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Ask the Geek



Sensitive Information Shared by mistake

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I received a Word document from a colleague and it had a bunch of personal information and notes included in it. Luckily it was not confidential and I told him.

He was alarmed at what the document had revealed. He wasn't aware it was included.

I live in Word. Is there private information in my documents too?

A. You are dealing with metadata and it can be a security issue if not merely embarrassing.

In Office 2003 click on Tools and Options and Security. Check the remove personal information from file properties on save, and then click OK. Now save the document.

There's also a check box that will warn you before printing, sending or saving a document with comments or tracked changes. Check that. If you are paranoid, save the File As plain text and nothing else gets saved.

In Word 2007, click the Office button, Prepare and Inspect Document. You will see several categories of personal info that are stored with the document.

You can click Inspect to see what is hiding and remove what you want eliminated.

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Boot Options cause delays

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, When my sister boots her PC (Windows XP) it asks her which operating system she wants to boot to and then lists two identical choices.

After 30 seconds, it selects the first choice and everything is normal but it's a royal pain. Help!

A. That menu is generated from the boot.ini file. Make a backup of it first just in case before you mess with it.

Go to a command prompt (Start and type cmd in the run box) and then type CD\ to take you to the root of the C drive. Type in copy boot.ini boot.sav to make a copy.

If you are an old DOS hand, you can manually edit the boot.ini file but the safest easiest way is to Exit out of DOS and Start-Run-msconfig.

Choose the Boot.ini tab and click check all boot paths. You will get a message re the offending OS pointer so just click yes to remove it.

When you reboot, you will get a box with a message telling how things have changed. Click on the Don't show this message on start up and you should be good to go.

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Delete big files on hard drive

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I like to save space on my hard drive and frequently search for old and unnecessary files to delete. There are two huge files that I am reluctant to delete because they have a SYS extension. But they are huge. Is it safe to delete Pagefile.sys or hyberfil.sys?

A. I am glad you asked before you did anything. Especially since Storage is so cheap you should not risk rendering a system unusable to save a few MB.

Pagefile.sys is essential to your system. Leave it alone. It's what we used to call a RAM Disk. When your system requires more memory than you have physical RAM installed, it uses hard drive space as virtual memory. Pagefile.sys is that part of the hard drive used for this process.

When your computer goes into hibernate mode, the contents of physical memory are copied to a file called Hiberfil.sys on your drive. Then it is copied back to memory from the file when it wakes up. I guess if you don't use the Hibernate feature ever you could remove it (Control Panel - Power Options - Hibernate) but I would recommend you invest in another or larger hard drive and leave the system files alone.

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Change Default Font in Microsoft Word

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I just upgraded to Office 2007. The default font for Word is 11-point Calibri. I always like to use 12 point Time Roman (and Arial for headlines). How do I change this?

A. It's a 2 step process.

Start a new document and type some text. Press Control-A to select all the text and click the Home tab on the Ribbon if it's not already selected. Change the font and point size to whatever you want.

Then, right-click the Normal box in the Styles section of the ribbon (to the right) and choose Update Normal to Match Selection. This resets the Normal style for that document.

Now you have to make it so for all new documents. Click the View Tab in the Ribbon and click macros (far right) Choose Organizer and the Styles tab. You will see two boxes. One has info for current document and the other for all docs.

Select Normal style in your current document and click on Copy. Respond yes to the warning if you really want to change your default Normal style.

From then on new docs will be in the font you chose.

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Unwanted Copies of Photos

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I have lots of folders with my photos in them. When I want to copy some and paste to another folder I press Control and start clicking on the file names I want (from Explorer in Windows XP)

Sometimes while I am still doing this I get another copy of the files automatically in the same folder while I am still holding down Control. Then I have to delete the copies and try again.

What's going on?

A. I've had that happen too.

For whatever reason (slight hand twitch?) the system thinks I want copies in the same folder. Try this trick to avoid that bug.

Click on the top file you want to copy. Press Control and use the down arrow to go through the entire list. When you arrow to another file you want to copy, press the space bar to select (or deselect if you mke a mistake)

When you are all done, keep the Control key pressed and press C to copy. Then you can go to the new folder and press Control-V to copy.

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Firewall Dummy

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I was at a coffe shop with my laptop the other day and a freind stopped by to chat. He said something like "Of course you have a firewall, don't you?" and I responded, "Of course." I have to admit I don't know what that means and my Google searches didn't give me much practical information. What's the least I have to know?

A. Dude. Really? In 2009? OK, sorry for the attitude.

Hotpsots like at the coffee shop are what we call open networks. They are not secure. Bad guys can easily see what you are sending and receiving. The most basic thing to do is enable your built-in firewall.

The firewall checks all incoming information, and then either blocks the information or allows it to come through. Some firewalls are bidirectional meaning it also blocks/allows outgoing stuff.

The good news is that basic firewall protection comes free with Windows.

In Windows XP, Click Start, Control Panel, Network Connections. Then under Network Tasks, click Change Windows Firewall Settings. On the General tab, ensure that On is selected.

In Windows Vista, Click Start, Control Panel and select Network and Internet. Under Windows Firewall, click Turn Windows Firewall on if not already selected.

There's a lot more to mobile security but that's a good first step.

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E-mail Shortcut

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I like to use shortcuts whenever possible. Every day I have to e-mail my boss several times and while I have a shortcut to launch my e-mail program it would be nice to have one to send him a message.

Is that possible or am I just lazy?

A. You may be lazy but there is a solution to your situation, at least in Windows Vista or Windows 7.

From your desktop, right click and choose Create Shortcut. Then type in mailto:email address here. So, for example, type in mailto:info@greatlakesgeek.com No quotes, just the colon.

Click next give it a memorable name and the icon will appear on your desktop. When you click it, your default e-mail app will launch and the TO: field will be pre-populated with the e-mail address.

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Run command in Vista

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, My new PC came with Vista and it's still new to me. I am used to the Run command being available after pressing the Start button. Where is it in Vista?

A. I'll give you a few answers. First of all, the Search functionality in Vista is one of its biggest improvements over Windows XP. So maybe you want to try and get used to that. Just click the Start button and start typing in the Start Search box. For example, if I start typing CMD it will offer the Command Window app.

To answer your question, you can right-click on the Start button and choose Properties and then select Classic Menu to resemble your old Windows Start menu.

The best solution though is to keep you Vista Start menu but add the Run command to it.

Right-click on Start button, choose Properties and then the Customize button. Scroll down till you see Run Command. Click the box next to it, OK and you are set.

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Remove Norton

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I decided to switch to one of the free antivirus programs. They say I have to uninstall my current antivirus first. I have Norton Antivirus and even when I uninstall, there are still pieces of it left behind. How can I completely remove Norton?

A. Ah, grasshopper. You have discovered an ancient truth - Norton is not easy to uninstall!

Actually, Symantec has a Norton removal tool that will completely wipe out all of your Norton stuff. But be aware. The tool will remove ALL of your Norton stuff.

So if you have any Norton 2003-2009 products or Norton 360 or Norton SystemWorks 12.0, they will get wiped. And so will your ACT and WinFax.

You can easily reinstall any Norton stuff you need after you run the removal tool but be sure to backup any data you may have in Act or WinFax before removing.

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Change Drive Letters

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, I had to replace a DVD player in my PC. The new one comes up as Drive E. The old one was Drive D and many programs need it to be at Drive D. What can I do?

A. You didn't say what OS you were running but this works in XP and Vista (among others).

Go to Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Computer Management - Disk Management. Right-click on the new "E" DVD and choose Change Drive Letter.

You may need to change one temporarily to an unused letter - say R - and then change to the desired scenario where the new DVD is Drive D.

Don't mess with your hard drive letters unless you really know what you are doing. Even then...

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TigerDirectTigerDirect
Window too big

Q. Dear Great Lakes Geek, A window opened up that is too wide so I can't see the scroll bar or the close button in the upper right. They are off screen. I can't shift to the left or make it smaller. Help!

A. Hold down Alt and press the Spacebar. This will bring up a menu for the window.

Choose size from that menu (S) and press the right arrow to select that side. Then press the left arrow as many times as you need to manage it and press Enter.

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InformIT (Pearson Education)

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Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek

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