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Amol Bhure (ultra l33t) was born in Maharashtra, Seventh July Of Nineteen Hundred Nineteen Ninety A.D. He's currently pursuing his B.E in Bangalore. A cyber Security Professional, Hacker, Designer, Programmer. Keen interest in hacking and network security and he developed several techniques of defending and defacing websites. He's of the opinion that people should learn this art to prevent any cyber attacks. Currently Amol works as a member of 'Null International', Bangalore chapter as a network security guy. Apart from this, he has done internships at YAHOO! India, AMAZON India, etc. He has also attended various International conferences like NullCon GOA, c0c0n, ClubHack, Defcon , SecurityByte, ICFoCS, OWASP, etc.. He is certified with RHCE, LPT, CEH v7, SCJP, AFCEH. In programming he knows stuffs on C, C++, C# , JAVA (SCJP), .NET , and PHP. Additionally he knows few hardware languages like HDL, VHDL, Verilog, Embedded Micro controller Programming. He has been featured on google hall of fame. Amol was named a "India's top 10 hacker" by google. "World's top 50 hacking blog" by google.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Windows 8 Coming in 2012 - Microsoft Next Bang !

Just as you were getting comfortable with Windows 7, it looks like Windows 8 is coming in the next two years. In a post celebrating the one-year anniversary of Windows 7 -- the fastest selling OS in history -- Microsoft's Dutch Web site briefly mentioned the construction and release of its successor:

"Microsoft is on course for the next version of Windows. But it will take about two years before 'Windows 8' on the market." Winrumors.com grabbed and translated the post, and CNET took a screenshot of the text, which unsurprisingly disappeared shortly after the news stole headlines. Now Microsoft is back to being tight-lipped about Windows 8 and its expected release.

Reports from last year suggested Microsoft was building a 128-bit version of its OS, which could very likely be Windows 8. More recently, NetworkWorld acquired more than 15 confidential slide decks detailing possible additions, including body-sensing features similar to the Xbox Kinect, a desktop app store like Apple's forthcoming Mac App Store, near-instant CPU booting, and a focus on powering tablets.

But most importantly, by the time Windows 8 supposedly drops, Microsoft is going to have Apple's latest OS to contend with. Apple just gave a sneak peek of Mac OS X Lion -- called a marriage of OS X and Apple's mobile iOS -- that includes some drool-inducing features like a desktop app store, advanced multitouch gestures, and more.

If Microsoft acts wisely, it stands a chance to emulate -- and perhaps one-up -- all of OS X Lion's key features ... or it could rush and produce another Vista.

Microsoft is at work on its new operating system, Windows 8, which will reportedly be released in 2012. Leaks continue to focus on the project, including that it will be a 128-bit version of Windows with facial recognition software.

Windows 8 will also reportedly offer a software license that follows you across devices and Windows apps, with shortened boot time. Enhanced security would include a reset option without killing personalized settings and files.

While all that sounds great for 2012, what about the 240 million Windows 7 licenses that have been sold worldwide?

Chances are that you will need new equipment to take advantage of Windows 8 because the bells and whistles are going to need serious memory and processors. But is the world ready to invest that much in new desktops, especially when so many have already called for the demise of the desktop PC?

While Steve Jobs says the PC is dead, the reality is that desktops are more cost-effective, more dependable, and less trouble than mobile devices for IT managers. Employees are used to them, trust them, and are comfortable with them. While the image of the Borg Queen may tickle some people's fancy, most people don't want to be holding or wearing every device they need for work.

Nonetheless, the mobile market has overtaken the desktop market in innovation. And rumors abound that Microsoft is attempting to wrench some of the innovation away from Apple, which revolutionized mobile devices with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod.

But can Microsoft offer something for the desktop PC, its bread and butter for the last decade, as well as for mobile devices? And will Microsoft build a computer tablet that finally works on a mobile platform?

Perhaps what we should be more excited about is a new Windows Mobile 8 that would run on tablets and smartphones--and better yet, play nicer with the new Windows 8. While it will have some of the niceties of Windows 7, Windows 8 should be able to integrate both mobile and desktop platforms and share or sync documents with the click of a mouse. Microsoft has almost done it with Office 365, which offers a single sign-in for multiple applications as well as mobile access to documents and e-mail.

What businesses need is for Microsoft to make Windows 8 easier and cheaper to manage all of their devices. While facial recognition software and touchscreen tablets sound cool, most business owners want a simple way to keep their machines and networks safe, but also want to be connected to everything. While that may seem contradictory, it doesn't stop the consumer from wanting it.

Fix a Windows Infection Using Linux - LiveCDs

If you use Linux on your company's desktop or server computers, you're already familiar with many of the security advantages the open source operating system offers over its Windows and Mac rivals. What many people don't realize, however, is that Linux can also be used to rescue a computer that has been crippled by malware.
Malware is a frequent occurrence in the Windows world, in particular, and it can be devastating. When a Windows virus strikes, not only can it become difficult or even impossible to continue using the affected machine, but it can be dangerous as well, since prolonged use can further the infection.
That's where Linux can be a life-saver. Without ever having to install the free alternative, you can still use it temporarily on a PC to get rid of any infection. Here's how.
1. Get a LiveCD or Live USB
LiveCDs and USBs are a wonderful thing in the Linux world because they let you boot a machine directly from the CD or USB stick without ever having to access the computer's boot records. Not only are they a great way to take Linux for a test-drive, but they can also be put to work when Windows can't.
By far the fastest way to get a LiveCD or USB is to download the .iso file of the Linux distribution you'd like to use and then burn it onto a CD or USB stick. Since Ubuntu is the most popular distribution out there, I'll go withMaverick Meerkat--the latest version of the software--for this example.
Ubuntu can be downloaded from the project's Website for use on a LiveCD or USB; download links for other distributions can be found listed on FrozenTech. UNetbootin is another nice option if you want to go the USB route, which tends to run much faster.
Of course, to take either of these options you'll have to have a working, Internet-connected computer. If you don't, or if your Internet connection is slow, you may want to order a LiveCD or USB via snail mail. OSDisc andLinuxCD both offer a variety of options; pricing is about $2.
2. Boot into Linux
Once you're equipped with a Linux LiveCD or USB, you'll need to make sure the infected computer is turned off, and then turn it on again with the CD or USB installed. This will boot the computer into Linux, completely bypassing Windows and its infection. Again, nothing has been installed -- you're simply using Linux to get the machine running reliably again.
3. Get Antivirus Software
Next it's time to get the Linux-based ammunition you'll need to wipe out the malware: antivirus software. I'm going to use ClamAV, my favorite, via ClamTK, which provides a nice graphical front end.
From the main Ubuntu desktop, then, go to "Applications" and then "Ubuntu Software Center." Choose "Edit" and then "Software Sources." You'll be presented with a box entitled, "Downloadable from the Internet," and you should be sure all four boxes are checked before you click on "Close."

Next, from the main Ubuntu Software Center page, click on the "Accessories" icon and type ClamTK into the search box. It will be shown as "Virus Scanner," but if you click on "More Info" you can verify it's the right package. Click "Install" and wait for it to download.
Once installation is finished, you should launch ClamTK by going to "Applications" in Ubuntu's main menu, then "Accessories" and "Virus Scanner," which is how the software will still be shown.
4. Run a Scan
When the ClamTK window opens, click on the "Scan" tab and select the option for a Recursive Scan. Next, you'll need to tell the software which drive you want to check for viruses, which in this case is the one that includes Windows. Scanning may take some time, but once the infection is found you'll get the usual options for what to do with it, including quarantine and removal.
5. Return to Normal
Assuming the infection has now been removed, your computer should be clean once again, making it safe to remove the LiveCD or USB and boot back into Windows as usual. As you enjoy your malware-free machine once again, remember that it's all thanks to Linux. It's also not a bad idea to keep your LiveCD or USB handy so you'll be ready for the next time.

New Firefox add-on "Firesheep" - hijacks Facebook, Twitter sessions

A new Firefox add-on lets "pretty much anyone" scan a Wi-Fi network and hijack others' access to Facebook, Twitter and a host of other services, a security researcher warned today.
The add-on, dubbed "Firesheep," was released Sunday by Eric Butler, a Seattle-based freelance Web application developer, at the ToorCon security conference, which took place Oct. 22-24 in San Diego.
Butler said he created Firesheep to show the danger of accessing unencrypted Web sites from public Wi-Fi spots.
Although it's common for sites to encrypt user log-ons with HTTPS or SSL, few encrypt the actual traffic. "This leaves the cookie, and the user, vulnerable," said Butler in a post to his personal blog. "On an open wireless network, cookies are basically shouted through the air, making these attacks extremely easy."
With a user's cookie in hand, a criminal can do anything the user can do on a site, Butler noted. Among the sites that Firesheep can hijack are Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, bit.ly, Google and Amazon.
Butler did not reply to an interview request Monday.
"None of this is new, the flaw certainly isn't," said Richard Wang, the U.S. manager of SophosLabs, the research arm of Abingdon, England-based security company Sophos. "But Firesheep makes it so easy to discover [unencrypted traffic and cookies] that pretty much anyone can use it to listen to what others are doing at public hot spots."
Firesheep adds a sidebar to Mozilla's Firefox browser that shows when anyone on an open network -- such as a coffee shop's Wi-Fi network -- visits an insecure site. "Double-click on someone [in the sidebar] and you're instantly logged on as them," said Butler in his short description of his add-on.
The add-on appears to be irresistible: Since Butler posted Firesheep on Sunday it's been downloaded nearly 50,000 times.
Butler created Firesheep to illustrate the wide-ranging problem of unencrypted sites and public networks. "Web sites have a responsibility to protect the people who depend on their services," he said. "They've been ignoring this responsibility for too long, and it's time for everyone to demand a more secure Web. My hope is that Firesheep will help the users win."
Wang said he was hopeful that the add-on would prompt more sites to encrypt their sessions. "The hope here is of increased use of HTTPS," he said. But he also urged more public networks to secure users, although he acknowledged the logistics -- handing out the passwords that users would need in order to connect -- would be daunting. "It's the old 'security-vs.-convenience' argument," he noted.
Users can protect themselves, said Wang, by refusing to access insecure sites while at open networks.
He added that people who are more technically inclined could rely on a secure proxy server, perhaps one run on their work machine, which their laptops would in turn access. "But that's not a solution for the average user," Wang admitted.
Firesheep, which works with the Windows and Mac OS X versions of Firefox,
can be downloaded free of charge at the GitHub site.
Butler is working on Firesheep for the Linux edition of Firefox.

10 reasons why PCs crash U must Know

Fatal error: the system has become unstable or is busy," it says. "Enter to return to Windows or press Control-Alt-Delete to restart your computer. If you do this you will lose any unsaved information in all open applications."

You have just been struck by the Blue Screen of Death. Anyone who uses Mcft Windows will be familiar with this. What can you do? More importantly, how can you prevent it happening?

1 Hardware conflict

The number one reason why Windows crashes is hardware conflict. Each hardware device communicates to other devices through an interrupt request channel (IRQ). These are supposed to be unique for each device.

For example, a printer usually connects internally on IRQ 7. The keyboard usually uses IRQ 1 and the floppy disk drive IRQ 6. Each device will try to hog a single IRQ for itself.

If there are a lot of devices, or if they are not installed properly, two of them may end up sharing the same IRQ number. When the user tries to use both devices at the same time, a crash can happen. The way to check if your computer has a hardware conflict is through the following route:

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager.

Often if a device has a problem a yellow '!' appears next to its description in the Device Manager. Highlight Computer (in the Device Manager) and press Properties to see the IRQ numbers used by your computer. If the IRQ number appears twice, two devices may be using it.

Sometimes a device might share an IRQ with something described as 'IRQ holder for PCI steering'. This can be ignored. The best way to fix this problem is to remove the problem device and reinstall it.

Sometimes you may have to find more recent drivers on the internet to make the device function properly. A good resource is www.driverguide.com. If the device is a soundcard, or a modem, it can often be fixed by moving it to a different slot on the motherboard (be careful about opening your computer, as you may void the warranty).

When working inside a computer you should switch it off, unplug the mains lead and touch an unpainted metal surface to discharge any static electricity.

To be fair to Mcft, the problem with IRQ numbers is not of its making. It is a legacy problem going back to the first PC designs using the IBM 8086 chip. Initially there were only eight IRQs. Today there are 16 IRQs in a PC. It is easy to run out of them. There are plans to increase the number of IRQs in future designs.

2 Bad Ram

Ram (random-access memory) problems might bring on the blue screen of death with a message saying Fatal Exception Error. A fatal error indicates a serious hardware problem. Sometimes it may mean a part is damaged and will need replacing.

But a fatal error caused by Ram might be caused by a mismatch of chips. For example, mixing 70-nanosecond (70ns) Ram with 60ns Ram will usually force the computer to run all the Ram at the slower speed. This will often crash the machine if the Ram is overworked.

One way around this problem is to enter the BIOS settings and increase the wait state of the Ram. This can make it more stable. Another way to troubleshoot a suspected Ram problem is to rearrange the Ram chips on the motherboard, or take some of them out. Then try to repeat the circumstances that caused the crash. When handling Ram try not to touch the gold connections, as they can be easily damaged.

Parity error messages also refer to Ram. Modern Ram chips are either parity (ECC) or non parity (non-ECC). It is best not to mix the two types, as this can be a cause of trouble.

EMM386 error messages refer to memory problems but may not be connected to bad Ram. This may be due to free memory problems often linked to old Dos-based programmes.

3 BIOS settings

Every motherboard is supplied with a range of chipset settings that are decided in the factory. A common way to access these settings is to press the F2 or delete button during the first few seconds of a boot-up.

Once inside the BIOS, great care should be taken. It is a good idea to write down on a piece of paper all the settings that appear on the screen. That way, if you change something and the computer becomes more unstable, you will know what settings to revert to.

A common BIOS error concerns the CAS latency. This refers to the Ram. Older EDO (extended data out) Ram has a CAS latency of 3. Newer SDRam has a CAS latency of 2. Setting the wrong figure can cause the Ram to lock up and freeze the computer's display.

Mcft Windows is better at allocating IRQ numbers than any BIOS. If possible set the IRQ numbers to Auto in the BIOS. This will allow Windows to allocate the IRQ numbers (make sure the BIOS setting for Plug and Play OS is switched to 'yes' to allow Windows to do this.).

4 Hard disk drives

After a few weeks, the information on a hard disk drive starts to become piecemeal or fragmented. It is a good idea to defragment the hard disk every week or so, to prevent the disk from causing a screen freeze. Go to

* Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Defragmenter

This will start the procedure. You will be unable to write data to the hard drive (to save it) while the disk is defragmenting, so it is a good idea to schedule the procedure for a period of inactivity using the Task Scheduler.

The Task Scheduler should be one of the small icons on the bottom right of the Windows opening page (the desktop).

Some lockups and screen freezes caused by hard disk problems can be solved by reducing the read-ahead optimisation. This can be adjusted by going to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System Icon-Performance-File System-Hard Disk.

Hard disks will slow down and crash if they are too full. Do some housekeeping on your hard drive every few months and free some space on it. Open the Windows folder on the C drive and find the Temporary Internet Files folder. Deleting the contents (not the folder) can free a lot of space.

Empty the Recycle Bin every week to free more space. Hard disk drives should be scanned every week for errors or bad sectors. Go to

* Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-ScanDisk

Otherwise assign the Task Scheduler to perform this operation at night when the computer is not in use.

5 Fatal OE exceptions and VXD errors

Fatal OE exception errors and VXD errors are often caused by video card problems.

These can often be resolved easily by reducing the resolution of the video display. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-Display-Settings

Here you should slide the screen area bar to the left. Take a look at the colour settings on the left of that window. For most desktops, high colour 16-bit depth is adequate.

If the screen freezes or you experience system lockups it might be due to the video card. Make sure it does not have a hardware conflict. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager

Here, select the + beside Display Adapter. A line of text describing your video card should appear. Select it (make it blue) and press properties. Then select Resources and select each line in the window. Look for a message that says No Conflicts.

If you have video card hardware conflict, you will see it here. Be careful at this point and make a note of everything you do in case you make things worse.

The way to resolve a hardware conflict is to uncheck the Use Automatic Settings box and hit the Change Settings button. You are searching for a setting that will display a No Conflicts message.

Another useful way to resolve video problems is to go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Performance-Graphics

Here you should move the Hardware Acceleration slider to the left. As ever, the most common cause of problems relating to graphics cards is old or faulty drivers (a driver is a small piece of software used by a computer to communicate with a device).

Look up your video card's manufacturer on the internet and search for the most recent drivers for it.

6 Viruses

Often the first sign of a virus infection is instability. Some viruses erase the boot sector of a hard drive, making it impossible to start. This is why it is a good idea to create a Windows start-up disk. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-Add/Remove Programs

Here, look for the Start Up Disk tab. Virus protection requires constant vigilance.

A virus scanner requires a list of virus signatures in order to be able to identify viruses. These signatures are stored in a DAT file. DAT files should be updated weekly from the website of your antivirus software manufacturer.

An excellent antivirus programme is McAfee VirusScan by Network Associates ( www.nai.com). Another is Norton AntiVirus 2000, made by Symantec ( www.symantec.com).

7 Printers

The action of sending a document to print creates a bigger file, often called a postscript file.

Printers have only a small amount of memory, called a buffer. This can be easily overloaded. Printing a document also uses a considerable amount of CPU power. This will also slow down the computer's performance.

If the printer is trying to print unusual characters, these might not be recognised, and can crash the computer. Sometimes printers will not recover from a crash because of confusion in the buffer. A good way to clear the buffer is to unplug the printer for ten seconds. Booting up from a powerless state, also called a cold boot, will restore the printer's default settings and you may be able to carry on.

8 Software

A common cause of computer crash is faulty or badly-installed software. Often the problem can be cured by uninstalling the software and then reinstalling it. Use Norton Uninstall or Uninstall Shield to remove an application from your system properly. This will also remove references to the programme in the System Registry and leaves the way clear for a completely fresh copy.

The System Registry can be corrupted by old references to obsolete software that you thought was uninstalled. Use Reg Cleaner by Jouni Vuorio to clean up the System Registry and remove obsolete entries. It works on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE (Second Edition), Windows Millennium Edition (ME), NT4 and Windows 2000.

Read the instructions and use it carefully so you don't do permanent damage to the Registry. If the Registry is damaged you will have to reinstall your operating system. Reg Cleaner can be obtained from www.jv16.org

Often a Windows problem can be resolved by entering Safe Mode. This can be done during start-up. When you see the message "Starting Windows" press F4. This should take you into Safe Mode.

Safe Mode loads a minimum of drivers. It allows you to find and fix problems that prevent Windows from loading properly.

Sometimes installing Windows is difficult because of unsuitable BIOS settings. If you keep getting SUWIN error messages (Windows setup) during the Windows installation, then try entering the BIOS and disabling the CPU internal cache. Try to disable the Level 2 (L2) cache if that doesn't work.

Remember to restore all the BIOS settings back to their former settings following installation.

9 Overheating

Central processing units (CPUs) are usually equipped with fans to keep them cool. If the fan fails or if the CPU gets old it may start to overheat and generate a particular kind of error called a kernel error. This is a common problem in chips that have been overclocked to operate at higher speeds than they are supposed to.

One remedy is to get a bigger better fan and install it on top of the CPU. Specialist cooling fans/heatsinks are available from www.computernerd.com or www.coolit.com

CPU problems can often be fixed by disabling the CPU internal cache in the BIOS. This will make the machine run more slowly, but it should also be more stable.

10 Power supply problems

With all the new construction going on around the country the steady supply of electricity has become disrupted. A power surge or spike can crash a computer as easily as a power cut.

If this has become a nuisance for you then consider buying a uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This will give you a clean power supply when there is electricity, and it will give you a few minutes to perform a controlled shutdown in case of a power cut.

It is a good investment if your data are critical, because a power cut will cause any unsaved data to be lost.

Speed and Boost your XP's performance

Since defragging the disk won't do much to improve Windows XP performance, here are 23 suggestions that will. Each can enhance the performance and reliability of your customers' PCs. Best of all, most of them will cost you nothing.
1.) To decrease a system's boot time and increase system performance, use the money you save by not buying defragmentation software -- the built-in Windows defragmenter works just fine -- and instead equip the computer with an Ultra-133 or Serial ATA hard drive with 8-MB cache buffer.

2.) If a PC has less than 512 MB of RAM, add more memory. This is a relatively inexpensive and easy upgrade that can dramatically improve system performance.

3.) Ensure that Windows XP is utilizing the NTFS file system. If you're not sure, here's how to check: First, double-click the My Computer icon, right-click on the C: Drive, then select Properties. Next, examine the File System type; if it says FAT32, then back-up any important data. Next, click Start, click Run, type CMD, and then click OK. At the prompt, type CONVERT C: /FS:NTFS and press the Enter key. This process may take a while; it's important that the computer be uninterrupted and virus-free. The file system used by the bootable drive will be either FAT32 or NTFS. I highly recommend NTFS for its superior security, reliability, and efficiency with larger disk drives.

4.) Disable file indexing. The indexing service extracts information from documents and other files on the hard drive and creates a "searchable keyword index." As you can imagine, this process can be quite taxing on any system.

The idea is that the user can search for a word, phrase, or property inside a document, should they have hundreds or thousands of documents and not know the file name of the document they want. Windows XP's built-in search functionality can still perform these kinds of searches without the Indexing service. It just takes longer. The OS has to open each file at the time of the request to help find what the user is looking for.

Most people never need this feature of search. Those who do are typically in a large corporate environment where thousands of documents are located on at least one server. But if you're a typical system builder, most of your clients are small and medium businesses. And if your clients have no need for this search feature, I recommend disabling it.

Here's how: First, double-click the My Computer icon. Next, right-click on the C: Drive, then select Properties. Uncheck "Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching." Next, apply changes to "C: subfolders and files," and click OK. If a warning or error message appears (such as "Access is denied"), click the Ignore All button.

5.) Update the PC's video and motherboard chipset drivers. Also, update and configure the BIOS. For more information on how to configure your BIOS properly, see this article on my site.

6.) Empty the Windows Prefetch folder every three months or so. Windows XP can "prefetch" portions of data and applications that are used frequently. This makes processes appear to load faster when called upon by the user. That's fine. But over time, the prefetch folder may become overloaded with references to files and applications no longer in use. When that happens, Windows XP is wasting time, and slowing system performance, by pre-loading them. Nothing critical is in this folder, and the entire contents are safe to delete.

7.) Once a month, run a disk cleanup. Here's how: Double-click the My Computer icon. Then right-click on the C: drive and select Properties. Click the Disk Cleanup button -- it's just to the right of the Capacity pie graph -- and delete all temporary files.

8.) In your Device Manager, double-click on the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers device, and ensure that DMA is enabled for each drive you have connected to the Primary and Secondary controller. Do this by double-clicking on Primary IDE Channel. Then click the Advanced Settings tab. Ensure the Transfer Mode is set to "DMA if available" for both Device 0 and Device 1. Then repeat this process with the Secondary IDE Channel.

9.) Upgrade the cabling. As hard-drive technology improves, the cabling requirements to achieve these performance boosts have become more stringent. Be sure to use 80-wire Ultra-133 cables on all of your IDE devices with the connectors properly assigned to the matching Master/Slave/Motherboard sockets. A single device must be at the end of the cable; connecting a single drive to the middle connector on a ribbon cable will cause signaling problems. With Ultra DMA hard drives, these signaling problems will prevent the drive from performing at its maximum potential. Also, because these cables inherently support "cable select," the location of each drive on the cable is important. For these reasons, the cable is designed so drive positioning is explicitly clear.

10.) Remove all spyware from the computer. Use free programs such as AdAware by Lavasoft or SpyBot Search & Destroy. Once these programs are installed, be sure to check for and download any updates before starting your search. Anything either program finds can be safely removed. Any free software that requires spyware to run will no longer function once the spyware portion has been removed; if your customer really wants the program even though it contains spyware, simply reinstall it. For more information on removing Spyware visit this Web Pro News page.

11.) Remove any unnecessary programs and/or items from Windows Startup routine using the MSCONFIG utility. Here's how: First, click Start, click Run, type MSCONFIG, and click OK. Click the StartUp tab, then uncheck any items you don't want to start when Windows starts. Unsure what some items are? Visit the WinTasks Process Library. It contains known system processes, applications, as well as spyware references and explanations. Or quickly identify them by searching for the filenames using Google or another Web search engine.

12.) Remove any unnecessary or unused programs from the Add/Remove Programs section of the Control Panel.

13.) Turn off any and all unnecessary animations, and disable active desktop. In fact, for optimal performance, turn off all animations. Windows XP offers many different settings in this area. Here's how to do it: First click on the System icon in the Control Panel. Next, click on the Advanced tab. Select the Settings button located under Performance. Feel free to play around with the options offered here, as nothing you can change will alter the reliability of the computer -- only its responsiveness.

14.) If your customer is an advanced user who is comfortable editing their registry, try some of the performance registry tweaks offered at Tweak XP.

15.) Visit Microsoft's Windows update site regularly, and download all updates labeled Critical. Download any optional updates at your discretion.

16.) Update the customer's anti-virus software on a weekly, even daily, basis. Make sure they have only one anti-virus software package installed. Mixing anti-virus software is a sure way to spell disaster for performance and reliability.

17.) Make sure the customer has fewer than 500 type fonts installed on their computer. The more fonts they have, the slower the system will become. While Windows XP handles fonts much more efficiently than did the previous versions of Windows, too many fonts -- that is, anything over 500 -- will noticeably tax the system.

18.) Do not partition the hard drive. Windows XP's NTFS file system runs more efficiently on one large partition. The data is no safer on a separate partition, and a reformat is never necessary to reinstall an operating system. The same excuses people offer for using partitions apply to using a folder instead. For example, instead of putting all your data on the D: drive, put it in a folder called "D drive." You'll achieve the same organizational benefits that a separate partition offers, but without the degradation in system performance. Also, your free space won't be limited by the size of the partition; instead, it will be limited by the size of the entire hard drive. This means you won't need to resize any partitions, ever. That task can be time-consuming and also can result in lost data.

19.) Check the system's RAM to ensure it is operating properly. I recommend using a free program called MemTest86. The download will make a bootable CD or diskette (your choice), which will run 10 extensive tests on the PC's memory automatically after you boot to the disk you created. Allow all tests to run until at least three passes of the 10 tests are completed. If the program encounters any errors, turn off and unplug the computer, remove a stick of memory (assuming you have more than one), and run the test again. Remember, bad memory cannot be repaired, but only replaced.

20.) If the PC has a CD or DVD recorder, check the drive manufacturer's Web site for updated firmware. In some cases you'll be able to upgrade the recorder to a faster speed. Best of all, it's free.

21.) Disable unnecessary services. Windows XP loads a lot of services that your customer most likely does not need. To determine which services you can disable for your client, visit the Black Viper site for Windows XP configurations.

22.) If you're sick of a single Windows Explorer window crashing and then taking the rest of your OS down with it, then follow this tip: open My Computer, click on Tools, then Folder Options. Now click on the View tab. Scroll down to "Launch folder windows in a separate process," and enable this option. You'll have to reboot your machine for this option to take effect.

23.) At least once a year, open the computer's cases and blow out all the dust and debris. While you're in there, check that all the fans are turning properly. Also inspect the motherboard capacitors for bulging or leaks. For more information on this leaking-capacitor phenomena, you can read numerous articles on my site.

Following any of these suggestions should result in noticeable improvements to the performance and reliability of your customers' computers. If you still want to defrag a disk, remember that the main benefit will be to make your data more retrievable in the event of a crashed drive.