Merry Christmas!

I can feel the steps of Santa Claus now.

Merry Christmas to all my family.

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends in the distance.

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers.

Hope you all enjoy the huge festival season!


How to Recover Data from Broken or Water Damaged iPhone

Oh, no. So, your iphone is just broken or water damaged, and you have tons of precious data in it? No one likes the suffering, indeed. Just a couple of days ago one of my buddies fell his iPhone 5 onto the ground by accident. But good news is the phone is okay except a few edges are cut.

However, not all iPhone users are as luckly as him. There are situations when iPhone glass is totally broke and wouldn’t turn on, or the device slept too long in the water and got severely damaged and dead now.

The question is: is it still possible to retrieve files from an iPhone that is totally broken or water damaged?

Well, it is. But chances of recovery depends.

The first thing you maybe have in mind is – send your device to a fix center or for recovery service. Yes, I also hear that there are professional data recovery experts out there offering such kind of recovery service. But I have to warn you though, it's not cheap and the chance is not 100% guaranteed.

So what is the best way to try first?

Yes, you may have guessed it -- by using software! That's why this data security freeware blog is opened for! Please note: I am here talking about recovering lost files from an iPhone, other than teaching you how to repair a broken or damaged phone. To do that, you may want to check out this iPhone article, watch the video inside.

If you have iTunes or iCloud backup, things can be much easier. Simply go to this Apple guide for how to restore your iPhone data by extracting the backup files.

If that method doesn't work either because you don't have a backup or iTunes/iCloud fails to help, the next solutions is by using an iOS data recovery software. No matter you've suffered iPhone broken, damaged, or you just mistakenly deleted something items (photos, videos, Contacts, Call recorder etc) off the device, the data insides may be still recoverable provided that they are not fully written over.

How to do that? Well, it's actually quite simple. You don't need to connect your iPhone or launch iTunes. Just install the program on the computer (runs Windows or Mac OS X) and start to scan from iTunes or iCloud backup. That's it. Soon, you'll see a list of items being displayed on the software panel.

This post was last updated on: June 12, 2016.

Freeware to Secure and Manage Your Account Passwords

Like what I wrote in the previous post about tips to choose secure passwords, this post is for sharing several freeware to manage or secure your account password. Just select some you like and implement it to enhance your passwords.

#1     Password Strength Checker

This program is designed to assess the strength of your password strings. The instantaneous visual feedback enables to improve the strength of the passwords, with a hard focus on breaking the typical bad habits of faulty password formulation. The application does not utilize the typical "days-to-crack" approach for strength determination. Learn more from its official site here.

#2     KeePass Password Safe

With KeePass Password Safe, you don’t have to remember many passwords (Windows network, your e-mail account, ftp pass word etc). This program is a free password manager which helps you to manage your pass word in a secured way. You can put all your pass words in one database which is locked with a pass word or in a key disk. The databases have been given numbers with the best encoding algorithms currently known (AES Twofish). Learn more from this Wikipedia Page.

#3     Hushkey

It is a simple password manager for Windows that securely stores your passwords on your computer. It uses a secure encryption algorithm developed by Inniosoft and is computer dependent. That means that you can use the application executable on any computer, but you cannot view a password database on a computer other than the one on which it was created. Download the app from

#4     Efficient Password Manager

Like the name indicates, this program allows you to manage your different passwords really efficitently. It can help you remember generic passwords, software registration codes, e-mail account passwords, etc. All your password information is protected and encrypted. Though the program doesn't actually log users in automatically, right-clicking on any items allows users to easily copy their username and password, which can then be pasted into the desired location. The program also includes a customizable password generator that lets users specify the desired length and character types of the password. Learn more or download the program from its official site.

During my testing, I also found several other non-freeware very nice and some really have a good word of mouth. Though shareware, the quality and powerfulness are definitely reliable and seems price very affordable. What impressed me include Phaedra Password Manager, Password Keeper Expert etc. All in all, no matter what programs users choose, the key points won't change: the password security and your account information safety.

If more related freeware comes up, information will be updated here. Also is my blog readers have some good and trusted recommendations, I’d be happy to add them :-)

6 Tips to Choose Secure Passwords

Still annoyed about choosing the right password for a specific account, or worried about the security of chosen password? Nowadays cellphones, e-mails, social networks sites, online banking, forums etc are all equipped with such account information which contains user-name or password to get verified or authorized. Needless to say among them the password is most important.

The time I came up with this post idea, I found myself having been making a big mistake – almost set several passwords for most of my accounts which kind of shocked me now! I hope after reading these two articles (this post is for the tips to choose a good password while the next will be freeware to secure passwords), you can reap some benefits and make your passwords more secure. I am going to start with tips to choose a secure password, then a couple of freeware to test and manage the password in my next post.

Well, I guess you probably have already known some knowledge about what is a good or bad combination. But still here some tips are offered because some clever hackers may right hit the shot and guess it.

Specific password for specific account
This point means a lot. Just be a little patient and make full use of your mind power and imagination to create unique password for your high-confidential accounts such as credit card, emails, social site accounts etc.

Password length
Choose a password with a minimum length of 8 characters: ideally, it should be composed of at least 14 characters. The length of password is paramount if you opt for a string of the same type such as letters or numbers.

Take a look at of your keyboard
Combining the types of characters: letters, numbers, and symbols (^,¨,$,!,#/, etc..) Optionally use uppercase letters if the service (eg email address) is case sensitive.

Make Use of Mnemonic
A complex string may be difficult to remember, especially if it is not very meaningful. A simple way to have a complex and lengthy password is to start with a phrase or a word that makes sense. E.g If your passion is "passwordsecurity". You can change the order of letters and insert symbols and numbers:"pass%3%word%3%security".

Change passwords regularly
A frequent password change is a good trick to avoid online fishing (identity theft), don’t let your password be the fish. :-)

Things you should avoid
Avoid using password that is contains too obvious-identification data for example date of birth, place of birth, telephone number etc. Avoid-disclosing personal or professional information on social networks because hackers can use these data to guess passwords (note: there are indeed some ‘clever’ men who do the business according to reports). Avoid the use of linear strings: abcdefg, 123456 etc. Also do not write passwords on paper or documents on your computer.

Hope it helps those who in need come up with more ideas. Also please wait to check my next post about several freeware for testing and managing your passwords.

Windows 7 Blue Screen (BSOD) Fixes

Well, I have never expected this kind blue screen or blue screen of death (BSOD) to my computer. BUT 3 days ago that did happen which shocked me to some extent. Just all of a sudden, my HP laptop (Windows 7, 32 bits) went to blue screen without any pre-notice. This is definitely a random blue screen error. 

After carefully read the error codes indicated on the blue screen, I figured out the problem maker: too much third-party software installed on my computer! Wow, I never expected this to be the reason. But after spending about an hour' time to uninstall those unnecessary programs and plug-ins, the blue screen never occurs during the past days. Now I have to be careful with every installed software program. Because during the past months in order to give a test to certain programs, I have downloaded so many apps. There might be a chance some programs (especially those competitors I guess) may fight with each other, thus the platform Windows 7 has to end the fight because MS won’t allow the others to fight in his place. J

Okay, long story! Back to the topic, What if such blue screen hits your Windows 7, how to fix it? I’ll combine my own experience and techniques to give some solutions. Note: there are so many reasons that might lead to Windows 7 blue screen or BSOD, or be free to say some are even the operation system’s bugs. As a result, it is unable for me to cover every case. I just share some common fix solutions.

Blue Screen Fix 1 – Restart Windows 7
Sometimes, when blue screen occurs (particularly for the first time), Windows will indicate you to restart your computer and the problem will never happen again.

Blue Screen Fix 2 – Re-plug RAM chip
This fix solution is suitable for the case when blue screen occurs and when you attempt to restart but with boot failure. In this case shut down your computer. Open it and plug out the RAM (Random Access Memory, is a hardware that is permanently installed inside the computer's motherboard) and use an eraser or so to clean the dust and then re-plug it in. Then restart your Windows 7.

Blue Screen Fix 3 – Uninstall third-party software programs
This is the problem I met as described above, clean those unnecessary apps and plug-ins can make the blue screen disappear.

Blue Screen Fix 4 – Fix Registry Errors 
Sometimes blue screen on HP is caused simply by s few registry errors (source). Using a registry cleaner (I'll highly recommend CCleaner of course) to fix the errors.

More fix solutions from Microsoft: Resolving stop (blue screen) errors in Windows 7

Like what I said, blue screen causes vary a lot. If you accidentally meet blue screen with your computer running Windows 7 or other OS, and those fix tips won't help, feel free to post the specifics of your situation. I'll try to help

Pandora Recovery Freeware Review

File recovery has been much more easier when Pandora Recovery -- a free file recover utility for Windows. The step by step wizard makes it more attractive even compared with Recuva. The three scanning modes (Browse, Search, Surface Scan) make it really convenient for users of all levels to perform do it yourself data recovery.

Here's more:

  • Interface: Pretty clean and easy to use. With image toolbar listed on the top, you can easily find functions or links you want to achieve. Moreover, the unique User Manual make the program more like a data recovery knowledge book than a tutorial. 
  • Commercial Use: unknown 
  • Download Size: 3.12 MB (version 2.1.1)
  • Supported Languages on Interface: currently 4 (English, Spanish, Serbian, and Russian) 
  • Official site: 
  • Tutorial: see here

Pros: Very user friendly as have said. 3 scanning modes make the app more complete. Able to recover deleted files from NTFS and FAT-formatted volumes, regardless of their type - you can recover pictures, songs, movies or documents and emails (MS Outlook). Preview functions are more powerful than Recuva. It can preview image files far beyond JPEG (also support preview PNG, GIF, TIF etc), and text files such as txt and word documents (shown as text only).

Cons: The files Surface(Deep) Scan mode supported are limited, such as media files can only find .mp3 format. Can’t preview video or audio files. Also it left files that had to be manually deleted during un-installation. Overall Rating: I give 8.5/10 for Pandora Recovery. Kind of surprising considering this is just its second version. See below with detailed comparison.

Recovery Capability Part

Rating: Excellent

Recovered all my test files with no problem at all. Scanning process is very quick generally (unless you choose Surface Scan, it may take quite a while). It claims able to recover images & photos, Archived Files, Music & Sounds and documents. Also MS Outlook .pst files. Should meet basic needs for most users.

Preview Effectiveness Part

Rating: Excellent

Capable of previewing photos with almost existing formats, and text files. Should be satisfactory for a data recovery freeware.

Ease of Use Part

Rating: Excellent

I don’t want to repeat its easy-to-use character, give it excellent option directly.

Help/Wizard/Documentation Part

Rating: Excellent

With very detailed start Wizard and User Manual.

TestDisk & PhotoRec Review 2016: The Most Powerful yet Free Data Recovery Tool (for PC & Mac)

TestDisk as the name indicates was primarily designed to fix system partition and file system problems. So it's the best choice to recover data from disks with partition problems.  

PhotoRec is the little brother of TestDisk. It can be used to recover those deleted or formatted files. 

You can download both of them or learn more from its official site here:

Here's my review:
  • Interface: The command line tool is without graphic interface. You have to rely on your keyboard to finish the whole recovery process. But there are corresponding texts showing you what to do next. Quite intuitive.
  • Commercial Use: Allowed. the issue is not addressed on their site, therefore it is safe to assume that commercial use is ok. 
  • Download Size: 1.7 MB (version 7.0)
  • Supported Languages on Interface: English

What I like: Solid recovery capabilities to deal with different data lose scenaries. Supported multi-platforms from Windows, Macintosh to Linux etc. From technical errors to humar errors that caused files lost, it can recover files with almost existing formats. Also TestDisk can fix file system and partition errors. PhotoRec allows you to select certain types of file formats to scan like Recuva does. It should be a perfect tool for those advanced users. 

What I don't like: Not suitable to those general who don't like command line as there is no GUI. Not applicable to recover RAW disk or files. Also you have to scan the whole disk for the lost files instead of a folder, making it quite time intensive. Sometimes you may need to wait several hours to see the results. One more shortcoming, it automatically reocvered all the found files to its assigned folder. You can’t choose what to recover and what need not. 

Recovery Capability Part:
It succeeded in recovering my deleted test files without problem though cost me nearly 2 hours to see the end (I used PhotoRec to do this). I have to use "Super Powerful" to describe its recovery capability as it also recovered so many files (beyond your imagination) that were deleted several months ago.

Preview Effectiveness Part:
It’s a command line tool, so without preview functions definitely.

Ease of Use Part:
More suitable for advanced tech users. For those general computer users who are also comfortable with command line, the guide text should be enough and easy to get things done. But I can’t give it an Excellent praise.

Help/Wizard/Documentation Part:
No, I didn’t see such information while testing. 

Note: this post was last updated on May 29, 2016

Free Anti-Virus or Anti-Spyware Programs

Last time I wrote a post about fixing folders become shortcuts problem which is right caused by those annoying virus or Trojans (which hide the real files and folders on an external storage device). Besides, they can also cause your PC to run slow. Today I am going to share with you several free anti-virus or anti-spyware programs to let my readers have more choices when facing similar problems.  

Note: what I am talking here is free anti-virus (not only anti-virus freeware), there are some difference between the two concepts. For example software producers may provides both free version and professional version. But sometimes free version is quite enough for personal usage. 

Microsoft Security Essentials 

The program provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It is a free download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple. 

Malwarebytes Free edition 

It is a surprisingly effective freeware antimalware tool. It's a relatively speedy malware remover, with the quick scan taking about 8 minutes even with other high-resource programs running. The app has some nice features rolled in, too. It supports multiple drive scanning including networked drives, context menu options including a scan-on-demand for individual files, and the FileAssassin option under the More Tools section for removing locked files.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 

It is a memory-friendly free antivirus program that comes with lifetime free access to virus definition updates. Highlights include automatic update, real-time protection, free virus database updates, and some more. The new AVG Free has sped up its installation process, although it's not as zippy as the minute-long installations that some of AVG's paid competitors offer.

SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition

The program will remove all the spyware, not just the easy ones. Quick, complete and custom scanning of hard drives, removable drives, memory, registry, individual folders and more. Includes trusting items, and excluding folders for complete customization of scanning. Detect and remove spyware, adware, malware, Trojans, dialers, worms, key loggers, hijackers, parasites, root kits and many other types of threats. 

Spybot Search & Destroy 
Search & Destroy detects and removes spyware, a relatively new kind of threat not yet covered by common anti-virus applications. Spyware silently tracks your surfing behaviour to create a marketing profile for you that is transmitted without your knowledge to the compilers and sold to advertising companies. It can also clean usage tracks, an interesting function if you share your computer with other users and don't want them to see what you have been working on.

Enjoy those free anti-virus programs! :) 

Card Locked Error – Common Memory Card Error Fix (2)

Update: I've written another guide to fix other types of memory card errors, in case you are interested, check out the post here.

If you have a memory card equipped with your digital camera, camcorder or cell phone,  when you connect it to your PC via a card reader or slot but it comes out with card locked error while you attempt to access files in it. Detailed symptoms about this kind of errors include:

  • You receive the message "Memory Card Error" and "Card Locked" underneath it.    
  • You can’t format the card properly.    
  • Go to the Properties, it says 0 bytes.    

Perhaps you'll think the memory card is corrupted or damaged, however most of the time it isn't. It’s probably the tiny piece of trick on your card reader (or card slot) that playing a joke on you.

Check the card reader or slot you are using, pay attention to the little button on the side (it is called lock tab usually with white color). You are able to switch it to two positions “Locked” or “Unlocked”. You can see the photos below more clearly.

Memory card "locked" position

Memory card "unlocked" position 

See? You must have accidentally switched it to the “locked” position when connect it to your computer, thus the card error occurred. The solution is simple: switch the little tab back to “unlocked” state and try access it again. The previous locked error message should be eliminated.

Memory Card not Recognized – Common Memory Card Error Fix (1)

This post was updated on June 21, 2016 (with a few more up-to-update resourced added)

There are plenty of reasons that may lead to the memory card not recognized error. I categorize these causes into two categories: card not recognized by the computer, card not read by your external digital media (such as cell phone, camera etc). And then I'll show you how to fix different kinds of errors errors.

Note: if your memory card is showing card locked error, see this post for solution. Also, this softwarehow guide is worth further exploring.

Memory card cannot be recognized by my computer…

Symptoms 1: the card is working fine on the cell phone but when using a card reader to connect it to my computer, won't be detected.

How to Fix: the problem should be the card reader, you have two options. One is to change a new card reader and reconnect it to the computer; The other is to directly connect your cell phone to your computer via a USB cable.

Symptoms 2: have a digital camera (with memory card inside), you try to connect it to your computer via a USB cable. Nothing detected (neither the camera nor the memory card).
How to Fix: Try taking the memory card out of your camera and loading it into a card reader, then insert the card reader to your computer. See if it will be detected.

Symptoms 3: my memory card is corrupted (not read properly when connected to my computer), how can I recover the data saved on it?
How to Fix: first of all, use a data recovery program to recover data as much as possible. Freeware such as Pandora Recovery or Recuva works great in my testing. If you are using a Mac, turn to this post for a list of 100% free Mac data recovery software. After you recover the data, then format the card.

Symptoms 4: when plug the memory card into my computer, it shows "the drive is not formatted, do you want to format it now".
How to Fix: there are many possible reasons for this, see this post fix format error disk in drive are not formatted for more. Most of the time, using this freeware called HP USB Disk Formatting Tool would help.

Memory card not recognized by my cell phone or camera…

Symptoms 1: my SD card is new and works fine when connected with my computer, but when insert into my digital camera it cannot be detected. Nor can I access media files from the card.
How to Fix: Since there is no problem with either the card or your digital camera, I'd suggest you read the user manual of your digital camera and read the information about supported SD memory card, pay attention to the maximum SD card volume part as usually the camera manufacturer has a volume limitation to supported external SD card. For example, if it clams only SD card with 2GB maximum space are allowed. If your new SD card is 4 GB or larger, then your digital camera won’t be compatible with it. The only way is to change another card less than 2GB and transfer the files on the previous card to the newer one.

Symptoms 2: insert the memory card to my cellphone but the phone refuses to read it.
How to Fix: you must be using an old phone or old types of phone, try power off the phone and restart again. Usually the card will be detected again.

Symptoms 3: formatted the memory card on my computer and then put it in my cellphone, it won't let me to access.
How to Fix: your cell phone may not be compatible with your memory card file system (FAT, e.g.). Better reformat the card via your cellphone by using its own format function. Then you should be able to re-access it again.

There should be more "memory card not recognized" problems out there, if you accidentally meet similar ones or have new situations and this post didn't help you out. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

Why & How Deleted or Formatted Files Can Be Recovered

Are you used to use the following methods to get rid of files unwanted? Drag them to the Recycle Bin or Trash and empty the bin, Shift + Delele (Command + Delete if you are running Mac OS X) or format the drive directly etc. Do you think the methods will permanenlty erase the data? The answer is negative. Before answering why those deleted or formatted data can be recovered, let’s learn something about how files are stored on the disk.

How files are stored?

No matter you are using computer with a hard drive (usually formatted as NTFS file system or HFS+ file system if you are Mac users) or removable drive (usually formatted as FAT file system) such as memory card or usb drive, those are called storage media. When you save a file to a specific place, the data contained in the file will be saved to the relevant sectors of the storage media. The file system is used to organize how the data will be stored (such as what sectors they will locate) and record the file attributes. Each file or folder on the disk has its own assigned attributes, such as Archive, Hidden, System, Size and so on. For example a file having hidden attribute isn't displayed in Windows Explorer view.

What happen when you delete a file…

When a file is deleted from your computer it is not really deleted. It is simply removed from the directory of files in the folder. Even though you can no longer see the file in the folder, its contents still exist 100% intact at this point. If you're using Windows the file will be moved to the Recycle Bin. If you're a Mac user, it will go to the Trash. As long as a file remains there it can easily be restored in its entirety with no difficulty. So the first thing to do is check the Recycle Bin or Trash. And use the Restore option to make it alive again.

When you empty the Recycle Bin or Shift + Del…

When you empty the Recycle Bin (or Trash) or delete a file using another method (such as Shift + Delete or Command +Delete), the file is still not deleted. Only the file attributes are marked as delete and the space occupied by the file becomes available for re-use by other files. And usually won’t get reused right away depending on how frequently new data are writted.

When you format a drive…

There are two kinds of format: low-level format and high-level format (also called quick format or full format). Generally speaking we regards format as high-level format for low-level format can only be executed after manufactoring. Low-level format will completely wipe everything on the drive while high-level format will only remove those file attibutes, which means the data are still intact there on the drive.

Why and how the deleted files can be recovered?

As long as real data contained in the files remain intact (not overwritten), it is almost certain possible to get those deleted or formatted files recovered. Data recovery software understands the internals of the system used to store files on a disk (the file system) and uses this knowledge to locate the disk space that was occupied by a deleted file. If you are running computer with Windows, Recuva or Pandora Recovery is the program that I recommended. For Mac users, see these totally free Mac file recovery programs.

When the files are overwritten…

When the files are overwritten (space get reused by other files), it is almost impossible to bring them back with data recovery tools. The only option is to send the device which contains your lost files to a technical data recovery company and see if they have any special means to do data recovery. It’s been said IBM ever successfully recovered data overwritten 7 times. So do your best to avoid data overwritten. Do not save more files to the drive where your deleted or formatted, do not modify data, do not damage the drive etc. Better put the drive in a safe place if you want to maximize chances of file recovery.

Fix Format Error: Disk in Drive Is not Formatted Want to Format now?

If you accidentally encountered this kind of formatting error "The disk in drive is not formatted, do you want to format it now?" Do not format it right away! More similar situations can be seen here and there, I was wandering on several Internet communities.

“When I connected Canon digital camera SD memory card to the computer via a card reader, Windows detected the memory card and showed as Removable Drive under My Computer. But when I try to access the drive, it said ‘the drive is not formatted, would you like to format it now?’ I have plenty of precious photos and video chips insides the card. How could I get them out before formatting the card?” – by Daniel 

“I have a D drive and every time i try to access a folder in that drive it keeps saying ‘Drive not formatted, do you want to format it now?’ But another partition under that drive works fine. I don't want to format it because I need the files. The drive also acts really slowly on any of the other files I click on. How to fix the problem and make my folder become alive?” – by Rose 
“My Western Digital external hard drive recently didn’t let me view the data insides. Windows sometimes won’t recognize it well thus each time I try to open it says disk in drive not formatted error. I followed it but very wired it won’t let it format. Any way to fix the error?” - by Jack

It seems this kind of problems happen more often on removable devices such as a pen drive, SD memory card, external hard drive, etc. It says you have to format the disk and but it won't let you format it. Instead, it shows you some weird errors. 

What are possible "culprits"?

  • The device is too old and may be corrupted after it shows its age. As you know like any other old technology, an external storage device has its own lifespan. And you never know when it's going to retire.
  • There are bad sectors in the specific area of the disk that is required for a file system, e.g. for a boot sector or the FAT table sector. Since the drive obviously can be fully accessed, Windows refuses to format it.  
  • Sometimes, you cannot format the drive to the FAT file system if it has been formatted to another file system which is not recognized by Windows.
  • Some incompatibilities in the drivers or BIOS result in such an error. It makes sense to try to format the drive on another computer. In most cases, the incompatibility problem only concerns the format procedure. Once the drive is formatted, it would work fine.

Solution to fix the format error

Step 1. Try the problematic hard drive or external removable media on another computer. See if the device can be accessed normally. This way helps clear the buffers and eliminates incompatibility issues. Sometimes the error disappears and you disk drive works normally again.

Step 2. If step 1 doesn't help. Try recovering the data with some free data recovery programs first. If you are under Windows, you can use PhotoRec, RECUVA, or Pandora Recovery. For Apple Mac OS, turn to the posting free Mac file rescue software I wrote earlier.

Step 3. After your files are recovered, follow those steps to try formatting the drive (if you are using a memory card or flash drive, connect it to your PC first). Go to My computer -> Properties -> Manage -> Computer Management -> Storage -> Disk Management -> select the problematic drive and then format it here. If this won't help, use this third-party HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool to format. It should work.

Step 4. It’s not over. If step 2 doesn't recover all of your lost files. Now you should try to re-use the data recovery software recommended to re-scan the disk to see if you can rescue more data. Note: a quick format won't erase the data permanently, learn more from this article for why.

That's all what I want to share. Do you find the solution? Will the message "The drive is not formatted, do you want to format it now" still appears? Or any new problems? Let me know, leave a comment below.

Copy Machine Security Risk: How to Prevent Your Personal Info Being Eaten

Information technology brings us huge security risk as well as great convenience. Never underestimate digital devices around you. The copy machine is no exception. It makes it easier to give away your personal information than PC and sometimes for free. I am not kidding. Those security risk posed by the copier should never be ignored.

Copy Machine Security Risk

Watch this video about the security issue first.

Confirmed The Security Risk - My Personal Experience

In order to confirm some facts as shown in CBS News, I came to a print shop nearby. Customers of the shop are mainly students from a university. During the conversation with the service person, I talked about the copy machine security topic intentionally to gauge if she knows something about it. At the beginning she was very open to talk about that and even showed some curiosity about where I heard about the news. But later with the topic went deep to the technical layer (such as the hard drive insides the copier), she became kind of cautious. From her implication, I’d better not let too many people know about the risk. Obviously, she was concerned about her business. The more students know the machine risk, the more risk the shop’s business is put in. Her concern is quite reasonable as her income relies heavily on paper copying or printing (such as students’ CV, activity materials etc.)

The Results:
1. It's true that nearly every copy machine is equipped with a hard drive like a computer does.
2. Also every copy or print paper is recorded as an image and stored in the hard drive. And the images can be exported and duplicated without needing the original papers. It means the students’ personal info insides the resumes can be leaked out.
3. Even if you command delete button through the copier to erase those copying records, they can be recovered with data recovery technology.
4. Most disappointed to hear that nearly 90% of the students know nothing about the security risk or copy machine hard drive issue. A survey held by SHARP in 2008 indicated that 60% of Americans don’t know that copiers store images on hard drives.

How Prevent Your Private Information

Now that you have known the copy machines are with high security risk, here are several tips that may help you protect your privacy as most as possible.

1. If possible take good control of your source papers. Better not print or copy those containing highly-private info on machines that you can’t control (such as outside copy or print shop etc.).
2. If you are in a company, take good care of the copier and don’t let unauthorized persons to access the attached hard drive.
3. Better stay away from leased or used copy machines. Do not sell or buy second-hand ones from or to anyone in case you get legal problems.
4. If you really have to give away the copy machines, wipe the hard drive data permanently.

How to Delete or Add Gmail Account on an Android Phone

If you are a Google fan and you are using a smartphone with Android OS, then probably you want to manage your Gmail account on your mobile device. How to add a new Gmail account to an android phone? Or how can I delete or remove current account from my android phone without leaving anything? Such questions may be what you want to figure out if you are new to the Android world.

Today, I'll show you a step by step guide to help you get that done. And I'll take Samsung GT-i5700 for example as I am using it right now.

How to Add a New Gmail Account to an Android Phone

  1. Open the Menu -> Settings -> Accounts & sync -> Add account.
  2. Then you will see 3 options (Corporate, Facebook, Google) for you to choose. Click "Google" and then you'll go to the section of "Adding an account".
  3. Click "Next" -> "Already have a Google Account" - > "Sign In". 
  4. Now your Google account has been successfully added. 
  5. Note: you can use more than one Google account on your phone (such as your home and work account).

However, sometimes you already have attached an account to your phone but want to remove/delete it when you want to resell the phone or have other personal usages with high phone privacy security. Well, it is also quite simple to get that done.

How to Delete Current Gmail Account on an Android Phone

  1. Still open the Menu, go to Settings option, then Account & sync, move to your account right under Manage accounts
  2. Click your account and you'll see Data & Synchronization tab. Move down to the bottom and you'll see Remove account. 
  3. Then it will hint this "Do you really want to remove this account? Removing it will also delete all……". If you have backup the data (Contacts, SMS etc), then just hit Remove account
  4. Depending on the situation, it may pop out a message warning "This account is required by some applications. You can only remove it by resetting the phone to factory defaults (which delete all your personal data)……"
  5. Then back to Settings -> Privacy -> Personal data -> Factory data reset. Click Reset Phone option and Erase everything.
  6. Then your phone will restart again and back to factory settings. Note: all your phone internal memory files (such as Contacts, SMS, Call log etc.) will gone, while the external memory stuff on your sd card will remain intact.

Deleting a Google account is a little more complicated than adding a new one, so better make sure you've backed up all your important data, just in case you may lose some data.

Truly Free Mac Data Recovery Software to Rescue Files on Mac OS X (updated 2016)

Today I am going to introduce several 100% FREE data recovery software for Mac OS X, NO Kidding. I notice that there are too many mac data recovery program providers claim their products are free to download or free to try, but eventually you'll have to take out your credit card and pay for it. Why? Because the trial version won't allow you to actually recover or save the found files you deleted or lost.

Usually the price of these commercial software is not cheap -- ranging from $50 to a few hundred dollars or euros. The question is: is it worth paying for such an expensive software that you probably just use once? In my opinion, it's not.

That's why I decide to write this post, sharing a few totally free Mac file recovery programs to help you retrieve accidentally deleted or lost files. Note: I've either used or tested the following apps on my Mac and they all work nicely, though some apps may not work for your data loss situations. Please read my note before you try. 

[Update on August 5, 2016: all the apps listed below support Macs with OS X El Capitan, Yosemite, and OS X 10.6 or above.]

Please note: if none of the apps listed below helps (or you are uncomfortable handling command line tool), and the lost data are really important to you. You may try some commercial Mac data recovery software, this article reviewed several great ones that are worth trying. If that still won't help, your last option would be to send your Mac or device for data recovery services.

#1 – Time Machine

Best to use for: recovering accidentally deleted files or folders on your Mac internal hard drive, provided that you've made backups before those files got removed. E.g. you emptied Mac Trash bin, formatted the disk drive, or partition became inaccessible etc.

Not sure if it's okay to put Time Machine in the first place as you probably have learned this method. Still I want to list it here as a reminder to you (especially those who are new to the Mac World) the importance of data backup. Unlike Windows PCs, Apple Mac OS X (soon called macOS) makes it convenient to do backups whenever you want. All Apple computers manufactured after November 2007 have been pre-installed with this powerful app - Time Machine. The utility is able to backup almost everything on your Mac hourly with the right setting.

You can easily recover data from Time Machine backup once you deleted or lost your some critical files such as applications, documents, photos etc. Learn how to set up and restore backup from this Apple Support page. This YouTube video made by MacAdvisor also shows how to restore your files from Time Machine backup.

Time Machine failed to help or you didn’t have the right backup? Go try a third-party Mac data recovery app. See below.

#2 – TestDisk & PhotoRec

Best to use for: retrieving Mac files when Time Machine fails to help, and you’re comfortable with command line (like old Windows DOS).
TestDisk was primarily designed to help recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks bootable again when these symptoms are caused by faulty software, certain types of viruses or human error (such as accidentally erasing your Partition Table). PhotoRec, the sister of TestDisk, is designed to recover lost files from external device (memory card, pen drive, removable disk), even hard disks and CD-Rom.

Simply put, if you have lost partition or strange problem with your Mac hard disk partitions, try TestDisk. To recover lost pictures, documents, videos, and other types of files, try PhotoRec.

Note: This free recovery tool is non-GUI software which requires to operate through command line. But it isn't that hard as long as you follow the corresponding instructions within the software.

#3 – Exif Untrasher

Best to use for: recovering photos (in JPEG format) deleted from a digital camera, memory card, USB flash drive, and other types of removable storage devices.
Exif Untrasher (version 1.5 as of 10/07/2014)) is able to recover deleted or formatted photos from external devices such as digital camera, SD card, CF card, thumb drive, external drive, etc. on Mac OS X for free. But, it doesn’t support recovery from internal Mac hard drive. So it's more like a free memory card photo recovery for Mac. And it can only be used to retrieve JPEG files (thanks to SoftwareHow for pointing out this). Digital photographers who are using Macs will most likely find it useful. The freeware requires Mac OS X 10.6 or higher (Yosemite and El Capitan included) and is localized with English, German, French and Italian.

By the way, if your lost files were stored on an external device, you can also use a Windows PC to try recovering the data. There are more freeware under Windows for data recovery purposes. For example, Recuva works great, Pandora Recovery is also nice.

That's all what I wanted to share. Hope you find these free Mac data recovery utilities useful. If you have any questions using any of the programs, or if you happen to come across another totally freeware or solution, let me know. Leave a comment below.

2 Ways to Password Protect or Secure a Word Document

If you are looking for how to secure or set a password to your MS Word document which contains sensitive data. The tricks below will be helpful to you. Today I am going to introduce two different ways to password protect a Word file (Word 2003/2007/2010) and make it with limited visibility. You may choose either to secure your Word doc.

Option One - Password Protect Word File with MS Office Feature

As a matter of fact, Microsoft Office (2003/2007) offers such function to add a password or security number to your Word document.

If you are running MS Word 2003 version, follow those steps to password protect the file or watch this YouTube video directly.

  • Open your Word document. On the Menu find “Tools” and click “Options”
  • Move on to “Security” tab. As you can see "Password to open" and "Password to modify"
  • Type your desired password to either or both options based on your needs.
  • Click “OK” and then it will ask you to retype the Open Password or Modify Password. Type it again and your document is password protected now.
If you are using MS Word 2007 version, then secure it this way or see this YouTube video.
  • Still open your Word file. Click File button on the top left. Find “Prepare” on the menu.
  • Under “Prepare the document for distribution” click “Encrypt Document”
  • There will be a dialog window ”Encrypt Document” asking you to input the password. Read the “Caution” below carefully and type the password. Click “OK”. Now if anyone want to access this document, a password is needed to open it.  

Option Two – Password Protect Word File(s) with Data Encryption Software

With internal MS Office password protect feature, you can easily secure a word document. However, the feature also has several drawbacks such as you can't password protect word files in batch. So if you’ve got quite a few private word docs and need to get them a safe lock, using data encryption software is recommended. There are many data encryption freeware which can do the job for you. Usually they will encrypt your word documents to an .exe file and require password access if anyone intend to open them. TrueCrypt is one of them that is easy and powerful. It's a free open-source disk encryption software for Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux. Later I will introduce more freeware regarding encryption.

Update: TrueCrypt says it is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues.

CCleaner Review 2016: It's More Than a Windows Registry Cleaner

CCleaner – a famous registry cleaner freeware designed by Piriform (also the provider of Recuva) now has been part of my desktop apps for years. It is absolutely powerful and quite easy to use (this seems to be Piriform’s character, I used Recuva and had the same feeling). However, I'd say CCleaner is definitely more than a PC clean utility. There are some more fantastic features you may be unaware of. Now let's start from the basic to the advanced.

Note: this post was last updated on July 26, 2016, a few outdated content has been updated to better reflect CCleaner's recent features and versions.

To download CCleaner (v5.20.5668 as of 19 Jul 2016), you can go to Piriform's official website or this CNET page.

Basic Feature – Clean Privacy

This function is the most frequently used one. It helps clear those footprints you left behind while running Windows or surfing the Internet. We can say it's a privacy cleaner. It can easily find those useless privacy files such as recently typed urls, cookies, history, caches, temporary files etc which you left behind when you are using browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome) or running other Windows applications. Simply click "Analyze" to find out those useless stuff and "Run Cleaner" to get rid of them easily. Note: this feature can help free up lots of disk space in GBs.

CCleaner works for Windows operating sytems. If you use a Mac, see this Q&A for best register cleaner for Mac.

Basic Feature – Fix Registry

It's quite normal to encounter registry problems as long as you are using a Windows PC. Those problems may cause some unnecessary troubles (such as unable to open IE browser or certain applications). Registry problems like missing DLLs, unused file extensions, unused registry key, installers and so on. Just click "Scan for Issues" and get them fixed.

Advanced Feature – Extra Tools to Enhance PC

Right below the "Cleaner" and "Registry", there are 4 helpful "Tools". Have you ever tried them? Do not ignore them as you may regret, hah.
  • Uninstall – You don’t have to go to Control Panel on Windows and uninstall programs unwanted. Instead, here you can easily remove them. Also you can Rename or Delete the Entries according to your preferences. 
  • Startup – Helps manage the auto-start programs when computer starts. If you want your PC to boot up more faster, disable those apps that you don’t often use.
  • System Restore – Remove system restore points.
  • Drive Wiper – as I wrote a post regarding free data file shredders, this Drive Wiper also one of the utilities that can be used to clean up disk completely. You may find it right in need when you want to donate a hard drive which contained your previous privacy or similar cases you want the information insides erased for good beyond recovery.

Advanced Feature – More Customized Options

In this area you have plenty of options to set up based on your preferences, such as keep some cookies you don't want CCleaner to delete, include or exclude files or folders to be emptied etc. One more tip: be aware of this "Secure Deletion" under "Settings". Usually I set it to "secure file deletion" even it is a little slower. I'll suggest you set it too, why? For your privacy security. When you select "normal file deletion", it's just another way to make those deleted files hidden as you may know it is quite possible to get them recovered with data recovery software (as many programs are capable of doing this). So set it to "secure deletion" and choose the passes you want. The more passes you select, the less likely to be recovered.

Pretty cool and powerful tool, I highly recommend.

How to Fix File Folders Become Shortcuts in Removable Media

Note: this post has been updated on May 23, 2016,  fixed a few broken links and altered outdated content.

Have you ever met this kind of wired situation? All your files and folders suddenly became shortcuts when you connect the removable media (say a USB flash drive, an external hard drive, or a SD memory card, etc.) to your computer and you try to access data in it.

The files and folders are supposed to be in size of MBs (Megabytes) or GBs (Gigabytes), but it just shows 1KB or 2KB if you check the property. You also tried the removable media in a different PC, same problem. So, what happened? How to make the file folders show up as usual? How to recover the files if they are gone at all?

In this post, I'm going to show you the possible reasons, and step by step fixes (most likely, it's a quick fix).

What are the causes?

You probably have guessed it. Yes, it's the virus or Trojans (like BUOUFO, QWERT etc) or autorun.inf worm. Your removable storage device should have been caught by them, the moment you connected your device to the infected computer. As a result, all the files and folders become "hidden". Sometimes you can make them visible again simply by switching to non-hidden mode, but sometimes that wouldn't work and eventually you have to kill those viruses or Trojans.

Continue to read...for step by step fixes below.

How to Fix Folder Become Shortcuts Problem?

To start with, do not format the removable media immediately. Because formatting will make the data insides much harder to be recovered, and the operation won't necessarily kill the virus. Also, sometimes it won't allow you format the device by showing not formatted error. For example the autorun.inf worm can stop a flash drive from being formatted.

Follow the right steps here:

Step 1: Check whether the files are  in hidden mode.
  • Click on "Start" > Run > type cmd and click OK.
  • Here, I assume your removable drive shows as G: Enter this command: attrib -h -r -s /s /d g:\*.* (replace the letter g with your the right letter your "removable drive" showed under "My Computer" or "This PC" if you're under Windows 10).
  • Now check your original files and folders. Are they normal?
Note: if you have formatted the drive, skip step 1 and go to step 2 directly. If step 1 doesn't work out, also try the second fix.

Step 2: Scan and remove malware.

If you have installed a security software on your computer, open it and have a thorough scan. If not, here are some tools to check PC health.

Make sure you use the Full Scan mode of an antivirus or anti-malware. Because usually the default option is Quick Scan. This way you should be able to kill those problem makers. After that, see if the file folders can be accessed normally.

No luck? Go to step 3.

Step 3: Format your storage device and retrieve the data with a recovery tool.

Normally, you should be able to format it under Windows with its built-in quick format option. Read this article if you don't how to do that. If that method doesn't work, you may need to use a third-party formatting tool to format your drive. Check out this SanDisk support post for more.

After formatting, you should be able to re-use your removable drive again. But, if you have important data saved in the disk, try to retrieve the data using Recuva (Pandora Recovery works too). Both programs are completely free to use without any function restrictions.

Do you find this fix guide helpful? Share your opinions in the comments below.