Microsoft may have stopped providing security updates for Windows XP but a large number of PC users are sticking with the venerable old workhorse. Because safety is very dependent on individual habits and skills, I won’t comment on the controversial issue of whether continuing to use XP is safe. However, a lot of Gizmo’s readers are still using Windows XP so I thought it worth passing along some tips on how to make XP systems more secure. If you are determined to continue using XP, here are four ways to help keep your system safer.
1. Free Antivirus programs
Although Microsoft isn’t updating Windows XP (unless you pay them a lot of money), many security software vendors are continuing to support Windows XP with updated antivirus programs. The security firm AV.Test did a recent test of how effectively various programs protected XP. The results are summarized in a PCMag article called XP Users Can Still Get Effective Antivirus Protection
Several free programs did quite well, including three from Gizmo’s Best Free Antivirus Software. These were:
How long these vendors will continue to support free versions of their software for Windows XP is unknown but, for now, XP systems continue to have good free antivirus programs available.
2. Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)
Extensive protection against malware exploits is provided by the free Microsoft tool EMET. It has the virtue that it requires no continual updating of virus signatures and can guard against zero-day attacks on previously unknown security holes. Download is here. A detailed description of how to use it is given in the tutorial by fellow editor Dedoimedo called Microsoft EMET v4 review & extensive tutorial. The tutorial is for EMET 4.0 but is applicable to the current version 4.1. EMET is a powerful program and some software may have conflicts. However, the tutorial explains how to make exceptions for programs that are blocked by EMET. Note that EMET requires that you install .NET Framework 4.0.
Many of Gizmo’s members swear by the free sandboxing program Sandboxie. There are those who even say that no other antimalware protection is needed. Not everyone would go that far but there is no question that Sandboxie provides a high level of protection. Personally, I think everyone who uses Windows XP should give installing it very serious consideration. How to set up and use Sandboxie is described in the excellent article on our site by fellow editor Anupam called An Introduction and a Quick Guide to Sandboxie
This is another line of defense that does not involve continual updating of malware signatures or security updates for the operating system.
4. Back up the system regularly
Finally, I have to mention the security measure that everyone knows but often neglects – making regular backups. If you make a disk or USB key with a copy of your entire system and also back up your personal files frequently, you can always resort to a low-level reformat and restoring the system and files in the event of a malware infection. Just make sure the backup medium you use is only connected to your system when backing up. Malware can attack anything that is attached,
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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.
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