Things that seem right but are really wrong

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Sometimes there are things that on the surface seem to be true, but when you dig a little deeper you find out they aren’t true at all. Or, there might be something that you know in your head is false, but your mind still thinks about a different way. For example – what’s the moon made of? Obviously you know it’s not made of green cheese, but for most people that’s the first answer that pops in your head.

Moon landing


In the world of computers, there are things like that as well. Here are a few.

Myth: “I can’t have a virus. I have an antivirus program!”
The facts: Unfortunately, no antivirus is 100% effective. There are a few reasons for this.

First, there are new viruses every single day. The best antiviruses do update their list of known viruses (also called “definitions”) multiple times each day, but there is always that chance that a brand new one will slip through.

The other big reason is that even the best antivirus can’t completely protect against bad behavior by the computer user. If you deliberately open every email attachment, search Google for “free games” and click on every link, and allow strangers (scammers) to access your computer remotely, you’re very likely to have virus or malware problems. It’s kind of like if you bought the best, most expensive tires for your car – if you drive through a pile of nails, you’ll still get a flat tire.

Myth: It’s good to move files from the computer to an external drive to save space
The facts: There are a couple of problems with this idea.

First, if you’re trying to save space, my first response would be, “Why move those files somewhere else? Why not just delete them?” If you delete them, you are definitely achieving the goal of saving space. But your response might be “But they are things I want to keep.” If that’s the case, then they should be backed up. And if you simply move them from your computer to an external hard drive, they’re still only going to exist in one place – which means you don’t have a backup. If you don’t want to lose them, you have to back them up. This means your important stuff is on your computer AND stored somewhere else as well.

Second, for most people, deleting the whole Documents folder contents on the computer wouldn’t really free up much space. Word documents, text documents, PDF files – they just aren’t that big (usually). Even pictures, unless you have thousands of high-resolution images, won’t free up enough space on your hard drive to make a difference. If you’re running out of space, you need a bigger hard drive or a new computer.

Myth: No one would ever guess my password
The facts: Yes they would.

Sometimes people will tell me that their password includes random things such as a city they lived in as a child combined with the name of their cousin’s cat. From a simple human perspective this seems like it would be foolproof, because another person would never guess the combination of those two words. But a guy that’s trying to get your password isn’t just sitting at a desk somewhere trying to come up with these things. They do it with very powerful software.

A computer can try hundreds or thousands of combinations of words and numbers every minute, around the clock, without ever needing to take a break or sleep or eat. This strategy is called a “dictionary attack” because it can try every word in the dictionary in a very short amount of time. In most cases, the hacker’s work is easy since so many people use very simple passwords (like “password” or “123456” or “monkey”). And they use the same 1 or 2 passwords for all of their accounts.

You need to be smarter than that. If your password is easy to remember, it’s easy for a computer to figure it out.

Myth: I plug in my portable drive, so I must have a backup.
The facts: Unless you can view the contents on that portable drive and see all your stuff there, you cannot assume you have a backup.

When you buy a portable drive, most likely it will already have some software on it that’s ready to be installed on your computer when you plug it in. This software is supposed to automatically run and back up your data every time you connect the drive to your computer. I recommend that you DON’T use that software as your backup program.

When I talk to someone who is using that drive manufacturer’s backup software, I ask them:

  • Is the backup working?
  • What files are being backed up?
  • Does it backup just your files, or does it backup your programs also?
  • What do you do when your hard drive crashes and you have to restore from the backup?

Every time I ask those questions, the answer is either “I don’t know” or “I hope it’s working…”. Not good! A backup is supposed to give you peace of mind, but how is that possible when you don’t know what it’s doing or if it’s even working?

So when I set up a backup to a new portable drive, the first thing I do is get rid of everything on that drive. Start fresh, clean slate. Then I install the Macrium Reflect program because I use it every single day and I know what it does and how reliable it is. It’s the software I recommend for regular system image backups.

I recently did a data recovery for a client here in Safety Harbor, because she THOUGHT she had a backup when she really didn’t. Fortunately I was able to recover all of the files for her, but it doesn’t turn out that way every time. Don’t take a chance with your important stuff!

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Terry Rice
January 19th, 2017

So what do you recommend for a backup? Are the “cloud” services a good backup? If I send my financial data to a cloud service, is it safe or can others get into my banking via the cloud service?

Scott Johnson
January 19th, 2017

Here’s a blog post on why you need both a local backup AND a cloud backup:

Carbonite cloud backup is encrypted, so it’s safe – as long as you have a strong and unique password for the account.