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Never Blindly Trust an Online Recommendation (Even Mine)

Everyone has an agenda.

Trust Me!
A snide remark about one of my recommendations raises an important point about any recommendation you find online: there are many opportunities for abuse.
The Best of Ask Leo!

From: Billy Bob Macrium

Mr. Leo, your check is in the mail :-)

I got that as a comment to my article How Do I Restore a Backup to a Smaller Hard Drive? Presumably, the commenter believes my reasons for recommending Macrium Reflect are financially motivated and is trying to make some kind of snide remark to make his point.

There are two completely separate reasons why the implication is wrong; more on that in a moment.

I’ll admit that it irritated me. No one likes having their ethics questioned.

But as I cooled down, I realized while the comment delivery is immature, hidden in the sarcasm is a concept worth understanding: there are reasons you shouldn’t blindly accept recommendations you find online.

Perhaps even those you find on Ask Leo!

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Trusting Online Recommendations

It can be difficult to know whether recommendations you find online are legitimate or financially motivated. Even those claiming to be above board might not be. Be skeptical of any recommendation you find online, and try to develop your own collection of sources you know and trust.

Affiliate programs

If I were to re-word the comment to be clearer and more respectful, I’d say this:

Leo, you must be getting some kind of monetary incentive to promote Macrium Reflect as much as you do.

It’s a valid concern. There are relationships known as “affiliate programs” where individuals can receive a percentage of the price if someone purchases a product after clicking on a link provided by the affiliate program member.

For example, when I link to a product on Amazon — say a Kindle Fire, as I have here — I use what’s called an affiliate link. If you click on that link, Amazon knows it was my site that sent you. Should you buy the device (or, in Amazon’s case, almost anything else), I’ll get an affiliate commission or “finder’s fee” of around 5%.

This doesn’t affect the price you pay. If no affiliate link is used, Amazon keeps the 5% for themselves.

Some producers of digital goods have affiliate programs. Commissions run from the sub-5% range offered by stores like Amazon to 20%, 40%, 50%, or sometimes even more.

It’s nothing new. Affiliate programs and affiliate marketing have been around for years and are considered a respectable approach to getting a product promoted by others. Chances are you’ve already purchased things via an affiliate link and never even known it.

Affiliate relationships can be abused

The problem is, of course, that with a monetary incentive to promote a product, the motives of those doing the promoting become suspect.

Let’s say product “Z” offers a 25% affiliate commission on each sale, whereas product “Y” doesn’t have an affiliate program at all. Both products perform the same function.

Everything else being equal, it might make sense to promote product Z over Y. I mean, if there’s honestly no difference, why not get an affiliate commission on every sale?

But there’s always a difference. Product Z might have a bad reputation. Product Y might honestly be the better product for a variety of reasons.

This is where affiliate relationships get abused. Inferior products may get promoted simply because they have an affiliate revenue opportunity.

This is the first of the two reasons my commenter’s inference about my situation is wrong. Macrium Reflect is product Y: they have no affiliate program I could find, and I make no money when people purchase it.

It’s just a good product and worthy of your consideration — in my opinion.

Comments and reviews can be faked

The motives behind online recommendations are questionable for more reasons than just affiliate revenue.

Besides snarky questioning of my ethics (thankfully infrequent), a more common scenario on AskLeo! are comments which are left to promote a particular product. Sometimes they’re completely unrelated to the topic at hand; those are simply treated as spam and deleted. However, sometimes they’re seemingly on-topic but self-promotional.

I know you like product “Y”, but I’ve been using “X” and honestly, it’s way, way better. Here’s a link so you can check it out…

As a reader of my site, you might consider it a legitimate opinion based on someone’s experience. In reality, it’s someone working to promote sales of their product, good or bad. (Often bad, since good products rarely need to resort to this technique.)

But there are also totally legitimate comments from other readers (like you) sharing experiences that add significant value to the discussion.

It’s difficult to know the difference sometimes. My staff and I try to weed out the spam, but we’re not always successful. Other sites that accept comments or product reviews make no such effort at all — it’s something that Amazon, for example, is criticized for since product reviews have been known to be faked.

The author might have an agenda

Within moments of receiving the comment implying my Macrium Reflect recommendation was less than objective, I received a comment on a different article, lambasting me for recommending Windows Security — nearly accusing me of being nothing more than a shill for Microsoft. (Sadly, I still face that inference, having worked there for 18 years, even though I left over 20 years ago.)

My guess is that the commenter has a strong anti-Microsoft agenda — something I see frequently. That agenda can’t help but bias his comments and reviews. They’re likely to be less than objective.

His visceral reaction to Windows Security is not born out by my own experience, nor the experiences of many other reviewers and tech support personnel. Of course, it’s not 100% positive — no product gets that — but it’s significantly better than he would have us believe.

He’s most certainly entitled to his opinion, but it makes evaluating comments and reviews that much more difficult for the casual reader.

The author might not be qualified

I like to believe I know what I’m doing. The 45+ years I’ve put in computing, plus my background, plus hands-on experience with the various technologies I talk about here make me at least somewhat qualified to do what I do.

I know there are areas where I’m not well-suited — for example, I rarely take on Mac-related questions, even though I use them in addition to PCs, because that’s not my strength. There are better resources out there.

But being qualified is certainly not a requirement to publish on the internet, or make comments on blogs, or even set up entire websites on some subject.

And let’s face it, we all run the risk – myself most definitely included – of thinking we know more than we do, or that we are better than we are.1

But that doesn’t stop us from posting. Smile

How I come to my recommendations

I can’t speak for other sites and other reviewers, but I can tell you how I most often come to recommend products on Ask Leo!.

  • Almost all are products I use personally, and more often than not, use heavily. When the time came to drop my recommendation of a previous back-up solution, I researched a little and discovered that Macrium Reflect met my requirements – not just for myself, but as something that I might recommend to others. So I bought it and started using it. I liked what I saw.2
  • The product has to be “significant enough” to warrant a recommendation. This is a little fuzzier, but I don’t make recommendations lightly, so the product needs to solve a real problem, and do so in a way that I believe is significantly useful to the average user or someone attempting to solve the specific problem the program addresses.
  • Only after I decide to recommend or link to a product, and only if that product is not free,3 do I go looking for an affiliate program. This is the second way that the commenter’s inference is wrong: revenue potential doesn’t drive what I recommend. While I’ll certainly take advantage of affiliate programs if they exist — it helps defray the costs of running Ask Leo! — it’s certainly not a requirement.

At least, that’s what I say I do. You have no way of knowing for certain.

And you and I have no way of knowing with certainty how others do it, either. This is the internet – anyone can put up anything for any reason.

(This is also covered in my article Product Reviews, Recommendations and Affiliate Links Disclosure. That’s a statement the FTC looks for on websites that recommend or promote products for sale. On AskLeo!, there’s a link to it on the bottom of every page.)

Find someone or a venue you trust

So what’s a person to do?

My recommendation is you invest a little time in finding someone you feel you can trust. Naturally, I hope that’s me, but that’s not as important as finding a resource you feel comfortable with before you need a recommendation.

  • Sign up for a few tech newsletters and see which feels best to you.
  • Join, watch, and participate in a few online tech discussion forums.
  • Visit a few support and news sites regularly.

In all cases, watch for specific people making recommendations. Don’t trust everything you see on a discussion site, for example, but look at the specific people who are making comments and recommendations. Judge their reputation and form your own opinion about their trustworthiness.

Even then, as I said, remember this is the internet; take every recommendation with a grain of salt. But starting with a site or individual whose opinion you feel some affinity for will give you a leg up as you make your own decisions.

It’s all about trust

It really is all about trust.

Approach the internet with a healthy dose of skepticism.

If you don’t trust a site or recommendation, then don’t follow the recommendation, it’s as simple as that. If you think there’s an ulterior motive, walk away.

Leaving snide comments rarely helps anyone, but asking questions absolutely can. Simply expressing reservations or respectfully disagreeing can provide food for thought for site visitors who follow — particularly if the author responds. This is the reason I regularly leave the comments of those who disagree with me on AskLeo!: to get future visitors to think.

On the other hand, finding and sticking with a site or individual whose reputation, opinions, and recommendations you trust can make finding the right tool or solving that problem a safer, hopefully quicker experience.

You don’t even need to always agree; what you do need is to trust the intent, integrity, and ethics of whatever source you use.

As I said, I hope that’s me, but if it isn’t, I strongly encourage you to find a source you can trust to get the advice and the support you’re looking for.

Do this

One way to build trust is to look at what someone has to say over time. Do they have a track record, are they consistent, are they helpful… or do they drop a recommendation and disappear?

I’ve been doing this since 2003. Join the journey forward, see what I have to say, and decide if I’m worthy of your trust. Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

Podcast audio


Footnotes & References

1: There’s even a term for that: the Dunning-Kruger effect: “… a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.”

2: Ironically, as I was writing this article, Macrium popped up a dialog letting me know that it had completed its full backup of my machine. I continue to use it daily.

3: Also ironically, the vast majority of my recommendations are for free software, for which the entire concept of commissions doesn’t even apply. I only recommend non-free software when I think it’s most suited to the job.

96 comments on “Never Blindly Trust an Online Recommendation (Even Mine)”

  1. Leo, I trust your recommendations…mostly. What I do when I read reviews is try to sort them in a bell curve. I tend to dismiss (after reading them of course) the highest and the lowest and shoot for the middle reviews. I feel they give me a better understanding of the product overall. And I look for reviews on more than one site.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy your articles and am always eager to learn something new.

    Sounds like a reasonable approach. I like the bell-curve analogy.

    • Leo. Been reading your stuff over the years. Have trust in you for instinctive reasons. When I win the UK lottery and sponsor you then you can say to the naysayers that you have shed loads of money anyway. Maybe not as much as Bill. Hmm, who has? Err, that’s it….

  2. Leo, I am a regular reader of your articles. I’m from India and I often recommended your site to my friends.

    I trust you, and believe many readers as well. We all respect your work and experience. You have in-depth knowledge of computers which you use here to help others.

    Please let the dogs bark. Ignore them. People throw stone at only those trees who have fruits.

    We do trust you and will ALWAYS.

    – Vikas Medhekar

  3. I love your blog. I am also from India.The problem is that people only want free software for doing things and may not like the paid products

  4. @Ashkay
    Ask Leo!- has recommendations for both free and paid solutions. Most of the recommendations on his site are for free software. (See note 3 above.) In some cases the paid product does a better job than the free one. In others there is simply no free product that will do what you need.

  5. Of course, we should always think about the motivations behind an online-person’s recommendations, and I commend you for actually using a person’s silly comment to raise a valid point… thank you, the commenter!

    Mind you, my thought when I saw that comment was twofold:
    1. The commenter is jealous of your success (hey, why don’t you set up your own service like Leo’s, and make a point of never using affiliate links… go on, I dare you… if you are so ethical unlike how you imply Leo isn’t, you should have a really successful website…)
    2. They are someone who works for a competitor product of Macrium Reflect but they don’t have the guts to actually defend it properly (“Hey Leo, I think xyz company’s product abc is better because….”) – if they avoid spam links (actually, the product name on its own should be enough… if people are interested, they’ll Google it and find it!)

    All in all, a cowardly non-attack, and one which has generated a useful article, so thanks, to you, whoever you are!

  6. Keep up the good work. Your readers trust your recommendations, otherwise you wouldn’t have had so many readers :).

  7. I look forward to each & every one of your newsletters and learn much. Other comments mention TRUST, I find that important, I can’t know everything so, why not trst someone who has been in the businees quite a while, you. If you make a nickle or a dollar sometimes recommendind something sobeit. I spend more on donuts and coffee ea. wk. thnx.

  8. Leo, I’ve followed your advice for years and find your advice to be useful and honest. Keep up the good work.

  9. You have shown yourself over and again to be ethical, entertaining, and informative. I have used your recommendations many times. Thanks much for all you do.

  10. Leo, the world’s full of cynics whose only talents are a sharp tongue. People who follow you regularly know where you are coming from, and, I think, trust you (as I do), which is not to say we blindly follow your every recommendation. Thank you for a superb newsletter, and all the hard work you put into it. I enjoy it immensely.

  11. Some people you trust intuitively .. you’re one of them. If I have a problem .. I go to ‘Ask Leo’. Nowhere else.
    ( er .. my cheque was a bit late arriving last month Leo. Please buck up!)

    I’M JOKING!!

  12. Brilliant!!! I really like your pages. This was one of the best (enternaining) articles I have read for a long time, and it did not solve any computer issues!
    Well done I love the subtle links. I am sending this to all my ‘knowledgeable’ friends in IT.
    Leo, long may you reign

  13. Good Words Leo. You get your point across and raised some other very good points. Some of this advice can hold true for our real life situations….. “It’s all about Trust.”

  14. It’s funny, when I first read the email I thought it was praise sent in your direction, as in the commenter was going to send you a donation for the recommendation.

    I suppose the ‘Mr Leo’ could indicate otherwise, but I’m left wondering if you made a further inquiry to the commenter to see what his/her actual intentions were.

    Leo, in general I love your articles and the advice you provide and look forward to continued reading for years to come.

    I had someone ask me that off-line as well. Because he chose a fake name of “Macrium” he made it look like the message
    was coming from the makers of Macrium Reflect implying some form of kickback. My sense was that the intentions were fairly clear.

  15. I once sought your assistance to a problem I was having with my dual monitors. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a personal response from you within 24 hours. Unfortunately, the solution you suggested did not cure the problem. But that did not cause, for a single moment, a lessening of my faith in you.

    You are noted for suggesting something and, if that doesn’t work, try something else (for example, if you have a headache, take an aspirin. If that doesn’t cure it, then go to the doctor and have the tumor removed. But try the aspirin-approach first!). You are a very good example of (and I think you have alluded to this yourself) the fact that the computer world is too big to be completely understood by a single individual. Your background and experience raise your level of knowledge well above many of the rest of us. Your modest, self-deprecating approach to sharing that knowledge is what sets you apart.

    Keep up the good work, Leo; the majority of those of us out here need and appreciate it.

  16. Excellent article Leo as always.
    Your comments noted a couple of things that interested me.

    1. Specifically the lack of common civility that seems all too pervasive anymore when it comes to dissenting opinions where people feel compelled to denigrate anything they don’t agree with.

    2. Self-appointed experts who bloviate as to why their particular opinion matters

    Your site is one of the remarkably few that I do take the time to review reader comments on because they are usually pretty decent & this site is the only one I ever comment on.
    (for what that is worth)

    Please don’t let one bad apple spoil it for the rest of us who do enjoy your articles.
    Keep up the good work!
    Take care,

  17. “Approach the internet with a healthy dose of skepticism” is the best advice there is. And I would go further: Approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism [emphasis important in both cases].

    I’ve just used one of your recommendations (ImgBurn) for the first time to burn a boot CD of MiniTool Partition Wizard, which seems to work a treat. There’s a (free) recommendation for you.

    (You don’t need to trust me: you can try it for yourself)

  18. I agree with dashrender: I too thought the comment was praise for you when I first read it. While I loved your post and thought it was very classy considering your initial irritation about the remark, is it possible that there was more than one interpretation possible? Was there more to the comment than what you included that made it clear to you that it was meant snidely? Misinterpretation is the price we pay for electronic communication I’m afraid!

  19. It’s been my experience that on every blog I read, every forum I participate in from military model building, to motorcycles, to computers, to music, and everything else in between there is always an element that openly and vociferously has problems with anyone who offers any kind of advice and take a cynical view of any kind of recommendation.

    Asking people who know what I need to know or who can offer guidance and relay experience has served me very well. I think it’s served mankind as a whole pretty well. What would be the alternative? Make something up on your own? Guess?

    That’s the thing with something like the Internet’s freedom and openness – it even gives those with nothing to say a place to say it.

  20. I have always been curious about those that assume that making a profit from technical expertise wrong, even through the recommendation of a product. I commend you on your eloquent explanation of your position, your operation and the process involved in choosing which products you endorse.

  21. Hey, at least you are no Walt Mossberg who, smart and experienced as he may be, can always be counted upon to recommend against Microsoft (or anything else) in favor of Apple products. Good products yes, but have their own flaws just like PC products.

    I am definitely a fan of your interesting and informative articles/newsletters. And no, no check this month Leo, little behind on the rent already… :)

  22. Hi Leo,

    Looking through the opposite end of the telescope, it is perfectly OK to accept affiliate payments as long as that is flagged in advance, and prefixed with ‘from time to time I may accept payments for products I firmly believe will help you and your machine.’ Your credibility is highly evidenced by the quality of your work everywhere else – it is first grade. For testimonials, US law require that they be true(!). (In the UK we haven’t quite got there.)

    So the decision to be made is whether to choose to accept affiliate payments or not. After all, Amazon and Google are rich enough! If you decide not to do this, then a reasonably visible web-statement and email sig. to that effect ought to deal with the shills quite nicely.

    If helpful.

  23. “”Approach the internet with a healthy dose of skepticism” is the best advice there is. And I would go further: Approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism [emphasis important in both cases]. – James”

    Sturgeon’s Law: “99% of EVERYTHING is BS!” … goes for the internet too. (“Ted” Theodore Sturgeon was a sci-fi author popular back in the 60’s who wrote (among many other stories) the original “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” novel on which the movie and TV series were based.

  24. The biggest issue, as I see it, is the anonymity of the internet. I doubt that the author of the comment would have said that to Leo’s face. But because he can hide behind the internet, the comment comes out. Or, if he did say it to Leo’s face, Leo would have been able to tell at once by the tone, facial expression, etc. the way in which the person meant the comment to be taken.

    You see it every where on the internet where you can post comments. Someone makes an out of place comment because they can get away with it, or else they make an innocent comment which gets someone else inflamed because they can’t decipher the way in which the comment is intended.

    The machine has taken the humane out of the humans.

  25. I do have one critique of your recommendations. When you switch recommendations for example Acronis to Macrium can you be more descriptive as to why you switched. What was better specifically. I bought and am happy with Acronis based on your recommendation a few years ago, but now you only recommend Macrium and that review never really said why, other than it was better.

    I mention the reasons on the Acronis page. Unfortunately it’s not feasible to mention it everywhere people might be looking for backup information.

  26. Hi Leo What are those snideys thinking?
    They havn,t tried to help others as you do They obviously have NO idea of the time,trouble and expense involved in producing all the comprehensive information you give us, and for Free!! I have learnt a Tremendous amount from you and am Very grateful Who Cares if you make a few bucks from your recommendations You are entitled to .I am one of your legion of happy and grateful subscribers I am not very tech savvy so I have to re,read most of the stuff and save Everything.! One question.. Could you consider having the occasional “dummynar” for guys like me? keep up the good work John

  27. As others have said, some people find fault (rightly or wrongly) and say it on the Internet in a way they would never say face to face–anonymity removing their normal civility.

    Whenever I see those hostile comments, I think of the old SNL debates between Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin and the the lead off comment: “Jane you ignorant slut.” Then I can just laugh at the comments. (Those of you too young to remember those skits, some of them are on YouTube).

  28. Well done Leo. I’d like to say that your site,, I consider and should be by the industry a BENCHMARK site for others in the same business or for that matter any other type of support.
    Great Work
    Keep On Truckin

  29. I trust your advice. I have used it many time’s. I don’t care if you make money or not because if you steered us toward’s junk you wouldn’t have many follower’s. You are well respected and trusted on the internet and for good reason. Keep up the good work. I really enjoy reading your recommendation’s.

  30. Hi Leo,

    With so may people in the world, there is almost certailny “one of everything”, including people reading your column who are suspicious and abusive.

    Please put me down as one of the many who greatly appreciate you, your wisdom, your expertise and your advice (including that which you provide on other internet forums).

  31. From time to time, I buy something from Amazon. Now that I know you get a commission, I’ll come to your site first, and find a link to Amazon.

  32. Good morning Leo – well, it is over here in the deep south of New Zealand anyway. Just wanted to add my thought, which is that I have followed “Ask-Leo” for some time now, and you are right. Trust is something that should never be lightly given, should always be hard to earn, but should be treasured when given. There are a nukber of reasons why I have given you my trust, (while recognising we are all fallible sometimes of course(, and it is this – I really appreciate your attitude towards those who know much, much less about computers and Windows than you do (which certainly includes me and probably most folk). From time to time I see questions that are so basic that I wonder they can even manage to get their question to you, yet you seem to unfailingly treat all comers with the same respect and consideration, regardless of their apparent level of expertise, or lack thereof. So my grateful thanks for your courtesy, patience, and care in how you respond to everyone. It certainly keeps me coming back, and has earned a degree of trust from me.

  33. As an old geezer who has been messing with these machines since the dinasours roamed (remember bulletin boards?) I have never found any reason to find “Ask Leo” less than informative and honest in his advice and recomendations. It’s a shame that there are nitwits who get off on “flaming” one the few real experts who provide FREE guidance to those of us who need and enjoy it. Keep up your good work Leo, most of us need your help!

  34. Leo, I can tell the comment from that individual really got to you from the time and effort you put into your detailed & informative response. I find myself visiting many different forums in search of answers to hard to solve problems, and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of commenters who find it so easy to hide behind a keyboard in order to post snide, derogatory, or uninformative posts. I’ve been subscribed to “Ask Leo” for over 3 years and don’t ever really see that here. It’s what comes with the territory when you open yourself up to comments from people who have nothing useful to say. Don’t let the haters & nay-sayers get to you, my trust in your advice and opinions remains intact.

  35. Regarding Macrium Reflect, I followed Leo’s advice and am glad I did. I was an Acronis user since version 8 in 2005. As of early this year I now use Macrium and am very satisfied with it. Regardless of whether Leo benefits or not (I could care less), his advice was sound. One of many reasons I steer anyone seeking PC-related advice/info to Leo’s site.

  36. Thanks Leo. Your newsletter is always interesting and informative. I too have been using Macrium Reflect successfully for many years (even before you recommended it). I too recommend it to everyone whose computer I build or repair. Well done, well said, well written. I look forward to your publications on a regular basis.

  37. Hi Leo,
    I understand your feelings when you received this comment. You did (like always) turned this out to write a positive article. I knew of the affiliate links, because I had read your previous article on the subject. It is good and normal that you get these commissions, when you get them, which is not very often as you are also promoting the use of a lot of free programs. Congratulations for all the good work!

  38. Leo, I’ve learned most of my knowledge about PC’s from reading the email from you,( that I sighned up for), and I’m very greatful for the info you give. KUDOS to you!!!!

  39. Hi Leo, I think you took a bit of an exception to a very small comment BUT it gave a GREAT article (tweeted it already) so, as always, keep up the GOOD work. :)

  40. Leo,
    Thank you for all your interesting and informative articles. I can always count on reading something interesting and learning something new from you….I just feel compelled to thank you for keeping us all informed and “in the know” with answers to frequently asked questions as well as the not so frequently asked questions…Keep up the fabulous work….Cheers!! Ken

  41. Leo,
    Frankly, I don’t care if the affiliates give you 75%! Thanks to you my friends think I am a computer Genius-King; in fact I am pretty techy-impaired. I grew up when black and white T.V with 3 channels (static after 11:30 pm) was considered high-tech.
    Besides, on a handicap budget…if it ain’t free, I don’t get it, lol.
    So, thanks for all your freely given knowledge!

  42. The old “sticks and stones may break my bones” can only last for so long and I totally understand how one small comment can really push one to frustration. I am a short time subscriber but like your style and knowledgeable content. I loved the article and completely understand what it is like to have ones’ integrity questions. Very well said !

  43. I switched from Acronis to Macrium and I cannot be happier. Acronis was failing all the time and I have zero problems with Macrium. Easy to set up works like a charm. It was a great recommendation.

  44. Leo, it seems to me that in your business, giving recommendations based exclusively on monetary gain would simply be self-defeating; readers would eventually wise-up and tune out. In general, if I see something recommended on the web (especially if it’s going to cost me $$$ or might endanger my computer), I try to find independent, corroborating sources. Not always easy to do, but after awhile you get a sense of where to go to get good advice.

  45. I’ve been reading your stuff for quite a while and I trust your advice. What would you gain by shoveling a bunch of bull? Seriously. I trust you not to steer us, your faithful readers, to not-so-good apps but point us to the best ones you can find. You recommend the apps you use and give primers on some of them. “Hey, try this on for size! And here’s how.” I thank you and I’m sure there’s a lot more that do.
    So you can give ‘Mr. Check-in-the-mail’ the digital salute and, if you point me in the right direction, I’ll give him both barrels!

    (Hmmm! The Dunning-Kruger affect…I know egg-zactly what this is but never knew it had a name. It happens all the time nearly everywhere and at the top of lungs in capital letters)
    Sorry this is a tad bit long, but I said what i meant.

  46. I guess it’s human nature to question these recommendations when one thinks of kick-backs and financial gain etc. The one thing that a skeptic should remember is how sustainable a business model like that is and who’s undertaking it. If this were a flash in the pan site and your agenda was to simply cash-in, then I’d assume the layout and format of this portal would resemble Facebook’s or Google’s. But you also need to put food on your table and so do your employees. So whether you make a buck off a well-meaning bit of advice or you don’t, it’s safe to assume your professional longevity banks on honesty and fair play. It only takes a few short sessions to realize what sort of character is behind this site, and followers like me applaud a straight shooter like you. In the end, you recommend and people try. If it works out then great, and if not, they might move on. Who’s twisting their arms?

    Keep up the good work. Your newsletter has been a staple in my inbox for a few years, and I look forward to seeing more.

  47. My Dear Leo,

    Could be that you are too sensitive just like me. I just hate ‘thumbs down’ on Yahoo, etc., ha ha ha. When I saw the very brief reply that you have based this article upon – my reaction was that the poster was being humorously grateful or was I being naive? I am sure that many of the readers thought the same.

    Whatever you think do not give up or lose the faith – yours is the best informative site that I and my friends know of and where else could we get such rich information for free?

  48. I was guided to your site about eighteen months ago by a computing helpline which was dealing with a problem I had at the time, and have became immediately an enthusiast for your articles. They are lucid (I am self- trained – and half-baked – on IT matters), informative, usually interesting and very often stimulating and helpful.

    Elderly and suspicious as I am, I agree fully with your advice on evaluating online recommendations, and am very grateful to have access to your ruminations on computing matters. While your initial anger at the crass discourtesy of the person who provoked your article is totally understandable, your calm response is undeservedly mild. I offer him an online recommendation of my own, gratis: When you want to criticise, don’t show your own poverty of mind by offering mere abuse, which indicates only that you’ve nothing constructive to say and would have done much better to shut up.

    Meanwhile, thank you, Leo, and carry on with the good work!

  49. Leo Great article. But now that we’re on the subject of trust, we all should be wondering: How do we know you’re not a dog? (Pic can be fake.) Just askin’

    You don’t. :-)

    the real Leo?

  50. Leo, I appreciate your mature reaction to the comment. To make a “teaching moment” from it is commendable.

  51. Well said and great article. The trust I have in your recommendations has been earned from years of following your comments and thinking for myself, comparing what you say to what I have read and have experienced myself. Having said that… you are a source of unbiased information (only biased by your own experience) and in my opinion, sincere honesty and integrity. Keep up the good work!

  52. Dear Leo,
    I read your newsletter every morning. I consider you to be the real deal providing very generous and accurate information.
    Please keep up the good work…I need you!

  53. If you don’t trust a site or recommendation, then don’t follow the recommendation, it’s as simple as that. If you think that there’s an ulterior motive, walk away. i strongly support Leo comment. i dont point a gun to your head to force you to follow what i say

  54. Read you article and concur completely. I’ve only used your advice a few times and was pleased with the result in all cases. I have experienced problems, especially off the Microsoft help sites. One in particular offered free registry scan and fix. The scan results were pretty scary, but their site offered NO fix, only offers for purchase. No trust, no purchase, and a bad mark for Microsoft.

  55. Well said sir, I’ve trust your recommendations and have always had great results with the products you recommend. I agree, with you, most of the products you recommend or point us to, are free and always have solved my problem. This site can be trusted and thank you for that.

  56. I have followed your articles and news letters for several years and know you are completely trustworthy. Your site is the first place I always look to help me solve a problem or to simply learn more about computing.

  57. First, I am grateful for the advice you have given out freely. It has helped me in my situations. I applaud you for being able to face posters who deviate from conventions of etiquette and acceptable manners in public.

  58. Leo, I have to say that you are a stand up guy with a cool head. Your advice and information is always accurate and impartial. Your site is one of the few sites that provide information without a barrage of ads and tricky download links. Your articles are written so that anyone can easily understand the points of importance. I get the feeling that this website is a labor of love for you. That may be why you can do it without the arrogance and deceptive behavior I find at many other tech sites. Thank you for your hard work.

  59. Forget about PC, Macs, and others. Forget about experience and technical ability. Forget about making a living out of recomendations or a blog. Your answer/reply is the best and most civilized and terse retort I have read in a very long time.
    Don’t care what you say or recommend, I’ll buy it, from you.
    PS. When you get sick of this game, run for political office. I’ll vote.

  60. Leo: You are solidly on my list of the 25 most trusted people I know of. I am still working to find the last 15 but I’m sure I should be able to find that many some day.

  61. THIS IS NOT A PLUG. If you visit Cnet’s cheapskate of the day webpage to look for computing bargains and read their comments, you’LL LIKELY see several TROLLS. That is people who visit commentaries and new to the site don’t have an understanding. Newbies. But for whatever reason, decide to leave negative comments whether they are qualified or not. Talk is cheap. Personally anyone that negatively comments someone who’s providing assistance should be placed on probation and their comments flagged as being new to the site, not subscribed, intentions suspicious, TROLLS. Leo, you’ve always provided sound advise and constantly prove yourself trustworthy. Thank you for all your effort and assistance. Trolls may keep their opinions to themselves. Keep their mouth quiet, listen and learn, or leave silently. Show some respect for your peers.

  62. I appreciate you and your opinions and have for a very long time. I don’t understand why someone would waste time reading the opinions of someone they either think they are smarter than…or they don’t trust? Untrusted sources or sources who provide nothing worth reading, I unsubscribe from…. there’s far more important and interesting things to do.

  63. Leo, you wrote:

    “If I were to re-word the comment to be clearer and more respectful, I’d say this:

    “Leo, you must be getting some kind of kick-back or monetary incentive to promote Macrium Reflect as much as you do.”

    Personally, if I  were posting a comment of this kind (a big “if”!), I’d most definitely  delete the word kickback, (which is hideously insulting), and then reword the whole thing as a question; i.e.

    “Leo, are you getting some kind of monetary incentive to promote Macrium Reflect as much as you do?”

    Surely that is a LOT  more respectful than either  of the two examples given at the start of your article!!!

    But of course I wouldn’t dream of asking such a question — I already know  that you aren’t in this for the money  (and that any money you make is made to defray expenses, and not to procure any profit!).

    “Ask Leo!”  (and “WindowsSecrets”) are, together, by far and away the two most reliable and trustworthy sources of computer information that I know of.

    Please, keep up the good work!          :)

  64. I’ve been writing computer programs since 1965 and learned too many software languages: Fortran, Basic, C, ALGOL (Needed to solve a nonlinear membrane stress problem… received 2 patents), TOPS, APL, ADA, MATLAB, JAVA, HTML, UNIX, PERL and many others. Today I almost exclusively write in Excel so I do not have to concern myself with compiling errors. In that time I’ve run across a lot of ‘experts’ out for a ‘quick buck’. I read Ask Leo! regularly and have found out his answers are solid and his recommendations/suggestions are good. I use them as part of my ‘due dilligence’ program to help me determine what software I will buy and I often choose the AskLeo! recommendation. I’ve used papertape, punch cards, magnetic tape, floppy disks, CDs and now use thumb drives and an external hard drive. I’ll check Macrium Reflect out and probably buy it.

  65. Dear Leo,
    Take heart. I have a son your age who is as straight as a die. I often read your articles (as a “Dummy”) with great pride, almost as though I liken you to my own son in whom I am proud indeed !
    So keep on keeping on…. the goods and the positives far outweigh the bads and the negatives (if, indeed there are any of the latter in reality, in your case).
    Many thanks.
    Robert George Douglas. (approaching 82yrs of age)
    PS. I prefer ‘bouquets’ rather than ‘wreaths’ if you get my drift !

  66. Leo,
    Thanks for the article; I try always to start with a thanks.
    I read your blogs quite often, & sometimes I find fault (IMHO of course), or believe I see shortcomings. If I feel strongly I take the trouble to email you.
    I have never however questioned your ethics.
    Regarding SW reviews:
    I believe that all reviewers tend to over-estimate the ease of use & don’t appreciate the struggle users (of up to intermediate skill levels) can have to get the SW to deliver.
    This is an area I personally would love to see greater attention paid.
    Keep up the good work!

    Re: “I believe that all reviewers tend to over-estimate the ease of use & don’t appreciate the struggle users (of up to intermediate skill levels) can have to get the SW to deliver.” I agree, though I like to believe I understand the struggle somewhat, based on the feedback and questions I get. However I will say that reviewers – myself included – often review in comparison to other programs. What might be “easiest to use” in a review or commentary might really be nothing more than “the least awful of all the alternatives”. Smile

  67. Hello Leo,I’d just like to say that I have many years of computer experience dating back to the 1980’s. I consider myself very computer literate and as such usually perform repairs for my own and family’s computer problems.
    I have a number of tech related sites that I visit on a regular basis to keep up to date on what’s happening in the industry. Your site is on my short list of favourite sites as I appreciate your comments on the readers problems. I find I will read every answer you give to your reader’s problems even if they don’t relate to anything I need for my own personal use. I usually catch you at PC Pitstop also.
    All I really want to say is keep up the great work and know that many people depend on your great answers to problems they experience.

  68. Mr N, fine post.
    Succinctly put, ‘Trust is earned.’
    Thx for earning mine a little more by what you’ve written today.

  69. That was a well-stated, gentlemanly, respectable response to an abusive and disrespectful “snide” remark (about affiliate compensation).

  70. My hat’s off to you, Sir. Very well stated, and a good response to a snide comment.

    I opened and ran a computer service center for a world-wide company (that begins and ends with “x”) for ten years; I’ve been involved in computer technology in one aspect or another since 1981, and currently service and support networked color devices for the same company.

    As others have stated, your columns are definitely on my “short list”, not only for your accurate assessments of issues and products, but also for your excellent style of writing. Few things irk me more than a “professional” writer whose output is on a level comparable to what I was writing in fifth grade, and who doesn’t bother to proof-read before publishing.

    Keep up the great work, and don’t worry too much about the small intellects who have nothing better to do with their time than bash the people who actually DO know whereof they speak!

  71. Leo,
    Please do not be discouraged by negative comments. Your work is stellar and some of the best advice on the web. Please keep up the superb work. Thank you.

  72. I have problems with trusting a lot of sites/emails I get. But I can say that I trust the software or sites you recommend. I also trust ZDNET’S recommendations on some of the shareware/freeware they view. I would prefer someone to tell me about a product before I buy or download anything.

  73. As far as i am concerned Billy Bob Macrium(a.k.a. Stupid Bob) does not have the slightest idea what he is talking about and i think he had a couple of minutes to waste.Leo is about the only guy i trust on the web and explains stuff in simple ways so that sometimes retards like Stupid will understand.Macrium Reflect saved my bacon more times than i care to admit and is simply the very best out there.Thanks Leo and keep it up.

  74. Hi Leo just read this article, and after reading it through, my first thought was how dare they say that about Leo, and decided i must make a comment, i must defend this Man, but i should have known better, loads of comments already, supporting you completely, and that is how it should be.
    Well here is my 2pence worth, (i live in Northern Ireland lol) Firstly, Leo i work on PC/Laptops all the time its what i do in my spare time, trying to help my friends and family keep down their computer costs, And if i come across a problem that i have never faced before, my first port of call is to ASK Leo, especially if it is a software problem, i use your, vast, knowlege and webpage resorces to identify a solution, and hand on heart, nearly always find that solution. If for some reason i can’t find a solution, generally you point me in the right direction, another website, software etc, i don’t care if you get thousands of bucks promoting “certain software” if it solves my problem then i will use that software, if i have to pay for it, again i don’t care, if it sorts my problem, and i will add it to my toolbag, so to speak, because i know that you have probably used it extensively yourself.
    Secondly just to say thankyou for being there to help us lesser mortals, if not for your site and others of a similar nature, i would not be able to do the wonderful repairs to my patrons equipment, and win their admiration, its thanks to you and others that i can continue my work. So A Very,Very Big Thankyou Leo, Keep up the great work, and together, we all can make the computer world a better nicer place for everyone, one machine at a time. May all your future endeavours, be fruitful.

  75. Leo, I have no difficulty with you earning a commission for a recommendation and subsequent sale of a product. You are a professional, and I know you would offer a recommendation only for a product you know to be the best, and if you cannot find the best product then you would not make a recommendation. Its called trust, and I trust you implicitly. You have wide and deep experience in the electronic products world, and can sort the wheat from the chaff.

  76. Leo,
    you are the best!! ignore the nasty naysayers…..You are my fav computer related newsletter, and I trust everything you say! now if you started putting out recipe newsletters, don’t count on the same support ; )

  77. I’ve been following Leo’s site since early 2009, and have learned many things along the way. Some opinions I don’t agree with, yet that’s OK, one can still have a very reputable site and not everyone will agree with everything stated, or the solution suggested may not be the ideal one.

    If Leo’s site was no good, he’d long have been out of business, as he’d have no readers, yes there’s ads, at the same time, bills has to be paid.

    Leo’s has bailed me out of more jams than I can count, and I highly respect his recommendations, for the most part are easy for those new to computers to follow. In fact, it was Leo who got me to start taking backup seriously. To this day, as a percentage, the backup rate for home users is no higher than the turn of the millennium 15 & a half years ago, while there are several great 100% Free backup software choices & backup drives at all time lows on promo.

    And this is obvious to those who are involved in Tech forums, I’m an Advisor at a very popular one, and the requests for assistance are at all time highs. 90+% of these could have been avoided by using the 100% Free Macrium Reflect, my choice. If more computer users would simply image their computers, or even take the time to create recovery DVD sets when new, most of these issues would be non-ones. I always keep the first image of a new computer after any junk software is removed, and after installing my software & updating. These two, I keep for as long as the computer is owned by me.

    After that, I create weekly images of my most used OS’s, though bi-weekly or monthly on less used computers. All of this, plus securing my computers, I learned from Leo.

    The best in the business.


  78. Theodor is researching computer programming. He thinks that this career has a great employment outlook, so he’d like to learn if it’s a career in which he would excel. What two skills are important for him to have to become a successful computer programmer? I need help on this question Leo.

  79. Thanks for all you do Leo. I have been a reader of your’s for years and have found your advise to always be ethically driven and technologically sound.

    My advise for those buying anything on the internet:

    1. Check more than one source for pricing. It only takes minutes and I often find a better deal at the second or third site.
    2. If undecided look for a pattern in reviews other than it’s great. For example if short battery life keeps appearing assume it has a short battery life.
    3. Sure you may receive an affiliate payment for recommending Marcium. Who cares everyone has to make money somehow even the trolls. Download the free version and check it out. You will see it is a quality piece of software that will fit most people’s needs. If not uninstall and you are out nothing. Quite honestly you deserve to be paid for recommending a quality piece of software. You are outnumbered 1000-1 by sites pushing crap solely geared to separating people from their money (free scans for problems that always exist and you have to pay $$$ to fix).
    4. Always download direct from the publisher’s site and watch carefully for and uncheck add on boxes.

  80. Leo,
    I just want to say that I’ve found Ask Leo! an interesting and useful source of information. Even when I can’t find an answer for my specific question on the site, I can find leads to figure out the answer.
    For those times when I really want to get into the weeds, Bleeping Computer, TenForums, and now ElevenForums are, in my opinion, the best places to go for detailed information. TenForums and ElevenForums have tutorials to do just about everything with Windows and they do a very good job moderating the posts. There is even a thread on TenForums dedicated to Macrium Reflect, which validates your recommendation.
    Keep up the good work and don’t let the trolls get to you.

  81. Leo,

    I have been reading your newsletter for longer than I’d care to admit, and if I had determined that your motives were something short of ethical, I’d have unsubscribed long ago. All the advice I have read in your posts have been well thought out and seem to be unbiased (as far as I can tell). When I see a recommendation from you, and I go to other sources to confirm what you say, I always find well qualified support for what you recommend. Over time, I have learned that I can trust you, your ethics, and your motives. This is no small accomplishment on your part.

    You frequently speak of treating what we see on the Internet with a healthy dose of skepticism. The first time I saw that advice in one of your posts, my immediate reaction was that you were preaching to the choir (me). Back in my MS-DOS days, when I used a 96-Baud modem to connect to BBSs and download software, I got my Gateway IBM-compatible PC infected with a virus. IIRC, the Norton Antivirus program I used then alerted me, and I was able to remove it, but I learned a very valuable lesson from that experience. I learned to question everything I see, hear, or read online, especially when my immediate reaction is “Huh, I agree!”. The fact is that everyone has an agenda even if unintentionally so. We all have beliefs and ideals, and it’s natural that we want to promote them. We all have biases based on our beliefs and ideals, or for some of us, based on what we think is best for us. I trust nothing I see on the Internet until I can validate it for myself, and even then, I think long and hard about it before I make up my mind.

    One of my greatest pet peeves on the Internet is people stating their opinion as if it’s fact. Opinions are NOT facts, no matter how carefully we have thought them out. Our opinions may be correct, but they are still opinions and should be treated as such. When we state something as fact, we should cite our source(s) so others can validate what we say for themselves. When we state an opinion, we should make it clear that what we are saying is our opinion. If everyone on the Internet was careful to make this distinction, there would be far less misinformation (and fake news) circulating. Just to be clear, I am stating my opinions, experiences, and desires here. Validate what I say for yourself before making up your mind about it.



    • So, what makes the “source” opinion a fact? All sources have agendas and opinions. And by now we should know that there is no such thing as “validating” a source on the internet. All you’re doing is looking at some website with an opinion.

      • aa1234aa,

        What you say is technically accurate, but if you provide the source of information for any assertion you make, I have the opportunity to evaluate it, and evaluation is a part of the validation process. From there I can do my own research, evaluating each source I find, and I can look for information debunking the assertion too. At some point, I will decide (for myself) that I have enough information either supporting or debunking your assertion to make a determination.

        The point is, citing your stated facts provides the reader with the opportunity to evaluate what you write for themselves. I believe this is important, but you are free to disagree. When you cite your source(s), your readers get to go and evaluate them, not only for what’s said, but for bias. You may think citations are a waste of time, but they provide the opportunity for evaluation. Whether the reader cares enough to do that work is up to them, but at least they have that opportunity.




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