Saturday, July 30, 2011

How can I 'Clean up' my files?

So you want to give away your computer (how nice you are) pr you just want to clean up your personal items.

First, do you have any data to save?
  • Documents
  • Pictures
  • Emails
  • Favorites

Easiest method is to copy them off to a flash drive, then to your other computer.
Before you proceed with deleting / cleaning your old computer, MAKE SURE you have got all data you want off.

There are basically 3 methods or levels to old computer clean up.
  1. Simple file delete
  2. New User Profile
  3. Complete computer reload

 1. Simple File Delete

So this is straight forward. Just start up your computer, select the files you want gone, and press the delete key. Empty your recycle bin.

2. New User Profile

This is the main reason for this blog. You want a good computer clean out, all personal info gone, password and such, but you want to 'do it yourself'.

Since most data (documents, pictures, emails, passwords) are stored as part of your 'user profile', when you delete your profile it all goes away. And the effect is a cleaned off computer.  First you have to create a new, blank, user profile. Then you can delete your old one.

Step by step:
  1. Create New Profile
    • Control Panel
    • Users
    • Create New (give it whatever name you want)
  2. Give admin rights
    • You have to do this while logged into your old profile still.
    • Control Panel
    • Users
    • Manage another account, select user, Change Account Type
    • Select Administrator
  3. Sign into new profile
    • Log off your current user (this will be the last time you ever see or use it)
    • Now login to the new profile you made
  4. Delete old profile
    • After logging into the new profile, Control Panel
    • Users
    • Manage another account, select user (select the account you want to delete
    • 'Delete the Account'
    • You will be prompted to 'Delete' or 'Keep' files. This is the key area and the special option that allows us to safely and simple delete all our 'stuff'. So choose 'Delete Files'
  5. Restart
    • That's is. Restart the computer. You should only see the new profile. All your old stuff should be gone.

If you want to confirm its gone, open 'My Computer' and make sure the user profile is gone.
Windows XP:
-My Computer
      -Documents and Settings

Windows Vista or 7:

NOTE: Normally the user profile folder will be the same name as the username.  It is normal to see folders:
- All Users
- Default
- Default User
- Public

Don't touch these. If you want to be very thorough, do check inside the All Users and Public folders and make sure no data files (documents / pictures / music). Some programs will save files there. But pretty much never will passwords and such are saved there.

After your in the new profile, go to 'add/remove programs' and uninstall any programs you don't want to pass on. Be aware that sometimes Quicken, Quick books, Turbo Tax and the like might save data inside their own program directory and NOT your user folder. Thus you may want to uninstall these programs or go navigate to the data location and delete the files.

 Your done.

3. Complete Computer Reload

This is a common service we perform at the local Madera Computer Service Center. We scrub off the entire computer hard drive. Then reinstall the computer to factory settings. It is now 'like new'. (Yes some people can do this on their own, but for best results it is recommend that a Computer Professional perform)

At the Service Center there is a flat $75 for this service. Mention this blog post and well take $10 off.

Legal Note: I make no guarantees or warranties to the suggestions given. Anything written herein is for informative purposes. Any actions taken are done so at your own risk.

Happy Clicking!

Nathan DeSutter
IT Consultant

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's in a Password?

So what's the big deal if my password is 1234   ???

Well that depends on what the password is protecting.

Passwords are like  = Keys & Locks. A weak password is like a skeleton key.

If your only locking the hallway closet, a skeleton key (or password of 1234) is probably fine. But if your protecting your Home front door, your office door, your gun safe, etc; then I bet you would NOT use a skeleton key.

Likewise when you are protecting your bank account, company computer, important emails, etc; then a password of 1234, 1111 or similar is just the same as a skeleton key. It's no good. It may stop a passerby from gaining access, but it's worthless to anyone with any real desire to enter.

"But I don't have sensitive or important data, I don't care if others have access....."

Wrong. If you think this way, perhaps I can help readjust your perception.  You may not care (but I'm sure you do) if anyone in the world can 'see' your company information, personal and business documents and emails. But I bet you care very much if you lost all that. By having a weak password, you ARE GIVING AWAY ACCESS.

Basically allowing anyone to:

  • Tamper with
  • Destroy
  • Steal
  • Impersonate
  • Compromise your identity

You are also letting others take control of your computer, possibly even your server and thus your company.

Weak passwords can allow spammers to hijack your computer, and use it as a relay to mass spam others. This can cause others to block your legit emails, spread viruses to those in your contact list, cause your ISP to lock your Internet altogether.

Although this applies to anyone in the world, remember 70% of my Clients are local Fresno/Madera People. Everything I've mentioned in this post, I have been eyewitness to.

What your pass should not be:
  1. Any part of your name, address, phone number
  2. An actual word  
Example of BAD Passwords:
  • 1111
  • 1234
  • admin
  • user
Example of WEAK Passwords:
  • nathan1234
  • dogcat55
Example of GOOD passwords:
  • 83cyq92Ap
  • 9588rySq3
Example of STRONG passwords:
  • gx.T37sq+2cq 

What Password for What Purpose:
BadNot good for anythingCan be guessed by my 4 year old son.
WeakOk for home PC login, or non-important protectionWill keep out the passer by.
GoodGood for Company, Personal or Confidential loginsWill keep out most people.
StrongGood for Servers and Financial logins.Would take some strong hacking. 

As much as I hate passwords, I hope this has prompted you to rethink your password.

What your pass should be:
  1. Alphanumeric (contain at least 1 letter and at least 1 number)
  2. Have upper and lower case
  3. 8 characters or more
I suggest creating abbreviations or acronyms that only you would know, mix it with some #'s, make something upper case, and usually you end up with a pretty good password.

Happy Clicking!

Nathan DeSutter
IT Consultant

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Big Guys get Blacklisted too

Ya the Big Guys can get black listed too.

NOTE: Black list is an email domain or IP list with known spamming activity. Thus receiving mail servers use these lists to deny emails if they come from a black list. This is a form of Anti-Spam Control)

Who are the big guys?
Google, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Comcast, SBC, GoDaddy, ect..

With so many mail servers (hundreds) and so many users (thousands upon thousands), the 'big guys' are bound to at some point have a user with an infected computer sending spam.   Thus that mail server IP gets put on a blacklist.  AND EVERY email user who happens to be using that mail server will have rejected mail.  Unfortunately you can't choose which of the hundreds of servers in the 'big guys' server farm your email will send from. So the users don't really have control over this.

The only prevention is clean computers and safe users. (Good article here on how you individually can do this: Don't Click That Link) Since it's impossible to ensure this from the 'big guys' side, they are forced to be in constant reactive mode on this. You would think: "this can't happen to the 'big guys' ", ohh but it does. In fact it’s so bad, the 'big guys' have a team on staff whose sole job is to monitor blacklist and submit for removals as they happen. 
Usually though, by the time you receive a kick back email that your message was blocked, and you go check the black lists, they may already be cleaned.

So what should you do?
Well if you’re a business; use your own trusted domain on a dedicated host. If you a small business or personal user or SOHO, then you may be stuck with this. Best option then, is to just resend the email. And as a courtesy, for important emails, it’s a good practice to always reply to the email sender confirming you received their email.

Happy Clicking!

Nathan DeSutter
IT Consultant
Compnology LLC