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Originally published Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 12:08 AM

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For laptop with XP, safety requires a full quarantine

Stand-alone use of the old, unsupported version of Windows can be safe, but there are several potential risks to consider, writes Patrick Marshall. He also answers questions about a phone scam and Comcast’s FastConnect pop-up.

Special to The Seattle Times


Q: I still have an 8-plus-year-old Dell laptop running XP. I only use it to download updated data for a portable Garmin GPS, equally old. It’s connected for 15 minutes, then turned off, and this is done four or five times per year. No data is stored on this laptop, and I have removed everything except Firefox and the needed Garmin downloader.

Should I bother with an anti-virus package for such limited use? Any other worries? I use a Mac for all my computer needs, but Garmin doesn’t support Mac for this GPS unit.

— Greg, Tucson

A: If that XP computer isn’t connected to the Internet or to a network, the only thing you’d have to worry about is software you install on it or devices you connect to it.

If the only thing you’re connecting to the computer is that Garmin GPS device, and if you don’t connect that device to other computers, networks or the Internet, you’re good to go.

Alternatively, you could install Boot Camp on your Mac to create a Windows partition. That should allow you to access the Garmin device.

Q: I read the recent column concerning the “Microsoft Errors” telephone call. I had the same call on Sept. 12 and, probably foolishly, played along until they got to the point of saying they would clean my computer for a “one-time” charge of $177.00.

At that point I said goodbye, and they started another pitch and I clicked off the phone. A few days later my wife answered the phone and it was the same group; she told them she did not have a computer and hung up.

They did ask me to open a website, where they showed me all the supposed errors on my computer. Hopefully, my computer will get by this unscathed.

— Glenn Logan

A: Chances are, you’re OK. But just going to a website with malware on it can trigger an installation on your computer.

So do keep your eye out for strange behavior. Better yet, install an anti-malware program. It seems that malware — and especially the subset of malware called “adware” — is growing in leaps and bounds.

Q: I have a Dell laptop with a Windows 7 Home Premium. Every time I boot, I get two different pop-ups. Both pertain to FastConnect. It gives me two options: Click “Later” or “OK.” How do I get rid of them?

— Bob Lalande, Tacoma

A: Yes, those pop-ups are from the FastConnect password manager offered by Comcast.

The easiest way to get rid of the pop-ups is to uninstall FastConnect. If the program doesn’t uninstall using the Programs and Features utility in the Control Panel, you can download a removal tool at:

Most browsers now include their own password managers anyway. If you need a password manager for applications installed on your computer, there are many options. You can find a comparison of several top programs at

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at


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