Half a Dozen Uses for OneDrive

If you don’t trust Microsoft, you should probably stop reading. If you don’t trust Microsoft, you probably won’t trust OneDrive with your files.

If you’ve decided you’re never going to trust “the cloud”, you can stop reading now as well. There’s no getting around the fact that OneDrive is, at its heart, a cloud-based service.

If you have Windows 10, especially if you have Microsoft’s Office 365, you already have OneDrive available to you. (If not, it’s easy to get.) If you’re interested in learning how you can put OneDrive to use, read on.

I’m convinced that OneDrive is one of Microsoft’s most under-appreciated services.

Read moreHalf a Dozen Uses for OneDrive

Footnotes & references

1: “The Cloud” is a marketing term more than anything else. It refers to any internet-connected server or service. It’s often been referred to as “using someone else’s computer”; in this case, Microsoft’s.

2: Well, not literally “instant”. Of course, it’s subject to the speed of your internet connection, and assumes you are connected to the internet and have OneDrive running and configured. The rest of this article makes that assumption.

3: Typically, not a separate machine at all, but a virtual machine.

4: Full disclosure: we happen to use DropBox for this, but that’s entirely for historical reasons at this point. We could, and sometimes do, use OneDrive as well.

5: I’d have bigger problems than my OneDrive files if this happened, which is why I make sure to enable two-factor authentication on this account. It’s an important one.

6: They’re both good. Cryptomator is newer and open source. I switched to it more as a test, and never came up with a compelling reason to switch back.

Dealing with Browser Problems

I haven’t seen you mention Firefox problems. I’ve been using it for internet but it goes into “not responding” mode, particularly when I click on a link in a news email.

Actually, I talk about browser problems all the time. Particularly since people encounter browser problems all the time. ūüôā

The problem, though, is that it’s never as simple as telling you “Well, here’s what you do to stop ‘not responding’ problems”. There are so many possible causes, there’s no way to know which one might applies to your situation.

What I use instead is a more general approach to dealing with internet web browser problems that applies to all popular browsers — not only FireFox, but Chrome, Internet Explorer, and more.

Read moreDealing with Browser Problems

Footnotes & references

7: That “stock answer” was updated to point to this article. ūüôā

How Do I Remove Malware?

One question that shows up almost every day in the Ask Leo! inbox is how to remove malware.

Every day.

The scenarios differ, but the problem is the same: a machine has been infected with spyware, a virus, or some other form of malware, and that machine’s owner is having a tough time getting rid of it.

And often there is anti-malware software installed that “should” have taken care of it before it got to this stage.

Hopefully, that’ll never be you. If it is, let’s review the steps I recommend for removing malware and reducing the chances it’ll happen again.

Read moreHow Do I Remove Malware?

CHKDSK: What Is It and How Do I Run It?

I have disk problems and you said I should run CHKDSK. Great. What is that?

Fair enough. It’s easy for us computer geeks to take things for granted that we shouldn’t.

CHKDSK is a command line tool that checks disks.

I’ll talk about what I mean by command line, and what it means to check a disk.

I’ll also show you how to run CHKDSK step by step.

Read moreCHKDSK: What Is It and How Do I Run It?

7 Steps to a Secure Router

I’d like to know how to clear the history of my Linksys router. I’d also like to know how I can¬†make it¬†more secure and protect it from hacking.

The topic is an important one: how do you make sure you have a secure¬†router? As your firewall, it’s your¬†first line of defense against malware trying to get at your computer¬†from the internet.

You want to make sure there aren’t big gaping holes. And sadly, very often and by default, there are.

Here are the most important seven eight steps to a more secure router.

(Updated 18-Dec-2016 to include checking for firmware updates after a high-profile vulnerability disclosure by a major router manufacturer.)

Read more7 Steps to a Secure Router

Footnotes & references

8: Some ISPs will insist on this, but they’ll also prevent you from administering your own router. More common is a scenario where you’re responsible for supporting someone else’s network — say that of a friend or family. Remote administration can be helpful in a case like that. Even so, I’d think twice about setting it up, and would insist on an exceptionally secure password if you do.

9: It’s essentially like having no encryption at all.

Is Copyright Still an Issue If Something’s Not Available Anywhere?

I want to be able to copy some old VHS to DVD via my PC. Your site answers all the questions except one, as 99% of my VHS tapes have copyright restrictions. Is there a device I can obtain that will allow me to copy these tapes? As most of these movies are now ‘out of production’ and unobtainable I do not see copyright as an issue.

Before I dive in, I need to be super clear: I’m not a lawyer. Never have been, and don’t plan on becoming one. This is not legal advice; use it at your own risk, no animals were harmed, some objects may appear smaller, and so on and so on.

That being said, what follows is my pretty clear opinion, which I believe to be relatively accurate.

The bottom line: copyright is most definitely an issue.

Read moreIs Copyright Still an Issue If Something’s Not Available Anywhere?

Footnotes & references

10: As I understand it, this potentially breaks a couple of laws: breaking the encryption as well as making a copy.

11: Here’s where I differ from the movie industry: I don’t care if you make a copy for your own personal use for your convenience, and (of course) to back up. Just don’t make one for your friends — they should buy their own copy. Or you could buy one for them.

How Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

My computer died on me. I can’t get it to boot up. I need to take the hard drive out and pull my files off from it. How do I retrieve the files from the hard drive in a dead computer? Thanks for any help you can give me.

This is a pretty common scenario.¬†Depending on what caused the computer’s¬†demise, there’s a relatively¬†good chance you can retrieve the information off that¬†hard drive.

Of course, if it’s the drive itself that caused the failure, things get a little¬†more interesting.

There are several approaches to this problem. I’ll start with¬†my¬†favorite: not needing¬†to do it at all.

Read moreHow Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

Can I Stop or ‘Un-send’ an Email I Sent by Mistake?

I wrote an email from my Yahoo email account and sent it to the wrong email address in Europe. Is it any way I can retrieve the email I sent to the wrong email address and delete it before the wrong recipient can read my email?


There are a couple of exceptions (one of which isn’t really an exception at¬†all), but the answer you need to keep in mind and always remember is simply¬†no.

Once email has been sent, it has been sent. It cannot be “unsent”.

I’ll describe why that is and what those so-called “exceptions” are all¬†about.

Read moreCan I Stop or ‘Un-send’ an Email I Sent by Mistake?

Footnotes & references

12: We normally think of web-based email services like Hotmail or Gmail having online (or web-based) inboxes. In reality, almost all email services provide web-based interfaces, even if they are never used. Email can appear in these web-based inboxes almost immediately.

13: Even though the entire infrastructure of email is designed to tolerate delays measured in days, and we occasionally see that, more often than not email is delivered in a matter of seconds.

Is Changing My Password Enough?

I regularly hear from people who’ve had their email or other online account¬†compromised, are able to recover access to it, and change their¬†password, only to have the account stolen again almost immediately.

The problem is simple, but the solution is a bit of work.

First, you have to realize that while someone else has access to your account, they have access to everything related to that account.

As a result,¬†changing your password¬†just isn’t enough. You need to do more.

Read moreIs Changing My Password Enough?

Footnotes & references

14: I think this is probably the biggest reason secret questions are being used less often of late.

What Security Software Do You Recommend?

What security software should I use? What anti-virus is the best? How about a firewall? And what about spyware? Should I use one of the all-in-one packages that claim to do everything? Is there anything else I need?

As you might imagine, I get questions like this all the time.

Here’s a short summary of my current recommendations.

Read moreWhat Security Software Do You Recommend?

Can I Tell If Email I Sent Has Been Read by the Recipient?

I sent an email to a friend and he claims never to have gotten¬†it. I don’t believe him; things he’s said led me to believe that he did get¬†it and that he did read it. Is there a way I can tell for¬†sure?

I’m amazed at the number of¬†questions I get that¬†boil down to people not trusting each other. Not that there isn’t cause, I¬†suppose, with spam, phishing, and viruses running all over the place. But this¬†seems like the simplest case of all ‚Äď was your email read or not?

The answer to your question is no, there is no way to tell for sure that your email has been delivered or has been read.

I always get a lot of pushback on that.

Read moreCan I Tell If Email I Sent Has Been Read by the Recipient?

How Do I Remove Myself from the Search Engines?

It was unwise of me to put in my name in some¬†guestbooks. I’d like to remove my information from the search results of the¬†major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and so forth. I tried in vain to contact¬†the webmasters of those sites. I’m becoming fussier about that and it’s getting¬†more awkward as far as my profession is concerned. Would you please assist me¬†in dealing with this problem?

Search engines are amazing. They’ve collected and indexed billions and billions of pages¬†of information out on the internet, making them¬†available for any of us to find, review, and use.

Getting into search engines is not terribly difficult. Getting out? The news is not good.

In fact, in my opinion, it’s a lost cause.

Read moreHow Do I Remove Myself from the Search Engines?

Footnotes & references

15: I have alerts set on my name and phrases like “ask leo”, and get reports of my content being duplicated on random sites almost daily. Fortunately, Google is very good about realizing that mine is the authoritative and original source.

16: Nor, I think, do we want it to. Do you really want another country telling yours what you can and cannot find?

What Good is Incognito Mode?

I use incognito mode in my web browser to keep my online activities private. I mentioned that to a friend and he said it wasn’t private at all. If he’s right … what’s the point?

You’re both right, and you’re both wrong.

Incognito mode in Google Chrome (also referred to as “Private” or “InPrivate” in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, and other browsers) protects your privacy to a point.

It’s critical to know where that is, because beyond that point, Incognito does exactly nothing to keep you more private.

Read moreWhat Good is Incognito Mode?

Footnotes & references

17: This is highly implementation-dependent. Different browsers do things in different ways, ranging from not creating “files” at all, but keeping things in memory, to actually attempting a secure delete. The latter is not something I’d count on if it matters to you.

An Eight-step Back-up Plan Using Windows 10’s Built-in Tools

I’m sure you’re aware by now that I’m a huge fan of backing up.

Microsoft Windows includes several tools that, used together, can provide a backup strategy to protect you from most of the things that can go wrong.

Let’s review what it means to use those tools together properly and get you backed up. We’ll also review the impact of Microsoft’s decision to phase out one of those tools.

Read moreAn Eight-step Back-up Plan Using Windows 10’s Built-in Tools

The Deep, Dark Secret Behind Ask Leo!

I was exchanging email with someone the other day, and he asked about my business and what I do.

What I came up with on the spur of the moment so perfectly captured one aspect of Ask Leo! that I took myself aback. ūüôā

You’d think that after nearly a dozen years of doing this, I’d have a pretty clear “elevator pitch”. Indeed, I do have a pretty good “why” that I captured earlier this year. But that’s different than a “what”.

The answer¬†I shared crystallized something important about how I do what I do …

… my ulterior motive, if you will.

Read moreThe Deep, Dark Secret Behind Ask Leo!

Footnotes & references

18: I think it was in a Dilbert comic.

19: Guilty.

20: Yes, in an ideal world, I’d answer and educate my way out of a job. Not likely, of course, but if it happens, I’ll cope. ūüôā

12 Steps to Keep from Getting Your Account Hacked

My account has been hacked into several times. If I’m¬†able to recover it, it just gets hacked again. Sometimes I can’t¬†recover it, and I have to start all over with a new account. What can I¬†do to stop this all from happening?

I don’t get this question a lot. But I really, really¬†wish I did. What I get instead, repeatedly,¬†is “I’ve been hacked, please recover my account/password for me!” (Which, for the record,¬†I cannot do, no¬†matter how often, or how nicely, or not so nicely, I’m asked.)

The only salvation is in prevention, and this applies to email, social media, and pretty much any password-protected account you might have.

What can you do to make sure your account doesn’t get hacked in the first place?

Read more12 Steps to Keep from Getting Your Account Hacked

Footnotes & references

21: I often hear from folks who are concerned that providing a phone number is really just another way to track you. I don’t buy into that conspiracy theory. Providing a phone number is all about being able to prove you are the rightful account owner should you ever lose access to the account.

Is the Cloud Dangerous?

One of the comments I received on my article on lessons learned from a fairly public online hacking was very concise:

“That’s why the cloud is dangerous.”

I think a lot of people feel that to varying degrees.

I disagree strongly.

I also think believing the cloud is dangerous prevents you from taking advantage of the things it can do for you —¬†things like protecting your data…

… as well as a number of things you’re already doing, and have been doing¬†for years.

Read moreIs the Cloud Dangerous?

Footnotes & references

22: I don’t have the data to back it up, or I’d call it out more prominently in the article, but my feeling, based on being in this industry for as long as I have, is that by and large,the state of the art in online security is improving overall. If it seems like it’s happening more often, my sense is that it’s because there are more online services now than there ever have been. My gut tells me that the number of failings as a percentage of available online services is going down.

How Do I Gain Access to My Deceased Relative’s Computer?

My {relative} passed away recently. I desperately need to gain access to the contents of their computer so I can recover {important financial documents}, {one-of-a-kind pictures}, {his or her last thoughts}, etc. The machine has a login password that he never shared with anyone. Can I get in? If so, how?

As you can see, this is a composite question based on a scenario I hear from time to time.

A relative or acquaintance has passed away and left behind a password-protected PC containing files that are important for any number of possible reasons.

You may be able to get in. On the other hand, particularly if your late relative was security conscious, you may not.

Read moreHow Do I Gain Access to My Deceased Relative’s Computer?

Footnotes & references

23: Yes: had the BitLocker key been saved somewhere else, the drive could potentially be accessed. There are many different things the original computer owner could have done to make this easier, but for the sake of this article, I’m assuming none of them happened.

Can I Get Someone’s Name and Address from Their IP Address?

I have the IP address of someone who’s causing me some¬†problems. Can I get their name and location from that?

Yes and no. But mostly no.

This is perhaps one of the most common questions I get. Unfortunately, people’s expectations have been colored — often dramatically — by popular television shows and movies.

Unfortunately, this is real life, which isn’t nearly as easy or exciting.

Read moreCan I Get Someone’s Name and Address from Their IP Address?

This Is Why I Back Up

This is why I go digital at every opportunity.

For years, I’ve had a collection of 8mm and Super-8 movies stored in my basement. As technology has progressed and the projector deteriorated, I realized that the only way I would ever see them would be to get them converted to a digital format.

That involved shipping them across the country. If that makes you nervous, it absolutely should. It did me.

Read moreThis Is Why I Back Up

Footnotes & references

24: As I write this, this is not a compensated recommendation. I get nothing for mentioning them. I’m simply a happy customer.

25: Intentionally not naming, but you’d recognize ’em.

If I Had to Do It Over…

I never planned to be a writer.

When I entered college in 1975, I had no plan at all. I had a vague interest in electronics, and seeing that on my application, the University of Washington saw fit to put me into College of Electrical Engineering.

It was there I encountered¬†what would become my career’s passion.

Read moreIf I Had to Do It Over…

Footnotes & references

26: Even though living in Canada, I spoke only Dutch until I was around three. It’s what my parents spoke. The British neighbor lady saw this and said it would not do, so she taught me English. Then, when I hit kindergarten in the U.S. a couple of years later, that morphed into “American”. ūüôā

How Do I Unsubscribe from All These Unwanted Emails?

I am receiving a lot of unwanted e-mails from diet pills to pet supplies and I don’t want to keep deleting 100 e-mails every time I check my mail. I hate going into each e-mail one-by-one to unsubscribe and I don’t know how safe it is for me to open those e-mails in the first place. I was wondering is there an easy free way to unsubscribe without needing to open the e-mail.

I know that this is¬†confusing, but it’s important to realize that there are emails that you can and should unsubscribe from, and emails that you absolutely should¬†never, ever¬†“unsubscribe” from.

I’ll explain why that is, and what the relatively simple rules turn out to be.

Read moreHow Do I Unsubscribe from All These Unwanted Emails?



Well, computers and the internet certainly make people upset from¬†time to time, but in this case, I’ll bet it’s something much more¬†specific.

In this case, it might just be you.


Someone’s Sending from My Email Address! How Do I Stop Them?!

People are telling me I’ve sent them email I know I haven’t. Supposedly it’s spam, and that’s not something I do. Has my account been hacked? How do I stop it?

While possible, it’s highly unlikely your account has been hacked. Whatever is happening is something significantly more benign. Sadly, it’s something you can do almost nothing about.

There are a couple of variations, so before we begin, let me also mention some articles that might more closely match your situation.

Read moreSomeone’s Sending from My Email Address! How Do I Stop Them?!

What Happens When I Die?

Making technology both convenient and secure is a problem we deal with daily. We make trade-offs and use techniques that we hope strike an appropriate balance.

A more difficult dilemma that we rarely think about, however, is death. If something were to happen to you, would the people you leave behind be able to access¬†the information they need? What happens to your encrypted data, online¬†accounts, social media, online finances, pictures, and¬†digital-whatever-else if for some reason¬†you’re not around or able to access it?

I hear regularly from people frantically trying to access important, sentimental, or critical data that a recently deceased or incapacitated friend or family member has locked up tightly.

It’s not particularly pleasant to think about, but with all the¬†security measures we put into place to¬†keep bad people out,¬†it’s worth having a plan for letting the good people in.

Read moreWhat Happens When I Die?

Footnotes & references

27: If, like me, you use two-factor authentication, make certain that your friend is likely to have access to your second factor, and/or provide a few of the one-time passwords that should be set up to access your account should your second factor ever be lost. Most two-factor solutions provide this ability.

What Backup Program Should I Use?

Backing up¬†is kind of like eating healthier: everyone knows¬†we should, and few of us actually do. Much like the heart attack victim who no longer binges on french fries, when it comes to backing up, the most religious are those who’ve been bitten hard by a failure in their past.

Asking what backup program to use is very much like asking, “What’s the best exercise program?”

The best program for exercise — or backup — is whichever one you’ll actually¬†do.¬†In order to choose what’s going to work best for you, there are several questions to ask.

Read moreWhat Backup Program Should I Use?

Footnotes & references

28: And, in fact, I’ve written books, not only on Macrium Reflect and EaseUS Todo, but also the backup utility included in Windows 7 and 8. (Windows 10 is similar.) More at the Ask Leo! Store.

29: I have various articles with basic details on each, but you can sign up for a free video series on EaseUS Todo here, and there’s a series of videos on Macrium Reflect’s older version here that has the basics for that program. The best resources are my books on each: Saved! Backing Up with EaseUS Todo and Saved! Backing Up with Macrium Reflect.

This Doesn’t Need to Happen

I lost a huge amount of research and work when my computer crashed this summer.

That’s a quote from an email I received from someone who, honestly, I expected better of. He’s a prominent figure in my industry, and someone who has a large team of people supporting him.

To have a simple computer crash cause “huge” data loss … well, as I said, this doesn’t need to happen. Ever. Not to him, and not to you or me.

Sadly, he’s not the only one running the risk.

Read moreThis Doesn’t Need to Happen

Footnotes & references

30: I actually keep an image of that hard drive, with the small hope that perhaps someday that the master keys for that particular ransomware variant will be found.

How Do I View the List of BCC’ed Recipients on an Email I’ve Received?

I want to find the list of “undisclosed recipients” of the email¬†I’ve received. Is there a way?


“Undisclosed recipients” is often placed in the “To:” line by email programs when the message being sent has no entries in the “To:” or “Cc:” lines. The¬†sender has used the “Bcc:” feature of email to send the email to one or more¬†people without revealing who they are.

So, how do you find out who they are?

Read moreHow Do I View the List of BCC’ed Recipients on an Email I’ve Received?

Footnotes & references

31: Occasionally also “Blind Courtesy Copy.”

Why Is My Mail to this Person Not Getting Through?

Even after all these years, email spam remains a serious problem. With some people (like me) getting literally hundreds of unwanted messages per day, most internet service providers (as well as some individuals) take drastic steps to reduce the amount of junk mail arriving in their inboxes.

A problem with any anti-spam measure is that it will block some amount of legitimate email as well.

If email sent to one person is not getting through, but email sent to other people is generally working, it could be your email is being blocked by an anti-spam tool.

Read moreWhy Is My Mail to this Person Not Getting Through?

Footnotes & references

32: I’m not including examples, because this article does go out via email, and I don’t want it to get marked as spam. Smile

33: To be clear, I have no idea what percentage is needed to make something happen; I’m just using these numbers to illustrate the technique.

What’s a Screen Shot and How Do I Make One?

A screen shot, screenshot, or screen capture is a way to “take a picture” of your¬†computer screen (or a portion thereof).

Why would you want to do that?

Well, let’s say you’re trying to explain a computer problem to a¬†technical friend of yours, and you’re trying to describe what you see on the¬†screen — the dialogs, buttons, messages, whatever. You’re not sure of¬†the terms to use, and your friend is having a difficult time understanding your¬†description.

And of course, your friend insists that the exact wording of¬†everything you see is incredibly important (for the record, he’s right.)

You know what they say: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And it can go¬†a long way to eliminating miscommunication.

Let’s take a picture of your screen you can email to your friend.

Read moreWhat’s a Screen Shot and How Do I Make One?

Are Free Email Services Worth It?

This is a major update to what I consider one of my most important articles, dating all the way back to 2004 (with intermediate updates in 2010 and 2013).

My¬†answer has changed from “mostly no” to “mostly yes”, with the following important caveats:

  • You must understand the costs.
  • You must understand the risks.
  • You must prepare for disaster.
  • You must¬†take responsibility.

I’ll dive into each of these in detail, but before I do, I’ll share¬†one concrete datapoint: all of my email is currently being processed via free email accounts. Clearly, I believe it can be done safely.

Read moreAre Free Email Services Worth It?

Footnotes & references

34: Honestly. In over 13 years, as of this update.