HELP FILE

Help File: Bungled bundled software on a Dell; yet another phishing fraud

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By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, November 1, 2009

Q: My Dell Windows XP laptop keeps showing the same "Windows Installer" prompt telling me to insert a disc I don't have to run some Sonic program. How do I stop it?

A: Two readers asked a version of this question -- the other wanted to know if it was a scareware scam -- even though a solution for this problem arrived months ago.

You can blame it on a botched installation of a Roxio disc-writing utility that Dell shipped on some systems. A tech-support article at its site (the address is too long to print, but a search for "Sonic Update Manager" at http://dell.com should yield a link to the page) offers two workarounds. One is to run a "hotfix" file from Roxio's site; the other is to use Microsoft's Windows Installer CleanUp Utility, which may help other software foul-ups.

This is yet another reason to hate the lame software bundled with most Windows computers: Too often, it breaks down in ways that developers fix too late and then fail to document clearly.

Sadly, PC vendors don't seem to be using Windows 7's arrival as an excuse to clean up their act. The machines I saw on display at a Best Buy last week were as encrusted with junk software as ever.

Facebook sent me an e-mail asking me to update my account. Should I?

That e-mail is just another phishing fraud luring you to a phony, look-alike site. Type in a real or made-up Facebook password, and it will ask you to run a Windows-only "update tool" that will only hijack your PC. Ignore links in e-mails asking you to reset passwords; type a site's address into a browser yourself and then try logging in to see if there's a real problem.

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 robp@washpost.com. Visit voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his

Faster Forward blog.


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