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Some of you have been doling out biased, narrow advice, or advice that overly generalizes things. As with anything else, understanding the NATURE of a thing is key to dealing with it.
Windows XP can be a very stable OS, but it is necessary to treat it somewhat gingerly at times. I don't have problems with spyware, viruses or other malware (nor spam either for that matter). Dealing with such things effectively requires a little knowledge (and no, you don't need to be a "guru") and some understanding.

I do not install security updates, service packs or anything that doesn't provide enhancement for the things I personally do with Windows, because those things will grind on overall performance, not to mention that I have little faith in Microsoft's ability to secure my system. Their updates are more of a variable to me that the protective software I have tried and used for a while. I'm running XP on a 3-year old pc and performance is just as it was the day it was released. I also install and test or use between 30 and 40 programs a month.
The only performance hit I take is when, after a time, programs I no longer need are eating up drive space, clogging up the registry with unused settings and the like. I very seldom trust programs that go poking around in the registry, so here's what I do (and strongly recommend):

You only need to do this ONCE...
Boot from a DOS diskette and run the FDISK program. Delete, then recreate partition(s) on the hard drive (if you don't know how to do this, get help with it)

Format the Drive/partitions.

Install Windows XP and any updates/service packs you want. Completely and carefully customize all settings, including folders, Start Menu, Screen settings, etc.

Install and configure your programs (If you have trial or shareware programs, DO NOT install them at this point).

Make sure everything you can think of is as customized for the way you work as is possible.

Use a program that will create an image of the drive (I use Acronis Backup, but you can use one of the more pricey ones if you prefer). This is preferable to doing a "standard" backup, because the "image" simply makes an exact duplicate of every bit and byte of information on the drive, retaining all settings, even those that are dynamic.

This process typically takes between 18 and 24 hours over a two or three-day period. It's worth it though, because after that, anytime things get a little muggy, it takes about 20 minutes to completely return everything to exactly the same state it was at the first. I typically do this about every 30 to 45 days. This way, unless there is some needed functionality, I stay away from the Microsoft updates, because the OS is never static long enough to cause me any problems that can't be solved in about 20 minutes.

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Last Post by Toulinwoek
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In other words, Toulinwoek, you are saying that it's better to make a drive image and then afterwards reload your entire system from it every month or so, on an ongoing basis, than it is to install necessary security updates. You're also saying that precautionary measures are better to use as a safeguard against intruders than software tools designed to deal with them!


That's well and good, I suppose, if it works for you but I can't accept that your experience and view is any sort of indication that people here dish out biased, narrow, or overly generalised advice. We're sensible enough here to dish out advice which is suited to the people needing assistance, who come here!

Drive images of a freshly set up system are a wonderful thing! Subsequent drive images, regularly made, of the system as it evolves over time are also a wonderful thing. The technique, however, is not for everyone, nor should it be expected to suit everyone. You can't expect that every person with a PC at home is going to purchase adequate drive imaging software and adopt such a regular, rigid programme of maintenance. For the vast majority of PC operators in a corporate environment, such maintenance tasks are the role of the systems administrator, and something they have no control over. For the vast majority of people, whose approach is to simply turn on their PC and use it, formatting and starting over is a rare event, and one which they are generally ill-equipped to confront. That's the reason this topic exists.

Sure, some people will, over time, adopt drive-imaging practices as a safeguard, and I'd be pleased to see them do so. But you can't expect that EVERYBODY is going to do so, because that'd be an unrealistic expectation!

You also claim that Security updates and software tools aren't needed for security. Surprise, surprise, I don't follow all that much of the advice I dole out here either, and the main protection I have is my own knowledge and the 'safe' practices that I rigidly follow when using a PC online.

But I'd ask you to sit back and reflect, for a few moments, on just WHAT those safe practices are that you use. Identify them them, itemise them, and list them if you can. It's gonna be a helluva list, and I'm betting you don't even get them all listed, because there's gonna be precautionary practices and techniques in there that you use automatically, and don't even think about.

Unless you actually ARE listing all those things you do to avoid problems, and which you'd need to inform others of, then perhaps it's a bit irresponsible to be suggesting that others don't need to be following the security measures that are being recommended?


Of course there is 'generalising' going on here. There has to be. We have no way of knowing the level of expertise or experience of the people asking us for assistance!

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In other words, Toulinwoek, you are saying that it's better to make a drive image and then afterwards reload your entire system from it every month or so, on an ongoing basis, than it is to install necessary security updates. You're also saying that precautionary measures are better to use as a safeguard against intruders than software tools designed to deal with them!


That's well and good, I suppose, if it works for you but I can't accept that your experience and view is any sort of indication that people here dish out biased, narrow, or overly generalised advice. We're sensible enough here to dish out advice which is suited to the people needing assistance, who come here!

Drive images of a freshly set up system are a wonderful thing! Subsequent drive images, regularly made, of the system as it evolves over time are also a wonderful thing. The technique, however, is not for everyone, nor should it be expected to suit everyone. You can't expect that every person with a PC at home is going to purchase adequate drive imaging software and adopt such a regular, rigid programme of maintenance. For the vast majority of PC operators in a corporate environment, such maintenance tasks are the role of the systems administrator, and something they have no control over. For the vast majority of people, whose approach is to simply turn on their PC and use it, formatting and starting over is a rare event, and one which they are generally ill-equipped to confront. That's the reason this topic exists.

Sure, some people will, over time, adopt drive-imaging practices as a safeguard, and I'd be pleased to see them do so. But you can't expect that EVERYBODY is going to do so, because that'd be an unrealistic expectation!

You also claim that Security updates and software tools aren't needed for security. Surprise, surprise, I don't follow all that much of the advice I dole out here either, and the main protection I have is my own knowledge and the 'safe' practices that I rigidly follow when using a PC online.

But I'd ask you to sit back and reflect, for a few moments, on just WHAT those safe practices are that you use. Identify them them, itemise them, and list them if you can. It's gonna be a helluva list, and I'm betting you don't even get them all listed, because there's gonna be precautionary practices and techniques in there that you use automatically, and don't even think about.

Unless you actually ARE listing all those things you do to avoid problems, and which you'd need to inform others of, then perhaps it's a bit irresponsible to be suggesting that others don't need to be following the security measures that are being recommended?


Of course there is 'generalising' going on here. There has to be. We have no way of knowing the level of expertise or experience of the people asking us for assistance!

No one "asked", I think this thread was volunteered information to begin with. Some of the advice given here IS over-generalized, but I neither said ALL of it was nor did I in any way imply that the way I do it is the only or best way. It's merely a better alternative than most and the least troublesome for those with limited experience/knowledge. It's unrealistic to expect that EVERYONE will follow ANY program or method, especially when we give people these remedies without also explaining how to get out of a few tight spots that could arise. I personally would never tell anyone to reformat their hard drive; if I was doing work on someone's system, I'd do it myself if need be; that way I'd be responsible for getting things running again. Things can go wrong, as one post has already proven. Again, there will always be those who won't follow safe practices; the proliferation of malware and the constant barrage of complaints against the evils of Windows (not just on this forum) is testament to that. As for my list of "practices". it's neither long nor hard to list.

-Create a drive image and restore it every 30-45 days (unless need requires sooner)
-Use a good software firewall in addition to a hardware one
-Exercise caution about visiting certain sites or downloading certain types of software.
-Keep diligent records of every piece of software I install.
-Keep all my data in a separate partition and back it up regularly.
-Periodically check for other malware, and;
-Be very selective about giving out email addresses (I use mailinator ; check it out if you've never heard of it), and opening email.

Now these don't keep my system from becoming cluttered because I test lots of software (hence the diligent recordkeeping), but it does maintain a very secure system. But still, It took me some time to settle on doing things this way, and there are other methods just as valid. But the fact that the "vast majority" of users rarely format their hard drive is one reason that suggesting such a thingis in itself somewhat irresponsible. Any of the methods I have read about (including my own) would work for anyone who uses them. "Uses them" is the key phrase.

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Toulinwoek, if you need to wipe your system and revert back to what you had previously on a monthly basis then the 'methods' you use aren't working very well!

Keeping data on a separate partition is a sensible (and recommended) practice. But with security updates installed, security software (antivirus, firewall etc) installed and running, and sensible computing practices adopted there is no reason whatsoever why a Windows XP installation can't keep running perfectly well for years on end!

Hell, my own systems here haven't been reinstalled for over 2 years, are in excellent condition and perform just as well as when they were first installed. (Yes, that's been benchmarked!)

Reloading a drive image every 30 days is the equivalent of a format/fresh install on a monthly basis. That is extreme and definitely unwarranted!

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Toulinwoek, if you need to wipe your system and revert back to what you had previously on a monthly basis then the 'methods' you use aren't working very well!

Keeping data on a separate partition is a sensible (and recommended) practice. But with security updates installed, security software (antivirus, firewall etc) installed and running, and sensible computing practices adopted there is no reason whatsoever why a Windows XP installation can't keep running perfectly well for years on end!

Hell, my own systems here haven't been reinstalled for over 2 years, are in excellent condition and perform just as well as when they were first installed. (Yes, that's been benchmarked!)

Reloading a drive image every 30 days is the equivalent of a format/fresh install on a monthly basis. That is extreme and definitely unwarranted!

No no, you're not understanding. I don't say I do this for security/stability reasons. I do it because I install and test over 30 programs a month, sometimes maybe more. The security/stability advantages that go along with doing this are fringe benefits. I'm fairly certain that if I didn't feel compelled to try out so much software, I'd probably do two things; one, install more patches, and two, restore the drive image less often.

And, there is something of a difference between restoring an image and reformatting and reinstalling. For one, the serial number of my drive doesn't change (as it would if I were to format it). Much of my licensed software uses that number to generate registrations codes, and if I formatted the drive, those programs would require new registrations, which are either hassles to get, or require paying again. As far as being "extreme", that's a matter of opinion (I respect yours), because it seems extreme to me not to refresh a machine for two years.

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