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Free add-ons teach Windows Explorer new tricks

You can choose from dozens of file managers to replace Windows Explorer — some of them are even free — but only the original is so closely integrated into the OS.

Before you give Explorer the boot, check out some first-rate add-ons that turn Windows’ tired file browser into the information manager of the future.

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Outlook Web Access corrupts HTML attachments

The “Safe HTML” filter in Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access for Exchange Server deletes code from HTML attachments without warning.

Microsoft claims the filtering protects users by removing malicious elements, but the deletions can ruin a collaborative project and the “feature” isn’t present in any other Microsoft mail products.

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XP SP3 triggers false positives in security apps

Installing Windows XP Service Pack 3 can cause your anti-malware programs to report the presence of Trojans and keyloggers that aren’t there.

The false positives have blocked important system files in some cases, and in others they have misled users into reinstalling XP.

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Keep XP fresh until Windows 7 arrives

When Windows XP was released, wireless routers were rare, few cell phones supported e-mail, and YouTube was just a gleam in some PayPal employees’ eyes.

But like a fabled perpetual motion machine, XP keeps on going and going — and if you follow some simple guidelines, the OS will keep running in top condition until Vista’s successor is ready in 2010.

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Make your PC difficult to steal, easy to recover

For little or no money, you can lower the chances that your computer will be targeted by thieves.

Take a few simple steps now to make your notebook and desktop PCs easier to recover should they ever be lost.

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Thwart malware attacks by locking out bad sites

Bolster your antivirus, firewall, and antispyware protection by customizing the IP address manager built into Windows.

Redirect ad servers and other undesirable addresses in Windows’ Hosts file and update your unwanted-address list automatically for free with the HostsMan utility.

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Nine must-have freeware apps rise to the top

The “best freeware” lists published by Web sites and magazines frequently trumpet dozens of programs, but the results reflect the subjective opinions of just one or two testers.

To find the best of the best, I compared roundups of “great” freeware conducted recently by four reputable publications to find the programs that were endorsed by at least three of the reviews.

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Flash ads bearing malware plague popular sites

A Flash-based advertisement that appeared last week on the USA Today site downloaded malicious code to users’ computers, generating erroneous warnings of a malware infestation and offering a phony solution.

The Flash vulnerability is so widespread that such “malvertisements” may be present on thousands of sites, but there are measures you can take to reduce your exposure.

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Outages cast doubts on MS online services

With the recent public betas of Office Live Workspace and Microsoft Online Services, the Redmond company is ratcheting up its efforts to deliver the power of MS Office — or at least a portion of it — to the Internet.

But Microsoft’s ability to offer software as a service (SaaS) has come under fire due to server outages and bugs that have plagued the company’s online services in the last several months.

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It’s official: upgrade hack included in Vista SP1

The new Service Pack 1 version of Windows Vista allows end users to purchase the “upgrade edition” and install it on any PC — with no need to purchase the more expensive “full edition.”

The same behavior was present when Vista was originally released, but the fact that the trick wasn’t removed from SP1 suggests that Microsoft executives approved the back door as a way to make the price of Vista more appealing to sophisticated buyers.

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