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TECH Q AND A: Keeping virus at bay on an older computer

Question: I have a Windows 98 PC that I keep because it has a flatbed scanner I still use. However, its free antivirus software has expired. Do you know of any legitimate free antivirus software for Windows 98?...

Question: I have a Windows 98 PC that I keep because it has a flatbed scanner I still use. However, its free antivirus software has expired. Do you know of any legitimate free antivirus software for Windows 98?

Answer: Surprisingly, you can still find antivirus software for Windows 98 at CNET's www.download.com , which scans programs to make sure they don't contain malicious software. I can't vouch for how well these free programs work, but the most popular one, with nearly 68 million downloads, is Avast Home Edition (find it at tinyurl.com/lk8wwu). Others include EAV Antivirus Suite (226,196 downloads, tinyurl.com/y8o5ft8) and ClamWin Antivirus (206,148 downloads, tinyurl.com/ye9nf5n).

Q: Several readers asked how to view, and perhaps stop, some of the memory-consuming programs that run in the background while a PC is working.

A: To view what's running on your Windows XP PC, simultaneously press the Ctrl, Alt and delete keys. For Windows Vista and Windows 7, press the Ctrl, Shift and Esc keys. Click the "applications" tab and you'll see what programs are running; you can stop one by highlighting it and clicking the "end task" button. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Click the "processes" tab and you'll see a large number of mini-programs, or "processes," that run in the background during a PC's operation. While some processes are identifiable -- the Firefox browser is clearly labeled -- most are listed by cryptic names such as "rundll32.exe" (a key part of Windows). For definitions of some processes, see tinyurl.com/97zn. A good rule of thumb is: If you don't know what a process does, leave it alone.

Q: I used a DVD that uses the "+RW" format to store some data that I wanted to be able to update later, but got an error when my Lenovo Windows XP PC attempted to read the disc. A co-worker said my DVD drive may not be able to read that disc format. How can I find out?

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A: Your DVD drive should read both the plus and minus RW (rewritable) formats, so the problem may be a flawed disc. To check, go to Start, then Control Panel, then System. Choose the Hardware tab, then click on Device Manager. In the list, click on DVD/CD-ROM drives to find out whether your DVD drive uses the plus or minus RW format, or both.

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