• Posted on April 11, 2017 11:38 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    If your inbox is suddenly getting filled with emails from "mailer daemon", here's what you can do. To be clear, what's happening is (we'll go into more detail below): Email has been sent out and the recipient can't be found (or their inox is full) It's being returned to you because email systems think you sent it I Am Receiving Mailer Daemon Spam. What Should I Do Now? Can I Stop it? When you receive lots of delivery failure reports from mailer daemon, do the following: Scan your computer and devices for malware and viruses. Mailer daemon spam can be the result of an infection with malware (on one of your computers) that sends out emails using your address behind your back; best to rule out this case. Ideally, scan while disconnected from the Internet. If you found infections, do clean your machines and change all passwords, especially those to your email and social accounts. Report the mailer daemon spam as junk mail in your email program or service. This has the spam filter drop similar useless and annoying delivery failure emails in the future. If you feel uneasy about clicking "Spam" on what might train the spam filter to eliminate a kind of email you want to receive in the future—delivery failure reports from mailer daemon—, simply delete all the useless emails from mailer daemon. In addition, you can create a filter in your email program or service that automatically deletes all emails from the same mailer daemon address with the same subject. Now that you know what to do, let us find out how it can happen at all that you receive these puzzling messages. ​Why Does This Exist in the First Place? Mailer-daemon emails are normally harmless and helpful delivery reports, not spam at all. Let's find out how and when these mailer daemon messages are generated. When you send somebody a message and it fails to deliver, you'd want to know, right? Email is a system with many, many different players that works like a postal system: you hand one server (or "mailer daemon") your email, that server passes the message on to another and possibly more mailer daemons down the line until, finally, the message is delivered to the recipient's inbox folder. The whole process can take some time (though usually it is accomplished in seconds, of course), and only that last server knows whether the email could actually be delivered. How Mailer Daemon Delivery Reports Are Generated Since you, the sender, would want to know about the failed delivery, the mailer daemon tries to alert you. It does so using what a mailer daemon knows to do best: sending an email. ​So, a mailer daemon error message is generated: it states what happened—typically, that an email could not be delivered—, possibly a reason for the problem and whether the server will try to deliver the email again. This delivery report email is addressed and sent to the the original email's sender, of course. How the "original sender" is determined is a story of its own, and my guess is that your guess is wrong. If you are at all curious why mailer daemons do not use the "From:" line to determine an email's sender, do not skip the following sidebar. Sidebar: ​How the Recipient of a Delivery Report is Determined As you probably know, every email has both one or more recipients and a sender. Recipients go in the "To:", "Cc:" and "Bcc:" fields, and the email address of the sender appears in the "From:" line. Neither are used by mail servers to deliver email messages, and, in particular, the "From:" field does not determine the email sender—as used for delivery reports bounces, for example. Instead, when an email is initially sent, the sender and recipient are communicated separately from and before the email's content (which, for this purpose includes the From: and To: fields). Imagine me taking a letter to the post office for you. Of course, you have written the recipient's name and address on the envelope and jotted down your address as well. At the post office, I do not simply hand over the letter for delivery and let the envelope take over, however. I say "This is from Corey Davy at 70 Bowman St.", instead, and "Send it to Lindsay Page at 4 Goldfield Rd.; yeah, ignore what it says on the envelope." This is how email works. Before dropping the letter into the delivery basked, the post office clerk makes at a note at the back of the envelope: "Return to: Corey Davy, 70 Bowman St.". This, too, is roughly how email works. Any email will contain a header line (analogous to "From:" and "To:") called "Return-Path:" that contains the sender's address. This address is used to generate delivery failure reports—and mailer daemon spam. How Does Mailer Daemon Spam Start? For regular emails, all is fine. If one cannot be delivered—say, because you mistyped the address, or the recipient has not checked a free email account for years and the account expired—, the mailer daemon generates a delivery failure message to you, the original sender. For junk email, phishing attempts, and messages generated by worms and other malware, the process goes wrong… or, more precisely, the delivery failure is sent the wrong way. To find out why, we have to turn to the sender for a second. Every email needs to have a sender and From: address. This includes spam and emails that spread malware. Understandably, these senders do not want to use their own email address—or they would be receiving complaints, it would be easy to report them, and they would be inundated in mailer daemon… spam. To get an email delivered, it is good to have a real email address set as the sender. So, instead of just making up addresses, spammers and viruses will often look up random addresses in people's address books. Is Anything Being Done to Stop Mailer Daemon Spam? If email servers returned delivery reports to all these falsified "senders" when a junk email or malware email could not be delivered, the problem would be much worse than it is: spam is sent in the billions after all, to mostly non-existent addresses. Fortunately, email servers can take measures to limit the amount of useless delivery notifications they send: ​Mail servers will try to determine whether a return address has been forged before sending a delivery failure message; if the address is obviously not the real sender's, no error email is sent. They will also examine the message content closely to determine whether it is spam; if the message has a very high probability of being junk mail, the server may simply drop the email without sending a delivery failure—which itself would likely be regarded as nothing but mailer daemon spam. Email servers receiving large amounts of delivery failures for an address—typically with content that is either spam or malware—may either silently delete these messages or quarantine them in the email service's "Spam" folder.

    DATA, Emailed, Technicals
  • Posted on January 31, 2017 11:22 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    The Advanced Startup Options menu, available in Windows 10 and Windows 8, is the central fix-it location for the entire operating system. From here you can access Windows diagnostic and repair tools like Reset This PC, System Restore, Command Prompt, Startup Repair, and much more. Advanced Startup Options is also where you access Startup Settings, the menu that includes Safe Mode, among other startup methods that could help you access Windows 10 or Windows 8 if it is having problems starting. The Advanced Startup Options menu should appear automatically after two consecutive startup errors. However, if you need to open it manually, there are six different ways to do so. The best way to decide which method to use to open Advanced Startup Options is to base your decision on what level of access you have to Windows right now: If Windows 10/8 starts normally: Use any method, but 1, 2, or 3 will be easiest. If Windows 10/8 does not start: Use method 4, 5, or 6. Method 1 will also work if you can at least get to the Windows 10 or Windows 8 logon screen. Time Required: Accessing Advanced Startup Options is easy and can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on which method you use. Applies To: All of these means of getting to the Advanced Startup Options menu work equally well in any edition of Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 unless I note otherwise. Method 1: SHIFT + Restart Hold down either SHIFT key while tapping or clicking on Restart, available from any Power icon.​ Tip: Power icons are available throughout Windows 10 and Windows 8 as well as from the sign-in/lock screen. Note: This method does not seem to work with the on-screen keyboard. You'll need to have a physical keyboard connected to your computer or device to open the Advanced Startup Options menu this way. Wait while the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 2: Settings Menu Tap or click on the Start button.Note: In Windows 8, Swipe from the right to open the charms bar. Tap or click Change PC settings. Choose Update and recovery from the list on the left (or General prior to Windows 8.1), then choose Recovery. Skip down to Step 5. Tap or click on Settings. Tap or click on the Update & security icon, near the bottom of the window. Choose Recovery from the list of options on the left of the UPDATE & SECURITY window. Locate Advanced startup, at the bottom of the list of options on your right. Tap or click on Restart now. Wait through the Please wait message until Advanced Startup Options opens. Method 3: Shutdown Command Open Command Prompt in Windows 10 or Windows 8.Tip: Another option is to open Run if you can't get Command Prompt started for some reason, probably related to the issue you're having that has you here in the first place! Execute the shutdown command in the following way: shutdown /r /o Note: Save any open files before executing this command or you'll lose any changes you've made since your last save. To the You're about to be signed off message that appears a few seconds later, tap or click on the Close button. After several seconds, during which nothing seems to be happening, Windows 10/8 will then close and you'll see a Please wait message. Wait just a few seconds more until the Advanced Startup Options menu opens. Method 4: Boot From Your Windows 10/8 Installation Media Insert a Windows 10 or Windows 8 DVD or a flash drive with the Windows installation files on it into your computer.Tip: You can borrow someone else's Windows 10 or Windows 8 disc (or other media) if you need to. You're not installing or reinstalling Windows, you're just accessing Advanced Startup Options - no product key or license breaking required. Boot from the disc or boot from the USB device, whatever your situation calls for. From the Windows Setup screen, tap or click Next. Tap or click on the Repair your computer link at the bottom of the window. Advanced Startup Options will start, almost immediately. Method 5: Boot From a Windows 10/8 Recovery Drive Insert your Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive into a free USB port.Tip: Don't worry if you weren't proactive and never got around to creating a Recovery Drive. If you have another computer with the same version of Windows or a friend's computer with Windows 10/8, see How To Create a Windows 10 or Windows 8 Recovery Drive for instructions. Boot your computer from the flash drive. On the Choose your keyboard layout screen, tap or click on U.S. or whatever keyboard layout you'd like to use. Advanced Startup Options will begin instantly. Method 6: Boot Directly to Advanced Startup Options Start or restart your computer or device. Choose the boot option for System Recovery, Advanced Startup, Recovery, etc.On some Windows 10 and Windows 8 computers, for example, pressing F11 starts System Recovery. Note: What this boot option is called is configurable by your hardware maker so the options I mentioned are just some that I've seen or heard. Whatever the name, it should be clear that what you're about to do is a boot to Windows's advanced recovery features. Important: The ability to boot directly to Advanced Startup Options isn't one that's available with a traditional BIOS. Your computer will need to support UEFI and then also be configured properly to boot directly to the ASO menu. Wait for Advanced Startup Options to begin. What About F8 and SHIFT+F8? Neither F8 nor SHIFT+F8 is a reliable option for booting to the Advanced Startup Options menu. If you need to access Advanced Startup Options, you can do so with any of the several methods listed above. How To Exit Advanced Startup Options Whenever you're finished using the Advanced Startup Options menu, you can choose Continue to restart your computer. Assuming it's working properly now, this will boot you back into Windows 10/8. Your other option is to choose Turn off your PC, which will do just that.

    Blog Entry, Security, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 12, 2017 12:00 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Have you ever needed to open your CD or DVD drive (generally referred to as your "optical drive") but couldn't? Just your luck, your favorite movie, video game, or music was probably stuck inside. Maybe the laptop's power died, maybe the drive in your desktop just quit responding, or maybe the door was just stuck or the disc came loose from a try just enough to jam things up. Regardless of what's happening, or what you think might be happening, there's no reason to rush out and replace the disc or drive just because the eject button doesn't do what you expected it to do. Fortunately, one of the following two methods almost always does the trick to get the drive open: How to Force Eject a Disc From Within the OS We'll start with the easiest way to get the drive open - skip the physical button on the outside and ask your operating system to force eject the disc. You can only try this if your computer has power and is working. Skip down to the next section if that's not the case. Time Required: Forcing your CD, DVD, or BD drive to eject via your operating system's commands is very easy and should only take a few seconds to try. Open File Explorer if you're using Windows 10 or Windows 8. Search for it or use the WIN+X menu to open it quickly.Open Windows Explorer in earlier versions of Windows. Once open, navigate to the optical drive from the menu on the left. This drive is often auto-named based on what disc is inside the drive but there's usually a small disc icon to help identify it.Tip: If you have trouble finding it, look for This PC on the left in Windows 10 or 8, or Computer in earlier versions. Click the icon to the left to expand this if it's collapsed. Right-click or tap-and-hold on the optical drive and choose Eject from the menu that pops up or down. The drive bay or disc should spin down and eject within seconds. Using a Mac? Similar to the method described above for Windows, find the disc icon, right-click on it, and then choose Eject. Here are some more ideas. If this doesn't work (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.), it's time to get physical with it! How To Open a CD/DVD/BD Drive... With a Paper Clip It sounds strange, yes, but most computer optical drives, including external ones and those you'll find in your game systems like Xbox and Playstation, have a tiny pinhole that's designed as a last resort method to get the drive bay open. Time & Tools Required: You'll need a single, heavy-duty paper Clip - not industrial sized, but not one of those flimsy plastic ones, either. The whole process will take less than a few minutes and is very easy. Unfold the paper clip until there is at least 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) that is as close to straight as you can get it. Look closely at your disc drive. Directly under or above the drive bay door (the part that "ejects" the disc) there should be a very small pinhole.Tip: If you have one of those desktop optical drives where a large door flips down before the drive bay ejects, pull that down with your finger and then look for the pinhole. Tip: Some older desktops require the opening of the front panel, sort of like a large "door" to the computer's housing, to get to this pinhole. Insert the paper clip into the pinhole. Inside the drive, directly behind the pinhole, is small gear that, when rotated, will begin to manually open the drive. Remove and reinsert the paper clip as often as needed to eject the drive bay enough to grab hold of it. Slowly pull on the drive bay until it's fully retracted. Take care not to pull too quickly or to continue to pull when you feel resistance. Remove the CD, DVD, or BD disc from the drive. Slowly push the drive bay back into the drive until closed or press the open/close button if the drive is still working. If these steps don't work, or you find yourself using the paper clip trick often, it may be time to look at some other options... No Luck? Here's What to Do Next At this point, there's likely something physically wrong with the drive or another part of the computer. Here are some things to consider doing: If your drive is external, unplug and plug back in both the data cable and the power cable. Check internally that the power and data cables are firmly connected. Restart your computer and try again. Replace the drive. Optical drives are relatively cheap - Amazon sells many for around $20 USD. Note: Those are not necessarily in a step-by-step troubleshooting order. What steps you take depends a lot on the type of computer and optical drive you have, as well as your specific situation.

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Technical Support
  • Posted on January 10, 2017 12:10 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    You might sometimes find yourself with just one internet connection point--a single wired connection for your laptop at the hotel, for example, or your smartphone tethered over USB to your computer. But what if you have other devices that need internet access, such as your Wi-Fi-only tablet or your friend's or family member's laptop? The good news is you can share your laptop's wired or mobile broadband internet connection wirelessly with other devices. The bad news is, with Windows 10, it takes a bit of trickery in the command prompt to turn your computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot. ~ August 18, 2015 To share your computer's internet connection, you'll need to open the command prompt in administrator mode and type in a few commands. The instructions below were adapted from the excellent guide on NirmalTV, which offers screenshots of the process. Open the command prompt in administrator mode by right-clicking on the Windows Start button and selecting "Command Prompt (Admin)". Alternatively, you can use this keyboard shortcut: Windows key + X (Win+X) then select the Command Prompt (Admin) option. When the "Administrator: Command Prompt" window opens, type the following command:  netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=[networkSSID] key=[password]. Replace the "networkSSID" and "password" fields with the name you want for your new Wi-Fi hotspot network and its password (you'll use these to connect other devices to your computer's Wi-Fi hotspot). Then hit Enter. Next, type in the following command to start the network: netsh wlan start hostednetwork and hit Enter. This enables and starts the ad-hoc wireless network connection. Next, head to your Windows' network connections page (type in "network connections" in the search field in the taskbar in Windows 10 and click on "View network connections" or navigate to the Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network Connections). Right-click on the network connection that is your computer's source of internet access (e.g., the ethernet connection or the 4G broadband connection). Choose "Properties" from the context menu. Go to the "Sharing" tab and check the box next to "Allow other network users to connect through this computer's internet connection" From the dropdown list, select the Wi-Fi connection you just created. Hit OK and close the properties window. You should then see your Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows 10's network and sharing center. From your other devices, select the new Wi-Fi network in the wireless settings and enter the password you set to connect to it. These command prompt steps for setting up an ad-hoc network aren't as user-friendly as having a built-in method with a graphic user interface, but it's what we have so far in Windows 10 and will do in a pinch. If you're using an older version of Windows or are on a Mac, you can accomplish this "reverse tethering" in other ways: Use Internet Connection Sharing (e.g., when you have a laptop wired to a router or modem and want to share the connection via your Wi-Fi adapter or a second Ethernet port) Use Internet Sharing on Mac OS X Use Connectify, a free app that shares a single Wi-Fi connection wirelessly (so you don't need a second network adapter). It requires Windows 7 or above. Finally, to stop sharing your internet connection over the new Wi-Fi hotspot you created in Windows 10, enter this command in the command prompt:  netsh wlan stop hostednetwork

    Blog Entry, Hardware, Internet
  • Posted on January 8, 2017 12:07 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Make Sure Windows Updates Help, Not Harm, With These Preventative Measures Let me first preface all of the following with this: updates provided by Microsoft rarely cause problems. This includes those pushed out on Patch Tuesday and others made optionally available in Windows Update. I said rarely, not never. Ask anyone with a house full of nonworking computers the day after Patch Tuesday and you'll swear that Microsoft deliberately sabotaged the world's computers running Windows. Again, problems don't occur that often and are rarely widespread, but when they do they hurt. Luckily there are some really simple things you can do to minimize the chance that a patch from Microsoft will do more harm than good: Tip: If it's too late and the damage is done, see How To Fix Problems Caused by Windows Updates for help. One-Time Preventative Steps Most importantly, make sure your important data is being backed up! When your computer crashes, regardless of the reason, you probably have little emotional attachment to the physical hard drive itself but I bet you're pretty concerned about the stuff you have stored on it.There are lots of ways to backup data, from manually copying your saved documents, music, videos, etc. to a disc or a flash drive, all the way up to setting up instantaneous backup with an online backup service. Regardless of how you do it, do it. If your only way out of a post-Patch-Tuesday system crash is a full clean install of Windows, you'll be very, very happy that your valuable information is safe. Change Windows Update settings so new patches are no longer automatically installed. In most versions of Windows, this means changing this setting to Download updates but let me choose whether to install them.With Windows Update configured this way, important security and other updates are still downloaded, but they won't be installed unless you explicitly tell Windows to install them. This is a one time change so if you've done this before, great. If not, do it now. Important: Don't get me wrong: I still recommend that you install all available updates. However, this way you are in complete control, not Microsoft. Check the free space on your main hard drive and make sure it's at least 20% of the total size of the drive. This amount of space is plenty for Windows and other programs to grow as necessary, especially during installation and recovery processes.Specifically, System Restore, which is the primary recovery process if a Windows update causes a major problem, can not create restore points if there isn't enough free space on your hard drive. Just Before Installing Updates Now that your automatic update settings are changed and you're pretty sure System Restore should be in working order if you need it later, you can actually get these updates installed: Plug in your computer if it's not already. You desktop users are already covered but laptop, tablet, and other mobile devices should always be plugged in during the Windows update process!Along these same lines, avoid applying Windows updates during thunderstorms, hurricanes, and other situations that could lead to a sudden loss of power! Why does this matter? If your battery drains during the update process or your computer loses power, there's a significant chance that it will corrupt the files being updated. Important files that get corrupted often lead the very thing you're trying to prevent here - a complete system crash. Restart your computer. Be sure to do so properly, using the restart feature from within Windows, and then make sure your computer starts up again successfully.Why should you restart? On some computers, when Windows restarts after Patch Tuesday security updates are applied, it's the first time the computer has been restarted in a month or more. Many issues first appear after a restart, like problems caused by some types of malware, certain hardware problems, etc. If your computer does not start properly, see How To Troubleshoot a Computer That Won't Turn On for help. Had you not restarted and found this problem now, you would have been trying to solve the issue as a Windows Update/Patch Tuesday problem instead of the completely unrelated issue that it really is. Create a restore point manually before applying updates. A restore point is created automatically by Windows Update prior to installing any patches you select but if you'd like an extra layer of protection, you can certainly create one yourself.If you'd really like to be prepared, you could even try restoring to your manually created restore point. This would prove that the System Restore process is functioning properly in Windows. Unfortunately, some users find out that System Restore was somehow broken exactly when they need it most. Temporarily disable your antivirus program. Disabling your antivirus program while installing a program can often help prevent installation problems. Based on my own experiences, and those of many readers, doing the same prior to updating Windows is also wise.Tip: The part of your antivirus program that you want to disable is the part that's always on, constantly watching for malware activity on your computer. This is often referred to as the program's real-time protection, resident shield, auto-protect, etc. Install Updates One at a Time Now that you've properly configured your computer and prepared for the updates, it's time to get to the actual installation procedure. As the heading suggests, install each update by itself, restarting your computer after each one is applied. While I realize this might be time consuming, this method prevented almost every Patch Tuesday issue I've ever experimented with. Tip: If you're feeling particularly brave, or have never had problems with Windows updates before, try installing updates together as a group, something that I've also had a lot of success with. For example, install .NET updates of a particular version together, all of the operating system security updates together, etc. The order of installation has never seemed important but let me know if you discover otherwise. Warning: You may need to disable your antivirus program's real-time feature each time Windows boots again after your post-update-installation restart. Also, be sure to check that your antivirus program is fully enabled once you're done installing updates.

    Blog Entry, Patches, Technical Support