Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

A breakdown of the 10 most popular questions for 2010 as measured by visits to Ask Leo!

A year end look at the most popular questions at Ask Leo! is always an interesting exercise, at least to me. It exposes trends and global issues that just looking at the questions and answers in isolation wouldn't reveal.

Malware? Not as high on the list as you might expect.

Privacy? That's a whole 'nother story.

Especially when you consider that it's a huge component of this years new top trend.

The Top 10 List

  1. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password? Change your MSN Hotmail password with step-by-step instructions. Changing your Hotmail password is easy, and you should do it regularly.

  2. How do I delete my Hotmail account? Delete your MSN Hotmail account with these step-by-step instructions. Deleting your MSN Hotmail account isn't necessary, but it's easy to do.

  3. I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin in Vista - how do I get it back? It turns out to be fairly easy to accidentally delete the desktop Recycle Bin in Vista. Getting the Recycle Bin back is easy, just not obvious.

  4. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar? Deleting Google history takes a few steps, depending on what Google history you mean. Here are step-by-step instructions for deleting Google history.

  5. Where is my Outlook "PST" file located? Outlook's PST or Personal STore is a single file that holds your email, contacts and more. You can use Outlook itself to find the location of the file.

  6. Someone's sending from my email address! How do I stop them?! Email spoofing is rampant. Spammers often send email that looks like it came from you. And there's little you can do about it.

  7. What are iso files, and how do I open them? Iso files are a common disk image distribution format. We'll look at the best ways to open iso files as well as a couple of ways to create them.

  8. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone? Well, let's clear one thing up right away: cell phone text messaging, or "SMS" text messaging, is not the same as instant messaging on your computer. They're two very different systems.

  9. Why is my Task Manager disabled, and how do I fix it? Task manager can be disabled manually, but more commonly it's disabled by a virus. It's easy to re-enable once you're virus-free.

  10. How do I move my Outlook Express folders to my new machine? Moving Outlook Express folders from one machine to another isn't obvious. Moving Outlook Express folders involves finding them, copying them, and importing them. And then there's the address book.

"... email account theft is rampant and you should make absolutely sure you're doing everything you can to protect yourself."

2010: The Year of Email Account Theft

There's a strong theme to many of this year's top 10 entries, and it's simply this: people's email accounts are getting hacked, stolen, or otherwise compromised at an alarming rate; particularly Hotmail users.

Item #6 - Someone's sending from my email address! How do I stop them?! - a newcomer to the top 10 is by far the most obvious sign, but the number 1 and 2 entries are signs of the same problem. In each case people are finding these articles in an attempt to regain access to their accounts, or close a compromised account that they've lost.

If you have only one take-away from this top 10 list it should be this: email account theft is rampant and you should make absolutely sure you're doing everything you can to protect yourself.

Oops, I Did It Again

The rest of the list shows a broad range of issues that people face with very high frequency.

  • Even though Windows 7 removed the easy-to-make mistake of deleting your recycle bin, Vista and XP users continue to accidentally remove it when they mean to empty it.

  • Privacy, privacy, privacy: folks are eager to remove the various traces of where they've been on-line, or are spooked by the suggestions that Google might be making as they type in search terms.

  • Outlook is a fantastic email program, but they really hide from you exactly where all your information is kept in your PST file; lots of people are looking for.

  • ISO files are new to the list this year, perhaps a reflection of more software being distributed in this disk-image format. Or it's a reflection of piracy on the rise, I'm not sure which.

  • Email to Text messages and back is a perennial favorite, probably as the teens in school realize that email's perhaps the only way to get the attention of the older folks - and vice versa.

  • Our only malware related item, disabled task manager inches up a notch this year.

  • And finally Outlook Express makes an appearance, most probably due to the fact that it's no longer available in Windows Vista and Windows 7 and people are looking for a way to move their XP-based email to their new machines.

The data's drawn from Google Analytics, which also tells me that it's the result of nearly 20,000,000 visits to Ask Leo! between January 1, 2010 and today.

General Observations

I'll mostly just repeat what I said last year:

Designing a good User Interface is hard. What's obvious to one person - perhaps a person too close to the problem - can often have dramatic negative implications when it's assumed to be obvious to all. The Recycle Bin issue is the simple difference between "Empty" and "Delete" - when both are present on a menu it's not always clear that people will a) see both, and b) know which one to choose.

Information needs to be both obvious and available when people need it. Closing accounts or changing passwords is another case where apparently the information provided by Hotmail at the time people need it is insufficient or too difficult to locate.

And once again malware doesn't make nearly as strong a showing as expected.

The major issues people seem to have are not as much about software quality and failures, as they are about usability.

The good news is that usability is something that software manufacturer's have control over. The bad news? As I said, it's difficult to get "right", particularly when "right" differs from person to person.

Onward to a 2011 with fewer problems and less confusion... we hope.

Article C4696 - December 31, 2010 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

January 4, 2011 9:14 AM

I'm quite frankly surprised at the number of people needing help with e-mail accounts. I've used gmail (as my primary account) and yahoomail for years and have had no problems at all with either one. (well..... an ex tried to access my gmail and I had to reset my password, but other than that....)

I was similarly surprised when I started 7+ years ago. It's been constant.

January 4, 2011 3:58 PM

Why doesn't the Windows 7 (64-bit) allow a toolbar and why doesn't adobe work. Is there a fix in the works or are we just "tough luck" for the duration?

Not sure what toolbar you're talking about, and I have several adobe products that work just fine on 64-bit, so I'm not sure what products you're talking about there either. Sorry.

Glenn P.
January 4, 2011 9:41 PM

I'm curious: Why won't Outlook Express work in Win7? What's the prob with it?

Microsoft simply decided to no longer support it. Personally I'm kinda glad, even though it's causing a lot of grief for people - Outlook Express has been the cause of more lost email and other problems reported here than any other email program.

Glenn P.
January 6, 2011 5:00 AM

I'm not sure you understand my question about Outlook Express. OE is a 32-bit program, and 32-bit progs run under Win7, right? Outlook Express understands IMAP and POP3, right? Has IMAP and/or POP3 been disabled under Win7? (But then programs such as Thunderbird wouldn't work, either!) So that brings me once again to my original question: what's the problem with running Outlook Express under Win7? Do you mean that Microsoft has expressly and intentionally disabled it within that operating system? If so, wouldn't you think someone would eventually "hack" a workaround...?

I don't know the specifics - I assume some component of the OS that it relied on has been removed. Regardless of the reason is does not work, and while many have tried, I'm sure, no one has hacked a workaround. IMO it's simply time to move on to a different email program. Outlook Express had too many problems.

Glenn P.
January 11, 2011 9:19 PM

The other possibility that has occured to me while you were composing your reply, is that Win7 might somehow implement POP3 / IMAP differently now, and incompatibly, with OE (which MS now no longer supports). If so, since OE is still extremely popular (and is also a Usenet Newsreader to boot, which other E-Mail programs such as Thunderbird are not, so far as I know) I still  expect someone, somewhere, somehow, any time now, to come out with some program [that acts as a bridge].

Thunderbird includes an NNTP news reader.


Ron N.
January 18, 2011 10:14 AM

As a computer tech, I see Outlook Express all the time. It is a fine email program; regardless of what others say. It is easy to setup, backup, restore, etc. What more do you want?

Only once have I seen someone lose emails. She "compacted" the folders and lost some email. This was fluke; perhaps due to a corrupted file/attachment or something. I compact mine every month or so.

I've been using O-E since near Win 95 days. I haven't had an issue yet.

MS was very remiss in not providing a good email program - built-in. What were they thinkin' ?

Windows Mail (Vista) and Live Mail are poor substitutes.

Will the next OS have another goofy mail prog.? Can't they make up their minds?

Enough of my rant. I"m off to set up Live Mail for someone, and then restore internet service to a farm.

January 18, 2011 5:39 PM

Ref your answer to this. 'Why won't Outlook Express work in Win7? What's the prob with it?' I recently changed over to Windows Live Mail from OE and now wish I had not! I'm still with XP and never had any problems with OE except for losing some emails during compaction once. WLM is slow and the thing I miss the most is the ability to just 'send' mail instead of 'sync' (send/receive). There are a couple of other things I'm not too happy with but I'll have to persevere as I can't find a way of exporting my accounts and emails back to OE now!!

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.