Leo's Answers #241 – July 27, 2010

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

How long should a hard drive last?

This article’s not borne out of a question, per se. This one’s my own experience that I want to share.

I know my regular readers are probably sick and tired of me evangelizing (really just a nice term for “harping on”) the need for regular and complete backups. (Perhaps almost as tired of that as they are Hotmail password articles Smile.)

But if you’re not backing up or you think it just doesn’t apply to you – it’s time to rethink and back up. The end is nearer than you think.

The end of your drive, that is.

Continue reading: How long should a hard drive last?

* * *

How should I make my files accessible via the internet?

Like so many people today I have files and photos scattered on 4 computers and 10 thumb drives. I want to combine them on one easy to use drive and connect that drive to the internet so I have easy access to all my data in one place. Some people say I can do this on a home server. Others say to put it all on your “main” computer and access that computer from the internet. I’ve also seen websites that you send your data to and they will give you access to it for a fee. I need to make it somewhat secure (understanding nothing is completely secure). What do you suggest?


As you might expect, there are several ways to go about this. They range from simple to somewhat geeky to pretty darned geeky.

And of course which is appropriate for you will vary depending on not only your own level geek-ness (if that’s a word), but just how much data you’re talking about, and how you might want to access it.

I’ll review a few approaches.

Continue reading: How should I make my files accessible via the internet?

* * *

How do I convert a PDF document into a Word document?

I am trying to convert a PDF into a word document and there does not seem to be any free programs that will do this. I have tried several. Can you help?


Probably not.

Your question is a common one, but it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of exactly what PDF documents are and how they were intended to be used.

I’ll put it another way: let me explain why I can’t help you.

Continue reading: How do I convert a PDF document into a Word document?

* * *

Why won’t services just email me my password instead of making me set a new one?

I forgot my password, and I want it back. I don’t want to reset it, I just want [random online service] to tell me what it is so I don’t have to create a new password. Why do they want to make me to reset the password when I just want them to tell me what the password is?


They don’t know your password.

I’m dead serious. They don’t know your password, they didn’t store your password, and they couldn’t tell you if they wanted to.

In fact, if they could tell you that means they’re doing security wrong.

So how do they know you got your password right when you login? Well, they do store something … it’s just not your password.

Continue reading: Why won’t services just email me my password instead of making me set a new one?

* * *

How do I remove this error on startup after a virus removal?

I was receiving popped up virus/trojan warnings from Avira. At first, I just kept ignoring it since it was on the “Deny Access” selection. It continued to pop up frequently each time I am in the internet. I finally changed the “Deny Access” selection to the “Delete” selection. As soon as I did this, Windows Defender also did it’s thing. I couldn’t remember what the message was from WD. I no longer get the pop up warnings but each time I log in to my computer, I get the following error message:

Error loading C:/Users/leon/AppData/Local/Temp/cmstpcln.dll
The specified module could not be found.

After I click the OK button, I had no problem getting into the internet. Can you explain to me why I am getting this error message and how do I get rid of it? Did I do the right thing by deleting the virus/trojan warning?


You did the right thing, absolutely.

It’s just that the cleanup performed by your anti-malware tools was just shy of complete. That’s not actually that uncommon, though I’m not sure why.

I’ll explain what happened, and how to clean that last annoying part up manually.

Continue reading: How do I remove this error on startup after a virus removal?

* * *

What’s a browser cache, how do I “clear” it, and why would I want to?

The browser cache comes up a lot in answers, more than questions, but in doing so it probably causes even more questions. Even when following instructions to clear it, it’s not at all clear what this piece of magic really is, and why clearing it would do anything at all.

Let’s review the browser cache, what it is, and why it exists. Along the way, we’ll review the steps to clear it in both Internet Explorer and Firefox, and try to dream up some reasons why that sometimes helps.

Continue reading: What’s a browser cache, how do I “clear” it, and why would I want to?

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*** Comments

With Microsoft providing Microsoft Security Essentials do I no longer need to purchase malware protection?

Gwyn writes:

“Well, to begin with, you never really needed to purchase anything – there have been lots of good, free security tools out there for a long time.”

Is it not the case, however, that if some malware does manage to get through to your pc then you will have to pay most (all?) of these security programs before they will sort out the malware for you?

Absolutely Not. There are many anti-malware solutions that are truly free. There are scams and sales techniques out there, but there are many, many good solutions that are free. Naming a few names: Avira, Avast, AVG, MalwareBytes, Spybot, Microsoft Security Essentials, to name just a few. (Apologies to the truly free I might have overlooked.)



How do I copy a copy protected web page?

Steve from Montreal writes:

As a web developer I get this question all the time “I want to put my pictures/text/pdf files/whatever on the Internet, but I don’t want people to copy them”

To which I always respond “Then you shouldn’t be putting it on the Internet!”

In the end we usually compromise for some basic protection from novice users.

But I will keep this link to demonstrate how many different ways you can get around copy protection.


Is using RAID a good backup alternative, and if so which RAID should I use?

Mike writes:


This was a lesson the admins at JournalSpace.com learned the hard way, when they decided to use RAID 1 as their only data backup. The website publicly and catastrophically went down in flames in December 2008…as a last act of desperation, they tried recovering the data from the hard drive directly using one of those professional data recovery services (which didn’t work).

It’s a real-life cautionary tale of why RAID != backup.





Can hotels sniff my internet traffic?

Alex writes:

I’m a bit confused about the VPN part. Suppose I register with an online VPN server to route my web surfing through them. Then, my traffic between my machine and the VPN server is encrypted, but isn’t it in the clear from the VPN server to the actual service I want to access? Otherwise, the other service won’t be able to understand my request. Unless, of course, the VPN server also opens a tunnel to the other side. Does it do it? If it does not, anyone watching between the VPN and the final service could theoretically steal my login information, right?

Please, this is a doubt I’ve had for a long time and I couldn’t still find a satisfying answer.

You are correct – a VPN protects your connection to the VPN service, which it typically that part of your connection most at risk by virtue of being in a hotel, coffee shop or whatnot. The connection between the VPN service and the final destination is typically in the clear, but it also travels a much less vulnerable path: server to server.


*** Leo Recommends

DBAN – Darik’s Boot And Nuke

I get questions surrounding data recovery fairly often. People are often concerned that files they’ve deleted might be recoverable after the fact, and it’s good and security conscious of them to be concerned.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who give no thought at all to the potential recoverability of their data, and discard old computers and hard drives without giving it a second thought. We often hear about people who’ve picked up an old computer at a recycler or yard sale, only to find that the hard disk is full of the previous owner’s sensitive data.

Identity theft often follows.

DBAN, short for Darik’s Boot And Nuke, is a free utility dedicated to doing one thing, and one thing well…

Erasing hard drives.

Continue reading: DBAN – Darik’s Boot And Nuke


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 frequently get questions where people indicate that they have a “169.254.x.x” IP address and their network isn’t working, and would I please tell them why. That IP address is a special IP address and while it might have deep technical significance to someone, all it really means is “something’s not working right”.

Why can’t I connect with a 169.254.x.x IP address?

My IP address was 192.168.x.xx, and somehow it was changed to 169.254.xx.xx. Because of this I can’t access the internet. Any ideas?

Your IP address wasn’t “changed” so much as it was broken.

If you end up with an IP in the 169.254.x.x address range, then something is definitely wrong.

Continue reading…
Why can’t I connect with a 169.254.x.x IP address?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Amidst hard drive failures and illness (not mine, but someone that matters to the project) the Windows XP Maintenance book continues at a slower pace than I’d planned. Regardless, I have a new free PDF for you that comes directly as the result of some of the questions I got to the first PDF and video I did.

If you’re on the Maintaining/Tuning XP mailing list you’ll have received a link to the PDF already. If you’re not, just visit http://learn.ask-leo.com for that and several other free items that are popping out of the book-writing process.


My weekend plans? 40-50 Corgis running around my back yard.

Wish me luck. Smile

’till next week…

Leo A. Notenboom

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Posted: July 27, 2010 in: 2010
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4380
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