Thursday, November 16, 2006

Windows XP tips for computer security

Here are a couple of tips to speed up your Windows XP computer and help keep you protected and secure online. First you need to control which programs load on startup: Many of the programs you install on your computer automatically configure themselves to launch at startup, usually invisibly. The truly essential ones, such as anti-virus and firewall products, generally run as services and run fine in the background. Other less important software like media players don’t need to be running continually.

These extra programs slow the boot process and then severely suck up resources like memory and CPU cycles. It is pretty easy to control which applications launch on startup. The System Configuration Utility lists all these applications in one place:

1) To get there: Click the ‘Start’ button then choose the ‘Run’ command.
2) In the text box type “msconfig”. - Across the top of the dialog box select the ‘Startup’ tab.
3) The Startup Tab lists all the programs that launch at start-up.
To disable any of these simply un-check the box on the left. Only non-essential programs are listed here it should be safe to un-check pretty much anything. If it turns out you needed it just go back and re-check it.
4) Once you are done re-boot the machine.
5) When the Desktop returns you will be presented with a window that says you have chosen Selective Startup. Just Check “Do not show this window again” and click OK.

To keep your computer secure, turn on automatic updates. Seems like every virus writer has nothing better to do then attack Windows operating systems. Keeping the system patches and security fixes is critical. During the setup of XP Service Pack 2 with a new computer or an up-grade you are asked whether or not to turn on automatic updates, if you made the mistake of checking no you can find this option in the Windows Security Center (Start / Control Panel) and change it back. Even with all its faults, XP is a powerful operating system that has many good security features.

Here are some more tips to help you get the most out of your operating system.
Remove Windows components not found in ADD / REMOVE. Many Windows components, things like Network Services or Solitaire are easy to remove through the Add or Remove programs configuration window (Start / ControlPanel / Add and Remove Programs / Windows Components). Simply un-check them, but … some things are deliberately hidden.

A good example would be MSN Messenger. To remove this from startup follow these steps:
1) In Windows Explorer (right click Start / Explore), navigate to C:\Windows\Inf and make a copy of Sysoc.inf.
2) Double click on Sysoc.inf and it will open in Notepad.
3) Press Ctrl H (opens Find and Replace) and replace the string ,hide, with ,, then save and replace the file.
Now all the hidden components will appear.
4) Then follow the steps above for removing programs from the startup menu.

To restore a corrupted system file: If a necessary system file should become missing or corrupted by a virus you can replace it from your Windows CD.
1) Go to Start / Search and type in the file name replacing the last letter with an underscore (ex. Filename.ex_).
2) If the file is found, open a command prompt (Start / Run, type CMD in the textbox).
3) At the prompt type expand followed by the full pathname of the file and destination (expand D:\Windows\filename.ex_ C:\Windows\filename.exe) where D: is the letter of your disc drive. If either pathname contains spaces surround the entire pathname with double quotes.
If the file isn’t found search again using the un-modified file name, it is probably in a CAB file, Windows treats these as folders, simply drag the new folder to the destination while holding down the right mouse button then select Copy Here.

Contact Computer Guys Live for further help with your computer repair and maintenance.
We offer reliable, top notch, tech support online, when you need it.

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Posted by Lone Bird Studio Ltd. @ 11:14 AM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Liar, Liar…Watch out for rogue software posing as anti-spyware.

Ever been tricked by one of those pop-up windows that says your system is infected
and you should download this ‘cure’ right now? I have, and I should know better.
But, I was in the middle of several tasks at once, I looked over and saw this warning
window. Now this window looked similar to a window I have seen many times. With-
out thinking I clicked the ‘OK’ button thinking this was a message from the security
system. I knew when I clicked it I had made a mistake. My eye caught the web address the page was going to, and it wasn’t what it said in the link. Now fortunately our “Pest Patrol” got it and I was ok. But the point is that one rogue program got by me.

The larger portion of issues causing connectivity or performance problems revolve
around spyware or the products to remove them. And most of the spyware we receive
is actually legal. The user agrees to install it when they agree to install another
product like a search bar or email links.

The big spreaders here are Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL but there are many others. These come in the guise of weather, news, RSS feeds, stock tickers you name it. They gather information on the sites you visit and send the user data back to the companies. Always be mindful of what you allow to download. Always watch what you install. Look for checked boxes, read the license.
Make sure you only get what you originally wanted. These components compete for
the online connection and the result is, of course, connection issues.

The spyware that got me above was fed to me by the web site I just went to. The browser window was re-directed to another window that looked like a warning screen. This is another favorite method to get spyware on your system. Pretend to be a product that removes it; wolf in sheepskin also known as Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Software.

Check out the website Spyware Warrior that lists many suspect websites and programs. They have a long list of names: Adware Agent , SafeWebSurfer, Spy-Block for example. Many of the names are designed to confuse them with legitimate software like Ad-Aware. The only real protection here is to use common sense and some healthy fear. If you didn’t order it or are not sure of it, then don’t use it!

The last performance killer is the spyware suites themselves. The newer ones are
so large they kill performance on older machines or machines with modest resources.
Also if one spyware scanner is good then two are better ... right? Wrong. If they
are both running in the background and using system resources they can slow the
system to a crawl.

The best thing to do is find one good program to scan automatically and use another one to scan manually. The one we use and recommend to run in the background is called Pest Patrol . Then we scan manually with the Ad-Aware scanner, which offers a great free program for personal use. Just make sure you update your anti-spyware programs and scan regularly.

Finally, always watch what you download and install and always beware and look closely when something pops up on your screen ... it may not be what it seems.
Contact us at Computer Guys Live for affordable online spyware scans and computer repair if your system slows to a crawl and you need professional tech support at your fingertips. Also, check out our handy Wireless Connection Guide for step-by-step instructions.
By Chris Kaminski, head technician for Computer Guys Live Inc., providing state of the art remote tech support to the USA.

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Posted by Lone Bird Studio Ltd. @ 1:16 PM

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