Leo's Answers #263 – December 28, 2010

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*** New Articles

My contact list is getting spam from me, what do I do?

My contact lists has been compromised and tons of emails have been sent in my name. How do I fix it?


This is sadly very common of late.

Hackers are gaining access to real email accounts and then simply using those email accounts to send spam. They may not even bother to change the password, but they may change a few other things to make it easier for them to hack back in.

Here's a quick list of things I would do.

Continue reading: My contact list is getting spam from me, what do I do?

* * *

The First 8 Things You Should Do With Your New Computer

Congratulations! You've received a new computer!

There are some things you'll want to do to it before you start using it.

These are things that, later, when all heck breaks lose and the machine dies, the software crashes or you get a massive malware infection, will save you lots and lots of grief.

Every day people lose data, precious memories and valuable time because they didn't take a few simple steps along the way to prepare.

And by far the best time to prepare is at the very beginning.

Continue reading: The First 8 Things You Should Do With Your New Computer

* * *

How do I change my Hotmail alternate email address?

The email address I used for recovery is no longer valid. I can't figure out how to change my alternate email address.


Your alternate email address is a critical bit of information that you'll need if you ever lose your password, or if your account ever gets hacked.

It's good of you to note that your current one is invalid - if you no longer have access to your alternate email address then it's just as bad as, perhaps even worse than, not having set up an alternate email address at all.

I'll show you how to change it.

Continue reading: How do I change my Hotmail alternate email address?

* * *

Would temporarily unplugging from the internet protect me while I work on something sensitive?

I have a file on a USB which contains my bank details. Presently I switch off the router and load this file from the USB, work on it, disconnect the USB and switch on the router.

This is a bit tiresome. I have Avira and Threatfire protection.

If I leave the file on the computer itself, will the software listed above and the router protect me from anyone on the Internet entering my computer and reading my files?


There are really two questions here:

1) Does disconnecting help?

2) Do you have enough protection against malware?

The answers are: not really, and maybe - maybe not.

I think there may also be a misconception about how malware works.

Continue reading: Would temporarily unplugging from the internet protect me while I work on something sensitive?

* * *

How do I remove a virus if it prevents me from download or installing anything?

I am trying to fix a computer that is running XP pro. It has adware that is preventing me from getting into regedit, task manager. It will not let me boot into safe mode. It will not let me install any antispyware or antivirus soft ware. Not sure where to go from here. It has stopped me from doing much of anything to get the malware off the computer. Any suggestions? I am not sure what the malware is but I think its one of the Antispyware 2010 or something like that. I keep getting alerts that I am infected and when you click it it opens a browser window and tries to take you to a website.


Sadly, this is all too common. Malware is getting pretty nasty. At best it may extort money from you for a real repair - at worst it'll extort money from you and do nothing.

I'll save the "prevention is so much easier than the cure" missive for another day. We just want this fixed.

There are things we can try, but there are no guarantees.

Continue reading: How do I remove a virus if it prevents me from download or installing anything?

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*** Comments

How do I keep my USB device from becoming infected?

Steven Lewis writes:

USB infections and download (bittorrent,etc) trojans have been two big disease vectors in our extended family in the last several years.

But since denying auto-run on the windows pcs, the USB-carried infections have died down. That, combined with stressing that everyone scan any usb stick, ipod, camera card, etc, right away whenever they connect it to their pc.

Also, I've impressed on all to be aware that plugging these cards, USBs, etc into "foreign" pcs is always risky. Do it only when absolutely needed.

Together, these practices have worked well enough to make it a non-issue over the last year or so....fingers crossed!

None of our current devices have write protection, nor have I seen it, but I'll certainly look for that feature in the future, thanks.


Is it possible to wipe my hard drive and start over myself?

Jim de Graff writes:

I would add one more step. After you finish rebuilding, reinstalling all your applications and applying all updates (windows, anti-virus, etc), make a system image. At some point down the road you will decide that it is time for another rebuild. Perhaps it is because you have installed/removed many applications that left pieces of themselves behind; perhaps you got infected with a virus or maybe your hard drive died. No matter the reason, it takes only a few minutes to restore an image compared with the hours it takes to rebuild from scratch.

And another thing, when you restore that image months from now, apply all outstanding updates and take another image.


What is the Event Viewer, and should I care?

Donald Dantice writes:

Leo: Thank you and all the others who left comments. Today 12-17-10 I was working on my computer at home when the phone rang. When answered the party identified themselves as member of the microsoft team and they were detecting a lot errors coming from my computer. When I ask them which one they could not answer. At the time I had three computers running. They kind of caught me off guard because I was having problems with one of them. They referred everything to the event viewer. The really weird thing was they called on my home phone which I never use on the internet and is even unlisted so that was my first clue. I asked them for a call back number which they told me they could not give me until I had performed a certain action. I told them if they could not provide a call back number we had nothing to discuss. They promptly backed out. Seeing that others are having some of the same issues and your great response reassured me. Thank you all


Is it possible to wipe my hard drive and start over myself?

Don Mitchell writes:

Hi Leo,i just read your answer to, ( is it possible to wipe my hard drive and start over ? ), as always, your response was great but i have one complaint, its hard to remember all the things one needs to do in order to follow your instructions. It would be a BIG help if you had a (PRINT) button on your help page. Thanks, Don M.

Just use the Print function in your web browser. You'll find that the articles print pretty cleanly. (No ads, no menus, etc.)


*** Leo Recommends

Seagate FreeAgent Go - Portable USB External Harddrive

I currently own five of these.

If that isn't a recommendation I don't know what is.

One of the problems with recommending a specific disk drive is that drives change, capacities increase and what I might tell you about today may not even be available next year. The external drive I recommended some years ago is no longer even being made.

With that having been said, today the FreeAgent Go is an incredibly handy and valuable device.

The version I use has a capacity of 500 Gigabytes, all in a package that's smaller than a paperback book.

Continue reading...

Seagate FreeAgent Go - Portable USB External Harddrive


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, wish, wish, WISH that Microsoft would stop choosing names that only confuse. It amazes me that no one there sees this as the huge issue it remains today.

What's the difference between Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Hotmail and MSN Hotmail?

What's the difference between Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Hotmail and MSN Hotmail? I keep getting them confused. And aren't some of them the same thing?

You're confused? You and the rest of the world.

And no, with another case of brilliant naming, all four of those things are all quite different.

I wish Microsoft would have learned from the mess that resulted from all the different names for something called messenger or the two unrelated email programs with the word Outlook in their name, but no. Here we are, Again.

Continue reading...
What's the difference between Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Hotmail and MSN Hotmail?

*** Thoughts and Comments

This weeks recommendation is sitting next to me right now.

One of my FreeAgent Go drives is sitting next to me having just restored an (Acronis 2010 created) backup image to a newly replaced hard disk in my laptop. The whole process went as smooth as you might want it to - for having a dead hard drive that is.

That was my laptop's Christmas gift to me - a big fat warning that its hard disk was on the verge of death. I took the hint, ordered a new drive (next business day delivery for only $4? Thanks Amazon!) which arrived yesterday. A replace and a restore and my laptop's back in business. The new drive seems quieter too.

I can't really say I'm surprised. My laptop has many miles on it. Among several other trips, it accompanied me to Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. The old hard drive served me well.

I hope you have a happy and safe New Year's celebration, and a prosperous and trouble-free 2011.

'till next weekyear...

Leo A. Notenboom

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Posted: December 28, 2010 in: 2010
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4691
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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.