How Do I Recover My Facebook Password?

//
I stupidly forgot my Facebook login password and can’t get on. Now what do I do? Can I have Facebook send it to me?

No, Facebook won’t email you your password. If they do security correctly, they can’t.

There are two approaches to try: the official way, and the not-so-official way. Even if you don’t use the not-so-official way, you should know about it, as it represents a potential security threat.

Read moreHow Do I Recover My Facebook Password?

Busting Some Facebook Myths

Facebook is the most popular social media platform on the planet. Its users are measured in billions, which just boggles the mind.

Along with that popularity comes a lot of abuse, misuse, and misunderstanding. I want to address the latter by examining several recent memes and general misunderstandings that are at best misleading or wrong, and at worst can actually make you less safe if you believe them.

Read moreBusting Some Facebook Myths

Gmail’s Confidential Mode Isn’t

Google recently rolled out a feature called “confidential mode”, which claims to prevent disclosure of an email message to anyone other than its intended recipient. The message can only be viewed by the person you send it to, and cannot be forwarded or copied.

Or can it?

What’s that old saying? Oh yeah: “If it can be seen, it can be copied.”

Let me show you how by sharing one of my so-called “confidential” messages.

Read moreGmail’s Confidential Mode Isn’t

Backing Up a Machine that Won’t Boot

Here’s the scenario: all is well, you’re getting lots of work done on your computer, when all of a sudden it crashes. No idea why — it just crashes.

What’s worse, it won’t reboot. Maybe it just hangs on boot, maybe it says the drive isn’t found, maybe there’s something else interfering.

To make matters worse yet, you stand to lose all that work you were doing, because it hasn’t yet been backed up. Your most recent work seems to be locked up inside a hard drive you can’t access.

There may be a way to back it up before dealing with the crash.

Read moreBacking Up a Machine that Won’t Boot

How Do I Uninstall and Reinstall Internet Explorer in Windows 10?

Because it’s so tightly intertwined with Windows itself, repairing Internet Explorer (IE) by uninstalling and reinstalling has always been a somewhat obscure process. With the advent of Windows 10, that process changed. It’s no more or less obscure; it’s just different.

Uninstalling IE can be marginally helpful if you never use it, but by resetting some of the software and settings reinstalling can be a useful diagnostic step if you’re having problems.

Read moreHow Do I Uninstall and Reinstall Internet Explorer in Windows 10?

How to (Accidentally) Give Someone Else Your PayPal Account

Someone tried to give me a PayPal account this morning. Someone in Germany, to be specific. I suspect they weren’t trying to give me their account, but made a mistake when setting it up.

That mistake is surprisingly common. Seeing as how the result would be my owning their PayPal account, I really don’t understand how they could make such a serious mistake. But as I said, it’s common.

It highlights something critical you need to know to keep your accounts safe.

Read moreHow to (Accidentally) Give Someone Else Your PayPal Account

Should I Cover Up My Webcam When I’m Not Using It?

This is one of those “rules of thumb” that have come into existence in recent years that, in my opinion, is totally overblown.

Sadly, webcam manufacturers are feeding the paranoia by providing easy-to-use lens covers with their products. There’s nothing wrong with that, other than it does increase the apparent need for the practice (and perhaps the price).

Cover the webcam if you must, but you can probably guess what I’m about to say.

Read moreShould I Cover Up My Webcam When I’m Not Using It?

Could Someone Set Up a Facebook Account in My Name?

//
I avoid Facebook. There are too many problems associated with it, plus it’s just not my thing. However, I have received email invitations (whatever that is) and I’ve deleted them. One person sent several over a few months. Do they get paid to recruit accounts? The invitations were from people that rarely if ever email me that have somehow retained my email address. But I digress. Can someone create a Facebook account in my name without my permission or knowledge? How do I check for any? What unique identifier does Facebook use? An email address? If found, how do I delete an erroneous account in my name? Obviously, if I didn’t create an account, I have no idea what the password is (assuming Facebook requires accounts to have passwords).

There’s a lot to this question.

Let’s work it in reverse order.

Read moreCould Someone Set Up a Facebook Account in My Name?

Why Does My IP Address Have a Bad Reputation? And What Do I Do?

//
I found on Cisco’s Talos blog that my email reputation is “poor.” Apparently my IP address has been sending lots of email. But I haven’t! I have several computing devices: macOS 10.13.4, Windows 8.1 fully updated running Avast Free with weekly scans and a recent boot-time scan; MalwareBytes free with recent full “threat scan.” My wife uses a Chromebook (up-to-date). I use an iPad 2 and an iPhone 7 (both running iOS 11). Sometimes I use older iPhones (a 4S and a 5S). I have no IoT devices other than the router, a Pepwave Surf SOHO MK3. Pepwave says their routers are not affected by VPNFilter. I use a VPN most of the time on my portable devices, even at home. But not the Windows machine. Sometimes my Windows machine slows down, then recovers. My Windows hard drive often runs and runs. Other times, it times out, as expected. My ISP is TimeWarnerCable. I’m surprised they haven’t contacted me. Is there something I can to do detect outgoing traffic (including, but not restricted to, spam)?

I think it’s very unlikely you are sending spam. Possible, sure, but based on your description, you seem to have things well in hand.

It’s important to realize that you are not necessarily your IP address.

It’s also important not to read too much into anyone’s reputation report.

Read moreWhy Does My IP Address Have a Bad Reputation? And What Do I Do?

Why Doesn’t Blocking Email Senders Work?

//
How can I block addresses that come repeatedly to my junk email box? It says I am blocking email but it does not work.

Blocking email by the “From:” address is seriously overrated; it’s effectively useless.

It promises to prevent email from a specific sender from reaching you, but if the sender determined, the block is easily bypassed. And spammers are determined … boy, are they determined! Blocking senders is useless in the war against spam.

I’ll explain why, and what I do instead.

Read moreWhy Doesn’t Blocking Email Senders Work?

How Do I Clean Up After Windows Update?

//
I’d love to see a tutorial for removing the many gigabytes of useless trash left behind from Windows updates.

It seems that even when it works, people still aren’t happy with Windows Update.

This is one of those questions I get from time to time perpetuating myths about Windows Update that I’d like to clear up. Yes, there’s quite possibly disk space to be had, but not as much as you might think, and not for the reasons you think.

Read moreHow Do I Clean Up After Windows Update?

How Do I Know if My Machine is Free of Malware?

//
How do I find out or know that my computer is free of keyloggers? Would Windows Defender or MalwareBytes find them if there are any, or do you have a referenced article on the topic where I can read about it? Understand that this is the biggest security concern I have about my computer nowadays.

How do you know your computer is free of keyloggers? You don’t.

It’s not the answer most people want to hear, but it’s the true bottom line.

There are a few reasons for it, which I’ll discuss, as well as what you and I need to do in the face of this rather grim reality.

Read moreHow Do I Know if My Machine is Free of Malware?

How to Best Back Up Your Encrypted Data

I talk about encryption a lot. I talk about backing up even more.

Encryption is a critical component of keeping data safe and secure and out of the hands of those who shouldn’t see it.

Backing up, of course, is our safety net for when things go wrong. A recent backup can save you from almost anything.

Unfortunately, I’d wager that most people are backing up their encrypted data improperly. The result is that they’re not as protected by that backup as they might think they are.

Read moreHow to Best Back Up Your Encrypted Data

Why Does My Microsoft Word Document Display Differently on Different Computers?

//
I have a document which was created in Word and has 226 pages. When I send it to a client who is using a later version of Word, it looks totally different and has over 330 pages. How can I send the client the document without it changing? Also, they wanted a pdf version, which looks nothing like the Word document. How can I get the Word document to look like the pdf?

Word documents were never intended to do what you’re doing. They were never meant to distribute documents to others for reading.

Your client is on the right track: that’s exactly what PDF is for.

In a nutshell: it’s all about the printer.

Read moreWhy Does My Microsoft Word Document Display Differently on Different Computers?

Why Can’t You Give a Straight Answer?

//
 I’ve looked at your answers for problems that seem like they relate to mine, but everything seems to be “check this” or “it might be that”. Why can’t you just give me the specific steps I need to solve my problem? Why can’t I get a straight answer?

It’s a fair question.

I wish I could.

Honestly, I truly wish I could give everyone a simple, step-by-step, here’s-how-to-fix-your-problem answer. When possible, I try. Unfortunately, it’s rarely possible to be that specific.

There’s a reason my most common answer is “It depends.”

Read moreWhy Can’t You Give a Straight Answer?

I Think I’ve Been “Phished”, What Should I Do?

//
I think I may have been “phished” with the “request to confirm” scam email. How can I tell? And if I have been “phished” what do I do now?

First, don’t feel too bad — phishing attempts are getting very, very sophisticated. I haven’t fallen for one yet, but I’ve come darned close a time or two.

But be prepared for a painful recovery if the phishing was successful.

How to tell if you’ve been phished depends on where in the process you are: looking at an email, after clicking a link in the email or other source, or some time thereafter.

What to do after that depends on what information you gave in response to the phishing attempt.

Read moreI Think I’ve Been “Phished”, What Should I Do?

How Do I Delete My Facebook Account?

//
What is the safest way to deactivate and completely eliminate my Facebook account?

A lot of people are concerned about Facebook’s recent privacy policy changes and revelations, and are seriously considering deleting their Facebook account completely.

I’ll walk you through some simple steps to do it, pointing out a couple of issues that make it easy for the deletion not to happen.

Read moreHow Do I Delete My Facebook Account?

Do I Need All These Partitions?

//
Is it possible to remove some of the Recovery Partitions from my SSD laptop? I think some of these partitions are not needed but I don’t know which ones. If they can be deleted, how would I add that space to my C: drive?

The short answer is yes, but no.

Yes, you can delete partitions, but no, I would not advise it. As you say, you don’t know what the partitions are, so you don’t know whether or not they’re needed. It’d be a shame to delete one and find out later that this was a serious mistake.

However, if you feel the need, I do have one approach to doing it more or less safely.

Read moreDo I Need All These Partitions?

Networking Sucks

I apologize for the slightly coarse language, but sometimes only the right word will do.

Computer networking is way, way, way harder than it should be, and much harder than it could be. Quite honestly, it’s still too frequently beyond the abilities of the average computer user.

Read moreNetworking Sucks

How Should I Back Up My Computer Before an Operating System Upgrade or Reinstall?

//
I’m about to upgrade my operating system to Windows 10. How do I protect myself if something goes wrong?
//
I’m about to reinstall Windows. How do I start?

Simple: back up first.

And by that, I mean take a complete system image backup of your entire computer before you begin the update or reinstallation process.

I’ll explain what that is and how it protects you from disaster.

Read moreHow Should I Back Up My Computer Before an Operating System Upgrade or Reinstall?

I’ve Lost All My Passwords, What Do I Do?

//
Do you have a general technique for creating new passwords for every single site that needs them? Yes, I did the unthinkable, I lost my LastPass account and have to start over. This is a reminder of the old saying, “When you have dug yourself into a deep hole, stop digging.” Unfortunately, I was stupid enough to keep digging. I hope you can spare some advice for someone who seems to get more stupid with age. There may be others on your list that have the same problem.

The technique is simple.

The problem is that the technique is time-consuming and ponderous.

Let’s review that technique, and what you can do to avoid this situation in the future.

Read moreI’ve Lost All My Passwords, What Do I Do?

Why is Windows 10 Telling Me “There Is a Problem with Your Microsoft Account”?

//
Whenever I get to my Windows desktop screen I always get this message in my notifications area that says there is a problem with your Microsoft account — most likely your password was changed. I haven’t changed it any time recently and when I log in to my Microsoft account, it never shows me there is any problem. This is every time I get to the Windows desktop. What is going on with this? Is this a bug on their part? I don’t really use my local account on my computer.

This was a head-scratcher for me when I first encountered it some time ago.

The short answer is that simply logging in to your PC isn’t enough after a password change. You probably have to log in to a couple of additional places: OneDrive, Mail, and perhaps other apps as well.

Read moreWhy is Windows 10 Telling Me “There Is a Problem with Your Microsoft Account”?

How Do I Get the Windows 10 Creators Update 1709 to Install?

//

I’ve been having a problem installing the “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1709” and after ‘Googling’ the problem, found many others are also experiencing similar problems. Try as I might, the update fails every time, both during MS auto updates and manual updates. No actual error code is reported in the Update History – just “Failed to install on (date)”. So, I contacted the ‘Microsoft Answer Desk’ via a chat session. The agent requested direct access to my laptop – which I granted – and I was eventually informed that my laptop was incompatible with this particular update!

I find this incredible since I was virtually forced to accept Windows 10 OS from my original Windows 7 OS, during the time when it was being installed automatically, whether I wanted it or not… Surely, if my laptop was compatible at the time of the OS ‘update’, then future Windows 10 updates should be compatible. The only solution offered was to ‘Hide’ the update so that I was not constantly being plagued by pop-up windows informing me that the update need to be installed… Not really a solution, I’m sure you will agree.
Have you heard of this problem??

I want to be clear: I do not have a solution for this problem.

While the majority of Windows 10 users have upgraded to 1709 (the “Fall Creators Update”) without problems, there are definitely a number of people sharing your pain.

I’ll share a few straws I might grasp at, were I in your shoes. I’ll also share my expectations of this update, and exactly how they’re not being met.

Spoiler: My expectation is that it should just work.

Read moreHow Do I Get the Windows 10 Creators Update 1709 to Install?

Hard Disk Failure Is Imminent! What Do I Do?

//
I get a message that shows hard disk failure is imminent, please back up your hard disk and have it replaced. So I did the backup with the system built in backup process. But it stopped the process halfway. So some files were encrypted and some files were not. I copied the files which were not encrypted to my external hard disk drive. But the remaining files which were encrypted are not able to copy and open. Please give me an idea to recover my files.

I’m sorry to say it’s very possible that you are S.O.L.: Severely Out of Luck.

I’ll run down what I suspect is happening, what I would do in your situation, and additional options you might have.

And, of course, I’ll review how you could have prevented this in the first place.

Read moreHard Disk Failure Is Imminent! What Do I Do?

Is Online Banking Safe?

//
I would think that no PC would be immune from malicious threats if they landed on some corrupt site that then installed malware or key-capture software. Is there any reasonable way to continue to safely do online banking?

Sure.

Avoid getting infected.

I know, that sounds trite and flippant, and I don’t mean to be so. Ultimately, though, all the advice boils down to exactly that: do what it takes to stay safe on the internet.

I regularly bank online. In fact, I’ve done so for years without incident. I much prefer it over the alternatives.

Read moreIs Online Banking Safe?

How Do I Disable Windows Updates in Windows 10 Home?

Before I begin, I want to be very clear that this is not something I recommend. I believe strongly that keeping your machine as up to date as possible is an important part of keeping yourself safe online. Letting Windows Update do its thing automatically, without having to think about it at all, is the best, safest way for the vast majority of Windows 10 users.

Unfortunately, in recent months we’ve seen Windows Updates cause problems on a small number1 of machines. The ability to disable Windows Update — even temporarily — can be an important step in getting on with your work while you await updated updates that no longer cause problems.

Unfortunately, while Windows 10 Professional has some control over when updates are installed, Windows 10 Home has no such option.

We need to bring out a bigger hammer.

Read moreHow Do I Disable Windows Updates in Windows 10 Home?

Why Does My Machine Take Forever to Shut Down?

//
Why does my machine take forever to shut down?

Click Start. Click Shut down.

Wait. Wait. And wait some more.

It’s not uncommon to complain about start-up time, or the speed of your computer while booting. As it turns out, the amount of time it takes to shut down is another source of occasional frustration. I mean, how long should it take to turn something off? Why can’t it just shut down now without pulling the plug?

As always, there are many possible reasons. I’ll review the most common.

Read moreWhy Does My Machine Take Forever to Shut Down?

Why is Backing Up Your First Recommendation for Everything?

//
In your response to the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities the first thing you recommended was to back up. Why? How does that relate to anything? How does backing up help protect me from vulnerabilities?

I do harp on backing up a lot, I know. But it’s on purpose.

As I’ve said elsewhere, nothing protects you and your data like a complete, recent backup.

Why? Because so much can go wrong. And sadly, some of the folks trying to protect themselves from Spectre and Meltdown are probably wishing they’d backed up before doing so.

Read moreWhy is Backing Up Your First Recommendation for Everything?

Can I Just Unplug My Computer to Shut It Down?

//
I have been having problems with the Power button on my computer turning itself on and off. I have stopped shutting down my computer because I have difficulty turning it back on. I just restart it every morning, but I really don’t like leaving the computer on all the time. If I were to cut the power to the computer and then plug it back in the next morning, would I need to use the on/off button and would I be damaging anything?

You may damage your computer.

By pulling the plug or forcing a power-off by holding down the power button, you risk corrupting data on your hard drive and damaging hardware.

I’m not sure what kinds of problems you’re having with the power button, but even that needs to be used correctly, or you could end up with the very problems you’re seeing.

Read moreCan I Just Unplug My Computer to Shut It Down?

Can My Computer Be Hacked If It’s Turned Off?

//
In general, can a PC with no remote software be hacked if it is powered off? The power supply and the internet cable are still connected to the PC. In my discussions with others, 50% say yes, 50% say no. An internet search was also divided in response with no agreement.

It’s a very unlikely scenario that could allow a turned-off computer to be hacked. I’ll describe it and show you how to prevent it.

Read moreCan My Computer Be Hacked If It’s Turned Off?

My Ex 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 about technology. And I’m certainly no therapist.

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

Short answer: you’re in trouble until you take some drastic action.

Read moreMy Ex Set Up My Computer and Is Now Spying on Me. What Can I Do?

What Do I Do if I’m Being Harassed, Bullied, or Stalked Online?

Normally, this is where I’d quote the original question.

This topic appears in so many different guises and in so many different ways that quoting a single question would represent only a very small slice of a much larger issue.

Call it what you will, cyber-bullying, or online harassment, is a frighteningly common occurrence. Those most at risk appear to be children and individuals who’ve been in abusive domestic relationships.

The questions I get most often are:

  • Isn’t it illegal?
  • How do I find out who’s responsible?
  • How do I make them stop?
  • How can I get back at them?

I’ll tackle each one of those and a couple more.

Read moreWhat Do I Do if I’m Being Harassed, Bullied, or Stalked Online?

Is Windows 10 Still Free?

//
Is Windows 10 still available for free?

Yes, under certain circumstances you can still get it for free.

But you must act quickly. The plan is that the ability to get it for free will end at the end of this year, 2017. In other words, as of the date this is published, you have only a couple of weeks left.

Read moreIs Windows 10 Still Free?

Why Can’t I Talk To a Real Person?

It’s a common frustration. You have a problem, concern, or complaint, and you want to reach out to the company or service involved. Try as you might, you can’t find a phone number. If you do, you find an endless phone-tree of automated assistance options, or worse, a scam.

As far as you can tell, there’s simply no way to locate a real person to talk to.

There probably isn’t, and the reason is simple.

People are expensive. Incredibly expensive. Even when they’re overseas, compared to automated or self-service alternatives, people are still costly and often unreliable.

Let’s look at why this is, and explore your alternatives.

Read moreWhy Can’t I Talk To a Real Person?

The First Dozen Changes to My Newly Reinstalled Windows 10

I decided it was time to reinstall Windows 10 “from scratch” on my Dell Latitude laptop due to performance issues, suspected misconfigurations, and general cruft on the machine. Yes, I could have dealt with all the individual issues, but a completely clean reinstall would take less time and result in a significantly “cleaner” machine.

It used to be that “reformat and reinstall” was something Windows needed every year or two. That’s no longer the case, in my opinion, for most Windows 10 users. It’s quite reasonable to expect a stable Windows 10 installation (with updates, of course) to remain in place for the life of the machine.

As you might guess, though, I don’t fall into the category of “the majority of Windows 10 users”. With all the testing, installing, uninstalling, configuring, reconfiguring, and more, I tend to be rather hard on my Windows installations.

So, it was time to start over.

Read moreThe First Dozen Changes to My Newly Reinstalled Windows 10

Where Do Cookies Come From?

//
I have cookies on my computer from websites that no one in my household said they had visited. Is this possible? Is there a way to tell if a cookie was an actual site visited or a third-party cookie?

Yes, it’s very possible to find cookies from websites you’ve never been to. In fact, I’d say it’s almost a certainty.

However, I can’t think of a way of telling third-party cookies apart from those sites you actually visited.

It gets surprisingly complex.

Let’s look at where cookies come from.

Read moreWhere Do Cookies Come From?

Answering “How do you want to open this file?”

//
I got a file as an attachment to some email. I downloaded it, scanned it with my anti-virus, and then double clicked on it. Windows asked me “How do you want to open this file?” How should I know? Shouldn’t Windows know? What do I tell it?

In an ideal world, Windows would know. In an ideal world, it would simply open the file, or, if you needed to take additional steps, it would tell you what those steps would be.

I’m sure by now you realize we don’t live in an ideal world.

We need to learn a little about file types and file associations. Then we’ll know how to answer the question we’re being asked.

Read moreAnswering “How do you want to open this file?”

Watching for Interactions

//
I experienced Macrium Reflect taking a long time to perform its backups. I discovered that if I end task OneDrive Sync Engine in Task Manager it reduced run times from hours to minutes.

This isn’t an isolated report, and highlights something important to consider when troubleshooting slowdowns, delays, and other problems.

Software like OneDrive and Macrium Reflect is complex. Running multiple complex applications at the same time increases the demands on your machine tremendously.

Step one: simplify.

Read moreWatching for Interactions

What the “KRACK attacks” mean to you

Earlier this week, a vulnerability was disclosed in the WPA2 security protocol that, in the worst case, could allow an attacker to potentially gain access to some or all of the encrypted information transmitted over a Wi-Fi connection.

This isn’t a bug, and it’s not a failure of one manufacturer or another. This is a weakness in the protocol itself.

If you use Wi-Fi on any device, it’s worth understanding how big of a risk this might be, and what steps, if any, you might want to take.

Read moreWhat the “KRACK attacks” mean to you

“Is It Possible” is the Wrong Question

I get a lot of questions that start with the phrase “Is it possible.”

“Is it possible I’ve been hacked?”

“Is it possible to recover an email from 10 years ago?”

“Is it possible that my video chats are being recorded?”

The list goes on.

There are two problems with these questions: they all have the same answer, and they’re all the wrong question to be asking.

Read more“Is It Possible” is the Wrong Question

Why Do Password-strength Meters Give Different Results?

//
There are some websites that determine how strong is a password. I tried to compare them two of them. [One said that my 20-character example] password can be hacked in 16 billion years. [Another] says the same password can be hacked in 3 seconds. What a joke it is. In your opinion what site might be a reliable password checker?

From a purely algorithmic, or mathematical, perspective, cracking passwords is a fascinating problem.

From a user’s perspective, however, it’s not that fascinating at all. In fact, it’s downright frustrating. One of the best examples of that frustration is the scenario you outline: one sites’ “great” password might be considered horribly insecure by another.

What’s a user to do?

My recommendation? Create strong passwords that don’t need a password-strength meter at all.

Read moreWhy Do Password-strength Meters Give Different Results?

What the Equifax Breach Means to You

On September 7th, the U.S. credit reporting company Equifax announced they had suffered a massive data breach some months earlier.

Equifax’s handling of that breach has since been termed a “dumpster fire” by noted journalist Brian Krebs. Their instructions, website, and tools to help you determine if you’ve been impacted have been nothing short of a total mess. The term I’d use instead of dumpster fire isn’t appropriate for a family publication.

All indications are that if you’ve ever had a credit report, your information is likely part of this mess. Even if you’re not sure, it’s best to assume it.

So. What now?

Read moreWhat the Equifax Breach Means to You