Leo's Answers #253 – October 19, 2010

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A Weekly Newsletter From
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Leo Notenboom

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*** New Articles

Do all these software updates take up more and more disk space?

There are different softwares installed on my Win XP (I am still on it). And I find that many of them keep themselves updating automatically from the internet. These are like Avast Anti Virus (program updates apart from the virus def files updates), Adobe Flash, JREs etc.

My question is – all these downloads do they keep adding to the older installation (and eating into my disk-space) or they replace the older installation?

And what about windows updates like the IE updates – where there are options to roll back to previous versions?

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Yes.

No.

Maybe.

I don’t mean to be flippant, but the reality is exactly that: some updates are cumulative, some are replacements, and others … well, others you get to decide.

Let’s look at some of those scenarios.

Continue reading: Do all these software updates take up more and more disk space?
http://ask-leo.com/C4490

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I got burned by Windows Update, should I just avoid it?

I updated my Windows software at Microsoft’s update site to include IE 8. I thought things went well, didn’t even consider there was a problem. Until I tried to use my computer. I was now not authorized to view video online in my IE browser. No matter what I did to give myself (administrator account) permission, nothing worked. It was through this problem that I found I no longer had permission to change folder names, delete files or rename them, copy them, move them, or update my other software.

I contacted MS and was told that because it was an HP computer it was not their responsibility to fix the problem. (?????) Was further told that I should stay away from the site that caused the problem (???) To make sure, I told them over again, that it was the MS Windows Update site. They affirmed I should stay away from that site. I hung up.

Called back and got a different person who said they were very sorry and would have my computer up and running in minutes. …5 MS techs and weeks later the problem is worse, now my computer cannot even find the hard drives…just a little flashlight searching and searching……

I figured I couldn’t hurt my computer any more than it already was so I went to the MS site (on one of my other computers) read up on a few things and fixed the problem myself by rebooting to safe mode and rolling the computer back then creating a new administrator account.

Since you are experienced I was wondering if you can tell me 1) Do you know why the MS Windows Update I downloaded on July 14 of 2009 could have corrupt my user permissions? 2) Try as they may, ALL of the MS techs that worked on my computer, remotely, failed to create a new administrator account. Because I now have no faith in MS, I am terrified of the update site and have stayed away. Is this foolish?

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What a horrific story.

I can absolutely sympathize that you’d be very skittish about returning to Windows Update, or relying on Microsoft for support ever again.

And yet…

But before I get to that, let me cover what I think happened. Then I’ll also cover how you should prepare for if … no, I’ll just say when it happens again.

Continue reading: I got burned by Windows Update, should I just avoid it?
http://ask-leo.com/C4489

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What free anti-phishing scam program do you recommend?

What free phishing program do you recommend?

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I’ll start by assuming you’re looking for an anti-phishing tool, to protect you from phishing scams, just like we refer to anti-virus programs to protect us from viruses and anti-spyware tools to protect against spyware.

If you’re looking for software to create phishing scams … well, you came to the wrong place.

Phishing is interesting, and difficult to protect against.

But I do have a strong recommendation for the absolute best anti-phishing tool.

Continue reading: What free anti-phishing scam program do you recommend?
http://ask-leo.com/C4488

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From where should I get driver updates?

I believe my OS is Windows Home XP..SP3. I downloaded 3 separate ‘check drivers’ programs. Each program identified the same 7 drivers as being outdated. However, my device mngr. says they’re OK. The drivers listed are: System devices: ISAPNP Read Data Port, SIS Processor to AGP Controller, IDE ATA/ATAPI Controller, Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller, SIS PCI IDE Controller; Network Adaptors: SIS 900-Based PCI Fast Ethernet Adapter: Sound Video & Game Controllers: Realtek AC 97 Audio: Modems PCI Data Fax Softmodem with Smart CP. The 7th. driver was AMD Sempron Processor 3000+, which my device mngr. said was OK..But I updated it anyway & now my PC is working much better. The AMD Processor was very easy to find & download. It’s been very difficult to find the other drivers & if they are outdated..I will have to purchase one of the driver programs. Do I need to update these drivers? If so, how do I find the sites to download?

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First of all, device manager will not tell you whether or not a device driver is out of date – that’s not its job. What it will tell you is if the device driver is installed and working to some basic level.

No, to find out whether your device drivers are out of data isn’t that simple.

But then, neither is getting the updates.

I’ll review the options, and then describe what I do.

Continue reading: From where should I get driver updates?
http://ask-leo.com/C4487

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Where and how should I backup important documents?

I was deliberating with my son where would the best place to backup important documents, such as passport, driver’s licence, etc. We considered ease of access,and exposure to strangers. We came up with saving the document as an attachment to an email,or on a “private file “on the network at my/his office. What would your take on that be ??

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I wouldn’t do either of those things – at least not in isolation.

Email accounts can get hacked, and private files can often turn out not to be so private after all – especially in corporate offices.

And yet either or both of those aren’t too bad, as long as they’re combined with something else.

I’ll tell you what I do for exactly those kinds of documents.

Continue reading: Where and how should I backup important documents?
http://ask-leo.com/C4486

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*** Comments

How do I prevent spam and scam emails from being sent to me?

Frank Golden writes:

Thunderbird thinks Ask Leo! is a scam.

Which annoys me no end. This article discusses (and uses the newsletter as an example): Why does my email program think that this message might be a scam?

-Leo

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Will write-protecting my USB device keep me safe at public computers?

johnpro2 writes:

I have a non writable DVD with a Linux based operating system installed with all esential apps available.
This would be safe on a public computer,however the administrator might have settings which prevent booting from your own supplied DVD. I guess a non writable USB drive would be the same as a non writable DVD ..the essential thing is that you are not using the operating system of the public computer which may be booby trapped..everything is loaded into RAM.

This is still not safe. There are indeed hardware keylogger that can be surreptitiously installed on computers – they’ll steal no matter what you boot into.

-Leo

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What free anti-phishing scam program do you recommend?

Mike C writes:

Caveat: I’ve only recently started following your Twitter feed, so I won’t know if you’ve covered this before.

Personally, I started using Thunderbird for email about 7-8 months ago and find it has helped as well. Aside from its adaptive Junk filter and ability to connect to both IMAP and POP3, it has a Scam Warning indicator to help provide additional clues to when an email might be a phishing attempt.

Just thought I’d throw it out there.

I use Thunderbird myself, and even recommend it. However I do have a gripe with its scam detection: way too many false positive scam notifications, including my weekly newsletter.

-Leo

*** 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
http://ask-leo.com/C3585

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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

Parents are usually trying to figure out how to remove the games on their PC so the kids can’t play them, but the concept is actually a common issue. Windows has lots of “stuff”. What can you remove?

How do I uninstall Windows programs that I never use?

How can I get rid of Windows programs I will never use? Outlook Express, Netmeeting, Frontpage, Movie Maker, Gaming Zone and others. I hate the way Microsoft does not allow them to be uninstalled.

Actually Microsoft does allow many of those to be uninstalled. How to do so is just really confusing at times. You’d think that they would show up on the Add/Remove programs list. Unfortunately you’d often be wrong.

It turns out there’s a subtle distinction between what is and is not a “Windows Component”, and that makes all the difference.

Continue reading…
How do I uninstall Windows programs that I never use?
http://ask-leo.com/C3184

*** Thoughts and Comments

At least one person was surprised by my comment here last week: “This is one of those cases where it absolutely rocks to be a computer programmer.”

They were surprised that I was, indeed, a computer programmer.

Yes, indeed.

My background is computer software, pure and simple. Writing it, debugging it, fixing it, designing it … you name it, that’s where I started and where the vast majority of my experience comes from.

Personally I think it gives me a pretty unique perspective and really helps when I try to solve computer-related problems.

Given my time at Microsoft there may be little bits of software I touched running on your machine right now … depending on what parts of Windows have lasted unchanged over the years. Windows Help, aka “WinHelp”, aka “winhlp32.exe” which is in Windows XP, but was removed from either Windows Vista or Windows 7 (though you can download Windows Help for Windows 7 from Microsoft), is the most likely to still have some of my work in it.

But, no, I may spend most of my time writing these days – heck, I even call myself a “writer” at times – but my background’s not journalism or writing … other than writing code.

More gory details in a (five years out of date!) resume, if you like.

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Speaking of writing, folks who are helping me with the Windows XP book over the weekend got a bonus: a chapter and video on partitioning using Linux’s partition management tool.

I’m always looking for feedback and help on that project – head on over to http://learn.ask-leo.com for more.

’till next week…

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

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