Disabling Remote Access Doesn’t Disable All Remote Access

Among the very first few things I did when our family first got our most recent computer was to disable remote access entirely. I no longer remember how I managed to do this, but that’s just as well because I wouldn’t even dream of re-enabling it!

That’s a comment I received from a reader relating to the pernicious “tech support scam” where scammers call you, say they’ve detected problems originating from your computer, and offer to fix it for you — perhaps even for free — if you just give them access to your computer.

Disabling remote access in Windows does not disable this kind of remote access.

I’ll review the setting in Windows and compare it to the types of remote access more commonly used by scammers.

And, of course, I’ll review what you need to do to stay safe. There’s a good chance it’s something you’re doing already.

Read moreDisabling Remote Access Doesn’t Disable All Remote Access

What’s the Difference Between Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance?

Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance both allow remote control of your computer, but they serve different purposes.

Remote Desktop is designed to allow you to “take over” a computer as if you were sitting in front of it. I might use Remote Desktop to use a computer in another room, or one that doesn’t even have a keyboard and monitor attached.

Remote Assistance, as its name implies, is designed to allow one person to help another by accessing their computer — either to view or to control it — while the person being helped watches.

Let’s dive deeper.

Read moreWhat’s the Difference Between Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance?

What Can I Disable in Task Manager’s Startup List?

When I look at Task Manager’s Startup tab I get a really long list of things I don’t understand. What’s what? How can I find out which ones are safe to turn off? Here’s the list of what it shows right now. Maybe you can tell me?

The problem, of course, is that everyone’s Startup list is different.

Which programs start automatically depends on your computer, the hardware installed, the software installed, the programs you run, and the features you enable.

It can get really confusing really fast. It can also impact your computer’s performance.

Read moreWhat Can I Disable in Task Manager’s Startup List?

How Do I Decompress All the Files that Windows Compressed for Me?

A long time ago when I used the Windows Disk Cleanup tool, it compressed old files. Is there a program to decompress all files on my PC that have been compressed?

There is indeed a program that will do that.

It’s called Microsoft Windows. (Smile)

You don’t need to get any additional programs to decompress the files on your system; you can do it right from within Windows.

Read moreHow Do I Decompress All the Files that Windows Compressed for Me?

Using OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup

In previous articles, I looked at creating an image backup using Windows 10’s built-in imaging tool1, and setting up File History to back up files that change on a regular basis to an external drive.

This is all good — but we can do better.

Best practices for a robust backup strategy call for keeping a backup copy off-site. OneDrive, included as part of Windows 10, can do that automatically.

We’ll set up OneDrive, and then make a couple of changes to other applications to make our use of OneDrive for backing up nearly transparent.

Read moreUsing OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup

Where’s the Recycle Bin on My USB Drive?

I had a file on a USB pen drive I accidentally deleted. I went to the Recycle Bin folder to recover it. But the file was not there. Luckily the file was not very important. I have experimented with deleting files on the USB pen drive and it appears the deleted files do not go to the Recycle Bin. Where do the files go? Is it possible to undo a delete from a USB pen drive?

As you’ve found out, there’s not always a Recycle Bin. I’ve also seen it be present but go unused.

It’s confusing and surprising, but the Recycle Bin seems to be used inconsistently across versions of Windows, at least
when it comes to what Windows considers to be a “removable” device.

Read moreWhere’s the Recycle Bin on My USB Drive?

Do I Need These Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributables?

I’m wondering if I need all of these Microsoft programs on here, like Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 redistributable or Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 redistributable. It’s taking up space on my hard drive and I’m wondering if those programs are really necessary.

Time for my most common, yet most annoying answer:

it depends.

I’ll describe what the Visual C++ redistributables are all about, and why the safest thing to do is probably to leave them alone.

Read moreDo I Need These Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributables?

What Are Hiberfil.sys and Pagefile.sys, and How Do I Remove Them?

I recently noticed two huge files named hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys taking up a bunch of space on my disk. I can’t delete ’em, or if I do they come back when I reboot. What are they and how do I get rid of them?

Hiberfil.sys and pagefile.sys are support files for two features in Windows. While you might be able to get rid of them, you might not actually want to.

Read moreWhat Are Hiberfil.sys and Pagefile.sys, and How Do I Remove Them?

When I Use Start-Run, Why Does a Window Just Flash and Disappear?

When I try to use “Start” and then “Run” to run a command the DOS screen flashes momentarily then vanishes. Am I overlooking something obvious?

Not really. It’s only obvious if you’ve been using PCs since before there was Windows, and before there was a GUI.

Start-Run is incredibly useful, but it’s not appropriate for everything. The good news is, there’s a simple trick that covers it: run a Windows Command Prompt, and type your command into that instead.

Read moreWhen I Use Start-Run, Why Does a Window Just Flash and Disappear?

How To Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive

In a previous article, I showed you how to create a backup image using Windows 10’s built-in backup program. Along the way, we were prompted to create what’s called a “Recovery Drive” to be used in the event of a disaster from which you wish to recover.

A recovery drive is a USB flash drive from which you can boot your computer in order to restore a previously created image, as well as perform a number of other Windows recovery tasks.

You don’t have to be taking a backup image to create a recovery drive, and it’s actually convenient to have around; it can take the place of your original installation media should that not be available.

Read moreHow To Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive

How Do I Create a Shortcut that Bypasses UAC to a Program Needing Administrative Access?

I have a program that writes some information to an area of Windows 7 that requires administrative rights. As such, every time I run it, I am pestered by UAC. I understand there is a workaround to this by creating an entry in the Windows Task Scheduler, setting it to run as Administrator, then creating a shortcut which will execute that task entry. This is a trusted program – I have absolutely no concerns that it is doing naughty things. Knowing that I can do a workaround and knowing how to do it are two different things. Any help would be appreciated.

I’ve experienced the same thing, and it can definitely be annoying.

I would prefer that software we run regularly not require administrative access every time. Unfortunately not all software is written that cleanly. In those cases a workaround might well be a pragmatic solution.

You are correct: the workaround uses the Task Scheduler in an interesting way.

Read moreHow Do I Create a Shortcut that Bypasses UAC to a Program Needing Administrative Access?

Backup and Restore the Registry Using System Restore

The registry is a database of information Windows keeps for just about everything. Most of your settings, configuration, passwords and more are all kept in the system registry. Windows applications are also encouraged to keep their settings and configuration information there, too.

It’s a key component of Windows, and while it doesn’t happen often, sometimes changes made to the contents of the registry can cause problems, from misbehaving applications to systems that simply won’t boot.

Unfortunately, changing some settings in Windows, particularly in the Home edition, requires us to play with the registry manually, increasing the risk that something might go wrong.

The solution? Back it up first.

Read moreBackup and Restore the Registry Using System Restore

How Do I Move My OneDrive Folder?

When you set up OneDrive, it places the local machine copy of your files in a subfolder of your user folder. For example, on my machine, that would be:


Personally, I don’t like that. I prefer to have cloud storage folders like OneDrive at the top, or “root”, of my C: drive. Perhaps more practically, however, many people like to place these folders on another drive completely.

Let’s move the OneDrive folder.

Read moreHow Do I Move My OneDrive Folder?

What is Event Viewer, and Why Does It Have So Many Errors?

In an ideal world, you’d never care about Event Viewer.

In an ideal world, software and hardware would always work, always meet expectations, and there’d never be a need to try to figure out why things are happening the way they are. In even a slightly less ideal world, we’d be able to rely on Event Viewer for clear and consistent information about what your system and all the applications running on it are experiencing.

Sadly, we do not live in an ideal world, or even a world only slightly less than ideal. While Event Viewer can be a source of excellent clues into system failures and behavior, it can also be a frustrating, incomprehensible mess.

And scammers are leveraging that confusing mess to their advantage.

Read moreWhat is Event Viewer, and Why Does It Have So Many Errors?

How Do I Recover from a Crash During an Uninstall?


Running Windows 7 Ultimate, I was trying to uninstall my Microsoft Office Professional 2010 when the PC shut down due to low power. When I later charged it and powered it on I realised the following:

  1. The add/remove software window was just showing a few of my softwares that are installed on the PC.
  2. Most of the software on the pc were no longer responding, showing a message like this, “This action is only valid for products that are currently installed”.

I have tried running safe mode with networking, tried running system repairs but the problem still persists. Please help!

I’m not sure I can. A crash during an uninstall like this is pretty serious.

I do want to give you a couple of straws to grasp at, but perhaps more importantly, I want to discuss why this might have happened, and what you need to do to prevent it from ever happening again.

Read moreHow Do I Recover from a Crash During an Uninstall?

How Do I Change the Default Program to Open a File?

I have this great program for viewing images, but no matter what I do when I double click on a picture I get Windows Image Viewer. That’s not what I want! How do I change that and make it stick?

Most programs set themselves up to be the default handler for the types of files they support when they are installed. That means when you installed whatever program it is you’re talking about, it should have set itself up (or offered) to be the default picture viewer, making it the program that displays a photo when you double click on one.

Unfortunately that “file association”, as it’s called, is not only easy to overlook at install time, it’s also easy to break.

There are many ways to re-create the association. I’m going to show you what is perhaps the simplest, albeit not the most obvious, way to change the default program.

Read moreHow Do I Change the Default Program to Open a File?

How do I get Windows File Explorer to display details by default?

How do I get File Explorer to display details by default?

File Explorer (previously known as Windows Explorer in Windows versions prior to 8) defaults to show files as icons and to hiding some files from you.

That’s not what I want.

Not only am I a control freak who wants to see all of the files and details by default, but even after all this time, there are actually real security issues associated with File Explorer’s choice of default display.

There are several options you can manipulate, and it’s fairly easy to make them the default.

Read moreHow do I get Windows File Explorer to display details by default?

Do I Need so Many Copies of the Microsoft Visual C++ Runtime?

My initial machine included Microsoft visual C++ 2005 runtime (x64 and x86 on a window 7 64 bit os ?). Then on 4/29/13 Microsoft added visual C++2008 (x64 and x86) and then on 7/1/13 they added the visual C++2010 (x86 only on 64 bit os system??). We do not use this machine to program or for gaming. It is used for email and as a digital newspaper. None of the Microsoft visual C++ 2005/2008/2010(x86/x64) redistributable programs are listed in the programs list. So the question is do I really need the Microsoft visual C++ 2005/2008/2010 redistributable downloads??????

Yes, I’m sorry to say, you probably do.

When I started looking into this a little more deeply on one of my own Windows machines, I was pretty shocked to find no fewer than 59 different files all related to the Microsoft Visual C and C++ runtime. Fifty-nine!

This is a symptom of a problem faced by software vendors that, at it’s core, is unsolvable in any pragmatic sense. The problem even has a name: DLL Hell.

Read moreDo I Need so Many Copies of the Microsoft Visual C++ Runtime?

How Do I Schedule a Nightly Reboot in Windows 8.1? (with video)

Win 8, I would like to know how to use task scheduler to shut down my computer at a certain time each night. I cannot figure how to accomplish this. On my old XP I used a program called Jit (just in time) because I could not use Task Scheduler then either.

Well, Task Scheduler is absolutely the way to go here.

As it turns out you have everything you need already included in Windows, and while I’ll show you for Windows 8.1, this approach should work with almost any version from XP on.

Read moreHow Do I Schedule a Nightly Reboot in Windows 8.1? (with video)

What does NTLDR is missing mean?

I’m using Windows XP and I’ve gotten an error message, “NTLDR is missing. Do a Ctrl Alt Delete”. Please help! I’m going to change to Windows 7 but I need to get into my system.

NTLDR, more commonly referred to as “NT Loader” is the name of the file that contains the boot loader for Windows. In other words, it’s the program that begins the initial Windows booting process. Without it, you can’t boot.

Read moreWhat does NTLDR is missing mean?

I’ve Lost the Password to My Windows Administrator Account. How Do I Get it Back?

When I set up my machine, I set a password for the Administrator account and then I promptly forgot it. I never use that account. Now, I need it. What can I do?

Do you have physical access to the machine? Can it boot from a CD or USB drive?


You can’t learn what the passwords are, but you can reset any Windows password on that machine that you like.

And if that doesn’t scare you, I really need to drive home a point.

Read moreI’ve Lost the Password to My Windows Administrator Account. How Do I Get it Back?

Why Am I Getting the “USB Inserted” Sound When I Haven’t Inserted Anything?


I have a Lenovo T-430 running Windows 7, 64-bit. Every time I start this machine I get the “USB inserted” sound, not once but twice. This is when there’s nothing connected to the laptop. Do you have any idea why this is happening and how I can track down what hardware is causing this and how do I fix it? It’s really no big deal but it is kind of annoying.

The good news here is aside from the annoyance of the sound, this probably isn’t anything to worry about. I have a couple of ideas.

Read moreWhy Am I Getting the “USB Inserted” Sound When I Haven’t Inserted Anything?

Why Does Microsoft Security Essentials seem to Interfere with System Restore?


Hi, Leo. I have 2 computers with the same problem: one is Windows XP Pro and the other is Windows XP Home. On both computers, System Restore fails as soon as there is a Microsoft Security Essentials restore point entry in System Restore. If I remove all restore points, System Restore works fine. I’ve tested it many times. As soon as MSE creates and updates a restore point, System Restore fails to restore again. Any ideas?

In my experience answering questions here on Ask Leo! since the day System Restore was introduced, it’s been a source of many problems. You can think of these problems as hidden land mines. System Restore may appear to work. It may do something in the background, or it may silently fail. And you don’t really know until you need or want a restore point. Basically, as in your case, it just doesn’t seem to work when people expect it to.

There’s also a common problem of people thinking of it as a backup, which of course it’s not at all.

Read moreWhy Does Microsoft Security Essentials seem to Interfere with System Restore?

What do I do if SFC detects but cannot fix a problem?

I run Vista, SP2, Home Premium. The results of “sfc /scannow” show a couple of files that cannot be repaired. It couldn’t re-project a corrupted file; the source file in store is also corrupted. PublicKey neutral in the store, hash mismatch. Now, I don’t find this problem mentioned in your archives. I see the problem addressed on the web, but the various solutions presented seem either overly complex or too simplistic for me to comfortably try them. I see some people have tried these “solutions” that (after getting feedback that the files are restored) run “sfc /scannow” again and receive the same error indications. Is this a case of a problem that is not a problem? What are your thoughts? How would you proceed to restore these files?

The System File Checker (SFC) uses several techniques to detect that one or more of your system files have been either inappropriately replaced or damaged. SFC then tries to repair the problem.

Unfortunately, it can’t repair everything. In your case, that puts you in a hard spot.

Read moreWhat do I do if SFC detects but cannot fix a problem?

Is It Safe to Delete Log Files?

Do I need to keep all of the log files created by Windows Update or any other install/uninstall or system-generated procedure? Will they ever be needed again? I see a lot of them in the Windows folder and as far as I can tell, they’re just text files taking up space.

In general, it’s safe to delete log files, but let’s talk about why we have them first.

Read moreIs It Safe to Delete Log Files?

Checking and Repairing a Disk with CHKDSK

CHKDSK has been around since before the days of Windows. This utility has in some ways changed dramatically for new environments and new disk formats. Yet in other ways, it’s pretty much the same old disk checking utility that we’ve been using since the days of DOS.

Regardless of its age or origins, CHKDSK is an important tool for disk maintenance and recovery (in some cases) from a variety of disk-related issues.

Let’s run CHKDSK.

Read moreChecking and Repairing a Disk with CHKDSK

My Taskbar is Missing and I Have No Start button. What Do I Do?

All of a sudden my taskbar is gone. I can’t find it, so I have no Start button to click on, no quick launch to start programs from – I can’t even see what time it is! How do I get it back?

There are a couple of different ways that the taskbar can disappear or appear to disappear. Naturally, the solutions are different as are the workarounds.

(By the way, I’ll assume that you’re not running Windows 8. That’s a whole ‘nother ball game when it comes to the task bar. 🙂 )

Read moreMy Taskbar is Missing and I Have No Start button. What Do I Do?

Can I Remove Unneeded Language Folders and Files?

Hi Leo. Many programs have folders and files with other countries’ languages (for instance, C:/Windows/boot).  Apple is one company that does this when you install iTunes. Over the years, I’ve deleted these seemingly unnecessary files to gain space and had no problems doing that. Recently, I noticed that after I delete these files, the next time that I run a particular program, the app needs to repair itself and re-installs all of the unneeded language files. Can you shed some light on this confusing aspect of Windows? There are many apps for Macs which strip out all of the unneeded language files and so forth, but I’ve never come across something like that for Windows.

Deleting localization files on your machine is typically fine, but as you’ve seen sometimes applications don’t like it.

Just make sure to back up first (which is what I advise everyone to do before making any deletion that you’re not 100% certain of). Once you do that, if you delete those files and they stay away, great.

But keeping those files off your machine? That’s not necessarily so easy. I’ll explain why.

Read moreCan I Remove Unneeded Language Folders and Files?

What’s the “Appdata roaming” folder?

I just ran CCleaner and I had at least 100 app data roaming entries, which have never appeared before when running a scan. I’ve been reading articles about app data roaming and I’m a little fuzzy on what it means. My computer’s hooked up to a modem and a router. I do not use wireless for this computer, but I do have it enabled for my iPad touch and the appdata roaming is showing all my activity on this computer. I’m a little concerned about this. I recently did a clean install of Windows due to a virus and I’m about a week in on that clean install and now this has appeared. Also, another interesting problem is that I decided to have a look at the application data folder and I got a Windows pop-up saying, “Access is denied.” Any thoughts?

A couple of things are going on here.

First, AppData\Roaming probably isn’t what you think it is. It doesn’t have anything to do with wireless or the number of people using their computer in different places.

Read moreWhat’s the “Appdata roaming” folder?

Why do new windows open underneath others?

I’m running Windows 7, 64-bit. I normally use the Firefox browser, sometimes Safari. A while back, I noticed that some really obnoxious pop-ups were appearing behind the window that I was looking at so I wasn’t seeing them until I minimized the used window. Recently, I accepted several new updates from Microsoft, which included IE10. I figured that even though I didn’t use it, I might get some security benefit from the new version, right? Now, every time a new window opens, it’s hidden behind everything else. Any help?

Whether you are using Internet Explorer or not, you need to keep that browser as up-to-date as possible because other components on your system are using it. You’re absolutely right to do that.

But what you’re seeing now are called pop-unders. Unfortunately, I don’t know why updating Internet Explorer would cause things to pop up behind your windows. All we can really do is take a look at some of the possible causes for what you’re seeing in general.

Read moreWhy do new windows open underneath others?

How Much of the Swap File Actually Gets Used?

Leo, I’ve been wondering how much of the swap file gets used when you have 16 or 32 GB of memory. I have been in the habit of placing the swap file and Lightroom’s cache on an SSD to improve speed. But I’ve been wondering whether the swap file should go on another hard disk drive, especially if it doesn’t get used much.

Unfortunately, there is no general answer to say how much of the swap file is going to be used. It depends entirely on the software that you’re running, what your system’s own memory requirements are, and how much software you’re running.

For example, if I’m just running a web browser and a couple of other things on a machine with lots of RAM, my system may not be using the swap file at all. On the other hand, if I’ve got Photoshop, a video editor, and a virtual machine or two running, then the memory requests of the system may be high enough that it’s going to start using the swap file.

So, I can’t answer your question, specifically, but I can review some of the things that factor in.

Read moreHow Much of the Swap File Actually Gets Used?

Should I Use Windows File Compression?


I was wondering if I should run the Disk Cleanup utility and select the Compress Old Files option to use Windows File Compression. It is currently taking up 14372KB of space. Should I compress old files?

While you’re only asking about the Disk Cleanup utility, I’m going to talk about Windows File Compression in more general terms. Using file compression to save space is nothing new, even when it’s native in the file system used by Windows. Whether or not it makes sense to use isn’t necessarily a slam dunk.

In fact, without knowing more, I get to use all three of my favorite answers:



It depends.

After you’ve finishing beating your head against the computer, read on, and I’ll explain why I say all three. We’ll also discover that later versions of Windows itself  have made a not-too-subtle suggestion as well.

Read moreShould I Use Windows File Compression?

Changing Windows Explorer Settings

Windows Explorer is a ubiquitous, yet under-appreciated component of Windows.

For many people, Windows Explorer is their primary interface to Windows itself. It’s where they locate and open documents, music, and other files. It’s where they perform copy and sometimes even backup operations.

And it’s one of the primary tools often used when maintaining their system.

Unfortunately, Windows Explorer comes with default settings that are intended to make the system less confusing and more friendly, but often make it less than informative and sometimes even downright dangerous.

Let’s look at changing a few settings and setting a few defaults. I’ll throw in a speed tip as well.

Read moreChanging Windows Explorer Settings

Why I Don’t Like System Restore


When I go into the System Restore application, it doesn’t give me the option to create a restore point; it only allows me to restore to an earlier point and it never creates restore points. Any ideas on what might be wrong or how to fix it?

I’ll be honest and tell you right off that I have no answer for your question.

There are many possibilities, the most likely being that there is not enough room allocated for restore points. But in my experience, increasing that may or may not resolve the issue.

System Restore is so difficult to diagnose and I hear of so many problems and misunderstandings with it that I avoid it completely.

I turn it off. Completely. It’s not worth it to me.

I’ll tell you what I do instead.

Read moreWhy I Don’t Like System Restore

How Do I Keep CHKDSK from Running on every Start Up?


I have a two year old laptop running Windows XP. I had run “Defrag” and also clicked on the check drive for errors option, which was then scheduled at next restart.

Now this scan program runs every time I start up. How can I shut this off?

Good news: we can turn it off.

Bad news: it means editing the registry.

The “I’m not so sure” news: you shouldn’t have to. It should have turned itself off, and I’m concerned that this might be trying to tell you something.

Read moreHow Do I Keep CHKDSK from Running on every Start Up?

What Windows Services Can I Turn Off?

I’m trying to reduce the amount of “stuff” that’s running on my Windows XP machine. I note that there are a lot of services enabled by default. Do I really need them all? What can I safely turn off?

I get this question a lot. People are concerned about how much software is running on their machines, and when they look at the list of services, there’s a long list of things they don’t understand.

The problem with this question is that there’s not a single, or simple answer. Like so many things about Windows and your computer… it depends.

Read moreWhat Windows Services Can I Turn Off?

How do I resolve my problem with appcompat.txt?

How do I resolve my problem with appcompat.txt?

This is another case of Windows being particularly obscure. You see (and I’ll say this several times), appcompat.txt is not the problem.

I can hear a crowd of people saying, “Yes it is! It’s right there in this error message!” That’s what I mean by Windows being obscure. Read the error message carefully and you’ll see what I mean. Appcompat.txt is not the problem, it’s not the error, and it’s not the cause of the error … it’s information about the error.

Read moreHow do I resolve my problem with appcompat.txt?

What are "LSASS", "LSASS.EXE" and "Sasser" and how do I know if I'm infected? What do I do if I am?

What are “LSASS”, “LSASS.EXE” and “Sasser” and how do I know if I’m infected? What do I do if I am?

The Sasser worm is the most recent and one of the most virulent viruses to impact Windows-based systems. Unlike previous outbreaks, Sasser doesn’t even need you to use email or even be at your machine to infect your computer and continue spreading. It exploits a recently patched vulnerability in something called LSASS.EXE.

Yep, it’s a nasty one and an example of sophisticated virus attempts yet to come. Even if you’re not infected this is an opportunity to review and implement the steps to keep your computer safe.

Read moreWhat are "LSASS", "LSASS.EXE" and "Sasser" and how do I know if I'm infected? What do I do if I am?

How Can I Find Out Who Is Using a “File in Use”?


How can I find out who is using a “file in use”?

The scenario typically looks like this: you want to delete, move, or rename a file, or maybe even just use it in another application and you get a message that says you can’t. The message indicates that another application is using the file.

Great. “What application?” you ask.

It wouldn’t be that hard for Windows to tell you, but as it doesn’t, you’ll need to do a little investigatory work yourself. Fortunately, there’s a free tool.

Read moreHow Can I Find Out Who Is Using a “File in Use”?