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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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Windows may install updates without asking

Windows XP and Vista have started installing updates at shutdown, in certain cases, without displaying a warning or requesting permission, according to reports by several readers.

The forced-install behavior has been witnessed at least three times by Windows Secrets editors, but Microsoft says its procedure for Automatic Updates hasn’t changed in the last 10 months.

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Break from MS Office with free alternatives

If you’re thinking of skipping the next expensive Microsoft Office upgrade, you can begin preparing today for the move to a free Office-like suite or Web service.

A gradual and easy transition allows you to avoid any possible file incompatibilities, because you can still keep an old copy of Office available as a safety net.

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Big-name sites spread latest malware infections

Going by such names as Gumblar, JSRedir-R, Martuz, and Beladin, a new generation of malware has managed to surreptitiously place malicious JavaScript code on tens of thousands of popular Web sites.

The hacker scripts try to infect site visitors and then attempt to use their compromised PCs to spread the infection to yet other sites.

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Windows 7 Starter Edition limits netbook designs

Last week, Microsoft dropped its plan to enforce a three-concurrent-app limit on Windows 7 Starter Edition — the version of the new OS that will be preinstalled only on small PCs, such as netbooks.

Microsoft is still expected, however, to restrict netbook hardware configurations that are eligible for Starter Edition pricing, which means your choices for cheap netbooks may be hobbled — at least in the near term.

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Shavlik, Secunia top Windows Update alternatives

If you followed the instructions in my May 21
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to build new systems without installing the trouble-prone Windows Genuine Advantage app, you may want to patch your PC using something other than Windows Update, which offers again and again to install WGA.

My favorite third-party software update service is currently the Shavlik Patch Google Gadget, although Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector is a worthwhile alternative.

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Get all security patches without WGA nightmares

If you’re a legitimate Microsoft customer, you can download and install all the Windows updates you need without running Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) and exposing yourself to the false positives it’s become known for.

In today’s article, I explain how to install Windows XP and upgrade it with every available security fix and many optional updates as well, without ever installing WGA.

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Two big reasons why you’ll like Windows 7

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so difficult to manage and share files in Windows, you’ll be delighted with two significant new features in Windows 7.

These new capabilities, called Libraries and Homegroups, make finding files and connecting with resources on other PCs so easy you’ll think you’re using a Mac!

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ISPs assist in cutting off file-sharing users

Internet service providers are cooperating more and more with copyright holders to crack down on illegal downloading and peer-to-peer file-sharing.

Some of the changes are due to strict new piracy laws, but others appear to arise from sheer self-interest on the ISPs’ part.

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