Secrets to trouble-free computing on Windows XP (Part I)

Running Windows doesn't have to be a nightmarish experience, but it usually is. I loathe Microsoft and most of its products, but at the same time, I have to live in this world that is currently dominated by Microsoft technology. One of my hobbies is making this unfortunate plague called Windows as painless as possible for those in my circle that have the affliction. Those that follow my few simple, common sense tips are not bothered with freezes, unwanted popups, adware, spyware, viruses, etc... It's really not that difficult to make a Windows computer behave as reasonaby as can be expected for such a horrid product.

I'm primarily a Linux user, but I do also have a Windows box running XP for stuff that, thanks to Microsoft, is not standards based and isn't compatible with open source technology like Linux.

Most of the tips here are general in nature and can be applied to other versions of Windows, but certain tips apply only to WindowsXP.

If your computer is new or needs to be rebuilt

If you have a "clean" machine (freshly installed XP that has no third-party software), you need to do the following:

  1. Update Windows: Run Start->Windows Update until you have all the latest updates. This will not be possible if you have a "borrowed" copy of XP.
  2. Get and use anti-virus software: I use Grisoft's AVG Free Edition
  3. Get and use adware/spyware removal software: I use Adaware from Lavasoft and Spybot Search & Destroy.
  4. Create a "system restore point": Go to "Start->Help and Support", then search for "create restore". Select the "Create a restore point" search result, read it, follow the instructions and create a restore point. A restore point will allow you to revert your machine to a healthy state in the event that it becomes infected with malware.
  5. Determine who will be the administrator for the machine: Probably the single most important thing to do to keep your computer working is preventing users of the computer from installing software. If you have someone in the house that can be trusted and is responsible, that person should be the one and only administrator. (Since you're reading this, that person is probably you.) The computer I'm working on now is a great example of what happens when users can install whatever they want. There are three children using this computer, and each of them has Admin privelages. As a result, it's riddled with malware. Unfortunately, I don't have control over this computer :) More on the Admin user later.

My crack editorial team over here at has just informed me that I'm adding a little too much value to a single article. They have suggested that I break this up into two parts.

So I'll leave you to wait for my next installment which will be dealing with daily practices for ensuring painless computing.


Thanks Harry

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