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Originally published Friday, September 27, 2013 at 4:08 PM

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Do deleted emails live on?

Is the NSA siphoning emails to some giant server farm? There’s no evidence that’s happening, says Patrick Marshall, but also no way to ensure absolute security — so think carefully before you click Send.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Gus, Windows XP is actually still supported by Microsoft, and they will continue to upd... MORE

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Q: I was watching a TV show and they said that when you delete email it is not really deleted, but goes to a big server somewhere in Texas.

— Donna

A: When you delete emails, the service provider is supposed to delete them from its servers. Do service providers actually do so? I couldn’t say.

But I haven’t heard of instances where they were retained, at least not intentionally. Is the NSA siphoning all emails to some server farm in Texas? It wouldn’t surprise me.

But, again, I haven’t seen any evidence of that.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit advocacy group, recommends that you configure your email client to delete emails from your service provider’s server once you download them. Of course, if you’re using a Web browser to access the email directly on their server, those emails will be there until you delete them — and even then they may be stored temporarily in a “deleted mail” folder for a specified number of days. In most cases, users can change that number of days.

The EFF also suggests that the best protection is to carefully consider what you want to commit to any form of communication before doing so, since it’s virtually impossible to ensure security.

Q: I’m writing for guidance from you about a runaround I seem to be getting from Google over the Chromecast device. I’m having difficulties, so I contacted Google support. A young man tried to help and went through an extensive checklist before telling me the matter would be referred to his supervisor and likely Google would send a replacement.

Since then I have received several emails asking specific questions about my router, etc. I have answered all, and today I received a lengthy email with a series of questions and a link to a Google support site (which only listed problems with specific routers, and mine was not listed). In addition, the email requested the same info I had provided over the phone and via email.

Have you heard of difficulties setting up Chromecast with an iPad?

How much time should I give this runaround? I only have about 10 days before I cannot return it to Amazon.

— Margaret Walthall

A: No, I haven’t been able to find any sign of significant problems installing Chromecast on an iPad.

I hope that one of the questions the folks at Google asked was: How old is your iPad? Chromecast works only on iOS 6.0 or higher, and that was only introduced in late 2012.

So the first thing I’d check is the version of the operating system on your iPad. If you need to upgrade the operating system, you can go here for instructions: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4623.

Oh, and if you’re worried about the timing, why not return it now and then buy it again? You’ll have more time to see if you can get it working.

Q: I have a Dell D610 laptop running Windows XP SP3, and it is more than adequate for my present needs while I debate/wait to update to Windows 8. I have faithfully updated system programs from the Microsoft update site, and I run McAfee, Webroot Spyware, SpyBot & Malwarebytes in the background or as needed to check for nasty visitors.

The problem is that sometime in June or July I was severely attacked, and since then Windows Help Service and System Restore are not available (I’m instructed to start the service, but it is nowhere to be found). Otherwise, I can use the laptop for word processing, spreadsheets, email and Internet without any issues.

I propose to backup my hard drive and restore the registry. If that works, great; if not, I will likely need to reinstall Windows. If I am on the right track, could you point me to a resource that will guide me in wiping my drive and reinstalling Windows and related programs?

— Gus Ayala

A: Actually, Microsoft offers a guide to reinstalling all versions of Windows, and part of that process includes, optionally, reformatting your drive. The one for Windows XP can be found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/896526 .

In general, however, I’d suggest that it’s time to upgrade to Windows 7 or, depending on your preferences, Windows 8. They are definitely more secure than Windows XP, which is no longer updated and supported by Microsoft.

Before moving to upgrade, of course, check to see if your computer meets the system requirements. The requirements for Windows 7 and 8 are virtually identical, with both calling for:

• 1 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

• 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

• 16 GB available hard-disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

• DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

You may need additional memory or disk space to use certain features.

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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