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by JB Burke

Q. I never download files when I don't know the origin. But a friend tells me I am hopelessly behind on Windows XP updates. Should I download those files?

A. While you should never download files when you don't know the source, it’s necessary to download Windows updates. The majority of them are related to the security of your operating system. Since Windows is extremely popular, there are many unscrupulous people who'd love to damage your system, steal your personal information, or hijack your system for their own purposes. You are much safer by keeping your system up to date.

The best thing for you to do in XP is to click Start and then Windows Update. On the right side of the screen you should see a box labeled “Help protect your PC”, with a red shield. Click “Turn on automatic updates” or “Pick a time to install updates”, whichever shows there. If you'd rather have more control over when they downloaded and/or installed, then click “More options”. You'll see several choices from full automatic to turn off automatic completely.

In Windows 7 go to Control Panel, click “Windows Update” (or “System Security and then “Windows Update”), and then “Change settings”. There you can select either to download and install updates automatically, or to have Windows download updates and let you decide when to install them. The latter is my preference.

In either case, you need to keep your system up to date to prevent costly malicious intrusions.

Published: Courier 11/21/10 - Page 7C