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Prevent keyloggers from grabbing your passwords

Strong passwords are important, but even the best password won’t keep you safe from keyloggers — hardware and software that’s designed to secretly record your keystrokes.

Fortunately, there’s a way you can enter sensitive data so it’s extremely difficult for snoops to extract your passwords from keylogger files.

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Security Baseline provides basic PC protection

The Windows Secrets Security Baseline describes products and services that serve as a minimum safe PC configuration.

This week, I’m updating the latest findings on a set of hardware and software that should meet the needs of individual PC users, though more-advanced users and large businesses may want a more-sophisticated approach to computer defense.

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Use any version of Windows 7 free for 120 days

There’s an easy way to stretch Windows 7’s 30-day free-trial period to 120 days so you can determine whether Microsoft’s new operating system meets your needs.

Even better — if you know the secret — you can try out any version of Win7, from Ultimate to the lowly Basic, using a single install disc.

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Sun, Apple, Microsoft install chaff with patches

When you apply a security update for one of the programs on your PC, beware of uninvited software that wants to come along for the ride.

Vendors are more and more often going over the line, piggy-backing unsolicited commercial products and services onto crucial security patches.

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Gmail flaw shows value of strong passwords

The disclosure of a back door allowing bad guys to repeatedly guess Gmail passwords should remind us all to protect our accounts with long and strong character strings.

There’s a straightforward way to protect your online accounts — use sign-in phrases that are easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess.

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Install MS’s out-of-cycle patches for IE, apps

Two emergency updates released by Microsoft this week correct flaws in Internet Explorer and potentially dozens of third-party programs.

One of the patches is intended primarily for use by application developers, but how far the threat to apps extends — and how many end users will be affected — is not yet clear.

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Learn to read the obscure WindowsUpdate.log file

Every moment your computer is on, a nearly undocumented Microsoft file — WindowsUpdate.log — maintains a record of your system’s patching activity.

Making sense of the information in this update log can be a challenge, but I’ll show you how you can use it to learn the inside story of your PC’s update history.

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Some versions of Windows 7 worth it, others not

With the arrival of Windows 7’s release to manufacturing (RTM) imminent, my inbox is teeming with questions about the next version of every PC user’s favorite whipping boy.

You need to make a few key decisions to ensure that you pick the Windows 7 version that best meets your needs.

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Use OpenDNS to surf safely with these tricks

Windows Secrets editors frequently recommend OpenDNS, a free service that blocks dangerous sites so you can browse the Web securely.

Unfortunately, OpenDNS has a few tricky gotchas for the unwary, but most of the problems can be solved if you set up an account and take advantage of a few tweaks.

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It’s confirmed: Windows may update unexpectedly

Dozens of Windows Secrets readers confirm that Windows sometimes installs updates without displaying a list of patches that a user can accept or decline.

If Automatic Updates were set to install patches without user intervention, no notice would be expected, but a bug appears to be installing patches upon shutdown in certain cases, even though Windows is configured to require user approval.

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