- How do I replace my system hard drive without installation media?
- Why am I getting email with the right email address but the wrong name?
- Can my school see my emails and messages?
- What do I do if my system asks for a installation disc and I don’t have one?
- My machine has no optical drive. What if I need one?
- Why am I getting Amazon notifications for someone else?
Links above are to Ask Leo! articles based on the transcript below.
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Welcome to AskLeo! Answercast #160. I’m Leo Notenboom and I’ll be answering questions that you have been asking out at askleo.com. Today I’ll ask you to stay with me until the end of the podcast where I have a very short announcement.
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How do I replace my system hard drive without installation media?
Hi, Leo. My problem is this – my main drive failed today. It doesn’t seem to be spinning. There is power going to it as the light flashes for a few seconds. The error message is to install the boot media and in the BIOS, the hard drive is not even showing. It’s just the C Drive and all of my important stuff is on my external drives, which I do backup regularly. Hence, I’ll be replacing it soon. However, the computer only came with recovery discs. I’ve already tried reformatting the new drive using the recovery disc but it just keeps going back to the “Windows is loading files” screen. I changed a hard drive a few years ago but I had a startup disc to boot from. This machine does not have a boot disc. It’s Windows 7 and if I remember correctly, my other replacement used Windows XP.
You might be in a bit of a pickle. There a number of things I gleaned from your question. Most of them are bad news.
There’s one bit of hope however, depending on what you mean by something.
When you say you back up regularly, how is that done? If you’re doing a full system image backup, which is what I recommend folks do, at least periodically, then to put it bluntly, you’re golden. You can replace the drive, boot from the backup software rescue media, restore the image backup and you’ll be off and running. But it all depends on exactly how you’re backing up.
Now, if you’re not doing that, then the news is really more grim. If the disk isn’t spinning, then it’s dead. Dead, dead, dead. You can’t reformat a drive that doesn’t spin. The fact is you can’t even recover data from a drive that doesn’t spin. A data recovery service perhaps could but you and I cannot.
That hard drive is, for all practical purposes, now just a brick. That’s a problem because most of the recovery discs like the ones you seem to have, rely on a pristine copy of the operating system that’s stored on a hidden partition on that disk. On that disk that’s no longer working.
That means that the recovery discs you have in your hand have no chance of working. They need the disk to be working to some degree and as I said, if ain’t spinning, it’s dead.
You have two options. Some manufacturers will send you a true installation disc if you contact them with this problem. Some will only do it, of course, if you’ve actually gotten the replacement hard drive from them. But regardless, contact the manufacturer of your computer, or the retailer from where you bought it, and see what options they’re willing to provide.
You could get lucky. If you don’t, then you’re faced with only one real option. Get the installation media yourself. In your case, that means purchasing a copy of Windows 7 retail and installing it from scratch once the drive has been replaced. Of course you can also consider another operating system like Linux, at the time, since it’s free. But to get back to something close to where you started, you’ll need a Windows installation disc. And I strongly recommend that you start a periodic image backup of your machine to avoid disasters like this again in the future.
Why am I getting email with the right email address but the wrong name?
Leo, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. But when a friend sends me an email, they say there is another name next to my email address. It’s very confusing. How can I find this fake name and how can change it to my real name? If you send me an email, you’ll find out what I mean.
Actually, if I send you an email, I probably won’t see what you mean because I don’t think the problem is at your end – or even a problem that you specifically can control.
We have to start by understanding how email addresses and names are used. When an email is addressed there are two parts:
- The actual email address, which is not optional, that specifies the actual recipient of the email.
- There’s also a display name, which is meant to be the human readable equivalent the name of that recipient. This part’s actually optional.
So it’s perfectly valid to send email with only an email address. So where does the display name come from? Well, one place it comes from is when you configure your email account in your email program or when you set up your email account with an online service. At that time, you actually specify both your name and your email address, or you are given an email address, but nonetheless you specify your name.
Then when you send email, your email program puts those two together. It uses your name, and then typically follows that with your email address in angle brackets as the “from” line in the email that you send.
So in an outgoing email, you define what the display name is simply by how you’ve configured your email account.
The display name is actually completely ignored by the entire email system. It has nothing to do with getting your email from point A to point B; it’s just there kind of as a courtesy for the recipient to know who the email came from without needing to know the specific email address. They can then add that to their contact list or address book and both the name and the email address are added.
Sometimes email programs will even do this for you – adding the address book entry automatically.
When you send an email to someone that’s in your contact list, the email program does kind of the same thing. It gets the email address, of course, from the contact list but it also gets the name that’s associated with that email address. It then formats the “to” or the “cc” or the “bcc” line with, once again, the display name followed by the email address in angle brackets.
Now you may not always see this because sometimes email programs will hide what they’re doing and show you only the display name. But here’s the key: Since the display name is completely ignored by the email system. There’s nothing that says the email address actually has to match the name. You could in fact go into your address book and change the name of one of your contacts to be Santa Claus and that’s what would show as the display name when you send email to that email address.
This is actually true for most email programs. The specifics of how you actually make this happen can vary a little bit.
So one strong possibility is that your friend who’s sending you email has you in his email address book with the wrong name. He needs to change his address book or clear his email program’s suggestions or auto-complete entries.
Now, how did you end up in his address book with the wrong name? It’s really hard to say but I’ve got one hunch: Spam. Spammers fake the “from” line all the time and in doing so, they typically mismatch the email addresses and the names. Look at your spam sometimes and you’ll see that the “from” lines rarely have names that seem to match their email addresses.
So here’s my theory. Your friend got some spam. Now that spam looked like it came from your email address but with a different name. You had nothing to do with it; it was just spam. For one reason, or another, your friend’s email program remembered it, either automatically adding it to his contact list or some kind of auto-complete or auto-suggestion list. And he’s the one that will need to clean it out.
Can my school see my emails and messages?
Leo, on the topic of “Can my boss see my mail and instant messages” you wrote, “if using your company’s machine, it’s safe to assume that your boss or IT department could see your emails and instant messages.”
Yes, but there may be an additional cautionary note in my opinion. My son and daughter-in-law are both faculty members at a major university. They have their own privately owned computer at home. However, at home, they use their university faculty email addresses to send and receive email. So, isn’t it true that it’s not who owns the machine but the use of the university’s email system on campus or at home, that opens the door to this kind of access vulnerability?
Actually, it’s both. Or rather, it’s either. And more. Let me explain what I mean.
My original article discussed using company provided, or company owned, hardware like a PC. The issue here of course is that when the company provides hardware like this, it’s possible, and often quite legal for them install software or even hardware that enables them to monitor how that computer is being used. That most certainly could include software to monitor everything from your keystrokes to what you see on the screen and of course it could include then any email you send and receive as well as instant messages or more.
Basically, when you are provided a computer by someone else, there’s really no way to know that they haven’t installed virtually undetectable monitoring tools. And companies have been known to do exactly that.
In another article, I actually mentioned that your ISP can see anything you do. The company that provides your internet connection can, if they have an inclination, monitor the traffic that travels up and down the connection that they’ve provided to you. It’s much like an open Wi-Fi hotspot in that regard except that your ISP has the legitimate means to do it.
So even when you’re at work or at school using your own computer or another computer that you know is secure, if you’re using your work or your school’s internet, then absolutely, they can monitor what’s going back and forth on that connection. I’ll talk a little bit about how to mitigate at least some of that in a second.
Finally, and the point that you make, that provider of basically any online service that you use can monitor how you use that service.
That means that yes, your email provider can read your email. If that email provider is your school, by virtue of having an email address based on that school’s internet domain, then yes, the school’s IT department could be looking at what you send and then receive. But really, it’s true for each and every email service provider. And each and every other online service provider. They could be looking.
Now, one of the things that I’ve long said that, to be honest few people seem to take to heart, is that in general you and I just aren’t that interesting. Your ISP, your school, your company, your email provider, you know, they typically have much better things to do with their time and resources than to spend it snooping on your correspondence. Typically. Now, of course, if there is a reason for them to look, well, they can – but as I said, most of us just aren’t that interesting.
So, what can you do if you think you are interesting? When it comes to using someone else’s hardware – not much. When you’re at work, don’t do anything on your work computer that isn’t something you’d want your boss or other’s to know about.
As for the rest (ISPs, email and service providers) it really all comes down to encryption of some sort. If you use a VPN service, then your internet provider can’t see what you’re up to other than the fact that you’re connected to a VPN. And of course, remember that the VPN service, can see everything you do. Encrypting email, on the other hand, is difficult but possible. And that’s really the only way to keep your email provider (and don’t forget the email provider used by the recipient) from being be able to read your messages.
What do I do if my system asks for a installation disc and I don’t have one?
I have a desktop computer with Windows 7 pre-installed. It won’t startup. It’s asking me for the installation disk which I don’t have. Can I buy that somewhere? Do I have to buy Windows 7 and install that or can I just buy Windows 8.1 and install that?
There are a few things you can try. I’ll list those as well as one technique that will let you avoid this problem completely in the future. First, contact the computer’s manufacturer or the retailer that sold you the machine. It’s very common that machines not come with installation disks these days (much as I prefer it otherwise). However, there are certain things can happen that absolutely require an installation disk. Some, though not all manufacturers, will provide that disk perhaps for a small fee should you need it.
Yes, it is still possible to purchase Windows 7 but there are couple of problems. One is that I believe you need to resort to the secondary market sites, like EBay and such, to get it so you’ll need to be particularly careful of who it is you’re dealing with to make the purchase. Second, depending on the issue that you’re facing, it’s possible that it still won’t help. What you would probably buy is Windows 7 retail. What you probably have on your machine, however, is Windows 7, OEM. The retail disk will work for some issues but not for others. While technically against the license terms, you can purchase an OEM disk but be careful to purchase an OEM disk for your computer or at least for your computer’s manufacturer.
A Windows OEM disk for an HP computer, for example, probably won’t help if you’ve got a Sony.
Now, it is possible that you don’t need an installation disk. One thing you can try is to boot from a system repair or recovery disk. Those may have been provided with your system. If it has been, it may be able to repair the system from a pristine copy that’s typically kept on a hidden partition. You may also be able to reinstall Windows using this disk but I do have caveats about reinstalling which I’ll get to in a second.
Now, you can certainly reinstall Windows 7 from a retail disk. If your machine meets the minimum requirements for Windows 8, you can certainly install that. You need to plan, however, on these installs actually erasing everything that’s currently on your hard drive. If that’s painful, then you should take an image backup first. You can do that with, for example, Macrium Reflect’s free edition. You’ll need to use another computer to download Macrium Reflect and then burn the rescue disc but you can then boot from that rescue disc and actually back up your system to an external disk. You can recover your data from that backup later after your system has been reinstalled and is working.
Finally, and since we’re talking about backup software, I need to point out two things:
First, if you had been backing up regularly, none of this would have been an issue. You could simply restore your machine to a backup image taken before it started asking for the install disk.
Second, backup images are actually my strongly recommended antidote for not getting installation media. As soon as you get a working system, be it a rebuilt as the case here, or when you get a brand new one, take a complete system image. Save that somewhere; heck, back it up. Then if you ever need to start over for any reason, you can simply restore your machine to that image.
My machine has no optical drive. What if I need one?
My aunt just a bought a Mac and it seems to have no optical drive. I’ve not been there to see the computer although I had the same reaction to the floppy drive disappearing and have not used them for years. But I switched to CD-Rs and now DVD-Rs for mostly backups. How do you buy software? Not everything can be done on flash and downloads. Is having broadband required for today’s Macs? Windows 8 was optional. Doesn’t anyone still worry about the main hard drive failure anymore? My PC is backed up on to DVDs including six recovery DVDs for Windows 8.
The scenario you described is now very, very common. In fact, none of the three Macs in this household have optical drives, and neither does my Microsoft Surface Pro running Windows 8, but it’s not really a problem. I’ll explain why and what I do.
It’s probably safe to say that the days of the optical drive may be coming to a close. Not this week, not this year, perhaps even this decade but I think the writing is on the wall.
Regardless of its future, it’s simply a fact that machines are more commonly coming without a CD, or a DVD, or a Blu-ray drive.
Software companies are absolutely moving towards more and more online delivery. Yep, they’re assuming connectivity. I know that can be frustrating for those that have poor, slow, no, or metered connections but it is what it is.
For my Mac Pro, I’ve never had any form of optical media for the operating system. It was pre-installed and the updates often very large are delivered via download. As I said, the same is now true for my Surface Pro as well.
There are two directions that I think people need to consider. One, is to start phasing out the use of optical media for backup – period. Backing up your system to optical discs is already incredibly unwieldy simply because of the number of discs that it takes – but optical disks especially the ones that you are able to write to are actually known to have a limited shelf life. What that translates to is that your backups may not be there when you need them.
Instead, it’s time to move to things like external hard drives, or SSDs, or other larger format devices. All of my backups are to external drives and to a much lesser extent to the Cloud.
But what about those discs that you have?
Actually there’s an easy solution for that as well. Get an external USB optical drive. I happen to have an external CD/DVD burner, which can also read Blu-ray disks. It works great. I don’t use it very often but it’s quite handy to have around and yes, if you configure your PC to boot from USB it can typically boot from a USB optical drive.
If what you really care about is data, then it’s also potentially an argument for keeping an older machine around. An older machine with an optical drive that you can read from, connected to your Local Area Network, can make all of your old CDs and DVDs accessible to any machine you have.
Why am I getting Amazon notifications for someone else?
I have a Gmail account that I’ve never used. Because my phone is now a Samsung 3 and interfaces with Gmail, I’m thinking of dropping my Yahoo account. The problem is that when I go into my Gmail account, I find mail from Amazon to a lady in Florida with the same first name as me.
I don’t understand what’s happened. Why, when I enter my name and password, do I see emails to her about stuff she’s ordered on Amazon. Her name and address are there as well. When I look in All Mail, I see about 1300 emails, which I plan to delete and start up with Gmail because it’s the browser for my Samsung Galaxy. I don’t know who to ask about these emails from Amazon to this other woman in Florida regarding her purchases. And again, I’ve signed into my Gmail account with my name and password. So, now, I’m afraid to start up a Gmail account and drop off my old email address. Thanks, Leo for any light that you can shed on this problem.
I’ve actually got a pretty good guess as to what’s going on. I also have some ideas and some advice for what you might want to do about it.
You know, I’m constantly amazed at the number of times people type in their own email address and get it wrong. It’s one of the reasons you see so many sites forcing you to type it in twice. It’s annoying as heck to have to do so, and I’ve resisted forcing people to do so with Ask Leo! but as a result, I’ll say that roughly 1 out of every 50 questions submitted includes a bad email address.
What that means is that when I take the time to reply, that reply bounces. That’s also kind of frustrating.
Anyway, I’ll bet that’s exactly what’s happened here; my guess is that the lady in Florida typed in the wrong email address when she set up her Amazon account or perhaps she changed the email address associated with her Amazon account at some point and put it in wrong then.
I’m somewhat surprised that Amazon let this through since normally the first thing a service does is require that the email address be confirmed by sending it a message that requires some sort of action. But ultimately there’s a lady in Florida that’s not getting her Amazon notifications.
Now, on the off chance that I’m wrong, I would change the password on the Gmail account. I’d also make sure that the security information on the account is what you expect it to be. I don’t think the Florida woman is accessing the account especially if you don’t see anything in the Sent mail that isn’t yours. But better safe than sorry.
And after having done this, I’d actually have no problems using the account. The question is what to do about Amazon? Now, you’ve got several options.
You could reply to one of those emails or even contact Amazon customer service and explain the problem to them. I’m sure that this isn’t the first time they’ve had this problem. They may even have some way of resolving it themselves. Or you could drop the lady in Florida a note. You do have her mailing address after all.
Now, I do need to point out one thing that’s particularly scary. Now to be clear, it’s not scary for you; you’re fine – but it is scary for the lady in Florida. And it’s another reason why it’s so darned important to always double check your email address when you give it to anyone. You could probably gain access to this lady’s Amazon account. Since the emails are being sent to you, it means that an “I forgot my password”, password reset link, would presumably also get sent to you. Using that, you could change the password on this other person’s Amazon account. And then you could do bad things.
Now, I know you wouldn’t do such thing since Ask Leo! readers are basically above such things, but again, it serves as an important reminder that we all have a responsibility to know and enter our information correctly. It’s one thing to not get an answer from a site like Ask Leo!, but on the other hand, it’s something else completely to hand over your online shopping account to a stranger.
Alrighty! Now the announcement that I mentioned at the beginning of today’s Answercast. This Answercast episode #160 will be the last for awhile as I put the Answercast on hiatus. There will be more information in issue #500 of the Ask Leo! newsletter in a week or so but the bottom line is that I’m freeing up some time to work fewer but better articles and answers, as well as focus on publishing my books.
Now, if you have a question about your computer the internet, technology, you can still head out to askleo.com to search for an answer or to ask your question. You can stay connected to Ask Leo! by signing up for my newsletter. The weekly Ask Leo! includes more answers and fixes, safety tips, and opinions, and even the occasional rant. I always try to make it educational, informative and perhaps even a little entertaining.
I have several books available out at askleobooks.com. From backing up to computer maintenance askleobooks can help. Most of the books include companion online videos accessible once you’ve purchased the books, as well as digital downloads of any book you’ve purchased in popular computer and ebook formats.
If you take away only one thing from these last one hundred and sixty Answercasts, let it be this – Please back up. Seriously. Just do it. I’ve been plugging this every week because it’s so important. Nothing can save you from almost any computer disaster, like a proper and recent backup.
Finally, I do have to let you know that all of my answers, are based on my own personal experience and should be used entirely at your own risk. I just don’t know you, your abilities, or the specifics of your machine and those details can make all the difference in the world.
The Ask Leo! Answercast is a production of Ask Leo! and is copyright 2014. Thanks for listening. I’m Leo Notenboom and I’ll be back soon with another Ask Leo! Answercast.