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animated icons spyware  dangerously low memory win98Spyware!  Spyware is Internet jargon for Advertising Supported software (Adware). It is a way for shareware authors to make money from a product, other than by selling it to the users. There are several large media companies that offer them to place banner ads in their products in exchange for a portion of the revenue from banner sales. This way, you don't have to pay for the software and the developers are still getting paid. If you find the banners annoying, there is usually an option to remove them, by paying the regular licensing fee.  Why is it called "Spyware" ?  While this may be a great concept, the downside is that the advertising companies also install additional tracking software on your system, which is continuously "calling home", using your Internet connection and reports statistical data to a data collecting server. While according to the privacy policies of the companies, there will be no sensitive or identifying data collected from your system and you shall remain anonymous.... yea right!  It still remains the fact, that you have a "live" server sitting on your PC that is sending information about you and maybe your private data to a remote location!  Since no virus scanner scans for them, it is not trivial to remove them entirely or even detect them.  I have found a good Spyware "Scanner" and "Remover".  You can download it from here: AD-AWARE.EXE.

How to avoid Windows 98 & ME crashes. Starting with Windows 95 and its successors Win 98 and Win ME are all rather unstable operating systems, partially by design (to accommodate Win 3.x and DOS-driven programs and devices, Win 95/98/ME left itself open to trouble) and partially by design flaws (a troublesome and only partially fixable memory leak). Never let either version run for too long when you're not using it; the memory leak accumulates over time and causes the system to crash. When you're not using the system, shut your computer down. One source advises that you keep Windows running for two hours maximum before rebooting, unless you're using it to do something simple like typing; that sounds a little much to me. Other ways to lower the system stress on Windows is to keep the number of applications running as low as possible; to keep the number of windows open as low as possible; to minimize the open applications except for the one being used at the time (so much for layers of open windows); to avoid using the Alt+Tab shortcut with maximized windows (use the Taskbar instead); reduce the speed of the mouse to the lowest one you feel comfortable with (go through Control Panel/Mouse to play with the speed settings); avoid screen toys like fancy screensavers, wallpaper bitmaps, animated icons, desktop themes, and the like (use the ones provided by Windows itself, they are much lighter on system resources), avoid heavy programs like Lotus Organizer or MSOffice whenever possible, and when you do run them, don't run other programs along with them; avoid alarm/scheduler programs. Don't clutter up your Start menu with lots of extraneous toys. Low system resources cause crashes more often than anything else -- see below.

A sidenote to the above: while dozens, if not hundreds, of mainstream commercial programs are significant RAM hogs, here's a list of a few -- a very few -- of the worst offenders: Adobe's Photoshop, Jasc's Paint Shop Pro, and other graphics programs; Corel's WordPerfect Suite and other apps not originally written for Windows; RealPlayer and other streaming media utilities; and instant messaging apps like AOL's IM and ICQ. Not that these are the only memory suckers, just some of the most frequently identified.

You need more RAM? Yes, you do. Low system resources is one of the biggest reasons for the frequency of Win98 crashes. This generally refers to memory. Although Win 98 advertises itself as being able to run on as little as 8MB of memory, this is much too low for the system to sustain itself over a period of time. Additional RAM speeds things up more, but with an ever-decreasing rate of return. Buying a new PC with less than 32mb is foolish; and if you run large software programs like Microsoft Office, the newer machines with 128MB start to sound more like a necessity rather than a luxury. One common sign that your memory is running dangerously low is when Explorer starts displaying the wrong icons. If you see this happening, immediately save your work and shut down and restart your computer. If a program starts to misbehave (including making the system run more slowly, making the mouse jump around, making the screen twitch, whatever), save your work, close all programs, and shut down the system and reboot. Check your usage of system resources by going through Control Panel/System/Performance/System Resources. When the value displayed gets below 50%, save, close apps, and shut down and restart computer.

One of the simplest ways to ensure the most stable operation of your Windows PC is to install as little software as possible. You'll reduce the number of software conflicts, make the system easier to manage, and save disk space. But gee, I thought computers were designed to run software...I know, I know.

In a strange, rather Zen way, system crashes, purges, and reboots can be good. A surprising amount of technically savvy users periodically flush and reformat, reload their system as often as twice a year. They claim that it significantly improves performance and reliability. So, when your computer crashes and you have to scrub the whole thing, keep telling yourself that it's a good thing in the long run.

Keep your anti-virus software current. Do not run your computers without it! There are almost 50,000 known viruses out there. You cannot afford not to run your PC and server without one! If you're not running a virus program, Norton Anti-virus 2001 is the most popular and the recommended anti-virus program. In addition, update your virus definition at least on a weekly basis. Also, if you have an older version of the anti-virus program, you should also consider an upgrade. The cost of an anti-virus program is very minimal.

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