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PC Tech Tips - Vol. 5.2


Anti-Virus Not Enough

You've heard the news and reports about computer viruses. You=ve heard how devastating they can be to your computer system. So, you add an anti-virus program to your collection of software. However, it isn't necessarily enough just to have it and install it on your system. It seems to be working well enough because each time you turn on your system, the anti-virus scans for viruses.

Be aware, though, of two concerns: 1) The anti-virus software is most likely set to scan only certain files; 2) new viruses are being created faster than we can find cures for them! A recent call to Network Associates, makers of McAfee anti-virus, revealed that 99 new cures were added to their "cures" list in just one month!

Customarily, when an anti-virus is installed on your system, it is automatically set to scan only executable program files, none of the system files or files which we create as our data and documents. However, there are a few known viruses that attack document files created in Microsoft Word or Excel. Left with the default settings, your anti-virus software will not pick up on these strains of viruses.

It is advised that you, periodically, choose to scan your system manually and change the scanning method to include ALL files rather than only an executable program files. This method can take up to 45 minutes, depending upon how much you have stored on your hard drive. Therefore, you may want to start your scan to run overnight. Be sure to read the scan log when the process is complete. This log reflects all viruses found and cleaned along with any that were found that could NOT be cleaned from your system.

New Viruses

Your anti-virus software most likely comes with a subscription offer. This offer is designed to keep your software updated in order to detect and cure new viruses that are discovered. Anti-virus companies may work on viruses for several months after the discovery of a new virus before finding a cure.

Similar to a prescription refill, the subscription will include the ability to update your software each month. This can be done over the Internet or by diskette sent through the mail. Your instruction manual gives detailed information regarding how to perform the update.

As our Internet and World Wide Web access increases, so does our exposure to viruses. Computer viruses can be devastating to a computer. They are a major concern and protection from them should be taken seriously.

What is an Attachment?

By now, most of us have email capabilities on our computers. It is fast becoming our second, most-frequently used form of communication (ahead of faxing, yet behind the telephone). Not only can we send and receive quick notes, letters, advertisements (and jokes) across the world in a flash, but we can also send and receive computer files and images.

Sent along with an email message, these files are known as attachments. Attachments can be computer program files (exe), documents (doc, wpg, txt), pictures (jpg, tif, gif, bmp, etc.), or even groups of files compressed into one (zip).

Once we receive an attachment, what do we do with them? How do we view them? Where are they stored?


Depending upon the program you use to read your email, attachments are stored in different places. If you use Netscape's mail, Eudora, the Microsoft InBox or Outlook, your attachments will appear as an icon within the body of your email message. When you look at the contents of your "incoming mail" folder, messages with attachments are marked with the image of a paper clip. Simply double-clicking on the email will reveal the sender's message along with an icon of the attachment.

If you receive and read your mail through America Online or older versions of Compuserve, attachments are stored in a folder called Download. The body of the email address usually indicates the name of the file so you can identify it when you are browsing your Download folder.

What to do with attachments

In the case of documents or pictures, courteous attachment-senders will tell you which program they used to save the file. If you have the same program, you will be able to open the file. For example, if someone attaches a Microsoft Word document and you have the same version of Word (or newer), you will be able to open the document, print it, modify it and save it into an appropriate folder.

If you receive a document created with WordPerfect or Works, and you don't have either program, yet you have Microsoft Word 95 or 97, you should not have a problem opening the file. Word can read most WordPerfect files and Works files. However, if you have older versions of WordPerfect or Works, you may have a problem with Word 97 files.

Say someone sends you a picture of the family so you can see how everyone has grown. This can be much more complicated if they do not save it in a common form such as a Bitmap (bmp) file. Since some of us do not have special graphics programs on our computers, we may not be able to view the picture.

Program files (exe) and compressed files (zip) sent as attachments should be placed in a special folder before opening. The sender usually provides instructions in the body of their email message. Be most careful when receiving and opening these types of files. Be sure that you know who the sender is. These types of files are the type which can contain viruses.

Viewing attachments

If your email program displays attachments as an icon, double-clicking on the icon will open a program, then the attachment. The computer attempts to find a program on your computer that can read files of this type. As in the example above, if the attachment is a Word document, double-clicking it will open Word on your computer, then open the document. If the document is a picture saved as a bitmap (bmp) file, double-clicking the icon will open MS Paint, then the file.

Compuserve and AOL users must first open a program such as Word, WordPerfect or Paint, then choose File, Open and identify the Download folder where the attachment is stored.

Sending Attachments

Each email program varies slightly with sending attachments. However, the process is the same. Address your email as normal with any "cc's" and a subject line. Write a note about the file(s) you are attaching. Be sure to include the filename, the program used to create it or a "file type" and any special instructions within the body of your message.

One of the pull-down menus or buttons on the icon bar will give you the choice to add an attachment. Your email program will then open your folders on your computer to allow you to indicate the location and name of the file. Once you choose the file, simply click your Send button and your attachment and email are on the way!

Special notes

It is beneficial to the recipients if you ask ahead of time whether or not they have programs to read this type of file. If not, your program will usually allow you to Save As a different file Type or to a different program version.

Spring Cleaning Caution

Spring usually means cleaning and clearing of unwanted and unused items. Take caution where the computer is concerned. Brand name computers usually come loaded with so much demonstration and tutoring software that it can occupy anywhere from one-third to one-half of your hard drive storage!

Our tendency is to delete unused items to free up space and clutter. However, deleting certain icons from a Windows 95 desktop can prove to be fatal to your system. Deleting programs and folders can make a mess of any Windows environment. If a program comes with an uninstall icon, it is best to use it when removing a program. AUninstaller@ programs can help, but they can be extremely dangerous as they have been known to delete files that are shared by other programs.

It is best to hire a professional to assist you with your spring cleaning efforts. However you decide to tackle this task, BACK UP your entire system before proceeding.

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