupidity issue as well. While I don’t doubt that there are indeed stupid people out there, I choose to hope that this is an honest misunderstanding, either due to language or cultural issues, or due to the panic people in these situations are feeling.

Even if their technical skills are low I would hope they could at least opt for a service (paid or otherwise) that has real, honest, technical support. In fact, if their technical skills are low that becomes even more important.

My concern’s not so much about wasting my time – I mean if I’m getting the same question over and over again then it’s probably something I should answer. My concern’s more about their time. They are wasting their time if they contact me thinking I’m Hotmail.

Since I do get variants of this question so often it was time to address it. Now I have something that a) I hope more people will find, and b) I can point people to when they ask similar questions.


*** Leo Recommends

The Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is one of those sites that you could spend hours just browsing around. They’ve really gone the extra mile and are providing video and audio archives as well. It’s an amazing site.

The Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine” is extra cool, and a great resource if the website or page you were looking for has dropped off of the internet. It might still be in the Wayback Machine! Quoting the site: “The Internet Archive Wayback Machine puts the history of the World Wide Web at your fingertips. The Archive contains over 100 terabytes and 10 billion web pages archived from 1996 to the present.”

Continue reading…
The Internet Archive


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 wish more people would read this before asking …

My computer doesn’t work, what do I do?

My son has a computer that is not working. It only has a blank screen. Also the light to the hard drive it not on. Is the hard drive broken? Can I get the computer repaired. Or do I need to buy another one?

I get variations on this question so often that I just have to address it.

In short: there’s nothing close to enough information for me to even hazard a guess what might be wrong. And it’s just not a simple yes or no question.

Let me run through a list of some of the things it might be.

Continue reading…
My computer doesn’t work, what do I do?

*** Thoughts and Comments

A couple of weeks ago I’d asked you to weigh in on what kind of an ebook I could put together that would be valuable to you. Your response was extremely helpful.

Although expressed in several different ways most people indicated some variation of a guide to computer configuration, maintenance or optimization – something I’ve been playfully calling “care and feeding” of your PC.

If you’ve been watching my Facebook fan page you might recall seeing a diagram (albeit a fuzzy, indecipherable one Smile) as I work through what such an ebook needs to contain.

I’ve quickly come to a conclusion that I need to narrow my focus a little.

Once again, I’ll ask you to hop over to this page and indicate a couple of preferences. This one’s got two multiple-choice answers – no essay tests this week. Three clicks and you’re done.

Rather than trying to guess what you want, this’ll help me greatly narrow in on what’s going to help you the most.

I certainly appreciate your help.


Every once in a while I like to mention some of my online friends here – not just because they’re a friend, but because they honestly have a good product, service or website as well.

http://www.bestwebbuys.com/books/, a subsection of Best Web Buys is a comparison shopping site for books. Sometimes it’s easy to accept whatever price our favorite bookseller happens to post simply for the convenience. Well, here without any loss of convenience you’ll find the prices of whatever it is you’re looking for from several different booksellers – the biggies: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and so on, as well as eBay and a number of other booksellers you may never have heard of. Sort and select by new or used, shipping options, sales tax and you can quickly and easily find the absolute best deal. No muss, no fuss, just save money.

It’s cool stuff and worth a peek.

’till next week…

Leo A. Notenboom

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Posted: June 15, 2010 in: 2010
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4343
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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.