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Read and Heed, to Avoid Needless Trouble

Though this guide is brief and Windows 98-centric, the concepts outlined here apply to the entire "currently supported" Windows family. A reasonably clear understanding of this information places you on the inside track to becoming a self-sufficient Windows User.

What, me worry??? Unless you compute exclusively in a corporate environment, and have in-house IT staff responsible for maintaining a secure and reliable computing environment, you should:

  1. Know what Microsoft Windows Critical Updates are and how to keep your system "current" With great regularity, vulnerabilities are discovered in various subsystems comprising an operational Windows. Once such a vulnerability has been discovered, armies of pimple-faced youths undertake to create a software tool (or develop the means to use existing tools) for exploiting that vulnerability. The product of such efforts is called an "exploit". Since these exploits often create an abnormal condition within the target computer in order to effect their skullduggery, there is a good chance your antivirus software will *not* detect the compromise. This is why anti-virus software alone is not enough!

    When Microsoft learns of a vulnerability, they release software patches that end users must apply to their computers to be safe from the latest exploits. These updates are referred to as "Critical Updates" and are available for free on-line at the Microsoft Product Update Site.
    Critical Updates, Step by Step
  2. Use the Critical Update Notifier, or check a minimum of weekly The update installation process is extremely simple, since it is mostly automatic. That is all well and good, but benefits you none, if you don't apply these updates in a timely manner. Microsoft provides a tool called the "Critical Update Notifier" which checks periodically for new critical updates for you to install.
    Critical Update Notifier
  3. Have a current version of an Anti-Virus Software Package
  4. Know how to determine the date of the package's "virus definitions"
  5. Know how to update, either manually, or automatically, those virus definitions
  6. Know how to determine the status of your Anti-Virus program, ie - is it loaded and functional?
  7. Understand that Viruses very often come in emails from people you know

Are you troubled by your computer's poor performance or instability? It's quite possible that simply stopping a few little un-needed programs from launching at startup is all you need! Visit Pac's Portal: Startups to identify from an extensive list of programs what you need and what you don't. There are complete instructions for preventing these unwanted startups for: Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows XP. Another reason you would want to identify these myriad little programs running in the background is that some of them will access the internet for various purposes... Often background programs that access the internet fall into a class affectionately termed: "SpyWare". They report your computing habits back to some data collection entity who will either market to you or sell your information based on what they can glean from your activities. Typically this SpyWare is installed when you download some neat free program from the Internet, or install some new peripheral you bought for your computer.

If you wish to maintain a Windows computer, there are a few Core Skills needed to perform elements of many tasks you will undertake.

This section of the site was started June 2002. As you browse around, you should get a good idea if the content will be useful to you. A section on Windows Troubleshooting, including selective startup to diagnose boot problems and the SFC (system file checker utility) to replace corrupted system files will be included.

This section is not intended for the Windows power-user, but it should be extremely useful to even the computer novice and will go a long way towards lowering your computer support expense.

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