Why is Microsoft Security Essentials constantly saying potentially unprotected?

Quite some time ago, I installed Microsoft Security Essentials as per your recommendation. I liked it right off the bat, but lately after turning my computer on, a small icon appears in the lower right-hand corner of the tray, telling me “Potentially unprotected” and that my virus protection is turned off and that my computer may be at risk. This happens occasionally, but now it’s happening every time. When I go to Microsoft Security Essentials, I see that my real-time protection is on and virus and spyware definitions are up-to-date. To get rid of this icon, I have to manually do an update every time. Once this is done, the icon disappears. This never used to happen until about three months ago or so. Do I have a virus in my system or malware or spyware wanting me to use their protector?

I’ve seen it, too. It seems to be fairly common.

I’ve run into several theories about why this might happen.

Read moreWhy is Microsoft Security Essentials constantly saying potentially unprotected?

If I copy a file to another drive will it be fragmented the same way?

If I simply copy a fragmented file from one hard drive to another non-fragmented hard drive, is the copy fragmented? Or does magic file allocation occur and place all of the fragments in order? I’m guessing that if the destination drive is fragmented then the copy will be fragmented.

Short answer: fragmentation is drive specific and it is not preserved across a copy.

In fact, if done in the right way, a copy can actually be one way to defragment a drive.

Let me explain why that’s so.

Read moreIf I copy a file to another drive will it be fragmented the same way?

How Do I Find Who Hacked My Email?

I just want to tell you that someone has hacked one of my email IDs and he sent email from my ID to someone else. Now, please tell me how I can find out from which computer and from which place this email has been sent. In other words, how do I find who hacked my email? You cooperation will be highly appreciated.

Unfortunately, what you and I can do is actually very limited.

I get this question a lot. When people get their accounts hacked, they really want to be able to trace back and figure out who the heck did this to them. Where did it happen? What computer were they on?

You’re not going to like this, but the  short answer is, you don’t. The fact is, unless this involves laws being broken, there’s almost nothing you as an individual can do.

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What’s the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn’t get discs?

Hi, Leo. In the past, manufacturers, particularly laptop manufacturers, such as Acer, used to provide a number of CDs that would allow the new user to at least do two things, for example: repair his operating system but retain all of his private data or secondly restore his computer back to what it was when he first started it up. In later years, those discs weren’t provided but the manufacturer would advise the user (in a manual that may have been overlooked) to create his own discs by using the software that was included in the installed package. Not only would the OS be included on those discs but all the other software and drivers that had originally been installed. Is there a simple program one can get ahold of that folks could use to create discs that can be used in this way?

The short answer is absolutely yes. Not directly in the way you describe, but to the same effect.

And anyone who knows me already knows what I’m about to say.

Read moreWhat’s the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn’t get discs?

Why Doesn’t My External Monitor Work?

I’ve connected my Optiquest monitor to my HP PC but it won’t restart. I get an RGB “no input” message. What can I do?

This is actually an example question. I get a number of questions like this from time to time. The scenario is this: you have something like a laptop whose screen has failed. In other words, you can’t see what’s on your computer. One of the very common approaches to try and work around that until it gets fixed or replaced is to connect to an external monitor. The problem is that the external monitor doesn’t show anything.

There are a couple of additional steps that might be necessary, beyond just plugging in the monitor.

Read moreWhy Doesn’t My External Monitor Work?

What Does It Mean When My Email Program Asks If It Should Compact My Email?

When I close my email program, Windows Mail, I constantly get a message that says I can compact the mail. Do I wish to do that? I say no as I don’t know what compacting it entails. What happens when it’s compacted and will I be able to reconstitute the mail that I have in the various folders so that I may respond to it, forward it, or whatever?

Compacting should make the files on disk smaller and potentially the access of emails thereafter a little faster.

I say ‘should’ because compaction has what I’ll call a sordid history. In Outlook Express, compaction was a land mine.

Read moreWhat Does It Mean When My Email Program Asks If It Should Compact My Email?

Can I Simply Copy Everything on My Drive in Case Something Bad Happens?

Leo, I’m running Windows 7 with two 80 GB hard drives: one is for backing up information. Now I consider that to be too small for me, but for every 4.5 GB of information, I burn all of my documents, favorites, and downloads to a DVD so that if anything happens, my only loss will be my Windows 7. My question is can I clone, copy, or image my C drive to this second hard drive that I have installed and then remove the copied drive in case something else happens to my operating system which I cannot fix? And then can I use that copied drive as if nothing had happened? I ask because I have three 80 GB hard drives: two installed and one in waiting. If the answer is yes, what should I do? Clone, copy, or image?

There are utilities that can do exactly what you’re requesting. It’s called cloning and what it does is a sector-by-sector copy of one hard drive to another. The two hard drives need to be identical or very close to it for a clone to work.

You then have a fully cloned copy of the original hard drive that you can swap into the internal hard drive’s place if something happens.

What you’re asking about is cloning software. Many backup programs (like Macrium Reflect) have the option to clone a drive. But I don’t really like the idea of cloning drives. Here’s why.

Read moreCan I Simply Copy Everything on My Drive in Case Something Bad Happens?

What good are image backups if I can’t restore an old backup to my new machine?

I’m good little backup-er. I follow all of your instructions and happily use Macrium for regular image and file folder backups. Recently, the video system on my aging PC died and I decided to buy a new PC. I thought I could easily restore the image backup to my new PC, thereby saving me hours of reinstalling my software. But no, I can only restore an image to the same sort of hard disk on the same PC. What a waste! Surely, most people will want to replace their whole PC when they have a failure that requires them to think about restoring an image. How many people, and in what circumstances, find an image backup has been a lifesaver?

I understand your frustration, but restoring an old backup on to a brand new machine is not exactly what image backups are for.

And to be really honest, it’s not why you back up.

An image backup includes settings about your hardware, the configuration that Windows went through, and other information. When you place the image backup on a new machine, those settings in the image backup no longer apply. The backup can still be useful, but not for what you’re trying to do.

So, when is an image backup useful? Let’s look at a couple of scenarios.

Read moreWhat good are image backups if I can’t restore an old backup to my new machine?

Is My Data Safe in an Online Backup Program?

Are online backup programs (such as Carbonite) and the procedures associated with them safe and secure? Specifically, if I use a backup program like this, can somebody at the service actually access everything that I’ve actually backed up with them? Are the procedures to get the data to and from the service safe and secure? I’m using Windows XP.

Trusting online services is an interesting conundrum. Whenever we use an online service, even something as common as Gmail, we believe that the company offering the service is going to do what they say they do – keep our information private. So, we regularly transfer sensitive information over channels that are somewhat insecure, yet fundamentally trusted.

The same is very true for backups. In general, you are safe when you trust a company like Carbonite or any of the other major online backup services.

Can the people at that service access your data? Theoretically, yes.

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Why Are Emails I Receive Five Minutes out of Sync?

I know that this has been covered in checking settings in Control Panel and Calendar, adjusting for Daylight Savings Time and such, but I’m not an hour or half hour out of sync, only five minutes. My system clock time is correct; but if I receive an email that arrives at,  7:35 on my inbox, the actual system time is showing 7:30. That means that Outlook time is five minutes ahead of the system time. I’m not sure how this can be as I thought the two were synchronized.

Outlook doesn’t keep its own time. Outlook uses the system time.

The real issue here is understanding where the “time” comes from when you receive an email.

When you send an email, Outlook applies the current system time to that email and sends it off to wherever it’s going to go. When somebody sends you an email, that message gets marked with the time of the sender. In other words, the system clock on that person’s machine is what’s used to actually mark when the email was sent.

Now, that means a couple of interesting things.

Read moreWhy Are Emails I Receive Five Minutes out of Sync?