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The 10 most popular questions for 2011 as measured by visits to Ask Leo! This year's top issue? Email account theft.

20,000,000 visits.

That's a lot of people who've visited Ask Leo! in the last 12 months.

United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, and Australia make up the top five countries from which people are visiting. (And if you have any doubt that the internet is global - over half the visitors are located outside the U.S.)

40% of visitors were using Internet Explorer, with Firefox and Chrome at 28% and 20% respectively.

And folks visiting using mobile devices such as iPhones (the #1 device for 2011), Android phones, and various tablets showed a very steady increase over the course of the year.

And what questions are they asking?

The Top 10 List for 2011

“If you take away only one lesson from 2011, let it be this: protect your email account.”
  1. How do I change my Windows Live Hotmail password? How to change your Hotmail password isn't always obvious, particularly when Windows Live keeps changing. I'll walk through changing your Hotmail password.

  2. How do I close my Windows Live Hotmail account? It's easy to close a Windows Live account, including Hotmail. I'll show you the steps, but then ask: why bother closing the account?

  3. 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 that you can do about it.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. How do I fix a cyclic redundancy check error when I try to copy a file? CRC errors happen when there's a bad spot on the media of your hard disk. Data recovery and disk repair are often possible with the right tools.

  8. What's the difference between a Hub, a Switch and a Router? Hubs, switches and routers are all computer networking devices with varying capabilities. Unfortunately, the terms are also often misused.

  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. 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.

Email account theft is on the rise

The top four articles are all about email, and in my opinion, they are all as high as they are for one very simple reason:

Email accounts are getting compromised at an alarming rate.

Specifically online email accounts where your computer may not be involved at all. Someone guesses or captures your email account password and uses it to start sending spam.

As you can see, Hotmail accounts are highly represented in this year's list, as people search for ways to change their password after a breech or to just shut down the account all together.

If you take away only one lesson from 2011, let it be this: protect your email account.

The Usual Suspects

Much like last year, the rest of the list shows issues that people often face.

  • What do to with an .iso file hits the list for the second time. This is either a reflection of software being distributed in this disk-image format or rising piracy.

  • Vista users are still accidentally deleting their Recycle Bin due to some very confusing UI. Fortunately, Windows 7 removed the easy-to-make mistake.

  • Are CRC errors on the rise? It would appear so. Perhaps as hard disk manufacturers push the envelope on disk density, the error rate that users are seeing is going up. You know my solution, of course: backup.

  • The hub/switch/router article is one of my oldest, but this is the first time that it's cracked the top 10. I'm never sure how much of this is honest curiosity or the result of assigned homework in computer and IT classes.

  • Our only directly-malware related item, the disabled task manager, holds its number nine position.

  • Email-to-text messages and back is a perennial favorite. (This article will see an update in the coming year as new techniques are starting to show up.)

What's it all mean?

As in previous years, malware doesn't really make a strong showing on the list.

What's clear, however, is that email security remains seriously lax for many users. Email account theft continues to rise and as a result, so does spam and extortion/phishing attempts.

With so many services tied to the same account - as with Google, Windows Live, Yahoo, and others - the number of opportunities for a slip-up in our personal security is surprisingly large.

And the cost is high.

I'll say it again. If you take away only one lesson from 2011, let it be this: protect your email account.

Onward ... let's see what 2012 brings.

Article C5023 - December 31, 2011 « »

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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?

9 Comments
David Trujillo
December 31, 2011 12:20 PM

Excellent advice and articles. You deserve a gold medal Leo for all the professional advice you provide.I think the biggest advice anyone can use when it comes to your email account safety is common sense. use the security measures provided by the email provider, including backing up your important emails. and make a note of all your answers. Our email accounts are only as safe and secure as we make them. User error is the most popular. Leo pretty much sums it all up with is question, "If your email provider was gone tomorrow, where would you be"

K.Vee.Shanker.
January 3, 2012 9:13 PM

I also suggest to backup your critical mails by forwarding a copy of them to your other email accounts.

Julian Foster
January 4, 2012 7:01 AM

Need help reading / restoring files backed up on Win98 using MSBackup -- the files are not compressed but are still collected in a single .QIC type file. I cannot find a way (using XP) to separate back into separate files. Several comments I found mentioned a pgm called BackupMyPC but I believe it is discontinued.

sandeep
January 5, 2012 2:59 AM

hi,,
i have problem while installing a windows xp or windows 7
i.e., i want to install OS in my PC. but ican't install it.. when i restart the system by kepting OS CD in DVD/CD RAM, that is not entering into the windows setup.. it directly login to the previous OS (which is present in PC)..
i have changed boot priority also. i.e., i kept DVD/CD RAM as first boot device & HARD DISK as second boot device.
so, please tell me the solution..
thank you..

YOu need to configure the BIOS on that machine to boot from the CD before the hard disk. How depends on what machine you have. Check the machine's documentation.
Leo
06-Jan-2012
John
January 6, 2012 10:25 AM

Thanks for the 2011 Top Ten list-it was fun!

Computer security (or the lack thereof) is amazing to me...I buy used computers to tinker with all the time & have been surprised to see what people give away without wiping the hard drive.
Twice in the past six months I have come across completely intact systems right down to e-mail accounts & financial info still being in place.
I immediately wiped the drives with DBN & also used White Canyon's Wipe Drive after that on them to be sure...with both set to military standards.
A dishonest person could have wreaked havoc in their lives with this kind of info.
The other amazing thing is when folks sell computers in eBay they post pictures of the COA License with the numbers clearly visible...thieves cruise that site looking to steal them too.
Happy New Year & best wishes for a wonderful 2012!

Richard Greenfield
January 7, 2012 2:04 PM

My computer has slowed down to a "crawl responce". What can I do? Can you recomend software that can help a novice clean up his computer?

Mark J
January 7, 2012 2:50 PM

@Richard
There are a lot of things that can slow down a computer. Here is a page which contains a list of articles on increasing a computer's performance.
Windows performance

Robert
January 19, 2012 5:05 AM

My Acer computer uses Win7Pro SP1 operating system. I am locked out of several folders/files, specifically the Documents & Settings folder. I am the only person using the computer so how can I gain access to that file and any others that are locked? Thanks.

Mark J
January 19, 2012 11:57 AM

@Robert
This article explains how:
How do I gain access to files that Windows says I don't have permission to access?

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