How do I Repair My System if the Registry Can’t Be Loaded?

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My system, Windows XP Professional, won’t load. When I turn it on, I get this message, “Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \Windows\System32\config\system.” And I don’t have an installation disk. I read some of your material and it looks like I have the i386 folder in the right place but I can’t get to a command prompt. I have a rescue and recovery disc, but the only thing it will do is let me load the original backup created when I bought the system back in 2008, or bring the system back to its original factory state.

I really don’t want to do either of these two things. I researched the problem, and I could repair the five registry files with a series of DOS commands (from a Windows paper) if I can get to the recovery console and then just restore the system to a previous restore point. After reviewing the material, from Microsoft, I think I can do it. But I want and need to upgrade my system so it occurred to me to just buy Windows 8.1 and do a clean install and then restore my backup that I made about a month ago but I’m concerned that I might overlook something.

All of the programs that I use also have to be reinstalled or redownloaded and installed so I’m looking at perhaps hours and hours of work. So I really have two questions. The first one is there a handy informational guide to a clean install that will bring the system back to nearly what it was before but with a brand new system. If I decide to fix the system instead, can I buy a non-OEM installation disk for Windows XP Professional or does it absolutely have to be an OEM disk that is compatible with my machine?

Unfortunately, the file that’s missing or corrupt is actually the system registry or one of the major hives of that registry. On my Windows XP machine, it’s something like 30 MB in size, so it’s not something that you can just recreate with a simple command.

Or is it?

Read moreHow do I Repair My System if the Registry Can’t Be Loaded?

Why Can’t Online Services Tell Me What My Password Is?

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Why can’t an online service like Gmail or Hotmail or any of the others, just tell me what my password is rather than forcing me to reset it all the time? I mean, they have to know what it is anyway so that they can check that I’ve entered it in correctly. Right?

Believe it or not, online services don’t necessarily know your password.

Some services actually can tell you your password, and that’s a really, really bad thing. Among other things, it calls in to question that service’s understanding of security.

Read moreWhy Can’t Online Services Tell Me What My Password Is?

Someone Is Signing Me Up for Newsletters I Don’t Want — What Can I Do?

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Some nasty minded individual, maybe an upset employee or an ex-employee seems to be trying to disrupt my email. Recently I’ve started receiving very many free subscriptions to all kinds of online newsletters, publications and other absolute garbage ranging from kids’ clothes to women’s makeup to porn. One day I received over 50 and they keep on coming.

Probably half of these do the correct thing in that I have to respond before they will add me to their mailing lists. The problem is that the other half doesn’t and I just keep getting their emails. Most of these are really a pain to get rid of. I’ve tried unsubscribing many times but they keep coming back. I’m using Thunderbird as my email client, which really doesn’t have any effective spam filter, that I’m aware of. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do?

The very short answer is to treat the messages as spam. I’ll explain why, and I’ll talk about Thunderbird’s spam filter (which does exist), and an alternative solution within Thunderbird.

Read moreSomeone Is Signing Me Up for Newsletters I Don’t Want — What Can I Do?

How do I tell who really sent an email?

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Leo, how do I tell who really sent me an email? And I mean their real name, location and telephone number if at all possible?

This is super simple.

You can’t.

Now, I’m assuming you don’t work in law enforcement. They police can get a lot of information; more than you or I ever could. Most of what I have to say will look at the various pieces of data that are associated with an email, and explain how easily they can be completely falsified. I can think of one scenario where you might get lucky, but that’s only if the sender isn’t being particularly careful.

Read moreHow do I tell who really sent an email?

Why are touch screen monitors so much more vivid?

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Leo, I’m looking for a monitor, 22 inches. I’ve been in several stores and no one can tell me why a touchscreen monitor is so much more vivid and bright, and the images just jump out at you compared to say, an LED or LCD monitor. What a difference! I’m running Windows 7 and I’m thinking this is what I’m looking for. It seems that these monitors are used on an all-in-one PC. Are they available separately? I don’t have any intentions to use the touchscreen but the colors and the display are unbelievable! What’s the difference? What do these monitors have that the others do not? And also, are these monitors even compatible with Windows 7?

To be honest, I don’t know. I can and I will speculate a little – but I do want to talk about touchscreens, specifically with respect to compatibility and hardware requirements.

Realize that most of the touch screens are in fact typically just LCD monitors with additional touch hardware.

Read moreWhy are touch screen monitors so much more vivid?

If we login to a site securely will our other activities be secure?

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Hi, Leo, when I logged on to eBay it’s using https. But when I then move off the sign-in page, it’s evidently no longer https; it’s plain old http. If we’re traveling and we use Wi-Fi, will our eBay activities be secure?

Your instincts are right. An http page does not provide a secured connection. This is a very important thing to realize about the difference between http and https. The fact that eBay uses https for the login means that yes; your login at least is protected. That means someone in an open Wi-Fi hotspot, or with some other kind of network access, can’t easily sniff the traffic and determine your eBay login credentials. That’s a good thing.

However the fact that after you log in it switches back to http means that the rest of your activity is not protected by encryption.

Read moreIf we login to a site securely will our other activities be secure?