Leo’s Answers #272 – March 1, 2011

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

How do I login to Windows automatically?

I have a computer with Windows Vista and I have to login whenever I turn it on. How do I turn that off so I don't have to login when I turn on my computer?


Your timing couldn't be better.

There are several approaches to setting this up, but just a day or two after getting your question, I stumbled onto a utility that makes this drop-dead simple.

It's free and from a trusted source: Microsoft.

Continue reading: How do I login to Windows automatically?

* * *

Can I restore the complete backup of one computer onto another and have it work?

If I want to install a computer backup from a previous computer, complete with its operating system, onto another computer with a different operating system, will the operating system on the backup be allowed to install and override the operating system on the other computer? If so, how do I get around this?


It's not a question of allowing. By definition, restoring a full image backup will completely overwrite everything that exists on the hard disk, replacing whatever was there before.

So, sure, the previous operating system, along with everything else on the hard disk, will be overwritten and replaced with the contents of the image backup.

The real question is: will what you've just restored then work?

Most of time, the answer is a resounding no.

Continue reading: Can I restore the complete backup of one computer onto another and have it work?

* * *

What secret questions should I use?

Account secret questions, more correctly referred to as security questions or password recovery questions, are often the weakest link in your overall security.

So often, in fact, that many compromises can be traced to an individual gaining access to the victim's account simply by guessing, or worse, knowing the answers to common security questions.

Forgetting the answers to security questions is also a very common reason that once-lost accounts often stay lost forever.

Let's review how security questions get used by hackers to gain access to your accounts, and one approach you can use to stop them cold.

Continue reading: What secret questions should I use?

* * *

How do I protect myself from my IT consultant?

I had employed an IT consultant to provide some advice about streamlining my various email accounts. I have four websites and various email addresses attached to these. He had suggested Gmail as a better option to Mozilla because it was cloud based. Yesterday, however, we had a falling out. He threatened to "turn-off" my emails and actually did this for a couple of hours today. In setting up the Gmail, I have allowed him to talk to my previous host and my ISP on my behalf. How do I prevent him from being able to do this? What steps can I take to retain total control over my websites and emails?


This is tough.

I play the role of IT consultant for a handful of folks and I have a pretty clear understanding of the responsibilities inherent in doing so. The amount of damage that an unethical and pissed-off or just plain evil IT consultant or sysadmin can do it pretty frightening.

And yet, there's a certain amount of access that they need just to do what you're expecting of them.

So, let's walk the list. There's a lot to be considered and it's going to take some work to regain sole control over your properties.

Continue reading: How do I protect myself from my IT consultant?

* * *

Can I just keep adding data to my external drive?

I took your advice to get more memory. I purchased a 320 GB, called My Passport. I have two questions: after I transfer all my data and get more information on my PC, do I have to buy another? Or can I copy my new stuff on this same Passport?


First, you didn't get more memory; you got more hard disk space. Unfortunately, using the correct terminology is important when you're out searching for answers. Yours is a common error, and I've written about the difference between memory and hard disks before. If you're at all confused about the difference, I encourage you to review that.

The short answer to your question is: there's no need to purchase another drive until you run out of space on the one you have. Keep copying.

My concern, however, is that there's a fundamental disconnect here in just what that external drive is and how best to use it.

And, of course, I'm also worried that you're not backed up.

Continue reading: Can I just keep adding data to my external drive?

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*** Comments

Will computers ever be malware and bug free?

Mike writes:

I suppose it's similar to asking if we can ever have a free society that is crime-free. Or find a high return investment that's risk-free. It's always a matter of trade-off's; how much opportunity or versatility is limited in return for how much protection, and whether it's considered to be a fair balance.

I'd rather be my own guardian, learning how to protect myself, than to be limited by others for my own good, even though I'm quite capable of avoiding the pitfalls already.


Is there a way to bypass keyloggers?

david writes:

check out lastpass.com Provides a secure vault on your computer where passwords and other sensitive data can be stored. Access to this vault is by master password that requests a further password through a usb key that you buy from lastpass.com This key generates a random one time only password that lets you access the vault. Even if this password is copied it cannot be used again. This means no key - no access. Once in the vault, a click on the name of the site causes lastpass to automatically log you in - no key strokes whatsoever. Further info from the lastpass site. Thoroughly recommended. cheers, David

"no key strokes whatsoever." is misleading. These tools work by mimicking keystrokes to the various forms and tools into which the password must be entered. Malware can still capture anything that lastpass (or any other similar tool) can do. They DO NOT bypass advanced keyloggers.



Will computers ever be malware and bug free?

Nils Torben writes:

Leo, you ask for a definition of "malware". Here is a simple one: Malware is any program or input that is capable or determined to make changes to a computer, which are not initiated or wanted by the user of it. According to this it is an act of malware, when Firefox insists to rename the filetype "htmlfile" to "Firefoxhtml", Apple Quick Time will call an avi-file "quicktimeavi" and various programs will install toolbars without asking and so on, but this behaviour I certainly consider irritating although a mild kind of "malware". Using malware is a matter of depressing human rights by neglecting peoples free will and privacy.

That's certainly one definition of malware. Unfortunately it's not one that everyone would agree on. That's the nut of the problem. One man's "feature" is another's "depression of human rights". Neither are necessarily right or wrong.



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

BobfromBellevue writes:

I use IE8 as it seems for me most logical and also it has one function which I use that the others don't have. However, my question is - IE9 is almost here/there - please tell us, in your opinion, when we should install IE9. Thank you

I wouldn't advise average computer users to take it as an update for a couple of months at least. I'd also pay attention to the tech news to see about any issues that are uncovered. I'll be taking the update as soon as it's available, but a) I backup completely every night, and b) trying this stuff out is my job. :-)


*** Leo Recommends

WebDrive - Make FTP connections appear as virtual drives.

If you do anything on the web, particularly things like web development or other types of website maintenance, you're probably aware of "FTP" or File Transfer Protocol. The FTP protocol, and its sibling SFTP (Secure FTP), are two of the quiet workhorses of pushing bits around the internet.

The current traditional approach to dealing with file transfers via FTP is to use a graphical utility such as FileZilla, CuteFTP, WinSCP or others, and then drag-and-drop files to and from the remote site. The previous approach was to use the "ftp" program to perform the same operations at the command line.

I've become addicted to WebDrive which allows you to do both and much, much more, by simply making a FTP connection appear as a virtual disk drive on your machine.

That's an incredibly simple approach that enables a world of flexibility.

Continue reading...

WebDrive - Make FTP connections appear as virtual drives.


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 don't do relationship counseling, but there's an incredibly important lesson here.

My ex-boyfriend set up my computer and is now spying on me. What can I do?

I was dating a guy who installed Linux on my computer and is also the administrator on my computer. He can completely monitor my computer from his home. We are no longer dating but he is still screwing around with my computer. What can I do? He also knows my passwords.

I normally avoid these types of relationship-related tech questions because they're more about relationships than they are about technology. And I'm certainly no Dr. Phil.

However I get this type of question so often, I'm going to use it as an example of the technological implications when good relationships go bad.

Short version: you're in trouble until you take some drastic action.

Continue reading...
My ex-boyfriend set up my computer and is now spying on me. What can I do?

*** Thoughts and Comments

The Ask Leo! 2010 Archive is now available. All the articles published last year - that's over 260 articles and 1,000 pages! It's on sale until the end of the month.

Have you had your email account hacked in the last six months or so? If you have, and you know how it happened, I'd love to hear from you.

The problem is that I get lots of questions relating to account hacks - it seems frighteningly common. People are focussed on getting their account back, and rarely include any information about exactly what it was that allowed the account to be compromised in the first place.

If it happened to you, and you know how it happened, let me know - just use the ask-a-question form to send me the story.

While I have some guesses, they're just that: guesses. I'd like to do a better job of telling folks what to be on the look-out for. Your experience could help others avoid the same scenario.


'till next week...

Leo A. Notenboom

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Posted: March 1, 2011 in: 2011
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4753
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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.