Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 245 23/02/13


Significant Other?

I have a 3rd Generation iPad with 32Gb of internal memory of which around 6Gb is free. The remainder is made up of a mixture of music, apps and photos but when synching my iPad with iTunes I see approximately 6Gb of memory taken up with something called ‘Other’. There seems to be no way of accessing this data and no indication of what it is. As it is taking up a considerable amount of memory can it be accessed or deleted?

Roger Vincent. By email


There isn’t a single reason for the build up of the mysterious ‘Other’ data in iPads and iPhones and it is usually a mixture of user generated files, photos taken on the device, data stored by apps, redundant files that haven’t been cleared and so on. There are couple of things you can try to get rid of, or at least reduce the amount of space it wastes. With the iPad connected to your computer, and with iTunes running, reboot the device by holding down the Power and Home buttons. If that doesn’t help carry out a full backup, wipe the contents if the device then Restore it from the backup. If you have never done this before there is an easy to follow tutorial on the Apple website at:



Free Protection

For a number of years I have followed your advice and enjoyed free protection for my PC using a combination of AVG and Zone Alarm. A year or so ago AVG asked to install an update and my free protection continued undisturbed. I recently received a similar request from Zone Alarm. However, it appears that I have installed Zone Alarm Pro on a month's free trial, after which I assume I shall have to pay for it. Can you suggest a free alternative to Zone Alarm? I am not a computer whiz, so I would very much welcome something plain and simple.

Michael Brooks, by email


Zone Alarm used to be just a firewall program but recent versions have included virus protection as well, so if anything you have been over protected. Obviously that’s no bad thing but I am a little surprised that AVG and Zone Alarm got on so well together as anti-virus programs can conflict with one another. Whilst free anti-virus programs like these still do a great job, these days I am more inclined to recommend using the Windows built-in firewall and install Microsoft Security Essentials (, which is also free. It has proved to be very effective, and who better than MS to keep tabs on Windows and react swiftly to newly discovered loopholes and threats? It uses relatively few system resources and has little, if any, impact on the performance of most PCs. It is also unobtrusive and I doubt very much (hopefully not famous last words…) that Microsoft will ever bother charging for it. 



Laptop Tipping Point

I have an old laptop, which is not worth repairing and which I intend to throw away but I was proposing to remove the hard drive and use it as a backup to my new laptop. Having removed the hard disk from the old laptop are there any further security issues that I need to be aware of before I take it to the tip?

Peter Wooler, by email


All of your personal and private data is on the hard drive and once that is removed all that remains is a box of anonymous hardware. Check that you haven’t left any discs in the CD/DVD drive and removed any memory cards, and make sure it goes into the appropriate container for recycling electrical goods, rather than the one for general rubbish or landfill.



Crash Course

I was interested in your reply to a recent query about a hard drive error message. Part of your advice was to retrieve lost data using a USB drive caddy, I appreciate that the reader's problem resulted from a software issue, but I wonder if a caddy can be used to recover data from a hard drive that has crashed, or does that mean that the drive is completely useless? 

Mike Herman, by email


A hard disc crash used to mean that the read/write head inside the drive had come into contact with the spinning magnetic disc, causing catastrophic damage. Modern drives are usually quite well protected against moderate physical shock so this kind of failure is comparatively rare, as are other most other electro mechanical faults within the typical 5 – 8 year working life of most drives. When a head crash happens partial file recovery may be possible but it is a job for a specialist and it can be very expensive. Nowadays a crash is used to describe almost any sort of hard drive failure, including something as simple as loose connecting cables, though this should be one of the first things an engineer checks. However, the vast majority of hard drive problems are software related and nine times out of ten it is due to a corrupt system file, responsible for communications between the drive and PC’s hardware, or booting the operating system. Either way files that you have created or stored on your drive (documents, images, media and so on) should be intact and readable on another PC using a USB caddy. Note that you won’t be able to move or copy installed programs to another computer and if the failure was due by a virus there is a chance that the infection could also be transferred.    



Key Question

I recently bought a second hand laptop and the keyboard has a very strange problem. All of the keys work individually and most work in the shifted mode, but some (shift 1,2,3,4 and a few others) produce no symbol. I've checked the language settings and sought help from HP, various forums and even re-installed Windows all to no avail. HP told me it was a hardware problem but I can't see how it can be.

Roy Sanderson, by email


I have to agree with HP and since you have eliminated virtually every other possibility the chief suspect has to be the keyboard, or possibly the ribbon cable connecting it to the motherboard. You should be able to find a reasonably priced replacement on the breaker’s yard for elderly PCs, better known as ebay.




© R. Maybury 2013 0402

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