Author Archives: Scott Spanbauer

Get your system ready for a Windows 7 upgrade

Removing unneeded applications and making sure your hardware devices will work with Windows 7 are good things to do before you purchase and install the new operating system.

A merciless approach — ruthlessly excising software clutter prior to the OS upgrade — will help ensure that the process goes smoothly.

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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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Google silently corrects Gmail CSRF hole

The good news is that Google has eliminated a security hole that could allow a hacker to get into your Gmail account, as I reported in an
April 23

The bad news is that Google chose to remain so tight-lipped about the change that even its own engineers and many security researchers were unaware of the fix, something that doesn’t inspire confidence.

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Gmail accounts hacked via unpatched hole

Exploits allowing hackers to break into Gmail accounts are likely to occur, if they’re not already circulating, after security researchers released details of a hole that Google has reportedly declined to patch.

There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of using a webmail account, but it appears that the usual tricks won’t solve the Gmail problem until Google fixes the software.

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Microsoft DHCP bugs make Windows lose networking

Numerous perplexed Windows users have discovered that attempting to connect their PCs (especially Vista) to their existing networks or Wi-Fi hotspots results in flaky or nonexistent connections.

One reason: a change by Microsoft in Vista’s Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) is causing conflicts with some networking hardware, which can require a Registry edit to fix.

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