Q: Early last month when I opened Windows Live Mail to check incoming messages I found over 3,000 emails in my inboxes. Something had terminated all my folders and transferred the contents into my inboxes. My Recycle Bin, all my Deleted Files and Sent Items were also dumped into my inboxes. All addresses were deleted. The only thing I lost was the addresses. No error messages. Malwarebytes showed nothing. It took me 2 weeks to put everything back together.

I have had no additional problems since this happened. Why did this happen? What can I do to make sure it does not happen again?

— Bert M., Niceville

A: I hate to say it this way, because it sounds like this is normal operation of the software, but Windows Live Mail users do occasionally experience some, or even all of their folders disappearing. Typically, this occurs in conjunction with a Windows update or an update to Windows Live Mail itself, but it can also happen following the deletion of an e-mail folder. The exact “why” of why it happens is somewhat elusive. I suppose if that could be nailed down, we could reasonably expect Microsoft to take a shot at fixing it, eh? Especially since Windows Updates seem to play a large part in the problem occurring. Yeah, thanks, Bill!

I’m sorry you had the problem, but I do think you should consider yourself lucky that the e-mails themselves were not lost — just the folder structure containing them. As far as stopping the problem from happening again, I’m not sure you can with absolute certainty (see above). What you can do, though, is guard against it to minimize your losses if it happens again.

The best way I know to do that is to make a periodic back-up of your mail folders. That way, in the event of another, ahem, accident, you’ll only need to go back as far as the last backup. All of Windows Live Mail’s files are stored in a hidden system folder located under C:Users{USERNAME}AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindows Live Mail. A backup could be a simple as copying the group of folders that store e-mail on your hard drive to another location for safe keeping. From there, they could be restored back if necessary. There are numerous pages on the web that will show you how to back-up and restore your e-mail settings.

By the way, it’s possible that all your contacts (what you called “addresses”) were not actually deleted. They may still be on your machine, and Windows Live Mail might just looking for them in the wrong place after the problem you encountered. Contacts are normally stored in a folder path similar to the one I mentioned above for the e-mails, right up to the Microsoft part. After that, instead of Windows Live Mail the folder is Windows LiveContacts. Sorry I can’t be more help to you, Bert. Good luck!

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Geek Alert: New Credit Protection Law

As you probably know, the rampant theft of personal information continues unabated. One thing that thieves often do with this data is to open credit accounts in a victim’s name and merrily charge away on them. It can be several months before the victim catches on and has the account closed. The road for victims of these crimes can be quite a rocky one, trying to prove the charges were illegitimate and making sure they are not held responsible for paying-back all those bogus charges. And the damage to one’s credit can be substantial.

To help combat this problem, a new federal law went into effect Sept. 21. It mandates the three big credit agencies provide so-called credit freeze services for free. Also known as a security freeze, this action restricts access to your credit file, making it much more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.

There used to be a charge for this service, and the amount of time it took to lock and unlock your file varied from agency to agency. The new law mandates that the service must be provided for free, and standardizes the times by which the actions must be accomplished.

For more information, including how to contact all three agencies, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information blog at TinyURL.com/IGTM-0585.

To view additional content, comment on articles, or submit a question of your own, visit my website at ItsGeekToMe.co (not .com!).