Leo’s Answers #266 – January 18, 2011

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Leo Notenboom

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*** New Articles

How do spammers know what sites I visit?

I have noticed that I am getting spams related to websites I access frequently. That is, if I am accessing my bank account online, or pay bills online, spams asking for passwords, security etc., are received. My question is, how do spammers know of the sites I visit. And how do I make my online transactions safe, and hidden from spammers.

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My initial reaction is to say: they don't. And in most cases I'm going to stick with that as the most likely answer.

However...

There are a few exceptions where you might get spam related to your visits. Some are benign, but others might be a sign of problems on your computer.

Continue reading: How do spammers know what sites I visit?
http://ask-leo.com/C4712

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Why does nothing happen when I insert a disc?

I use an e system computer, Windows and Microsoft. For some reason I cannot play discs any more, I place a disc in and nothing happens, could you please advise me.

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As inconvenient as it may seem, this is really a good thing.

What's most likely happened is that the "auto run" feature has been turned off - either on your system or on that specific drive. That means that by definition nothing happens when you insert a disc.

The reason that's a good thing is that autorun is one way - one very effective way - that malware can spread; you unsuspectingly insert a USB stick or malicious CD or DVD and without your needing to do anything else malware is automatically run and infects your machine.

So rather than making it easier for hackers to spread malware to your machine, let's look at what you can do instead.

Continue reading: Why does nothing happen when I insert a disc?
http://ask-leo.com/C4711

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Why is my C: drive filling up even though I install programs on D:?

I am using the trial version of Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bits. I installed the operating system on a 50GB partition, and all other applications on a separate 50GB partition, the remaining space of my 320GB hard drive is for data (word documents, audio and video files, etc). Initially, after installation, windows 7 uses around 20 GB of the partition. But after installing all the applications softwares (Microsoft Office 2010 trial, Adobe CS4, etc) the space available on drive C is only about 15 GB. Can you please explain to me why and how to avoid this situation.

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I'm not terribly surprised.

One probable reason is that the system drive (typically the C: drive) is special.

However, there are a couple of other things that could be going on as well.

I'll review a few possible causes, and which of those you can control.

Continue reading: Why is my C: drive filling up even though I install programs on D:?
http://ask-leo.com/C4710

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Am I at risk for Internet Explorer vulnerabilities even though I use a different browser?

I keep seeing where hijacking, vulnerabilities, infections, etc., of various applications are prevalent. The latest one is another IE vulnerability; among other things. I believe there is a manual work-around for IE but no patch has been issued. I have IE8 installed. I use primarily Firefox (v3.6.13). My question is this ... am I still vulnerable to attach(s) although I do not use IE8; or whichever application may be installed on my computer? Thanks and good work!

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In general if you don't have or use a particular piece of software then you can safely ignore the updates and or vulnerability notifications that you might run across.

In general.

Internet Explorer, on the other hand, is a special case. Use it or not, you must keep it up to date.

Continue reading: Am I at risk for Internet Explorer vulnerabilities even though I use a different browser?
http://ask-leo.com/C4709

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What is a "questionable" or "suspicious" website?

So just what is a "questionable" or "suspicious" website?

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It's not uncommon for computer support people such as myself to admonish computer users to never visit questionable or suspicious websites, as they're often a source of malware, scams and other bad things.

But just what does that mean?

Yes. Well. Ahem.

It's kinda like an apocryphal definition once applied to pornography - it's difficult to describe, but you'll know it when you see it.

The problem is that when it comes to web sites by the time you see it, it might be too late.

Continue reading: What is a "questionable" or "suspicious" website?
http://ask-leo.com/C4708

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*** Comments

Why is some email to me delayed by days?

hamab8lx writes:

One of the most cogent explanations for reading headers that I have seen. Good work Leo!

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Why is some email to me delayed by days?

Mike writes:

Thank you. This explains much. I realize that email was never meant to be "instant", but I always thought of it as fast, meaning within an hour or two (as opposed to snail mail). I, too, have experienced delays of even a few days before receiving an email. (I know because the sender has called me a couple days earlier to find out why I hadn't responded.) Fortunately, for me anyway, such occurrences are sporadic, last only a day or two, and quite rare. Bottom line is, it's good to know that it's nothing that the sender did wrong or I did wrong (or necessarily our ISP's), and most of the time, it's beyond control of either end.

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2010 Most Popular Questions

Glenn P. writes:

I'm curious: Why won't Outlook Express work in Win7? What's the prob with it?

Microsoft simply decided to no longer support it. Personally I'm kinda glad, even though it's causing a lot of grief for people - Outlook Express has been the cause of more lost email and other problems reported here than any other email program.

-Leo

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Why does Windows have a registry?

zygmunt writes:

Is there a way to replace the registry "database" with something more comprehensive and logically sensible? There are many available databases that would surely suffice if tailored to suit, to rid windows of its worst "nightmare".

Only by rewriting major, major parts of Windows. And, sadly, for compatibility reasons many of the registry's worst behaviours would have to be replicated so as not to break applications. To be honest the storage media (database engine) isn't the problem, it's the overall organization of it, and that would take a major rewrite of Windows and most applications that rely on it.

-Leo

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What happens to my recovery partition when I upgrade Windows?

Warren writes:

Is there no way that the recovery partition can be made into a bootable disk?

In general: not that I'm aware of, no. However since each manufacturer does something different it's possible that some can, and it's further possible that that's exactly what they have you do when they suggest you make recovery didks after getting your new machine.

-Leo

*** Leo Recommends

Thunderbird - A Free, Open Source, and Powerful Email Client

Mozilla's Thunderbird is my choice for email. I use it all day every day, and I can heartily recommend it as an often more powerful and capable replacement for mail programs like Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail and many other desktop email applications.

The feature list is long, but I want to call out some of my favorite features and some of the things that personally draw me to Thunderbird and cause me to make it my recommendation for almost anyone using a desktop email program.

Continue reading...

Thunderbird - A Free, Open Source, and Powerful Email Client
http://ask-leo.com/C3451

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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

Happens every day.

My computer's infected with a virus, how do I clean it up?

As a Mom of a couple teens, I get viruses all of the time. This latest one I cannot find a solution to; here goes - my control panel is GONE! There is a popup every time I start the 'puter with the filename of "mustafx2.exe" I can't find it anywhere in English. I am using AVG, Ad Aware and Spy-Bot as well as Windows Defender. I have Windows XP version - never mind; can't look that up anymore either....UGH! Nothing has helped. Got any clues?

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I have a couple of reactions to this question.

One, of course, will be the steps I'd take to try and recover in this case. I'll outline those in a second.

But first, my other reaction, which you may not like Smile.

Continue reading...
My computer's infected with a virus, how do I clean it up?
http://ask-leo.com/C3263

*** Thoughts and Comments

The first video segment from last months webinar has been posted to YouTube: Scheduling a Weekly Defrag in Windows XP. I've got two or three other segments that have been processed and will be uploaded shortly. (There was a lot of "stuff" waiting for me when I returned home from CES - I'm still digging myself out.)

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Do you share too much?

There's a news story making the rounds lately of an individual who used publicly posted information on women's Facebook account to correctly guess password recovery information and in doing so hack their accounts.

Here's just one source of the story.

Password recovery questions are important, but they rely on being things that only you know. If you're posting that same information publicly ... well, then, you've just given away the keys to your account.

(And I won't even comment on what this guy was finding in the accounts he hacked - but it definitely qualifies as "over sharing".)

'till next week...

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

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