Got Backup?

How devastated would you be if your computer died right now, with no possibility of getting your data off of it? Hard drives and even solid state drives (SSD’s) fail. If you don’t back up your data on a regular basis, make it a priority to get a backup system in place.

If you’ve experienced a data loss due to drive failure, chances are that you’ve got a backup system in place. If you haven’t experienced a data loss, don’t worry, you’ll be a member of the club some day–unless you’re backing up your data on a regular basis.

These days a backup system is pretty painless–you can either back up to an external drive on an automatic basis (Time Machine for Mac or Windows Backup for Windows), or sign up for an online backup system such as Carbonite.

Backup drives are pretty cheap: you can get a terabyte drive for about $60. To make sure you buy one large enough, look at how much space you’re currently using on your computer and buy a drive that holds at least three times that. Once you have a backup plan in place, make sure you use it on a regular basis.

We have backup drives available for purchase through a departmental charge and are happy to help. A 1 Terabyte backup drive (sufficient for the vast majority of users) is $60 and a 2 Terabyte backup drive is $80, and a 3 Terabyte backup is $100. To buy one of these drives contact the IT Helpdesk, give us a departmental charge number, and you can stop by and pick up your drive. If you’d like assistance setting up a backup drive and starting the backup, make an appointment with an IT Tech through the IT Helpdesk at


Clean up that Inbox

Start out the new year with an empty inbox and a fresh quota by moving your old messages into Local Folders in Thunderbird. It’s quick & easy, and it’s so nice not to be looking at 3,000 messages in the inbox!
Email is usually stored on the mail server, which provides secure storage and regular backups, but also has limited storage space–you have a quota of 2.5 GB for email. We suggest that at least once a year you archive old messages into folders that are on your computer, which both declutters your inbox and frees up quota space.
There are a few things to consider before you do this

  • Messages that are archived in Local Folders are only available on the computer they are stored on. If there are messages that you need to access from multiple devices, don’t store them in Local Folders.
  • If you don’t have a backup plan for your computer and your hard drive fails you will lose the messages in Local Folders (along with all the other files on your computer).
  • Local Folders should not be used if your email contains highly sensitive information (see our policy for a description of Level III data) unless your computer is encrypted. If you’re not sure whether it’s encrypted, it probably isn’t.
  • If you use another mail client, like Apple Mail, there is a similar capability, but the terminology and steps will be different. We may be able to help you with this if you can’t figure it out.
  • If you use only WebMail to access your email but still want to use this technique, you could set up Thunderbird just to use as an archival tool. We can help with that.

These instructions are for copying a year’s worth of messages into one folder, but there’s no reason you can’t chunk it into a different time period if you like.

  1. In Thunderbird, click on “Local Folders” in the pane on the left.
  2. From the File Menu select “New Folder.”
  3. Give the folder a name. It’s a good idea to put the year at the beginning of the name, like “2017 Inbox”.
  4. Under “Create as a subfolder of” it should say “Local Folders.”
  5. Click “Create Folder.”
  6. Go up to your inbox, and find the first message from 2017 (or whatever year you’re dealing with), and select it.
  7. Scroll to the last message of 2017, and hold down the shift key while you click on it. You should see the messages in between all highlighted”
  8. From the Message menu select “Move To Local Folders”, and select the folder you just created.
  9. Thunderbird will begin moving the messages. There is a status pane at the bottom of the menu that will report the progress, but you can continue to work on your computer while it does it’s thing.

You can use a similar procedure with the messages in your Sent folder–there are often more messages in Sent than in Inbox because we don’t look at it as often.

There, doesn’t that feel better? Now, if only there were Local Folders for my office…


Emergency Notification Email Messages

With all of the emergency announcements going out (and more to come, perhaps!), we have received questions about the legitimacy of emails that show they are from “Hampshire College Alert,” with a “Reply-to” and “From” address of Rest assured that these are indeed legitimate email messages, sent through our emergency notification system provider. By using a third-party notification system we can ensure that emergency announcements are delivered even if all campus IT services are unavailable.

Learn more about the Hampshire College Emergency Notification System, including how to update contact information.


Tech Tip Extra: Mac Users, Stop those High Sierra Offers

If you have been driven crazy by the offers of upgrades to macOS High Sierra, here is my holiday gift to you: hide the upgrade banner, which should turn off the reminders:

  1. Open up the Mac App store.
  2. Click on “Updates.”
  3. Right-click or Control-click (hold down the “Control” key while clicking) on the High Sierra banner image, and select “Hide Update.”

If you eventually decide that you want to install High Sierra, just go to the App Store Featured page and look for it on the right.


Unplug Before Leaving

You may have seen the viral Facebook posting from a fire department in Oregon which showed the possible effects of plugging a space heater into a power strip. The space heater caused the power strip to overheat and melt. The original posting has been taken down, but you can find lots of references to it online. The moral of that story is that space heaters should always be plugged directly into a wall outlet.

With the College closing for break, we ask that you unplug any space heaters you have in your office area. When you return, if your space heater is plugged into a power strip–even one with a surge protector–find a way to plug it directly into a wall outlet.

It’s also a good idea, though for different reasons, to unplug your computer and associated electronics over break. If there is a power outage during the break it may result in a power surge when the power goes back on, potentially damaging anything that is plugged in.

With all that said, have a wonderful and safe holiday break!


Avoiding an Identity Crisis

If your Hampshire email gets hacked the first step is to change your password; if the hacker changed your password that won’t work, but you can contact the IT Help Desk at 413.559.5418 for help in that case.

Once you have changed your password, check your email identities on Webmail. Your identity specifies the name that email recipients will see on messages sent from your account, as well as other information including the reply-to address. This is important because your account may have been used to send out messages designed to look like they came from someone else, and if the reply-to address has been changed then you may not receive responses to email that you have sent out.

To check your identity on Webmail:

  1. Log into webmail.
  2. Click on the Settings gear icon.
  3. From the “Settings” panel on the left choose “Identities.”
  4. If there is more than one identity listed, and you didn’t create them, select the bogus one and click on the “Delete” button at the bottom.
  5. Carefully check your main identity (which can’t be deleted), to make sure that the information is correct. If the Reply-To field is blank it will default to use the “Email” field, which is fine.

Keep in mind that even if you use Thunderbird or some other email client to access your email that your Webmail is still accessible to hackers when your password is stolen.