Leo's Answers #262 – December 21, 2010

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*** New Articles

How do I get data off the hard drive in my dead computer?

My computer has died on me. I can't get it to boot up. I need to take the hard drive out and pull my files off from it. How do I retrieve the files off my hard drive? Thanks for any help you can give me.


This isn't too uncommon a scenario. Depending on what caused the computer's demise, there's a pretty good chance you can retrieve the information off that hard drive.

Of course, if it's the drive that caused the failure things get a little more interesting.

There are several approaches to this problem, so I'll outline my favorite.

Continue reading: How do I get data off the hard drive in my dead computer?

* * *

How can I automatically reply to spammers telling them to stop and that I'm not reading their junk?

Can I set up an automatic email reply to all the [BULK...] emails I get telling them that such are not being received at my email address? Would it be advisable to do so; I get few if any that inform or provide any useful info. Or perhaps I need to ask "what is the best way to deal with [Bulk...] emails other than one-by-one?"


I'm going to assume that by "BULK" you mean unsolicited email - aka spam. Email that you never signed up for and that you simply don't want.

Yes, you can set up an automated reply, but that's not what I'm going to show you.


Because you should never, ever reply to spam.

It won't make things any better, and might well make things worse.

Let me explain why...

Continue reading: How can I automatically reply to spammers telling them to stop and that I'm not reading their junk?

* * *

Why is my closed email account still sending spam?

I have closed an e-mail account that has been hacked into with a virus and has been sending to people and crashing their computers, why is this happening? I have closed the account. HELP PLEASE!


Most likely because it's not closed.

People frequently come to me asking how to close an email account that has been hacked into. Quite often they're particularly desperate and insistent that the account must be closed, and immediately.

This question illustrates why my recommendation is: don't waste your time.

Closing the account, in all likelihood, won't help; the damage has already been done.

Continue reading: Why is my closed email account still sending spam?

* * *

How do I change my Windows Live Hotmail password?

I cannot get into the account summary page or options of my Windows Live Hotmail account. I needed to change my password.


This is something that changes from time to time as Windows Live Hotmail updates. As I've said before, if you use Windows Live Hotmail, you should expect change. Sometimes small change, sometimes dramatic change, but change nonetheless.

Including the steps to change your Windows Live Hotmail password.

I'll walk through the steps to change your password in the current (as of this writing) design.

Continue reading: How do I change my Windows Live Hotmail password?

* * *

How do I secure my router?

I'd like to know how to clear the history of my Linksys Cisco router. I'd also like to know how I can protect it from hacking and who else besides the people that know my router's WPA code can view browsing history.


There are a couple of misconceptions in your question, which I'll clear up in a second.

The more general topic is an important one: how do you make sure that your router is secure? After all, as your firewall it is your first line of defense against malware trying to get at your computer from the internet.

You'll want to make sure there aren't big gaping holes.

And sadly, by default, there are.

Continue reading: How do I secure my router?

* * *

How to I control Windows Live Hotmail's auto-complete?

How do I get Hotmail Live to stop auto completing a sent to name when I type in just the first letter and NEVER added that name to my contacts?


I don't use Hotmail that often, but in researching this a little I can see that it could get pretty annoying pretty fast. Especially if you correspond with a lot of people who aren't in your address book.

Fortunately, there's a setting for that.

We can't turn it off, but we can turn it down a notch.

Continue reading: How to I control Windows Live Hotmail's auto-complete?

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*** Comments

How do I keep my USB device from becoming infected?

Ravi Agrawal writes:

Create a folder named autorun.inf on the root of the USB drive. Set its properties to hidden & system & read-only.

This way any infected machine will not be able to create / replace any autorun.inf file on your USB stick thus offering good protection. This approach has always worked for me.


I like this. While it doesn't protect against every possible way a USB device could be infected, it certainly prevents one of the most common ways it propagates to fail.



How do I get rid of the "Welcome to IE8" screen every time I start Internet Explorer?

Dave Markley writes:

Being a PC repair tech, I am constantly running into this problem, as well as "some Adobe thing keeps popping up wanting updated", and other equally annoying questions. My question is 'Why wouldn't you want to update to IE8?'. Internet Explorer 7 was to browsers what Vista was to operating systems. (In my opinion, garbage) Microsoft had so many problems with IE 7 that it actually made a program which would stop Windows Update from automatically installing IE7! IE8 is a vast improvement, not to mention it is much more pleasing to the eye than previous versions and was the first version of IE to use 'tabbed' browsing. It's simple to just click 'next' and install it, so why not? Just follow the simple prompts, keeping your settings as they were, and you are done, no more 'pop up'. If you use IE regularly, I'm sure you will be happier with IE8.

Also, keep in mind that 'InPrivate' and similar settings in other browsers are only a small measure toward privacy. Anything you do online is still tracked (unintentionally or not) by your ISP, etc. There really is no such thing as 'private' browsing.


Someone's sending email that looks like it's from me to my contacts, what can I do?

Scott writes:

I have had my email 'hacked' and emails sent to my contacts. I got pretty annoyed by this and decided to close my account. Even after I closed my account emails were still being sent to my contacts with my email address, that I closed, as the sender.

One of the reasons that I advise against spending a lot of time trying to "close" an account is that a hacker who's setup the right information in the account can frequently reopen it almost instantly. Best to simply tell all your contacts that you've been hacked and move on to a new account.



Is changing my password enough?

Michael Horowitz writes:

There is yet another problem.

A bad guy could set up a forwarding rule such that all your email is forwarded to him. No need for passwords after that. You still get your email and the bad guy never needs to logon to your account again, after the first time.

Probably a good idea, after a webmail password is stolen, to review ALL the account settings.

This is one thing, at least, that Hotmail is good at - if a forwarding rule has been set there's a big notification at the top of your inbox that tells you so. I'm sure that varies from provider to provider. Next time I update this article I'll include your point - thanks.


*** 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


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

Windows 7 has made this a little better, but it's still a common - and important - issue.

Why do I get "device ... cannot be stopped right now" trying to safely remove my USB drive?

Whenever I plug in a flash drive or my external hard drive (Western Digital My Book), I cannot safely remove when I click on the icon. I keep getting the message that the drive is currently in use -- try again later. But, no matter how many times I try, I keep getting the same message. I end up having to shut down my computer to remove the device.

Well, windows certainly thinks that some program is attempting to access the USB drive. Since it's not guaranteed to be safe to remove a drive while it's in use, Windows tells you that you can't. The "wait until later" part is all about waiting until that program, whatever it is, is done with the drive.

What program?

Figuring that out is the trick...

Continue reading...
Why do I get "device ... cannot be stopped right now" trying to safely remove my USB drive?

*** Thoughts and Comments

The webinar I mentioned last week is now full - folks on the book list filled it up mostly, with a few seats left over for the Facebook fans.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Were you impacted by the Gawker account hack?

If you were you might have received email from one or more other services suggesting that it might be wise to change your password.

The problem is that so many people use the same username and password on so many different services. Hackers know this, so that when one service gets hacked they immediately start trying the usernames and passwords they've found from hacking service A on service B, C, D and others. Chances are that for many of the usernames and passwords that they've acquired those same usernames and passwords will work.

As I understand it that was one of the reasons for a huge increase in Twitter spam after the Gawker hack. The services are unrelated, but enough people used the same username and password on both sites that getting one gave the hackers access to the other.

It's a difficult problem to balance security, memory, and complexity to come up with a good solution. I know I'm just as guilty as many, and found myself changing passwords on a number of sites.

With this example in front of us you might to consider your own approach to password security and assess just how at-risk you might be should one of the services you use get hacked.

'till next week...

Leo A. Notenboom

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Posted: December 21, 2010 in: 2010
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4685
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