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Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: Three Important End-Of-Year Tasks

Fred Langa recommends taking advantage of the slower pace of the holidays to perform three essential tasks.

The end of a year is a natural time for wrapping up loose ends from the year past and positioning yourself--and your PC--for a smooth start in the new year. In fact, taking a few minutes now to focus on some basic upkeep for your desktop hardware and software can pay off, big time, for months to come.

For example, all it takes is a little pointing and clicking--with no deep skill or knowledge required--to ensure that your hard drive is error-free, clear of viruses and other threats, cleaned of junk files, and defragged.

Once that's done, visit the "update" sites for your operating system (e.g. Windows Update ) and for your major applications and utilities; and the support pages on your PC vendor's Web site. Make sure you have all current security patches, important updates, and any new drivers appropriate for your system, and then make a special "keep forever" backup or disk image of the newly updated system, so you can rapidly restore your PC to this known-good state should you ever need to in the future.

Win98's Special Case
Updating your entire system now is especially important if you're one of the millions of users still running Win98: Microsoft plans to pull the plug on Win98 support on Jan. 16th of next year.

Microsoft has twice granted stays of execution to Win98/98SE, and we've covered those changes extensively in "Microsoft's Adjusted 'Product Lifecycle' Plans." But this time, it looks final. In the short, blunt terms of Microsoft's new online "Windows Desktop Support Life-Cycle Wizard:" "After Jan. 16, 2004, [Windows 98] will be obsolete..."

What that means is that as of mid-January 2004, assisted support for Win98 will shut down, and no new security patches are planned to be released for that operating system. The Win98 self-help Web sites will remain live for some time to come--a good thing--but no new material will go into them.

And of course, as Microsoft's support for Win98 dries up, most other vendors of Win98-specific products will follow suit.

In short, tens of millions of users are about to be left running obsolete, largely unsupported products. If you're among them, or if you support people who are still using Win98, it's especially important to take the time now to clean up the system; to get everything as fully up to date as possible; and to ensure the system is running right.

It might even be worthwhile to strip the system to the figurative bare metal--to reformat and reinstall everything fresh--while the full array of support, patches, and updates is available to you online. You then can preserve that perfect, clean installation via backups or drive imaging so you can get back to a known-good, clean state in the future, even when setup and support tools are no longer available.

If you can't do a full, to-the-bare-metal reinstall, consider the "no-reformat" reinstall discussed in this article.

And either way, check out "Ten Ways to Make Windows 98 Run Better" to help ensure the new, or renewed, installation works as well as it can.

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