Here’s a quick overview of the questions I hear most frequently, and some answers.

    What is AskWoody.com?

    We’re a one-stop shop for free tech support, with a newsletter and web site. Our roots are in Windows, but we’re expanding rapidly. The web site — the one you’re looking at right now — has more than a million questions and answers, and we have almost 150,000 registered users. More info.

    Who pays for AskWoody?

    Our subscribers – the AskWoody Plus Members. You can identify them by the gold ribbon on their posts. Most of what we do is free, but the AskWoody Plus Newsletter, Alerts, and Master Patch List are reserved for Plus Members. We work on the “name your price model” along with an ask for a minimum of $6 subscription fee for a single year, which means you get to decide how much you want to pay to become a Plus Member. If you value the resources of the site and the Master Patch list more and demonstrate that by setting your personal price higher than that, we thank you!!  More info.

    How do I sign up?

    You can use AskWoody.com without registering, but it’ll be easier for you if you go through the steps. Registering is free and easy — and you don’t have to become a Plus Member. Just click Register in the upper right corner. You’ll need a working email address, to respond to a confirmation email.  If you aren’t registered your posts won’t immediately be posted to the site.  Help is always available at CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com. More info.

    Who is CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com?

    Woody is still graciously volunteering to help me out in the area of customer support. That’s why it may take a while to get an answer. Sorry about that. More info.

    Why do I have two email addresses?

    We maintain two email addresses for every account. The first email address is for site notices — changing passwords and the like. The second email address (if you’re a Plus Member) is for the Plus Newsletter and Alerts. It’s possible to change each independently. To change your site notice email address, log in, click on your username in the upper right corner, then click Edit. Your site email address appears on the right, about halfway down the page. To change your Newsletter and Alert email address, look for the line at the bottom of each Newsletter and Alert that says “Update your email address.”

    Why can’t I change my username?

    You can change your display name — that’s the name everybody sees — but you can’t change your username because it’s the key that holds the database together. To change your display name, log in, click on your username in the upper right corner, then click Edit. Your display name appears on the right near the top. For assistance changing your username (you can’t do it by yourself!), contact CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com

    What information do you keep?

    The bare minimum necessary to keep the site running. We automatically keep things like your IP address, browser info, operating system, and the date and time you accessed the site. We also store your email address (see below). We only use this to see how many people visit our site and from where, and we will never use it to track or identify you. We will only keep other information if you want us to keep it, and we will keep it for as long as you want us to. Passwords are salted and encrypted (which means even if somebody stole them, they wouldn’t be able to read them). We don’t keep any financial information. More info.

    Why the old-fashioned site?

    A friend of Woody, who passed away many years ago, created it. We’ll update it one of these days. In the meantime, up at the top you see my current recommendation for installing patches, using the MS-DEFCON system. On the left side of the main page, you see tech news; on the right, you see pointers into the Lounge (or Forum) — the question-and-answer part of AskWoody.com. To follow along with the latest news, read the left side of the page. To ask (or answer!) questions, start on the right. More info.

    Can’t you just answer a simple question?

    For years Woody answered questions one-on-one as best he could until it struck him that there’s a much better way — answer questions out in the open, so everybody can see my answers, and offer other answers. That’s how AskWoody was born. So if you email any of the newsletter authors a tech question, tweet  to AskWoody, or a direct message, I’d honestly wish that you post it on AskWoody so that all can share the knowledge.

    Where do I post a question (or answer)?

    There’s no “general question” forum here on AskWoody. With a million posts, it’d get pretty crowded in there. Instead, you need to find a place for your specific question. Try looking at the Forums list (the tab at the top), or search the Lounge using the box on the right, or with Google using site:askwoody.com. More info. Find an appropriate forum then scroll down to the bottom, type in your post and click Submit. More info.

    What should I post?

    If you are asking for assistance in this forum, here are a few suggestions that may help those who are providing assistance:

    • Make sure your topic is in the right place.
    • Provide your operating system and version.
    • Write a complete description of the problem.
    • Include complete error messages. (Usually you can click on a Windows error message and hit Ctrl+C to copy it to the clipboard.)
    • Present remedies attempted and the results. If you’ve posted on another site, post a link.

    Why all the rules?

    To keep content in the upper end of the gene pool, we have rigorous rules — no personal attacks, no swearing, no politics or religion outside the Rants forum. More info. You’ll get best results if you register an account first, but you can post anonymously. Anonymous posts are moderated (reviewed by human beings), so if it takes awhile for your question to appear, it’s being vetted. Don’t put any personal information, including your email address, in your posts. More info.

    How do I put a picture (“avatar”) on my account?

    Go to Gravatar.com, sign in, upload a pic, and you’re done. Gravatar (which is owned by the same people who own WordPress, our web site software) links your WordPress account’s email address to their database on Gravatar. If the email addresses match, your picture appears — and not just on this site, but on every WordPress site. More info.

    How do I change my password?

    Log in. In the upper right corner, click on your username. On the left, click Account details. Password change is about halfway down the page.

    How do I change my email address?

    You actually have two email addresses: One for the web site (for, say, recovering a lost password) and the other is a delivery address for your AskWoody Plus Newsletters and Alerts, if you’re a Plus Member. The two email addresses are maintained completely independently. To change your web site email, log in. In the upper right corner, click on your username. On the left, click Account details. You can change your email address on the right. To change your newsletter delivery address, click the link at the bottom of each Newsletter or Alert that says, “Update your email address or password.”

    When does my Plus subscription expire?

    For now, you can either log in, click on My account (upper right corner), then click Subscriptions, or you can write directly to CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com. We’re working on an extension that’ll make it much simpler to see when your subscription ends, and to renew.  Please note that subscriptions are annual unless you are a lifetime member. There are times that this profile page CAN be incorrect and show a longer subscription than actual. Please email and we can straighten it out.

    Advanced Topics

    Should I update Windows or not?

    The short answer is Yes.  The longer answer is more about timing.   If you’re not at the “expert” stage, follow my MS-DEFCON posts — they’re designed to be generally applicable to all versions of Windows, as a simple red light/green light system. If you’re interested in more detail, and want to take on all the tech stuff, check out Susan Bradley’s Master Patch List. We generally recommend that you wait a  bit until any issues get identified.   More info.

    You mean you don’t recommend people shut off Windows Update?

    I never ever recommend that people turn off Windows Update permanently, but I do recommend that they delay updates every month until we have a feel for what bugs have appeared.  Especially these days, you are more likely to get attacked via phishing (a trick email used to entice you to click), than you are from a system that you wait a bit until updating. If there is an “in the wild attack” where you need to install a patch immediately, we’ll tell you. We follow those exceptions intently and keep you advised, here on AskWoody, in AskWoody Alerts (sent to Plus Members), and in my Computerworld articles. More info.

    I got a message from a moderator saying I have to change my username. Why?

    Back when we brought the Windows Secrets Newsletter folks into the fold, we set up accounts based on their email addresses. (That’s the only “key” we had.) That causes all sorts of conflict on the web site: When you ask or answer a question, your email address hangs out for all to see. Even if you’re not overly concerned about your privacy, I am. So we now require all posters to get a “proper” AskWoody account — one that isn’t an email address. Most folks find it easier to sort out by dropping a line to CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com. More info.

    Why does WordFence tell me that I’m blocked?

    Unfortunately, to protect the AskWoody site (which gets hit by hundreds of “bad actors” every day), we have an automatic block in place to reject attempts from specific addresses. In most cases, people who get kicked out automatically are working with a Virtual Private Network and you can get in if you leave the VPN. If the problem persists, go to whatismyip.com and send your IP address to CustomerSupport@AskWoody.com. More info.

    – Susan, Will, Brian and the gang.