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Originally published Friday, May 4, 2012 at 12:00 PM

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The good and bad to retrieving password

A parent buys a notebook for daughter but can't remember the password.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: I bought a new Hewlett-Packard Pavilion g6 notebook with Windows 7 Home Premium for my daughter. I created her name and the password, which I can no longer remember. Do you have any idea how I can retrieve the password? I can't open the laptop.

— Minviluz Macairan

A: The good news is you can download a number of utilities — some free — from the Internet. Just search Windows password retrieve.

The bad news is ... so could anyone else. If you want more security than just a Windows password, I'd recommend getting a laptop with biometric security, such as a fingerprint scanner, or using an encryption program such as BitLocker that will prevent access to the system unless you provide an appropriate key or token.

Q: I only use the calendar feature on Outlook. I had a virus, and my computer was repaired to remove the virus. Ever since the repair, when I try to shut down the computer I receive an error message: "Microsoft Outlook has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience. If you were in the middle of something, the information you were working on might be lost."

Each time, I uncheck the box for "Restart Microsoft Outlook" and click on "Don't send error report" and the computer shuts down. Do you have any idea on how to get rid of the error message when I am shutting down each day?

— Mike Jankovich

A: Whenever I run into unexplained error messages that are ascribed to a specific application, the first thing I do is ... nothing. In many cases, the message never recurs.

But in a situation like yours, in which the problem is chronic, I'd immediately uninstall and then reinstall the application.

Most likely, something has been removed or corrupted in the Windows registry. Reinstalling should fix the problem.

Q: Our computer was displaying what appeared to be our virus protection telling us it had found a virus and we need to "click" to activate our protection.

But it wasn't our virus protection! It was Smart Fortress 2012. We have McAfee virus protection. We were unable to do anything on our computer.

So we called McAfee. Long story short, they wanted $89 to remove this virus. I was furious that they were holding us hostage to the virus unless we paid them an additional fee. To me, it was as if I had bought car insurance, but if I got in a wreck, the insurance company said "Oh, you'd like to file a claim? That will be an additional $_____!!!"

I chose to go to a local company and pay it to fix our computer.

Its report states: "Getting spyware pop-ups. Unable to access device manager or task manager. Scanned for virus, none detected. Scanned for spyware/malware — found 4 items and 22 adware cookies and removed. Now able to access device manager now & no problems found. Task Manager runs now — resources OK. If problems persist may need a clean reinstall of windows 7 due to spyware/malware issues."

I am wondering if it's safe to use our computer now? We're in the process of changing our passwords, but if there's still malware/spyware left on our system, aren't we asking for trouble?.

— Wendy F.

A: From what I can tell, you're good to go — though of course, we are counting on the repair shop having done what it claimed.

Yes, the best I can tell, that is a fake anti-malware program. Next time, I'd recommend you go to to www.malwarebytes.org. Download the free Malwarebytes Anti-malware product. It can detect and remove the pesky program.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/

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