Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Last day of 2007–Holiday Edition

Well, we’ve survived another year, and it’s time to make our “resolutions” for the new year. 2007 was not a very good year for those of us concerned with computer and network security– the number of reported infections doubled from 2006, spam and phishing attempts are at record levels, and the experts are beginning to admit that current anti-malware technologies simply cannot keep pace with the hackers and e-criminals. No one is predicting that these trends will improve anytime soon.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the Internet is one vast chain of linked-together computers; so I ask you to “resolve”– for the coming New Year– to ‘strengthen’ the link that is your computer. To help, I am re-posting an article originally titled “Top 10 Things to do to your computer” which is an amalgamation of the advice I have published in prior articles. It contains links to specific instructions for securing your PC.
Today is the last day of my ‘vacation’, and Tech–for Everyone will resume tomorrow. Again, I sincerely hope you are all having a safe and a happy holiday, and you have my very best wishes for a prosperous new year. My online Tech Support business
is open as usual.

There are several things a PC owner should do to have a healthy computer and be safe(r) from online cyber criminals when they browse the Internet. Not surprisingly, I have covered these topics/items over the course of writing this six-days-a-week series of articles.
I have noticed (from my stats) that not too many folks are looking through past (archived) articles, nor are they using the Search tool to find this previously posted advice and help. So I thought I would put the more important ones into a single list — a “Top 10 List” — and provide direct links (blue text) to the articles which cover the How To steps of making these things happen… and provide you with a simple way to find out what you need to do, compared to what you’ve done already. In case you missed one, or two.

Tip of the day: Run down this list, and ask yourself, “have I done that?” to each one.

1) Install an antivirus, and keep it up-to-date (with the latest “definitions”).
To read my articles on malware, click here. To see a list of links to free antivirus programs, click here. To read my article on how to configure your antivirus for maximum protection, click here.

2) Install two anti-spyware apps, with one having “active” shielding.
To read allmy articles which discuss spyware, click here. To see a list of links to free anti-spyware programs, click here.

3) Installed a 3rd Party firewall OR turn on the Widows Firewall. Preferably, the former.
* If you have a home router or Wireless AP, make sure the firewall feature is enabled (NAT).

4) Enable Automatic Updates from Microsoft (and either set it to automatically install [for the non-geeky] or to prompt for install [for the hands-on type]) and set your programs to “automatically check for updates”.
And then actually click on the “Install” button when told there are updates available.. and not tell them to go away, you’re busy.

5) Password protect your User Accounts.

6) Make a (monthly) system backup.. or at least a “files and settings” backup.. and store a copy — on two different types of media — someplace other than your hard drive.
To read all my articles on backups, click here.

7) Upgrade to IE 7 and/or an “alternative” Web browser (like Firefox, Opera, or Avant). Click here to read my articles on browsers and browsing.

8: Use strong (and complex) passwords. Everywhere. And change them every so often.

9) Rename the Administrator account.

10) Tell Windows to show file extensions.

* (Windows XP) Use the NTFS file system, and disable Simple File Sharing.

* (Laptops) Encrypt your hard drive.

There is more you can do to optimize your PC (of course) and the odds are good that I have told you the steps in a prior article, as I’ve written well over a 150 of them– so far, and I invite you type the word “optimize” into my Search box and see what comes up. Also, my Tag Cloud can help you find topics that can help– click on a word in the “cloud” and see the articles I have “tagged” as being relevant.
I hope this find-it-in-one-spot review has been helpful to you.

Today’s free link: By clicking the links above, you will see all the previously posted downloads, of which there are many. And also, there are links to more free links in no’s 1 and 2 above.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 31, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, Backups, computers, how to, PC, privacy, security, tech, Windows | Leave a comment

Soggy Holiday musings

Technically speaking, Tech–for Everyone is still on vacation. But I think today that I will jot down a few thoughts on the state of computer gaming, football…and maybe publish a new free link. For those of you who would prefer to see the re-posted prior Tips & Tricks article (one you may have missed) which I would normally have published here, click here. Again, I sincerely hope you are all having a safe and a happy holiday. My online Tech Support business is open as usual.

I am a guy. And when I say “guy”, I am basically saying, “a big kid”. Because I am a guy, I like football and I like video games — as Loyal Friends and True already know. So I was delighted when Santa delivered to me the latest release of my all-time favorite FPS, Call Of Duty 4 from Infinity Ward (and released by Activision).

As happy as I was to get this new game, and as much of an admirer of the good folks at Infinity Ward as I am, I was disappointed when I actually played the game. This latest installment exemplifies the direction in which games are evolving, and I think the gaming companies should take a second look at some of their decisions.

First, let me say that I was not disappointed enough in CoD 4 to tell you not to get it. That’s not what I’m saying. CoD 4 is (to me) a “must have” if you’re into the combat genre. Its graphics are impressive and it’s a blast to play. But. (Have you ever noticed, in life, how many unsaid “but”s there are?)
Let me preface this transitional thought here with a reminder that I am a computer geek: I play my video games on a PC, and not a game “console”. I have a ‘souped up’ computer to play these games on (although it is getting elderly, and by that I mean it is about a year and-a-half old) — it has plenty of RAM and dual 256MB graphics cards. Please keep the PC angle in mind when considering my critique.

1) Is it just me, or can everyone complete a new game in less than a day?
This is my biggest disappointment in Call of Duty 4, specifically, and the new games in general. I have been playing computer games since their inception (Star Trek on a teletype terminal) and I think this progression will state my case clearly enough: It took me about a month to get to the final scene in Duke Nukem 3D (1996), and to this day I don’t believe I have found all the secret locations: It took several days — almost a week — of intense sessions to get to the final scene in the original Call of Duty (2003): and it took about 5 hours to complete Call of Duty 4 (2007).
Quite a bit less “bang for my buck”, wouldn’t you say? And over far too soon.

2) Too durned big. Call of Duty 4’sinstall required 6 GB’s of hard-drive (six!), and is the first game that required so much effort from my dual graphics cards that I found myself accepting the relatively mild defaults (such as 800 x 600 dpi) to keep up a playable frames-per-second. Typically I can crank up the resolution and turn on every special effect (every “bell and whistle”) to its highest setting. My system is no slouch. This means the average person, with an average PC, simply cannot play CoD 4 (..and for those of you who are wondering, I have dual 7600 GT’s).

3) There are glitches in CoD 4 because it seems pretty clear to me that there’s been a major shift in the way games are being written (I could be wrong here). It used to be that games were written for the PC and then “ported” to run on the various consoles, and that now the reverse is true– a new title is written for one, specific game console and then “ported” for other platforms. If I’m right, this is a colossal mistake in strategy (which will ultimately hurt sales).

I believe all these things are due to a desire to make the graphics in games as “realistic” as is technologically possible. In the past, this has a been a “good thing”, and because of it we are no longer looking at two-dimentional Ms. Pac Man-type graphics…

but are can wander through very realistic ‘virtual’ environments that are quite impressive in their ability to make you feel like you’re there.

But I think too much is being sacrificed to attain this level of “realism”, and I for one, would rather have more maps/levels, secret rooms, and a longer game than a short game with accurate shadows. (For instance, there is no ‘level’ in CoD 4 where you get to drive a tank, a feature expected from earlier releases.) And, yes, I know, it is this evolution which has pushed the development of other PC technologies… but.
As a point of reference, I have developed a new sense of admiration for Far Cry (2004) from Ubisoft, which seems to be the perfect blend of reasonable realism and (seemingly) endless maps and challenges.

And now to football:
Having been born and raised in SF Bay Area, it is only fitting and proper that I am a 49ers fan.
Man… what can I say? It a job that it is getting harder and harder (and harder) to do.

It is somewhat comforting that there seems to be only two really good teams this season. But (there’s that “but” again!) something has changed in football, and it hasn’t been for the better. The refs are changing the outcomes of games more than ever before. “Parity” is a joke. Certain “football fundamentals” seem to have vanished from the scene. It seems — to me — that football has become “entertainment” and not a Sport. There has been… some sort of vague decline which I cannot put my finger on.
Perhaps I am just becoming an old fart… but I haven’t been enjoying watching football (for some years now) like I used to, and it is not simply because the niners aren’t the “Dynasty” niners any longer.. it’s something else.
There..enough kvetching for one day. Anyone else thinking these things… or am I all wet?

Today’s free link: for those of you for whom the Ms. Pac Man screenshot brought back nostalgic and happy memories, or for those of you who prefer arcade style games, download Mega Mario. Featuring the Mario Brothers — first introduced in Donkey Kong — this classic arcade game works on all versions of Windows.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 29, 2007 Posted by | computers, Gaming, hardware, PC, tech, Windows | , , , | Leave a comment

How to remove McAfee/Norton–Holiday Edition

Tech–for Everyone is taking a short break for the Holiday, and I am re-posting a prior article. This post appeared 10/1/07. I sincerely hope you all are having a safe and a happy holiday. My online Tech Support business is open as usual.

When you purchase a new computer, the chances are good that it will come with an Internet Security Suite pre-installed which will protect you for a “trial period” of, say, 60 days. When the trial period ends, so does the suite’s ability to download new anti-malware “definitions” (also known as “signatures”) unless you purchase a year’s subscription. Once you are no longer getting the updates, you really are not protected.

The two companies that do this new PC pre-loading the most are McAfee and Symantec. They do this in the hopes that you will not educate yourself about other (often free) products, that you will not seek out and install a more effective anti-spyware/parental control/spam filter/etc., and simply submit and send them your $30 (or whatever it is) each year. It’s not a bad deal, if you decide to go that way.
Some people do subscribe. The vast majority simply let it lapse, and then just ignore, and close, the warning dialogue windows that pop open from time to time urging them to get protected. They think, “some protection is better than no protection, right?” Well… no!

Eventually these folks get tired of the pop up warnings, and decide to just remove the security suite, and I don’t blame them. (Do they install a replacement(s)? I certainly hope so!) So they go into their Control Panel and then to Add/Remove Software and try to remove the suites (of programs). And why shouldn’t they? That is how you uninstall programs in Windows… and what both McAfee and Symantec’s websites’ tell you that’s what you should do.

It won’t work. Both products will only partially uninstall, become unusable, and now instead of “get protected” pop ups, you will get a bunch of error messages.

Tip of the day: Properly uninstall expired security suites. Both McAfee and Symantec acknowledge that Add/Remove Programs doesn’t always work at removing their products, and they offer special tools as downloads to do the job. These tools are the way to go when the time has come to remove their products.
These downloads are buried rather deep on the websites and aren’t highly advertised, so I will provide direct links. It is only fair to warn you that these tools remove all of each company’s products from your machine… but that’s the point here, isn’t it?

Today’s free link(s): The McAfee tool is the MCPR; McAfee Consumer Products Removal tool.
The Symantec remover is the Symantec Norton Removal Tool.

Please note:it is very important that you run up-to-date anti-malware products on your PC, and I have written several advice articles on this topic and provided links to the better free tools available, which you can view by clicking on the appropriate keyword in my Tag Cloud. I have posted a more complete listing of free downloads on my website.

 Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 28, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, how to, PC, security, tech, Windows | , , , | 1 Comment

Holiday Edition: portable word processors

Tech–for Everyone is taking a short break for the Holiday, and I am re-posting a prior article. This post appeared 10/19/07. I sincerely hope you all are having a safe and a happy holiday. My online Tech Support business is open as usual.  

One of my more popular articles discussed using a thumb drive to run applications (to read it, click here), and my two previous articles discussed Microsoft Word (click on “MS Word” in the Tag Cloud), which led to two reader questions which I think are worth posting — in the Q’s and their A’s format.

Q: Is there a version of Word I can run on my U3 thumb drive?
A: There are tremendous advantages to running programs from a thumb drive (particularly when using someone-elses’ computer), and there are many programs already developed that are designed to do this, which are called “portable”.
The answer to this question is: no… and yes. Microsoft has not released a portable version of any of the programs in the Office suite, and I have not read of any plans to do so in the future. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot find warez and hacks out there. Loyal friends and true of this blog know that I would never advocate advocate the use of this kind of software; aside from the question of legality, the security risks are simply too great.

That is not to say you cannot run a word processor from your thumb drive. If you have loaded your thumb drive with the Portable Apps suite, palogo.jpg(wildly popular, and previously recommended here) you already have the free Open Source suite of programs called Open Office which includes a “clone” of Word called “Write”. This works so much like Word (and can open Word docs) that there’s practically a zero learning-curve.
Users of the U3 system of thumb drives u3logo1.jpgcan download Open Office to add it to the installed programs. To do this manually, visit, which will show you all of the U3 programs available– listed by category. But the easiest way is to plug in your thumb drive and launch the U3 “Launchpad” from the System Tray, and click on the “Add programs>>” link.

[Update: Bill Mullins has brought to my attention a program for running apps on your thumbdrive that seems superior to others I have mentioned. To read his review, click here.]

Q: Can I use portable Write to read Word documents?
A: The two main portable word processors (and there are others, if you’re the experimental sort) — Open Office’s Write, and the platform-independent AbiWord— allow you to open, and edit MS Word documents. They also allow you to Save to HTML, PDF, and Word formats (this step is taken in the Save As menu) which allows you to send your documents to anyone.
And the best part? These programs are free!

[I also wrote an article which explains the steps for installing regular, not “portable”, programs onto a thumb drive:]

Today’s free link(s): You needn’t put these word processors on a thumb drive to use them (and get to know and love them). Click the links in the paragraph above to get free word processing power.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 27, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, MS Word, PC, tech, Windows, word processors | , , , , | 1 Comment

Holiday Edition: e-mail for breakfast

Tech–for Everyone is taking a short break for the Holiday, and I am re-posting a prior article. This post appeared 10/30/07. I sincerely hope you all have a safe and a happy holiday. My online Tech Support business is open as usual. 

One of the very first things I do in the process of starting my day is I check my Inbox(es). It is as much a part of my routine as my morning cup of coffee. This morning, it struck me that you do not have to be a computer geek to realize and appreciate that electronic communication has become an important — if not vital — part of our lives. And that it has changed the way we live.

If you will pardon a little self-indulgent reminiscing, I would like to tell you in a before-and-after method, that I am old enough to well-remember what it was like in the days before email, Instant Messaging, and cellphones: in my High School years there simply were no such things. (There were no ATM machines either, if you can imagine that.)
When I wanted to find out what my friends were up to, I picked up a Slimline telephone (with cord) and tried to catch them before they left, but I usually had to track them down by “making the rounds”, in person, of our ‘hangouts’…which put a lot of miles on my 10-speed. (No obesity here.)
Besides Ma Bell, the other method of communicating was the mail, now known as “snail mail”.
How we ever got along, back then, is beyond me.

Today the speed at which I transmit written correspondence is limited only by how frequently the recipient checks their Inbox. My pals answer their phones no matter where they are or what they’re doing (or their voicemail does) — who doesn’t carry a cellphone? I not only talk to my neice and nephew out on the East Coast, but I can see them via “videoconferencing” (free). Or I can “chat” with IM, no matter the miles of separation (also free).

But of all these modern methods, I rely the most on email. Email is the main way I stay informed and in contact with my friends and kinfolk, and the same is probably true for you. (For kicks, I challenge you to a little test: how long can you ignore your Inbox before it irritates? Could you take a week’s vacation… and never check it?)

Because I am an “email guy”, I am perhaps overly aware of the negatives of email. I am peeved by spam, alarmed by phishing, nervous about privacy, and paranoid about hackers and e-criminals. I have written a few articles on these ‘negatives’ and how to combat, and my “Tip of the day” today is; if you have not read them, to consider clicking on the following links.
Managing your email: eliminating the junk
Managing junk mail in Outlook/Thunderbird
They ARE reading your mail
How to block ads

It is my hope that the knowledge you find there will make using the modern miracle of electronic communication a more pleasant experience, as it is something we are exposed to daily… and would be hard-pressed to live without.

Today’s free link: If you are considering building your own website, or are interested in free WYSIWYG web-authoring tools, a nice tool is the free version of Web Easy Professional, by V-Comm.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved

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December 26, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, spam and junk mail, tech, Windows | | Leave a comment

Vista’s painless data migration tool–Holiday Edition


Tech–for Everyone is taking a short break for the Holiday, and I am re-posting a prior article. This post appeared 11/2/07, and the second half describes a very cool method to transfer your data and settings to a new machine. I sincerely hope you all have a safe and a happy holiday. My online Tech Support business is open as usual.

Loyal friends and true of this series may have the feeling that I have nothing nice to say about Vista. Today I’m going to prove that concept as untrue. I do have some nice things to say.

But first let me review some of the truths that aren’t so nice:
1) Vista is “resource intensive”. That means it’s big, and it takes a lot of RAM to run properly — Vista should be run on a dual-core CPU and have at least a GigaByte of RAM memory (fast RAM memory), and really should be run on two Gigabytes. And..

2) Vista doesn’t like really old devices. It is becoming easier to find device drivers for older hardware, and this ‘truthism’ is becoming less true, but if you have a really old device, (say a printer that attaches via a parallel port), or an old and never-was-popular device (say a very early Radio Shack TV ‘tuner’ card), then you should be prepared to buy a more up-to-date replacement.

3) The first “Service Pack” hasn’t been released yet.

Because of these facts (as I have mentioned before in such articles as Upgrading to Vista) I have advised my readers not to “upgrade” their existing (and therefore older) machines to Vista — especially without having first run the Vista Upgrade (Compatibility) Advisor tool. And I did warn folks that an Upgrade cannot be undone.
Why pay money for a operating system that will bog down, and your sound card and video capture card won’t run? That’s what will happen if you Upgrade a 2½-to-5 year-old PC. Just because it works dandy-fine on XP, doesn’t mean it’ll work on Vista.

No. Don’t Upgrade to Vista.. upgrade to a new machine (that has Vista on it). I stick by that opinion. Unflinchingly.

Vista is slick. It’s more secure. It’s going to bring us (eventually) advances in our video games. It actually competes with Apple. It doesn’t bury Settings so deeply nor hide them so well. It has new (to Windows) features. And…
1) It does some (most, actually) things better than XP does.

What do I mean? Well, recently I had the unique pleasure of installing a whole new network: everything was new — brand new Vista PCs, new WAPs/routers, and Gigabit Ethernet on Cat6. This was quite a bit of a different experience than adding Vista machines to an existing (XP-based) network.. or even of adding XP machines to a XP-based network. Granted, this was a SOHO network of less than 10 machines, and I wasn’t dealing with Active Directory, but the difference was night and day.

I was most impressed by the fact that each machine joined the network, and saw its neighbors, effortlessly. This was easy to see happening, too. Vista shows you a dynamic network map. Routers and the Internet were automatically detected.
Folder sharing worked as it should.. no strange Permission errors.. no “folder climbing”, as with prior editions. For you audiophiles, Vista and Windows Media Player (can) readily and automatically shares (like a server) each machine’s music libraries.. a couple of clicks, for that.

And this is what blew me away– all the machines were to share an older HP DeskJet. And the network’s owner didn’t want to purchase the equipment make a print server, but to use one of the PCs.. like most people do at home. So I installed the printer and then clicked on “Share this printer”, like I’ve done a thousand times before. Then I went to each machine and opened their Printer section of the Control Panel, and there was the printer! Whoa! All I had to do was make sure it was set as the default printer (one click).
Did I say, “blew my mind”? I was floored. No “Add new printer” wizard. No trying to browse to a \\XPmachine\HPDeskJet share. No error messages. Wow. This was Plug and Play the way it’s supposed to be! Too easy.
My hours spent installing the network was a mere fraction of what I was (from experience) reasonably expecting. Not good for my bottom line; great for Vista owners.

For those of you who have ever used a User State Migration Tool, or Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool, to migrate your data from an old computer to your new computer — or purchased a special program, or cable — you know that getting your new machine exactly as you had your old machine required some time and effort.

The owner of the new network wanted me to replicate his XP set up onto one of the new Vista machines, and the usual method has been to to use one of the techniques mentioned in the paragraph above. But I didn’t. I used an adjunct to Window’s built-in Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool, which will be today’s free link.
I downloaded this program to both his XP machine and the new Vista machine. Then I plugged his XP machine into the new network. Surprise! The XP machine was instantly seen and recognized. (Try doing the reverse, and see if the XP machines find the Vista..)
Then I launched the Windows Easy Transfer Companion on the Vista PC and followed the wizard. The two machines established a connection and the XP machine transferred its installed programs, and all the files, and all of the owners tweaks and settings (like bookmarks, and custom toolbars). All I did was watch.
This was, by far, the fastest and easiest user state migration I’ve ever experienced, and truly was like the title of this article — painless. Again, this is bad for a PC Tech’s bottom line, but great for Vista owners.

Today’s free link: When you buy a new PC, you will almost certainly want to transfer all kinds of things from the machine you’ve been using to the new one. Microsoft has “a companion” for the Easy Files and Settings Transfer tool called the Windows Easy Transfer Companion. It is actually a ‘stand-alone’. This tool not only transfers your documents and personalized Settings tweaks, but the programs you have installed. This is a huge time saver.
I did my transfer over the local network, but you can use the other methods of data storage to make the transfer as well– including USB thumb drives. [Note: while Microsoft still considers this program to be in beta, I experienced absolutely no hiccups or difficulties at all.]

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 25, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holiday Edition: Google’s “Pack” is a winner

Tech–for Everyone is taking a short break for the Holiday, and I am re-posting a prior article. I chose this one as the free download link may be particularly appropriate for some of you. This post appeared 11/21/07. I sincerely hope you all have a safe and a happy holiday. My online Tech Support business is open as usual.

I am a “downloader”. I get a real kick out of downloading cool and/or useful programs — particularly when they’re free. A lot of you are “downloaders” too, and one of this site’s more popular items is the daily download link I post at the end of each article.
I also like that when I am considering spending money on a program, I can (usually) download a “trial”, which I can use to see if it works as I hope it will before I lay out my hard-earned cash. By taking advantage of these trials, I have avoided spending money on programs which caused instability or bogged down my system or just failed to live up to their promise; and, I have found some great programs (games, mostly, but that’s just me) that I would not have found otherwise.

Today I want to tell you about a “package” of downloads put together by Google. This one download includes some of the programs I have featured in my “Free link of the day”, and a couple that I haven’t (yet). The one (included) program that caused me to write today’s article is Spyware Doctor. Spyware Doctor is a for-pay anti-spyware tool that has consistently ranked number 1, or number 2, on the Best Anti-Spyware lists (currently number one). It is well-worth the $30 price.
The Google Pack includes an effective, though smaller, version of Spyware Doctor, as well as an impressive list of other applications.


One of the truly great features of the Google Pack is that you can pick-and-choose which of these options to download to your machine. (You could, conceivably, download a “pack” of one.) The default selections are shown here, but I would do a little checking and unchecking before I clicked the “Download” button.

First, uncheck the “make Google my Homepage” as you probably have already set your desired “Home” for your browser.
Also, uncheck the box for Adobe Reader. If you must have a “reader” to open PDF files, use any other free reader (unless you enjoy being hassled while you compute, and prefer a slow boot), such as PrimoPDF (included at the bottom of this article).
Do not check Real Player.

Those of you who are security conscious (hopefully all of you) should keep the checks in Norton Security Inspector (which includes antivirus and anti-spyware) and Spyware Doctor.

I have mentioned the others before, except for Google Talk, which is an IM, and Google Photos Screensaver.. which I can see no use for.

For those of you who want to take advantage of this unique download bundle offered by Google, click here.

Free link of the day: (Yes. Another one!) Those free “trial” programs I mentioned above are not always such a wonderful thing– particularly when they are ‘forced’ upon us against our will. Whenever you buy a new computer, it will come preloaded with all sorts of trialware (as it’s called) that most of us don’t want.
If you have just purchased a new PC (or are about to), download and run the wonderful PC Decrapifier and clean off that stuff.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 24, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, computers, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , | Leave a comment