My five-year-old computer was infected with a virus. Instead of fighting it, I decided it was time to get a new machine. Can I copy my Word documents and pictures to a floppy and put them on my new computer without doing harm?
Yes -- but make sure you first scan the files and the floppy on the new machine. That's because Word documents can be hijacked by so-called macro viruses, picture files can be attacked in the same way, and many old viruses routinely spread via floppy disks as well.
Fortunately, your new PC should come with antivirus software that, once updated, can bar any unwanted guests at the door. Use that software's auto-update feature to go online and download any available updates to its database of known viruses, then let it scan the floppy disk when you insert it.
If this utility finds viruses embedded in files or on the disk itself, it should offer to clean up the infection. If it can't do that, you'll need to borrow a non-Windows computer, on which you could safely open the file, then save a copy of it in a different format inhospitable to the virus (for instance, save an infected Word document as a text-only file).
I have Windows XP and recently downloaded the Service Pack 2 upgrade. Since then, my start-up takes longer. How can I prevent Instant Messenger from starting up? Will I do any damage by doing this? (I don't use IM at all.)
Click the MSN Messenger option in the system tray -- the box at the bottom-right corner of the Windows desktop stuffed with mostly meaningless icons -- select the Tools menu item and click on Options. Click the General tab and uncheck all the "connect automatically" options.
This won't affect the rest of your computer, but it will mean one less program has to get in gear when you start the PC.
-- Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org.