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Correction to This Article
This technology Q&A incorrectly said that a faulty update for McAfee anti-virus software affected only corporate and institutional users. Some home computers with the Windows XP operating system were also affected. McAfee has since posted a note on its Web site (us.mcafee.com/en-us/landingpages/np5959.asp) that offers free tech support and free software to fix the problem. The company also says it plans to reimburse home users who hired other firms to repair their computers.
Help File: A botched McAfee update, Facebook exposure options

By Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010; G03

Q: Is it safe to install McAfee's updates?

A: That's a fair question to ask after the security-software firm's epic-level screw-up last week. The Santa Clara, Calif., company posted a buggy update for its business anti-virus programs that a note on its site (http://mcafee.com/us/about/false_positive_response.html) says had "moderate to significant issues" on some computers.

That's quite the understatement. McAfee's botched patch falsely identified a core system file as a virus and left affected PCs -- running Windows XP, upgraded with Microsoft's Service Pack 3 -- in a catatonic state, unable to boot and unable to recover without complicated tinkering. Press accounts indicate thousands of computers at such companies as Intel but also government and educational institutions got wiped out.

Although McAfee's consumer security applications weren't involved in this problem, a lot of home users might feel a little nervous about its next anti-virus updates. But avoiding those downloads or shying away from Microsoft's Service Pack upgrades only increases a PC's vulnerability.

As McAfee alternatives go, I continue to like Microsoft's free Microsoft Security Essentials (http://microsoft.com/securityessentials). But knowing how Windows can be, I can't guarantee that program won't commit some friendly fire of its own.

How do I control the new Facebook features on The Post and other sites?

When you see an embedded bit of that social network -- such as the "Network News" box on the Post's home page or a "Like" button below a story-- it might not be obvious which site controls how much of your data can show up there.

Facebook does, so you'll need to go there, click the "Account" menu at its home page's top right and select "Privacy Settings." Then click "Profile Information," look for the "Likes and Interests" item and change the menu to its right to "Only Friends" (unless you'd rather broadcast what Post stories you like to more people).

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 http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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