QWhy should I bother buying a copy of Norton AntiVirus 2004 in the store instead of just downloading it?

ABoth versions cost the same ($49.95), so there's no cost advantage either way.

But if your computer doesn't include a CD-RW -- or if it does, but you don't know how to use it -- the boxed copy is the safer buy. If you should ever have to reinstall Windows, you'd only have to find the original CD to reload Norton AntiVirus.

Meanwhile, download-only buyers who hadn't thought to copy the Norton installer files could be out of luck in that scenario. Symantec does allow purchasers to download the software again for up to 60 days after purchase, but on the 61st day, a buyer without a backup copy would have to pay for the software all over again. (A $6.99 "extended download service" option extends this period to a year.)

When I switched from DSL to cable Internet access, the cable technician installed a new network card in my computer instead of connecting the cable modem to the old card. Why would he do that?

I suspect that the cable company was simply trying to reduce its risk. If it damaged the DSL hardware, which may still be the property of the DSL provider that supplied it, it could find itself in hot water.

In a case like that, the simplest way to avoid any hardware-tampering accusations is to leave all of the previous DSL installation alone. A cable installer can add a new network card and then disable the old one via software, leaving the disposal of the DSL modem to the resident.

This brings up a useful reminder: A cable technician's job is only to get that broadband connection to one computer in the house. If you have a home network, you may have to reconfigure your settings to get it to work with the new cable service, and the cable company may not be of much help.

-- John Gilroy

John Gilroy of Item Inc. is heard on WAMU's "The Computer Guys" at noon on the first Tuesday of the month. Send your questions to him in care of The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or via e-mail to jgilroy@iteminc.com.