Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

IE’s Favorites are missing– quick tip

Bookmarks (called “Favorites” in Internet Explorer) make returning to our favorite Websites an easy task, and I — for one — rely on mine. The other day I got a call from someone whose Favorites had disappeared. Quite naturally, I think, they wanted to get them back, and came to me for aid.

An important thing to understand is that Favorites and Bookmarks are shortcuts.. just like the icons on your Desktop are shortcuts to programs (.exe’s) located in your c:\Program Files folder.
Your Favorites are simply a list of shortcuts to URL’s, and when you click on the gold star Favorites icon, this list is displayed. You can “export” this list to other browsers, a comma-separated-values (.csv) file, or a HTML file.. And you can add and delete items from this list as your heart desires.

Tip of the day IE is a integral component to Windows, and Windows stores your custom configurations in your User Account– your Desktop icons, Theme, Settings, etc.. Windows allows for multiple users, and each person who uses the machine should have their own user account– it also has some built-in accounts, like Administrator, and Guest.

If your Favorites is empty, and not displaying any shortcuts, the first thing you should check is that you’re logged into your User Account. Click the Start button, and then choose “Log off” (or “Switch User”, depending) and verify that you are indeed logged into your user profile (and not Guest or Admin..).

If this is not the issue, navigate to the folder that contains the shortcuts list– this is called “Favorites”, and it’s located in your User folder. In XP, your User folder is in the Documents and Setting folder, so your path is c:\Documents and Settings\User*.
In Vista, it’s c:\Users\user.

Open the Favorites folder and see if your bookmarks are there. If they’re not, well, something’s happened to them somehow, and this might be a cause for concern (has a hacker been playing on your machine?) or it might not.
To restore the shortcuts, you can “import” a .csv, or .html ‘export’ you made earlier (hint, hint).. or copy the contents from a backup copy of your Favorites folder (which, because you follow my advice, you have on CD/DVD and another drive).

Or, you have never exported and haven’t backed up your files and folders.. (ahem), well, here is where you can try System Restore to revert your computer to an earlier date. System Restore does not restore deleted files, but it does store User Account information, and so you may have luck this way.
My article on using System Restore is here.

Today’s free link: PowerISO is a powerful CD/DVD image file processing tool, which allows you to open, extract, create, edit, burn, compress, encrypt, split and convert ISO files, and mount these files with internal virtual drive. It can process almost all CD-ROM image files including ISO and BIN.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 8, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, missing files, PC, software, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

How to recover your lost files

You have deleted some old files and now you need them back.
Or, you disconnected your thumb drive by pulling it out of the machine without bothering with that “Safely Remove” thingy, and now your machine cannot “see” the thumb drive at all– it’s dead.

Your files are gone and you need them back.. what a nightmare! How do you get them back?

I cannot count the number of times I have advised my readers to make regular backup copies of their files (in fact, Automate your backup and get some peace of mind was one of the very first articles I wrote). Having copies of your files on some place other than your hard drive (such as a CD/DVD) is the surest way to make sure that some unfortunate mouse click, mechanical failure, or glitch doesn’t permanently rob you of important documents, irreplaceable photographs, or costly music downloads. (There. I’ve nagged you again. Now, will you please run a Backup program and burn some discs?)

But you don’t have backup copies of these files… you didn’t think you’d ever need them.. but now you do. OK.
As I mentioned in Delete does not erase your data–preventing recovery, if the reason you no longer have access to the file you want is because you emptied your Recycle Bin (Trash) or right-clicked+delete, you may recover your file with an undelete tool.. just so long as too much time has not elapsed.
* It is a very good idea to install an undelete tool on your computer before you need it. If you haven’t done so and you don’t already have an undelete tool installed, use an online scanner/recovery tool such as Softperfect File Recovery to try to effect your recovery.

Other reasons for missing (“inaccessible”) files are varied and numerous.. and I could fill a book book with detailed steps for each variant. (If you’ve had to reformat your hard drive, for example {try an “unformat” tool}. Data recovery is a large– and costly –business.) Fortunately, I don’t have to write it, it’s already been written.

Tip of the day+Today’s free link: Visit and bookmark the following Webpage.
PC World Magazine and MSN Tech have teamed up to bring us Kirk Steers’ How To Recover Almost Anything, a three page primer on data recovery steps, and advice for which tools to use.
This information is first place to look when you run into a file recovery situation.. having it bookmarked ahead of time is a good idea, because timeliness is a factor in your success or failure.

*** Disclaimer: you may have noticed that I used the words “may” and “can try”; this is because recovering damaged/corrupted, deleted, or “lost” files is as much luck as it is science. Certain things improve your chances of success.. but the only sure method is making copies of your stuff, and keeping them somewhere else.. like in a safe-deposit box.

* Bonus free link of the day: Folks, my friend and fellow Internationally Renown Tech Blogger, Bill Mullins, has posted what I consider to be a very important article regarding the current state of security on the Internet. You, your loved ones, and your friends should (IMHO) take a look at Script Kiddie Bonaza–Do-It-Yourself Phishing Kits

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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June 23, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, Digital Images, file system, how to, missing files, PC, tech, thumb drives, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Find hidden files

Today’s article was triggered by a reader’s question. The reader had hidden a file, and now could not find it again.

Q: How can I find folders on my computer if they’ve been “hidden”?
I think we have all placed something carefully out of sight from others.. and then forgotten where we’ve hidden it ourselves. If you have hidden a file (or folder) on your PC, and now cannot remember where it is, there are a couple of ways to go about finding it again.

Method 1) If you know what folder you’ve hidden the file in, but not the name of the file, navigate to the folder (in my example, I’ll use the My Documents folder) and do the reverse of the steps I outlined in my article “Create a hidden folder for your private stuff“. Namely, Click on the “Tools” menu and select “Folder Options”.
Now click on the “View” tab. Look down the list to the “Hidden folders” options, and change the radio button from “Do not show..” to “Show hidden files and folders”. While you’re here, uncheck the option “Hide extensions of known file types” if you haven’t done so already. (This is not only good policy, but will help us if we need to use the Search feature.)
(If you are not sure exactly which folder you hid the file in, click on the “Apply to all folders” button, which will unhide all your hidden files.)
Now any files (or folders) you have hidden in the folder (My Documents, in this example) will appear as a slightly ‘faded’ entry. For purposes of demonstration, there was a hidden text file in My Documents titled “hidden file.doc” which is now visible.
If you have done this, and the file you’re seeking does not appear, do the steps shown above and click on “Apply to all folders”, and then open the other folders you think it is possible that you may have used to hide the file inside. Do a little bit of ‘hunting’ through the most likely places.
[Note: This method is not a good way to look for spyware that may have hidden itself on your computer. If you suspect that there may be spyware on your computer, run two different anti-spyware programs in “Full” (or “Deep”) scan mode. I have a list of good (free) anti-spyware programs here.]

Method 2) If you do remember the name of your file (or folder).. or parts of its name, but not its location, the easiest way to find it again is to use an “advanced” option in the Search tool. Open Search (Start >Search) and select “Files and folders”.
srch.jpgNow click on the down-arrow next to “More Advanced Options”, and then place a check in the “Search hidden files or folders” and the “Search subfolders” options.

There are two Search boxes; the top one looks at file names, and examines your directory, and this is the better one to use. (The second one looks inside files for the string of text you’ve entered, and seems to me to only work about half the time.)
Enter as much of the file’s name as you can remember, and to reduce the number of irrelevant results, specify the file’s type– in my example, it’s a text document, so I will add “.doc”. Use the “*” wildcard symbol in front of and behind the letters you don’t remember. Let us say that I remember that I used the word ‘hidden’ in my file’s name, but I can’t remember if I used “Paul’s”.. or if I named it “file” or if I used “document” instead — I think I may have named it “pauls_hidden_doc.doc”, but the only word I’m pretty sure of is ‘hidden’– so the proper entry in the top Search box would look like this “*hidden*.doc” (w/out the quotes). This tells Search to accept any characters before the word ‘hidden’ as well as any after it, and to only look for text files.
This result appeared in less than a second, and happens to be just what I was looking for and, if there had been a document I had labeled “Paul’s hidden letter” (and forgotten it as well) it would show in the results also.

Also, those of you familiar with DOS can use the DIR command with the following switches, /w /a, appended to see all hidden files and folders listed (c:\>dir /w /a).

Today’s free link: It used to be that if you wanted to connect a new TV or stereo that all you had to do was plug it in– and maybe connect one cable or a couple of wires. Nowadays, the assortment of different cables and wires you have to untangle and sort out and properly configure is pretty complex and confusing. There is a Consumer Electronics website that is essentially a wizard which will walk you through setting up your new device’s cables and getting it to work with your existing devices. It also helps ensure that you purchase the right cable for the job. Visit the Consumer Electronics Association’s connections guide for some excellent help and instructions.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 4, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, computers, file system, how to, missing files, PC, tech, Vista, wildcards, Windows, XP | , , , | 24 Comments

These folks had a very bad day

Here’s why I really, really hate digital evil doers. I received queries from some folks who discovered that some of their files had mysteriously vanished (in one case, all of their files) and they wanted to know what to do to get them back.
What had happened to them was they had visited (or been redirected to, in a type of attack similar to pharming) a malicious website. This website downloaded code that took advantage of an unpatched vulnerability in Windows and executed a script that deleted random files… and then emptied the Recycle bin. Files, gone.

How this profited the owner of the malicious website, or even gave him any joy or satisfaction, I simply cannot fathom. This attack doesn’t steal, nor does it turn your machine into a zombie in his botnet. It is spite, pure and simple. Unmitigated meanness.
There is a certain.. segment of geeks/hackers who feel that many people are too stupid to own computers, who haven’t a clue how to use or protect them, and that these folks deserve whatever bad things happen to their PCs. Vanity and arrogance!
That is why I do this six-days-a-week labor of love, and bring you the tips, advice, and information posted here. So far I have posted 80 how-to’s with 60 topic tags. With God’s help, I will continue to help you combat these bad guys for many, many more days to come.

Tip(s) of the day: Don’t be vulnerable.
1) Make sure your machine has all the latest patches and Updates. Using exploits of known vulnerabilities is the main avenue Evil Doers use to do their mischief. The reason this works is that so many people are using old versions of Windows and/or not patching via Microsoft Update. Fortunately, it is easy to set Windows to automatically download Updates for you.

Click on Start >Control Panel >Security Center.
Click on Automatic Updates under “Manage security settings for:” (Or, right-click on My Computer (Computer in Vista), select (click) Properties and then the Automatic Updates tab.)
Make sure the top radio button is selected [advisory: some folks, having had bad experiences with an Update, prefer to only be warned when Updates are available. They then decide which ones to manually install. I have posted an article on how to remove troublesome updates.] and set the times to “everyday” and an hour when you know your machine will be powered on. Finish by clicking on “Apply”.

2) Avoid malicious websites. Since the website warning tool built into IE 7 causes very slow performance, I recommend downloading a tool like McAfee’s SiteAdvisor, or the Netcraft toolbar. (Both work on Firefox, too.) These are primarily anti-phishing tools, and the bad guys are constantly posting new poisoned websites (one reliable sources says “An average of 11,906 total new malicious websites were detected daily in August.” {my italics}), so these warning tools are not foolproof — but are an excellent addition to your security arsenal: if they turn red and advise you not to continue to the website, don’t.

3) Use a firewall and make sure your antivirus and anti-spyware tools are up to date. I have posted many articles on these topics. Click on a word in my Tag Cloud to see just these articles.

4) Windows is not the only software/program that has exploitable vulnerabilities. Make sure you’re using the automatic update setting on every program that offers it to look for newer versions. Also use the online vulnerability assessor at Secunia to scan your system for out of date applications. The results will include links to the newer versions, should it find any, and tell you how to fix the vulnerabilities it finds.

I was able to help these folks recover their deleted files with common undelete programs. If you read my article on why deleted isn’t really deleted, recently reposted as a holiday edition, you are already aware of how to do this should this malicious and dastardly attack befall you. Keep reading for another free undelete tool.

Today’s free link: Pandora Recovery is a program for undeleting files on NTFS partitions. You should download this (or a similar) program before you actually need it, as installing it could very well happen on the area you’re trying to recover.
If you are in a situation such as the folks who triggered this article, and you don’t already have an undelete tool installed, use an online scanner/recovery tool such as Softperfect File Recovery.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved.

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September 10, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, Backups, computers, file system, firewall, how to, IE 7, missing files, PC, Phishing, privacy, security, System Restore, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | Leave a comment

My file is missing! Using a desktop Search tool

There have been occasions when I was not paying attention, and I saved (and/or downloaded) a file to some location I didn’t intend. What’s worse, I wasn’t watching closely enough to notice what and where that location was, and the file was effectively gone. Of course, my misplaced file wasn’t really gone … I just had to find it again. That’s when a desktop Search tool comes to my rescue. Sometimes, though, the search comes up ’empty’, and that’s what I want to address today.

Tip of the day: Find that file by using the proper search tool, properly. Windows comes with a built-in search tool, and there are “better” tools available (usually as free downloads) as well. But let’s start with the tool you already have. Windows Search is located in your Start menu (Start >Search) and is the magnifying glass icon. If you cannot see a Search/magnifying glass: right-click on a blank area of your taskbar and select Properties. Now click the Start Menu tab and click on the “Customize” button and select the Advanced tab. Scroll down and place a check in the box marked “Search”, as shown below.


Launch the Search tool and click on the “All files and folders” option in the “What do you want to search for?” area, and then — and here’s the trick — click on the “more advanced options” down arrow, and place a check in the top three checkboxes. search2.jpgThere are several “hidden” folders in the Windows filing system and it’s possible your file was moved into one of these (particularly downloaded emails) and if that happened, it will not show up in a “normal” search. Selecting the subfolders option ensures that your search is as thorough as possible. Now enter the file name and click the “Search” button and enjoy the cute antics of the animated ‘search puppy’.

Bonus tip of the day: Often, I cannot remember the exact, or complete, name of the file, and that’s when the use of the wildcard symbol becomes very useful. Windows uses the “*” to represent “any”.

Let’s say, for sake of example, that I found a neat picture of a rose on the Internet (not copyrighted, of course!) and downloaded it. The actual file name is “DSCredrose16.jpg”, and being the incredible complex and super-busy human that I am … I download it to someplace other than where I expected. Searching for “rose.jpg”, in this case, produced no results (sometimes it will). If I use wildcards, I don’t have to worry about an exact match. Typing in “*rose*.jpg” (no quotes) will find it, because I told the search to ‘match’ any letters before the characters r-o-s-e and any characters after them as well, and to show me only pictures.
If I’m not certain the picture was a JPEG, and that it might be a GIFF, or a TIFF, or a PNG, or a Photoshop picture (.psd), or a bitmap (.bmp) …I substitute a wildcard for .jpg, like this: “*rose*.*”. If I type *.* into the search for box, I will get a list of every file on my machine — because I told it to ‘match’ every file name, and every file type.

Today’s free link(s): If you want a faster/better/more capable desktop search tool than the one built into Windows (and if you spend a lot of time searching for files on your machines, you may), the top three downloads are Microsoft’s Windows Desktop Search, Google Desktop search, and Copernic. I must warn you that there are some privacy and security issues revolving around Google Desktop that may or may not remain valid — the debate still lingers. I can also tell you that Copernic is the geek’s choice.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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July 23, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, missing files, PC, searching, tech, wildcards, Windows, XP | 3 Comments