Ask Rick Maybury 2015



Ask Rick 349 21/02/15


Laptop Lockout

A recently deceased family member left me a rather nice laptop but I cannot get past the opening password box, let alone open Windows. The previous owner was elderly and as far as I know it was only ever used for email and Skyping, so there are no concerns about security. Are there any programs available that can crack this password so that I can continue to use it?

Michael Woods, by email


It sounds like the BIOS password, which prevents the computer from booting up. This is an option in the Basic Input Output System program that configures the computer’s motherboard and hardware immediately before the operating system (in this case Windows) is loaded. It is unusual for it to be set, though, as it provides very little protection. Data on the hard drive is easily accessed by other means, and most manufacturers set a so-called backdoor password, moreover there are a number of ways to reset the password to its default null setting. Lists of backdoor passwords, and other techniques can be found on the web; just Google the make and model number followed by ‘BIOS password reset’. However, first have a chat with the laptop manufacturer’s support department; explain the situation and only resort to other methods if they insist on charging a fee or are unwilling to help.



Unwelcome Visitors?

I run the website for a tiny Anglican Church in Leicestershire with 20-odd members. We do not get many regular visitors, apart from a several addresses in the US and UK. They visit the site every few days, sometimes twice a day. Apart from that they never contact us. Are they really interested in our church activities or are we under surveillance, and if so by whom?

A Freer, by email


I suspect that you have been using a web traffic-monitoring tool like This can tell you a lot about your site visitors, including their domain names or ISPs, geographical location, and IP address. A ‘Whois’ search of the IP address (try DNS Query at may reveal even more about their identity.


However, avoid drawing too many conclusions from this data. A fair proportion of your visitors will be automated ‘bots’ or software programs that endlessly trawl the web. At the low end of the threat scale they are search engines, like Google, updating their databases. More ominously bots also harvest email addresses for spammers, ‘scrape’ content for re-use on other sites, attempt to infect your site with worms and viruses and if the site has any advertising it could be Click Fraud, exploiting the pay-per-click (PPC) systems that generate fees from web advertising.


You can usually tell humans from bots by how long they are on the site. Bot visits tend to last just a few seconds and may be at regular times. Genuine visitors typically stay longer or skip between other pages on the site. Organised surveillance seems unlikely if, as you suggest, your site is uncontroversial but sometimes entirely innocent words and phrases can attract the attention of security services or be inappropriately flagged up by search engines, so double check the content to make sure that there is nothing that could be mis-interpreted.



What Happened To AutoText?

I recently made the giant leap from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 and on the whole it is going well.  However, I can’t find an equivalent in 8.1 to AutoText.  It was so useful being able to tap two keys and have a whole address come up, or a salutation.  Helplines and guidebooks have not solved this problem. Is it now called something else, or does it no longer exist?

Jane Anson, Oxford


AutoText is a feature in Microsoft Word, rather than Windows, and my guess is that you are now using Microsoft Office 2007 or later. AutoText is included in these versions of Word but it is a shadow of its former self, much harder to use, hidden from view, and no longer supported by other Office applications. Quite honestly you are better off using Word’s AutoCorrect function to automatically insert text when you start to type in a set of characters. If you want to persevere with AutoText and you are using Word 2007 you will have to manually add the button to the Quick Access toolbar. There are some easy to follow instructions on the Microsoft website at: In Word 2010 onwards you can find it on the Ribbon display; click the Insert tab and in the Text Group select the Quick Parts button.



Wedding Stinger

I've been sent an email with over 300 wedding pictures embedded within it as a list of jpg files. I can open any one of them with a simple 'click' but I cannot find out how to move/copy them all to one of my storage devices.

John Corfield, by email


This is probably a list of links to the contents of an album on one of the many photo-sharing services, like Flickr, Dropbox, Google Plus Photo, Photobox and Photobucket, to name just a few. Most of these sites have a simple to follow instructions for downloading single or multiple images and they should appear when you select an image filename or thumbnail. If not check with the sender that you have been sent the correct link for the album. Otherwise you may be able to download the images manually. Click to highlight the first link on the list then hold down the Shift key and use the down arrow key to highlight subsequent filenames. I suggest that you do it in batches of 20 or so to reduce the chances of the transfer failing so keep a note of the numbers. Next, right-click on one of the highlighted files and select Save As, specify a location on your hard drive click OK and repeat for the next batch.



© R. Maybury 2015 0902

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