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How to Move from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8

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So long, Windows XP! Here's how to get your files to your new laptop or desktop PC.

Computer Tips and Tricks
Mobile Office Technology Spotlight10

Spring Cleaning Time for Your Computer

Tuesday April 22, 2014

cleaning-laptop-intel.jpgI don't know about you, but this time of year makes me want to clean all the things. Including my laptop, monitors, keyboards, and so on. If you want to keep your computer humming along all year, a little maintenance outside and in will go a long way.

In addition to cleaning out the dust from your laptop vents (which can cause your hardware to dangerously overheat), this is also a great time to clean up your hard drive by uninstalling unnecessary programs, clearing out all the temporary junk files, and so on.

Here's a simple checklist and suggested programs for maintaining your computer and cleaning it up.

Help Build a Better List of Heartbleed-Affected Sites to Change

Monday April 14, 2014

Heartbleed Bug ListThis weekend I set about changing my passwords, thanks to the notorious Heartbleed bug that's got everyone in a tizzy. If you haven't caught up yet, this is a serious security vulnerability that affects (or has affected) major sites, such as Yahoo and Facebook, and if you don't change your logins for these sites, all of your sensitive information could be up for grabs.

The thing is, you should only change your password when the site is "all clear," and that means a number of things. For example, it doesn't make sense to change your password unless the site was vulnerable to Heartbleed (not all of them were), the site has patched the bug behind this (it appears in specific versions of OpenSSL, the open source encryption technology behind most of the world's web servers), and the site has updated and reissued its security certificate.

There are lots of Heartbleed-checking sites available, some with lists of which ones you should change your passwords for, but they might be incomplete, not include all of the necessary information, or have other flaws, as I wrote on ITworld.

Sadly, it's up to us to find out which sites individually have been affected and whether or not we should change our passwords for them. I've started this public Google spreadsheet after trying to change my passwords this weekend and figure out this mess. I'm hoping that crowd-sourcing the sheet will lead to better information than what we have so far, or at least it will be a starting point for you to update your important accounts (be sure to change the password to a strong one).

Please add to the list if you can, or just share it if you think it'll help someone.

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Your Windows XP Survival Guide

Tuesday April 8, 2014

You really shouldn't still be using Windows XP (seriously, just upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8), now that there's no more support from Microsoft for Windows XP against hackers and viruses. Still, if you plan on sticking with XP (perhaps have to for work), here are a few things you should consider to protect yourself/your data:

  • Unplug from the internet. If your Windows XP computer isn't online, you're evading most of the security threats. Don't know what to do with a computer that's not connected to the internet? You could always use it as a photo viewer, media streamer, and for other offline tasks.
  • Keep your antivirus and antimalware programs up to date. Everyone should always have the most current antimalware updates, but Windows XP users in particular need to be vigilant about this, since they're essentially sitting ducks. Many AV software providers are still updating their products even for Windows XP editions, even though Microsoft isn't going to release any more Windows Updates for XP.
  • Delete the administrator account. If a hacker gets into your PC with the administrator login, all sorts of havoc can be wreaked. Use a limited account (under Control Settings > Users) instead of an administrator account (and delete the admin account) and you limit the kind of damage a hacker can do.
  • Ditch Internet Explorer. Use Chrome, Firefox, or another non-Microsoft browser, since earlier versions of IE will also be vulnerable. Similarly, find alternatives to other Microsoft-branded products like Windows Mail.
  • Get rid of Java and Flash. Disable these or, if necessary, disable them from running automatically.
  • Use Windows XP in a virtual machine. Many people and companies are sticking to XP because they have special software that can only run under that OS. If you can't ditch XP, at least run it in a protected VM state, so anything that happens there can't affect the rest of your system. Windows 7 and Windows 8 have a way to use XP for free in a VM, as I mention in this Lifehacker post.

RIP, Windows XP.

Stay on top of the latest in mobile computing, telecommuting, and working on the road: Free weekly newsletter | Blog posts subscription | Follow me on Twitter: @melaniepinola or Google+

Free Backups and Backup Deals for World Backup Day

Monday March 31, 2014

World Backup DayBack up your computer and your mobile devices. It's something we all want to do--because in the back of our minds we know stuff happens and there's that possibility we could lose everything--but an incredible 30% of people have never backed up. Even if you already have a set-and-forget backup solution set up, today is the day to make sure your copies of all your important files are stored somewhere safe.

It's World Backup Day 2014, but even long after the day is done, it's still backup day.

Today, though, several online companies are offering free or discounted services. These include:

  • Mover: Free 15GB transfer credit to move files between your cloud storage accounts
  • CrashPlan: 20% off annual plans (one of the best unlimited online backup services available)
  • SpiderOak: Unlimited storage for $125 a year (SpiderOak normally has a fixed data plan, so this is a great deal--and one that will continue for you every year)
  • Acronis: 250GB free online storage for one year (normally $49.99) with purchase of Acronis True Image software

Please back up your stuff. While you're at it, here's how to automatically backup the photos and videos on your cell phone, how to back up your Android device, and the top online storage and file syncing services.

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