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Malicious Software Removal Tools. On Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2005 Microsoft is releasing its first version of a malicious software removal tool. It is pre-programmed to zap 10 of the most virulent worms and viruses, including Blaster, Sasser, MyDoom and Nachi. The tool will be released as a "critical" download and updated once a month as part of Microsoft's scheduled software patch cycle. In the event of a major worm or virus outbreak, Microsoft will push out updates for the malicious software removal tool outside of the monthly cycle. The tool will also be pushed out to Windows users as a download through the Microsoft Download Center. Customers who have Automatic Updates turned on will automatically receive the download. The tool is programmed to scan a PC for infections of known viruses, but it is not intended as a substitute for full anti-virus protection. After a scan is conducted, the Microsoft tool will present color-coded results: a red 'X' for an infected machine or a green checkbox if nothing is detected.

Oh...Anti-virus vendor McAfee Inc. also provides a similar tool called Avert Stinger. Stinger, available as a free download, uses scan engine technology, including process scanning, digitally signed DAT files and scan performance optimizations, to disinfect systems.

Changing the Screen Resolution.  Sometimes I have a hard time seeing some of the text and icons within Windows. Changing the screen resolution in Windows XP to something more suitable might make things easier than trying to wear my bifocals using the computer.
Simply put, the screen resolution decides how much screen space is available to you, and this impacts the size of objects. The higher the resolution, the more space you will have and the smaller objects like icons will appear. Lower screen resolutions will make everything appear larger, and will reduce your desktop space. Some computer users use a lower screen resolution in order to see things clearly.
You can easily change the resolution.
1. When youíre at your normal Windows desktop (where your wallpaper and icons are), right click on a blank space of the desktop and select Properties in the menu that pops up.
2. Click on the Settings tab in the new window, and youíll see a slider control which lets you alter your screen resolution.
3. Drag it down to something like 800x600 or 640x480 and apply the changes to see what everything looks like. If youíre able to see things much more clearly then click OK. If not then change the values again until you find something you're happy with and click OK to close the window.

Changing Default Folders.
If you have ever saved an e-mail attachment in Outlook, you will notice that it automatically defaults to the My Documents folder. If you don't want to save there you can change the folder.
In the Save Attachment dialog box, there are a set of icons along the side that you can use when saving your attachment. For example, you can click the Desktop icon if you want to save an attachment to this location. So instead of having to browse to a specific folder each time you want to save an attachment, why not add the folder to the list of icons?

  • All you have to do is browse to the specific folder in the Save Attachment dialog box.

  • Highlight the folder and click the down arrow beside the Tools option.

  • Select "Add to My Places."

  • Now when you want to save an attachment to that specific folder, just click the icon along the side of the dialog box instead of having to browse to it.

Free Trial Software.
Microsoft has offered free trial versions of many of their programs for years. But the big trick has always been to know about it and to find the download page. Microsoft for all their ability to sell, sell, sell has real problems getting the message out about free, free, free (albeit for a short period of time.) Interested? Try their download page by clicking here.

XP Update.
If you use Microsoft Windows XP, you know that you need to update it. Did you know that the download can be 60-80 Mb? That's a 6 to 10 hour download on a dialup connection. But you can order a CD with the update on it for free. Just go to Microsoft's site and place your order. It's Free!

Desktop Icon Layout.
I don't know about you, but various programs on my computer more or less demand different screen resolutions. And every time I change screen resolution, my desktop icons get all messed up and it takes too much time to rearrange. This lightweight application does exactly what it says. It installs a context menu that appears when you right-click on your desktop. Make sure the icons are placed in the appropriate positions, and then click on Save Desktop. If your icons ever get messed up, all you have to do is click Restore Desktop to bring back some order. Free download - only 77K from Softwarium.

Microsoft has a e-Security Guide for Small Business available for downloading. It has tips, tricks, and how-to information for protecting PCs. Get 10 steps to better security, answer 22 questions to diagnose and learn about security related to your business, and how to write a security policy. Though targeted to small businesses, some of the advice could help those with a small home network.

Belarc Advisor.
Three or four times a year I get a call to repair a computer which has gone south for an extended holiday. Usually it has been infested with a variety of spyware, adware or viruses. Usually it is from children of the owners - not always young children but often adult children who just "have to" use the computer as they visit for the weekend or so. The biggest problem with formatting a hard drive and then reinstalling is determining exactly what hardware is installed - modems based on chipsets, video cards based on chipsets and so on since finding drivers after the fact can be a real pain. And since, as often as not, the original CDs have gone missing. The second biggest problem is getting the CD-Keys for the software that has to be reinstalled. My solution is a lovely free program called the Belarc Advisor. It'll tell you everything! All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.

Saving Microsoft's Product Activation for XP.
ďHave you ever wanted to reformat the hard disk and reinstall Windows XP on a system but you didnít want to mess around with Microsoftís Product Activation after the reinstall? Fortunately, you donít have to.
As long as you arenít making any hardware alterations, you can back up the activation status files before you reformat the hard drive and then restore them after you reinstall the operating system.
To perform the backup, follow these steps:
1. Use Windows Explorer to open the C:\Windows\System32 folder.
2. Copy the Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak files to a floppy disk or CD.Ē
From the TechRepublic Windows XP Tips newsletter.