Give it up?

I have a several-year old HP a6600f running Vista Home. It's a mess - esp WRT MS apps; and defragging etc don't help.

Problems include: applications (primarily MS apps, esp Internet Explorer, Excel 2007, Windows Explorer, and Media Player crash hard and often, either requiring repeated restarts of the program or freezing the computer. These often crash as soon as they are started. Other crazy issues with restarting, like I'll start a restart, go to bed and it still hasn't shut down by morning. I have antivirus sofware (Norton 360) scanning regularly so it would seem a virus is not the problem.  Even more issues with installations, for example Windows Update.

The computer is a tool for me and this ain't a hobby, so I'm looking for a solution that works as opposed to takes a lot of my time.  I have a work laptop, so this hasn't been a priority, but I need to do my bills!  

As I see it my options are:
1) Try one of those registry fix things
2) Install Windows 7
3) Bite the bullet and buy a new freaking computer.

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Uninstall Norton, I think i will be enough
I'd say give it up -- the a6600f has a Pentium CPU.  The HP site shows a similar model for $300 shipping with Win7 Home.

But I also think its worth reinstalling the Vista you have.  Vista got a bad rep due to issues with drivers when it came out.  I ran Vista for a while and had no real issues.  Win 7 is a bit faster than Vista but not all that much.
I like the Norton suggestion.
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suobsAuthor Commented:
(Here's a revision with some more details. I would be interested to know why your software lets me edit a message then tellls me I can't edit it AFTER I make the changes...)

 have a several-year old HP a6600f running Vista Home. It's a mess - esp WRT MS apps; and defragging etc don't help.

Problems include: applications (primarily MS apps, esp Internet Explorer, Excel 2007, Windows Explorer, and Media Player crash hard and often, either requiring repeated restarts of the program or freezing the computer. These often crash as soon as they are started. Other crazy issues with restarting, like I'll start a restart, go to bed and it still hasn't shut down by morning. I have antivirus sofware (Norton 360) scanning regularly so it would seem a virus is not the problem.  Even more issues with installations, for example Windows Update will insist on installing something before a restart, then hang until I notice. In fact, restarting and shutting down often just don't work - gotta hit the off button.  All this has been getting steadily worse for about 6 months.  Things improved slightly several months ago when MS Update apparently installed a popup to shut down its frozen apps, which used to hang and require the off button.  Another odd thing is after a restart, it's kind of random - sometimes it will go 4-8 hours before needing to be shutdown, other times things start freezing immediately.

I happen to have a work laptop at my disposal, so fixing this one this hasn't been a priority . . .  but I do need a home computer.

The computer is a tool for me and this ain't a hobby, so I'm looking for a solution that works as opposed to takes a lot of my time.
As I see it my options are:
1) Try one of those registry fix things
2) Install Windows 7
3) Bite the bullet and buy a new freaking computer.

Any suggestions before I give more money away?
Well, I would use this procedure(have a valid backup before any change):
- uninstall all unnecessary programs
- clean files and registry using ccleaner
- scan PC using MBAM
Make a fresh install of vista (I hate myself saying that - I hate Vista)
If steps 1 and 2 would not help you could try install W7, but I doubt it will help so new PC with W7 would be a better option. It does not need to be a freaking...

Under step 1 you can also change antivirus software as suggested. You can try to install Ms security essentials. It is not perfect, but it is freeware.
suobsAuthor Commented:
I'm not sure I get the "uninstall Norton" idea. Permanently? Can I disable it or something to see if that's the problem?  Is this a known issue? What about virus protection?

suobsAuthor Commented:
Reinstall the operating system?  Doesn't that involve formatting the hard drive?  
I'm not familiar with Norton 360, but I have used Norton AV products cca. 10 years ago and they were great. But then new versions slowed down computers as hell, so I moved away from norton and never returned back. (I suppose that it could be the problem), but It is not the only one. There are lots of AV programs noticeably slowing down computers, so it is worth to try to remove it. You can still reinstall it if it is not the cause. Or you can use some other AV - security essentials is freeware, Avira is also quite good. If you want payable I would choose NOD32. (Most probably now you will get hundreds of suggestions which AV program is the best.)
Just disabling AV normally would not help.
Formating it is not strictly necessary, but if you want to eliminate all software causes, including malwares, it is recommended to format HDD.

I don't know if N360 has known issues, but some suspect so: 
well - an option is of course a fresh install; that will cure all software problems, and malware (it may also be the fastest solution; scannning and troubleshooting takes a lot of time)

if you want to "repair" it, i would :
1- scan for malware - run these :
     Spybot :                         MBAM                                       download
2 - repair the OS,  by running sfc, or a repair install :
                  SFC in Vista                      repair Vista
3- if still problems,you may also have hardware trouble - no errors in device manager, or event log?
suobsAuthor Commented:
Norton 360 is supposedly scanning for malware.  

What gets me this this. When the computer runs, it remains perfectly adequate for my needs despite its age (<3 years?). It's only one OS behind, and it's fast enough for what I do at home.  However it is generally confused and unreliable, especially with MS software including IE, Windows Explorer, and MS Office 2007.

There were some suggestions that this is due to Norton, but no consensus.  

It's not the money, it's the idea that I should see it as the norm that to own a computer means that after it gums up I will need to implement complex and time-consuming do-it-yourself procedures just to keep it doing some very basic things. It just seems wasteful to toss it, but I don't have time to mess with it.

I have to say (permit me to rant for a moment), that my impression of the computer industry (at least the MS side of it) is ineffectively dealing with existing problems while moving on to new functionality. This opinion is based on the behavior of this computer and other computers I have experience with, what I've seen on the Microsoft website (basically clean up and defrag the hard drive which has no effect), and the chaotic responses on this list . . . total confusion. Every response on this list has a certain "try it and see" kind of quality.

A number of (apparent) workarounds have been installed by MS Update, like the absurd ability to close IE and other apps when they freeze - the absurdity comes through when you close the app, restart it, it freezes again immediately, and you get the little popup allowing you to close the (usually MS) app again.

Determining what is conflicting with what really seems to me to be a task better suited to a computer than having a human to spend a weekend manually uninstalling and reinstalling applications to see if I hit on a solution.  Since everything seems to work sometimes, it seems unlikely I will ever figure out what the source of the problem is.  

Since I don't have time to screw around I guess the only option is to buy a new PC with an OS from same company that can't seem to provide a straight answer on how to keep their prevous OS working consistently . . .
... and sooner or later you will hit the same problem also on new PC with new OS.
It is human to make mistakes and computers are made by humans...
suobsAuthor Commented:
I agree about issues coming up again eventually with any new OS, but what is the mistake you're referring to?  Vista?  If your answer is yes, why hasn't it been fixed?  Why not tweak it until it until it does work? I don't think it's unreasonable to expect it to work with MS and MS-certified applications, and for MS to be accountable for that and for figuring out a way to sort out compatibility conflicts as they happen - at least until the OS becomes obsolete. Since I haven't heard that it's obsolete (most applications currently claim compatibility), it's unclear to me why MS doesn't resolve the issues.
you can buy an apple then..
suobsAuthor Commented:

By "fresh install" I guess you mean of Vista?
exactly; i also pointed out what your options are - the choice is yours
personally, i do a fresh install at least every 2 years.
you can diminue the time it takes, - after the install is complete- by making an image of the disk, to use later
does the HP not have a reset to factory settigns as well?  you cna use that - but do NOT forget to backup your data first...
I wasn't referring to any particular mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. And if there is thousands of people working on the one complex software it is good that in the end is working at all.
About fixing: Everyone wants that stuff is fixed as soon as possible and with as less work as possible.
Like fixing your computer. Time needed for procedures in step 1 is about 1-1.5h. If that will not correct the problem it is better to start from beginning than trying to find the cause of problem. Fresh install with migrating user data will take you cca. 4 hours. Some are saying that reformatting is a must every year.

The same thing is for Vista. It was made with bad foundations, so fixing it will take to much time, so Ms decided for a new start.
With "fresh install" I mean Vista, but if extra expenses for Windows 7 don't bothers you I would go on W7.
Two years and something is not that old PC. Anyway I don't know your needs and what you can afford.
suobsAuthor Commented:
I guess I'll try a fresh Vista install as soon as I get everything backed up. Which I'd need to do for a new PC anyway. If it's not better, I'm doubt I'll spend the money to move to W7.

No errors in Device Manager.  Diagnosis is not going to happen, I'm too busy.

suobsAuthor Commented:
What is event log?
Event logs you can see in Event viewer (under administrative tools.)
suobsAuthor Commented:
If I understand it right, what I see - zero hardware events - confirms that there are no hardware issues?
did you check ALL logs?  system, application, etc..?
suobsAuthor Commented:
No. There's plenty of application errors (stopped counting at 30 today alone). But I'm not trying to diagnose the problem. As I understood it the idea here was to just make sure it's not a hardware problem before reinstalling Vista.  No?
suobsAuthor Commented:
On a related note, I've probably restarted at least 8 times today.  IE has frozen numerous times and the easiest thing to do when that happens is just restart.
1. Uninstall everything you no longer use and Norton.
2. Turn on the Windows Firewall unless you are behind a router.
2. Run a chkdsk against your hard drive:
 - type CMD into the Start Menu and right-click the command prompt icon that appears and select Run As Administrator
 - in the box type   chkdsk  c:  /F/V
 - reboot and let it scan
 - look in your System Event Log for the event with source Winlogon that shows the results of the scan.
3. Check your RAM for errors:
4. If IE is misbehaving, go to Control Panel - Internet Options - Advanced tab - "Reset..."
if you have regularly crashes, you can run from a live cd - if that runs ok, the hardware is fine:           Knoppix                               BartPe
suobsAuthor Commented:
Sorry, the computer's problems include major problems with Windows Explorer, which seems to affect any method I use of transferring files to another device - requiring significant manual intervention.

So I'm still working on backing up a lot of files before I can try any of the proposed solutions.
suobsAuthor Commented:
. . . so don't close it out just yet.
copy your data when booted from Knoppix !!
suobsAuthor Commented:
Nobus, I have no idea what that means.

Sounds interesting though!
Knoppix is a bootable Linux-on-a-CD distribution:

You boot that CD and from there get at the poorly PC's filesystem and copy the required data off to a pendrive or a network share.  I've used it often for that (but never for anything else!)
when you are booted from CD , you have ANOTHER OS and drivers running.
These can often access files that the filessystem does not let you
you can even use USB disks to copy to
and Access the net
i use it all the time, also for checking if all hardware is ok
AND - it's completely FREE !
suobsAuthor Commented:
Free is good. I'll try that.
suobsAuthor Commented:
Does Knoppix have some kind of directory GUI, like Windows Explorer?

Downloading it now.

Yep it has a suitable interface.  If you use a pendrive you will have to right-click its desktop icon and select "Mount" and then right-click it and find the option that makes it writeable before you can copy to it.
you'll have to learn  to use it of course - but it's not more difficult than windows; in fact many programs, and functions work more or less alike
suobsAuthor Commented:
This is a very slow process because of the frequent crashes, but I haven't given it up yet.

The term "pen drive" . . . I'm assuming Knoppix can be run from any USB drive, for example a 1TB external drive?
suobsAuthor Commented:

OK, Knoppix is a new world of confusion. The download page talks about Knoppix and BitTorrent, but when you click on the download link, what downloads is Elf_1.exe.  When it's run, it's not clear what the heck happened - an IE page for a free IPhone opens. Same thing downloads when you try to download BitTorrent.

What is the purpose of installing Knoppix again?  Just to copy files?  Or can I run apps from it?

suobsAuthor Commented:
Finally using the link that Nobus provided,, I was able to download a zip file with an .ido extension. It is totally not clear what to do with this file. There are 45 files in it, none are executable, and the readme's are incoherent text files.
Burn that ISO to a CD-R using something like ImgBurn for example and then boot the poorly PC with it with your memory stick/external drive connected for copying the data off onto.
suobsAuthor Commented:
Here's a new twist. During one of the machine's blue-screen crashes, HP Diagnostics (apparently part of the original installation) reported a SMART test failure for the computer's hard drive. I can't find anything in System Tools from MS to confirm this test.  I've looked it up (Error Code BIOHD-8) and as near as I can tell it's not the same as a warning of an imminent drive failure.

Is this test inconclusive or can I take it to mean that I do in fact have a hard drive ready to fail (i.e., the hardware problems mentioned above)?

I want to just try a "fresh install". As I understand it the main concerns are that I have my files backed up (in my case on the 1TB USB drive) and that I should plan to reinstall all software. Will Vista take care of clearing or reformatting the hard drive during this process of reintstalling it
If SMART throws up an error then presume your hard drive is dying and get everything backed up ASAP and aim to get a new drive.
You might like to try this FREE app to monitor hard drive health within Windows including SMART status and drive temperature.
suobsAuthor Commented:
OK dying hard drive is one thing. Would it be safe to implicate that in the problems the machine has been having for about a year?  In other words, any thoughts on the replace machine question given this new info - or replace hard drive? Of course a hard drive I could always recycle into a new machine if there are continued problems.
Well this is a concrete sign of something identifiably wrong so presume for now it is the underlying cause (though that is not definite).  A hard drive will hardly break the bank and as you say could be re-used in another computer if need be.

In fact, with the health of this hard drive now appearing suspect, you could forget Knoppix altogether since you would no longer want to reformat this drive:
 - Remove dodgy hard drive
 - Install new hard drive and do clean install on to it
 - Add in old hard drive as a second drive
  - access the old drive from within your new Windows installation and copy off what you need.

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suobsAuthor Commented:
Acronis give a temperature warning for an older Seagate external drive. For the internal hard drive SMART parameters, under "Current Sector Pending Count" it says "Warning" but doesn't seem to have any details on that or what it means.
suobsAuthor Commented:
Cantoris, you mean install Vista on the new hard drive, then access what I need from the old one?  Wouldn't I need to make the second drive the boot drive at some point in that process?
Yes that's what I mean; and no you wouldn't need to boot to the second (old) drive.  It would just appear as an extra drive letter(s) within My Computer.

As regards the SMART details, a quote I found online is "Pending Sectors is how many sectors having difficulty being read" - worrying.  As far as I'm concerned, a SMART failure should be treated as a drive-replacement-required situation.  Data is too important to risk!

You probably have no control over the cooling of your external hard drive (unless its fan or vents are full of dust).  Ensure your [new] internal hard drive gets good airflow though.  I always make a point of putting a big fan in front of it in the case and often I also get a special hard drive cooling fan to attach under it.  Of the dead hard drives I see at work, many of them are red hot when I pull them out.  I personally think keeping your drives cool is an easy way to prolong their life.  (Or at least prevent it being foreshortened!)
suobsAuthor Commented:
OK, I'm over the $50 for a small new hard drive.  But I'm replacing the old hard drive with a new one. To make it a replacement I will need to have the OS on the new one. Why would I install it as a second drive? The problem is not just backing up my files, but having a new install of VIsta. Why would I do that on a failing hard drive?

I guess I'm unclear on the steps. Install as second drive for copying, then what to reinstall Vista?
suobsAuthor Commented:
BTW, I've managed to get everything backed up onto a new external drive, so that's no longer an issue.
1. Remove old dying drive.
2. Put new drive into machine.
3. Install Windows Vista (or windows 7 preferably) onto this new drive.
4. My suggestion had been to then connect your dying drive as well as a second (non-booting) drive in the PC so that you can get at its data.  If you've already managed to back it up then this is no longer required.
suobsAuthor Commented:
Sorry, I misread the bit about replacing the old with new then reinstalling the old as #2.

OK, I'm going in when I get back from BestBuy . . .
suobsAuthor Commented:
One remaining question. I don't have an installation disk but do have a set of recovery disks I made when it was net. Will this let me install and update Vista on a new, blank hard drive? I have the product key from the label on the computer, since it was pre-installed.
The recovery disks ought to be all you need.
as said - the recovery disks will install everything on your pc - as it was when new.
if you want to check the "bad" harddisk, you can diagnose it with the diag for your disk brand  -found on ubcd :      
if it diagnoses BAD - you can still try to repair it by running HDAT2 - scan and repair :
post results !
suobsAuthor Commented:
OK the new drive installed fine and the computer is booting from it. The old drive which was installed after the new one was working is not being detected by Windows Explorer, but is being detected by Device Manager and the new disk's Seagate software. According to the installation instructions it should be detected automatically.
try what i posted above...
Open up Computer Management and from the Disk Management node look for the old hard drive in the list at the bottom - you may need to right-click each partition and assign them a free drive letter.

Or, since you now have a nice clean installation and you've got your data backed up, you could always delete the partitions off the old drive using Disk Management (just be very sure you're doing it to the right one!), make a new partition, format it and run Nobus' diagnostics against It.  I wouldn't be entrusting data to it again though.
suobsAuthor Commented:
OK, but for now the goal was just to copy stuff from the old drive. The problem is I can't see it.

"Computer Management" - that's from the ultimatebootcd download??

I thought you'd said yesterday that you'd copied the stuff to your external drive and therefore don't need to copy from your old drive now anyway?

Computer Management is part of Windows.  Here are some sample instructions:

Don't alter the drive letters assigned to your new drive.  Just add suitable ones to the old one.
suobsAuthor Commented:
Crazy - not in Control Panel or System Tools. I found it using Search, but I don't think I've ever heard of it. I'll try it out.

Carbonite is workin away, but the current estimate for the restore is 40 hours. I just wanted to browse some files that are on the old drive. I was also wondering if it works.
suobsAuthor Commented:
I ran Computer Management and the drive appeared in WE soon after.  Things seem to be going OK, but IE has crashed a few times.
suobsAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all the help and I'll split points between nobus and cantoris for seeing it through to the end.

I'm a little concerned about the early comments about Norton 360 possibly causing problems. Now I hesitate to reinstall it. Can I really get by with the security that came with Vista?
10023Web site maintenance and designCommented:
For what it is worth I have spent days chasing HP end user hardware problems over the last
10 years...with most machines I work to eliminate software symptons first...with HP I go right to hardware.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I've skimmed over much of this, once I realized how old it is... that said, here's some thoughts:

1.  You stated in your first comment "I would be interested to know why your software lets me edit a message then tellls me I can't edit it AFTER I make the changes..." and I think the answer is because you edited the question and tried to save the edits AFTER someone had responded.  The system doesn't, if I'm not mistaken, allow you to make changes to a question once a response has been offered or you could make the response meaningless.  

2.  With regards to Norton.  Two decades ago, Norton was the best thing you could have on your computer.  Since then, it's been a dog written by arrogant programmers who don't seem to think they could be wrong about anything.  Their Marketing is second to none, but their programming is AWFUL.  Every major virus outbreak I've dealt with over the years has been on networks "protected" by Norton or Symantec (the corporate version).  Just this past weekend, I migrated a household with 4 copies of Norton 360 to VIPRE Home Premium.  I've been installing VIPRE antivirus products on most of my client's systems for the past 15 months or so and I (and my clients) have been quite pleased with it, compared to other products.  Today, NOTHING is 100% effective.  In fact, I often say most things are about 80% effective with little variation. The virus writers are winning.  Period.  But unless you want to have a failed system QUICKER, you still need something and you need to educate yourself on how you get infected and what to do to help prevent from getting infected - antivirus/antispyware software is just ONE COMPONENT of an effective plan.  I could go on, but this is going to likely be a long post anyway and this particular aspect of the comment could be turned into a book, or at least a several page article, so I'm stopping here.

3. Re: using Knoppix - Years ago, I would have recommended it, as an alternative to recover your data, but today, not so much.  Most Linux distributions are bootable anyway, Suse, Ubuntu - using Knoppix isn't necessary any more.  But I disagree with the assertion that's its as easy as Windows.  And not sure if this was mentioned as a pro, but I think the community support aspect of Linux is HORRIBLE.  TOO MANY people in the linux community, when asked for help will respond with RTFM - Read the F'ing Manual.  That is not helpful.  The manual half the time is not helpful.  And the other half the time, I would try to - IF I had the time to do it - I'm asking because I need a solution sooner than later.  (I've had members of my local Linux User Group agree with my opinion on this).  Linux is a powerful system that HAS been getting easier, but is still not ready for prime time "non-tech" adoption in anything other than HIGHLY specialized things (like your TiVo).

4. Re: Perfecting Windows Vista (or any other version) - they did... it's called Windows 7.  Ok, it's a major upgrade that's NOT free, but it's similar in many ways and FAR better in my opinion.  Vista was a major redesign that took too long (MS likes to have 2-3 years between OS releases - XP was 2001 I believe and Vista was 6 years later - WAAAY too long for them, so - and this is just my opinion, they pushed and pushed and pushed it out the door without it working better than Beta quality and they did that in part by saying it won't run on most older machines.  That, combined with a false marketing push that resulted in legal action with some companies claiming machines to be Vista Capable when they weren't, it was just an overall bad time.  Microsoft has, in my opinion, taken a log of heat on Vista, and largely deserved.  Windows 7 took complaints, took opinions, and did a lot of little things to fix up what Vista screwed up.  It's not perfect (in contrast to my earlier implication), but it's much better in my opinion.

5. In response to "I have to say (permit me to rant for a moment), that my impression of the computer industry (at least the MS side of it) is ineffectively dealing with existing problems while moving on to new functionality. This opinion is based on the behavior of this computer and other computers I have experience with, what I've seen on the Microsoft website (basically clean up and defrag the hard drive which has no effect), and the chaotic responses on this list . . . total confusion. Every response on this list has a certain "try it and see" kind of quality." I'd like to say/point out - "Try This, Try That" is because we didn't write the software.  And even if we did, we didn't write the compilers.  And even if we did, we didn't design the systems our programs run on.  And even if we did, we didn't design the actual chips the systems use.  Computers are much like human bodies - especially over time, each becomes VERY unique based on their experiences.  There are certain guidelines technicians can follow to fix them - just as there are certain guidelines doctors can follow to fix us.  When you a problem, an experienced technician will tell you to try things (or try themselves) based on their experience and understanding of how things should work.  Just like when a doctor tries to write a prescription and diagnose you based on your symptoms.  Computers are logical - but the people who built them and the programs used on them - are not.  

6. Regarding moving to a Mac - if your applications are available on a Mac (not through parallels/virtualization running Windows), that may be an option. But you BETTER understand that a Mac is a computer and just because it seems safer today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow.  There's a popular myth that if you run a Mac your immune to viruses.  There's a saying it IT Security - Security by obscurity is NOT security.  As Macs do gain in popularity, viruses and attacks against them will gain as well.  Right now, attacks are based on economics, mostly.  And it's far more profitable to attack PCs because of their number... send out a virus that captures your banking info as you go online to PCs and you'll get FAR more success than you will against Macs because there are FAR more PCs than Macs.  Sooner or later, someone is going to realize that there are MANY unprotected Macs and attack them and the attack will be FAR more devastating on the whole.

7.  Registry cleaners are cr*p.  I don't and wouldn't recommend them to anyone.  I don't know any skilled, reputable technician who would.  People who do are usually just falling for the hype.  In some little ways they may do SOME good, but I simply wouldn't trust them not to cause issues themselves.

8.  So it sounds like you're at a point that the system is working reasonably well for you.  Good.  In the future, if you consider a reinstall (depending on the applications you use, this CAN be a faster solution than troubleshooting some issues), just buy a replacement hard drive.  The cost of drives has fallen so much that a 500 GB drive can be found for $40-50.  Considering the cost of a technician's labor to backup the system (and/or the value of your time), backups typically take hours and cost hundreds.  Pull the existing drive, buy a $15 enclosure for it, and $50 hard drive, and just reinstall.  All your data - heck even the OS install - is available if you want to try it again.  And you get a clean install with a new drive that's (in theory) less close to failing (all drives WILL fail - they have moving parts - as they age, the odds of failure go up.  In my experience, MOST drives will last 5-10 years before failure, but how they are utilized will often make them obsolete quicker (a 5 year old 250 GB drive won't last very long as a HD video storage device, even if it still works just fine physically).

I think that covers my rant.  :-)

...if you want a working computer and you don't want have to learn all of this stuff.

The plus side of doing the wipe and rebuild is that you will get a great education in maintaining a PC. If you want to learn all of this, I would not criticize this as I have been down this path many times. I usually recommend against it.

Often when this happens it is many hours to get things back on track. For a pro this means hundreds of dollars. What you may end up with at that rate is a $150 computer for $300. So this is actually a good time to think about whether or not you would like to own something better. This means more money but a much better result.

I just had this discussion with a client today. She needs a new PC.

This thread is one of the best sales pitches for Macintosh computers I've ever seen. I think I'll capture the whole page for people thinking about the choosing. I support both and I don't mean to be taking cheap shots at PC as I completely understand their value, purpose and function.

personally, i use a hardware router, and AVG for years - no problems
BUT i do not visit strange sites (read sex, pron, etc.)
PC Security and Safety:
1 - Hardware router if possible.
2 - Windows Firewall on regardless of (1)
3 - MS Security Essentials for anti-malware
4 - Windows Updates on automatic
5 - Don't visit dodgy sites and download dodgy things

As has already been said, Macs are not inherently safer, they're just not attractive to malware writers YET.  My main complaints with Macs would be:
 - the software I know and love is often not available on it
 - the ridiculous price tag
and, it has to be said:
 - significant proportions of the Mac community being smug and preachy (not referring to mccrick's post!)
I don't see why I should pay through the nose for an "unpackaging experience" and a nicely styled case.  I want a computer not a fashion statement.  It's like paying more to have a Lacoste label on your shirt.  I did borrow a MacBook once for some weeks and just couldn't get on with it.  I didn't like the interface (not that I like Win 7's SuperBar!) and just ended up booting up my slow old laptop instead most of the time as I preferred its apps.  It's been the same every time I tried a new Ubuntu.
... prepares to duck the flames.  ;)

I agree with some of the other things said above.
 - Norton - I've heard their more recent solutions are much better than the horrible stuff they released a bit back but I'm not ready to put my trust in them again.
 - Linux - a thoroughly inpenetrable other-world.  I dislike Knoppix (and Ubuntu) but found them an occasional necessity.  If only MS would make ERD Commander part of the Windows DVD - ie incorporated in WinRE.

One more thing, as sites like this show, plenty of people have plenty of weird problems with Windows PCs that are hard to fathom and fix.  Apple may not be affected in the same manner but don't forget that with them you have a limited range of core hardware for the OS to worry about.  In stark comparison to Macs, with Windows we enjoy the freedom of huge choice and customisation and value for money but we pay for this.  Far too many possible hardware combinations that can't be tested together and our having to rely on these manufacturers writing high quality drivers that play well with the OS.  Sadly many do not and everyone then tries to blame MS for the crashes when it's often not their code to blame.  So many Windows problems are down to dodgy 3rd-party drivers or other 3rd-party code.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Cantoris' comment reminded me of a Mark Minasi article last year.  Not sure if it requires login to read, but if you can see it, I loved this:
suobsAuthor Commented:
suobsAuthor Commented:
Someone mentioned a hardware router providing security. Are we talking about a router as in a cable router? If so, that's how we connect to the internet.
look here what i meant :
suobsAuthor Commented:
So you're saying that having a DSL modem between the computer and the internet provides some kind of firewall, so less security is needed on the computer?

yes that is it - it isolates your ip from the net
Not just a modem though - it must include router functionality.
If from a command prompt on your PC you run
and all the listed IPv4 addresses are in the private range - almost always 192.168.y.z - then you are OK.

Whatever the config, you can check how well you are firewalled here:
And towards the bottom use the "Shields Up" link.
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Microsoft Legacy OS

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