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Leo's Answers #249 – September 21, 2010

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Leo Notenboom

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*** New Articles

How do I stop this constant disk activity?

Win7, new system and new load with all available patches. Processor I5-750, Intel Desktop Board DH55HC, 4gig mem. The disk is constantly being accessed. How do I stop it and let it rest? I see several people are having that issue, but no fixes so far as to what to stop. My XP didn't seem to do that all the time.

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Well, first we need to know what's accessing the disk.

Then we'll worry about how to stop it, or if we even need to. Windows 7 does do a few things differently than XP; for example one might be background defragmentation, so it's important to know just what's happening before we decide it's a problem that needs to be fixed.

And I've got just the tool to figure it out.

Continue reading: How do I stop this constant disk activity?
http://ask-leo.com/C4454

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How do I recover email that I deleted six months ago?

Some of my emails were accidentally deleted from a period of January 1,2010 to August 1, 2010. Can you tell me a way to recover them. I had been procrastinating on going through them saving the information I needed and delete them.

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I'm actually surprised at the number of people who assume that anything that's been deleted can somehow be restored. I mean, deleted's deleted, right?

Maybe.

While I don't hold out any hope in the general case, there sometimes ways. Typically they fall into two buckets: ways you have to plan ahead for, and ways that you'd either have to pay a lot for or have a court order for.

If (and that's a huge if) it's even possible.

Continue reading: How do I recover email that I deleted six months ago?
http://ask-leo.com/C4453

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Will deleting programs from my computer make it faster?

If I delete certain programs(that I seldom, or don't use) off of my computer, will that help my computer run faster?

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Maybe.

Strictly speaking the answer is actually "probably not", however when you uninstall a program you often do much more than just remove it - and that "much more" can, sometimes, have some pretty significant performance benefits.

It all depends on the program you're uninstalling.

Continue reading: Will deleting programs from my computer make it faster?
http://ask-leo.com/C4452

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How do I tell what programs are starting up on my machine?

My computer dings every 10 seconds... nice for Christmas maybe but not so much this time of year. It's making the "close program" tone. How do I figure out what program is starting and closing?

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I've actually covered this in the past in an older article that uses Windows own process auditing feature.

However the easy way to turn that on and off isn't available for users of Windows Home editions.

The good news is that there's an alternative available to everyone using a significantly more powerful tool.

Continue reading: How do I tell what programs are starting up on my machine?
http://ask-leo.com/C4451

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How do I securely delete email?

When I delete stuff out of my recycle bin, I can go and find it and do a DOD wipe to remove all evidence of it ever having existed. However, what happens to the stuff I delete from my e-mails, where does this go when it is deleted? Is it deleted also when I use REVO Uninstaller to remove "evidence" from my computer? If not, how can I delete the stuff then? I have to sometimes download and print bank statements and other documents, this is the premise behind the question.

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This is actually a fascinating question. One would think that deleting email behaves similarly to deleting files on your hard drive - and it does, to a point.

And of course securely deleting data is beyond that point.

The real answer, as usual, is "it depends" - it depends on your email program, and how you use it.

Continue reading: How do I securely delete email?
http://ask-leo.com/C4449

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How do I stop legitimate email from going to my spam folder?

Why is all your e-mail to me -- along with other "regulars"-- landing in my Spam folder?

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Pardon my language, but ... d*mn spammers!

Seriously, so much effort is put into preventing their garbage from reaching our inboxes, and yet it still doesn't work. Not only that but we end up losing email we want as a side effect.

It's incredibly frustrating for both recipients and legitimate email senders.

Heck I'd use even strong words if it weren't for - you guessed it - spam filters.

With that little bit of venting out of the way, let's look at some of the things that cause email to land in the spam folder - or not be delivered at all - and some of the things you can do.

Continue reading: How do I stop legitimate email from going to my spam folder?
http://ask-leo.com/C4448

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*** Comments

What's the minimum amount of internet security software I need?

Jim writes:

There is no "minimum" amount of internet security. The more the better. Especially when it comes to spyware which seems to be more of an issue than viruses nowadays.

There are plenty of good free antispyware programs you can download and install.

There is most definitely such a thing as too much internet security. Having too many security programs is, in fact, one of the most common reasons for excessive system slowdowns. You need to be careful and choose wisely, not just pile on more.

-Leo

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Does blocking junk mail senders help?

Mike writes:

FWIW, I don't spam legitimate emails that I've requested, but do take the time to unsubscribe. It's only the ones that I've unsubscribed several times over months, and still they come, that I finally relegate them to the spam domain they so much deserve. Interestingly, this seems to be a major problem with print magazines that I once subscribed to, some years ago, and few other legit businesses.

Yes, sadly, occasionally legitimate email senders will wander into spam territory by ignoring unsubscribe requests. If they do that then I totally agree that they are span. (Similarly it should never take "up to two weeks for your request to be processed". No. There's no longer a reason for unsubscribes to be anything other than immediate.)

-Leo

*** Leo Recommends

TrueCrypt - Free Open Source Industrial Strength Encryption

TrueCrypt comes up frequently in Ask Leo! answers. Many people are concerned about things like privacy, identity and data theft, particularly on computers or on portable devices where they might not always have total physical control of the media.

Someone might gain access to sensitive data stored on your computer.

Encrypting your data renders that access useless, even when your computer or your thumbdrive falls into the wrong hands.

And TrueCrypt makes it not only easy, but nearly un-crackable.

Continue reading: TrueCrypt - Free Open Source Industrial Strength Encryption
http://ask-leo.com/C3444

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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

Removing malware is kinda pointless if something about your setup allows it to come back immediately...

How do I get rid of this infection that keeps coming back on my machine?

I have a virus on my computer that's blasting out spam emails. This has been going on for the past two months and I've tried every kind of tool out there and have not been able to get rid of it. I have spoken with Microsoft senior tech's at length trying to get the infection off the computer. After lengthy discussions they recommended I re-install Windows. With over a quarter of a million files and folders on the computer I was reluctant but I did it.

The problem is still there. The computer is back down to a crawl even after this a clean install.

What can I do?

Reinstalling the operating system is the safest and frequently the only course of action after a serious malware infestation.

But as you've seen here, what if the malware comes back right away?

Continue reading...
How do I get rid of this infection that keeps coming back on my machine?
http://ask-leo.com/C3153

*** Thoughts and Comments

Sigh.

Sometimes I screw up.

With over 2,000 articles on Ask Leo! I lose track, and I forget to follow my own advice - Search First! - before writing an article. Hence the new article this week How do I stop this constant disk activity? is essentially another version of I have constant disk activity, and I don't know why. How can I tell what program is doing it? which I wrote a little over a year ago.

At least I'm relatively consistent and head off in the same direction, using the same tool, in both articles. I like the newer one better, as it explores a feature of the tool I hadn't touched on before, but still.

I should have searched first.

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This week's recommendation is not an uncommon one - you've probably seen it here before. It came up in a conversation about stolen machine tracking software; software that if your machine is stolen allows you to track it to some degree should it be able to reconnect to the internet.

Sounds cool and all that, but in my opinion at that point it's too late. If it's your data you're concerned about the thief will have had ample opportunity to read or copy whatever they might want off of your machine, even if somehow you can get it back. (I'm also not convinced that a stolen laptop is a high enough priority for most law enforcement even if you can tell them roughly where it is.)

To me, encryption is the answer.

While I use TrueCrypt (heavily) and recommend it there are many viable encryption solutions out there that, if used properly, can place a nearly impenetrable barrier between a thief and your data.

Think carefully about the value, not of your computer, but if the data on it. If that falling into someone else's hands would be a problem for you, then I strongly recommend you take steps of some sort.

(And yes, this might apply to your home computer as well. It's not only laptops being stolen.)

'till next week...

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

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