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Building your own XP Service Pack 4

Starting today, Windows XP users will have 860 more days of official Microsoft support — and on every one of those days, many of those users will continue to run the operating system that just won’t die. Want to extend the life of your Windows XP Service Pack 3 as long as possible? You can do so by installing Microsoft hotfixes as needed.

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What you can do about soaring hard-drive prices

Floods in Thailand — and an ensuing worldwide purchasing panic — have pushed the price of hard drives to nosebleed heights and left us all with fewer choices. Here’s what you need to know about the crisis, the fallout, and what you can do about it.

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Putting Registry-/system-cleanup apps to the test

The most contentious software category has to be PC-system/Registry cleaners. Some users find them invaluable; other users consider them worse than useless. A series of controlled experiments puts these apps to the test — and turns up some surprises.

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The thousand-dollar penalty for reusing passwords

You can find no end of advice on creating strong passwords, using clever tricks, stats, mnemonics, and such. But all too frequently we (and I include myself in this rebuke) tend to reuse little passwords at what we think are inconsequential sites. It’s a big mistake — here’s why.

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What you should know about Windows’ Event Viewer

Most of the Windows utilities we talk about in the Windows Secrets Newsletter help you work faster or better or smarter, but Windows Event Viewer doesn’t fall into that category. A powerful diagnostic tool, Event Viewer is now being used by online support scammers who make big bucks preying on people’s fears.

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Making the most of Really Simple Syndication

Almost all sufficiently advanced websites these days use RSS — Really Simple Syndication — to keep you notified of the latest information posted on the site. If you’ve never used an RSS feed — or if you use RSS but don’t know how it works — you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

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Take your PC’s temperature — for free!

Overheating in PCs can cause unexpected hangs and shutdowns — and even shorten the life of your computer. Fortunately, it’s easy to monitor your system’s temperature and to correct the most common causes of overheating.

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Getting the most from Windows Search — Part 2

In my Sept. 22 Woody’s Windows column, I stepped you through the basics of searching in Windows 7 — in particular, Win7′s two undocumented search idiosyncrasies that can cause no end of confusion. In Part 2, I give you the advanced course, including how to search in Win7 the way you used to in Windows XP, Windows 95, or (gulp!) even DOS.

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Using Windows 7′s XP Mode — step by step

Looking for a sure-fire way to keep your oldest Windows applications alive while living in a Windows 7 world? You’ll find it with Win7′s XP Mode, a free and fully functional version of XP Professional SP3 that runs entirely inside Windows 7. And even if you don’t have ancient apps to support, you gotta admit: keeping XP around for those times you want to indulge in a bit of nostalgia is pretty cool.

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The sorry tale of the (un)Secure Sockets Layer

Two brazen Web-server break-ins this year call into question one of the Internet’s fundamental security mechanisms — website security certificates. Because the most recent breach affected only PC users in Iran, most of us assume we’re immune. But we’re not; here’s why — and what we can do to protect ourselves.

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