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Backing up the important files on your computer is one of the smartest things you can do as a PC owner. Your hardware and software is replaceable but your child's first step video and the pictures from your favorite vacation are not. Here are dozens of completely free backup software programs to get you started.

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Patch Tuesday April 2014: 4 Security Updates

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Windows Update IconToday is Patch Tuesday. April's patches consist of 4 updates that correct several unique security issues across Microsoft Windows operating systems and some other Microsoft software.

Also this month, Windows 8.1 is being updated to Windows 8.1 Update (via a non-security update). This month also marks the end of Windows XP support. See Support for Windows XP Ends April 8: Here's What You need to Know for more on this.

What Do These Security Updates Do?

These patches from Microsoft update several individual files involved in making Windows and other Microsoft software work.

Do I Need These Security Updates?

You need these updates if you're running any supported edition of Microsoft's operating systems, 32-bit or 64-bit. This includes Windows 8 (as well as Windows 8.1), Windows 7, and Windows Vista. Windows XP is also receiving security updates this month but, as I mentioned above, this will be the last time that happens.

All supported versions of Microsoft Office are also getting security updates, including Office Viewer and Compatibility Packs. This includes Microsoft Office for Mac as well.

Popular business and enterprise software is also being updated, including supported Windows Server operating systems, as well as SharePoint Server and Office Web Apps.

Some of these updates correct issues so serious that, in certain situations, remote access to your computer may be possible without your permission. These issues are classified as critical, while some others this month are less serious and classified as important.

See Microsoft Security Bulletin Severity Rating System for more on these classifications.

Important: In case you missed my note above, updates are being released for Windows XP this month, but for the last time.

Are There Any Non-Security Updates This Month?

Yes, most notably the Windows 8.1 Update update for Windows 8.1 I mentioned at the start of this post.

Additional non-security updates are being made available for Windows 8 (pre-update), Windows 7, and Windows Vista. Also, as usual, Microsoft is pushing this month's update to the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.

Some Microsoft Surface tablets are also getting driver and firmware updates, among other fixes. You can get all the details on the Surface RT, Surface 2, Surface Pro, and Surface Pro 2 update history pages.

There may also be non-security updates included this month for Microsoft software other than Windows. See the Non-Security Updates links below for details.

Automatically install: via Windows Update.

Manually install: via the individual Bulletin IDs listed in the Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for April 2014. See Do I Have 32-bit or 64-bit Windows? if you're not sure which downloads to choose.

Non-Security Updates: are listed on Microsoft's New Non-Security Content for 2014 page and also on the Microsoft Office Updates blog.

Next Patch Tuesday: will be May 13, 2014.

Patch Tuesday Problems

While updates from Microsoft rarely result in widespread problems with Windows itself, they do frequently cause specific issues with software or drivers provided by other companies.

If you haven't yet installed these patches, please see How To Prevent Windows Updates From Crashing Your PC for a number of preventative measures you should take before applying these updates, including disabling fully automatic updates.

If you're having problems after Patch Tuesday, or during or after installing any Windows update:

See Windows Updates & Patch Tuesday FAQ for answers to other common questions, including "Does Microsoft test these updates before they push them out?" and "Why hasn't Microsoft fixed the problem that their update caused on my computer?!"

More Help with Patch Tuesday April 2014

Run in to some trouble during or after April's Patch Tuesday? Head over to Google+ and leave a new comment on my post:

Patch Tuesday Problems: April 2014 [Google+]

Be sure to let me know exactly what's happening, what version of Windows you're using, and what if any errors you're seeing, and I'd be happy to help you out.

Note: I used to allow commenting on this post about Patch Tuesday problems but it got out of hand very quickly, spam was a problem, and it was difficult to actually help anyone out. So, as you can see, I am instead posting on Google+ about Patch Tuesday and helping people there. I understand not everyone will like this change but it solves a lot of problems, most importantly it'll allow me to better manage comments, meaning yours is more likely to get a personal answer. That's a good thing!

If you need help with a computer problem but it's not about an issue you're having surrounding Microsoft's Patch Tuesday, see my Get More Help page for information about contacting me for personal assistance.

Support for Windows XP Ends April 8: Here's What You Need to Know

Monday April 7, 2014

Windows XP LogoAs of April 8th, 2014, Windows XP is no longer supported.

No longer supported means what you probably think it means - that Windows XP will no longer receive security patches, like those your computer normally automatically installs on Patch Tuesday, nor will it receive non-security updates, like bug fixes.

I considered writing a lot about the end of Windows XP support, but other projects got in my way and, surprisingly, Microsoft did a pretty good job communicating what this means. So, instead of rehashing everything out there, I've gone out and found some of the best explanations about what it means, what to do (or not to do), and more.

Microsoft is sharing their Support is Ending Soon piece widely, which is good, but it's not full of the type of information that most of you XP-hold-outs are probably looking for. Check it out if you're confused about the basics of what end-of-support means for XP, but skip it otherwise.

The real jewel on Microsoft's site about the end of Windows XP support is their Support for Windows XP is Ending piece for business and enterprise customers. I know most of you don't run hundreds of Windows XP computers in a corporate setting, but that's OK - the information here applies to you too and is very detailed and worth reading for a full understanding of what this all means.

You'll find a list of potential risks of staying with Windows XP, instructions for migrating from XP to Windows 8 (or 7, etc.), and lots more. Most valuable, I think, is the extensive FAQ. Here is some of you'll find answered there:

  • Can Windows XP still be activated after April 8, 2014?
  • Can Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 still be used in Windows XP?
  • Will Microsoft Security Essentials be supported after April 8, 2014?
  • Will Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool be supported after April 8, 2014?
  • Will existing updates still be available via Windows Update after April 8, 2014?
  • Will Internet Explorer 8 still be supported on Windows XP?
  • Which machines will receive the Windows XP End of Support notification?

A few things I didn't see, but I'll answer:

Is Windows XP included in the April 2014 updates on Patch Tuesday?

Yes. So for all intents and purposes, I'd consider the day before the next Patch Tuesday as the real end-of-life for Windows XP. That would be May 12, 2014, by my count.

Will Windows XP stop working?

Absolutely not. You just increase the chance, over time, that your computer will be vulnerable to newly discovered security threats.

For more on this, see PC World's Windows XP holdouts: Meet the diehard faithful who refuse to move on. You're not alone! Also good at PC World: How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support and from TechCrunch: As Microsoft Support for XP Expires, Antivirus Vendors Pick Up The Slack.

If you're curious about the end of support for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 (yes, they already have this figured out), see Microsoft's Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet. Don't worry Windows 8 folks, we have until January 10, 2023!

Are you still using Windows XP? Will you be buying a new computer or upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8? Head over to Google+ and let me know your thoughts!

Windows Logo Microsoft

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World Backup Day 2014

Friday March 28, 2014

World Backup Day 2014 LogoMonday, March 31st, is World Backup Day, the day we technology folks remind you of how important it is to back up your data. Considering my particular expertise, I tend to do this much more often than once per year, but I'll take this annual excuse to do it yet again!

Here's the message to remember:

Your Data is More Valuable Than Your Device!

Hardware is cheap and getting cheaper. You know what's expensive or even priceless? That term paper you spent three weeks writing, the $3,000 USD in music and movies you have on your hard drive, and the digital video of your little boy or girl's first step.

You can get a new computer or phone, but try replacing those important files: You can't!

So what do you do? How do you make sure you never lose the bits and bytes important to you?

You back them up!

I'm a very huge of fan of online backup services. I think using a cloud backup service (what they're sometimes called) is the most easy, economical, and effective way of keeping your important data safe.

See my 39 Online Backup Services Reviewed for a ranked, updated list, complete with prices. Some plans allow an unlimited amount of storage, some limit you to so many GBs or TBs, some support backup from multiple simultaneous computers, some are even free for a just a little storage.

No matter what your needs, I've done all the research to help you make the right decision. Aside from the list of reviews I linked you to above, my Online Backup Comparison Chart is really helpful if you're curious about which of my favorite cloud backup services offer a particular feature.

Have questions about online backup or not completely sure what it is? I answer most every question I've ever gotten about online backup in my Online Backup FAQ.

Here are some more online backup resources you might find helpful:

The newest edition to my collection of online backup pieces is my Online Backup Q&A. Here you'll find interviews I've done with online backup services where I ask questions you probably won't find elsewhere, like Why Should I Pick Your Service?, How Do You Handle NSA Data Requests?, and a more.

From Other About.com Experts:

Image World Backup Day

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Piriform Releases CCleaner v4.12.4657

Wednesday March 26, 2014

CCleaner LogoPiriform has released CCleaner v4.12.4657, the latest version of their registry and system cleaner tool. For a full overview, see my review of CCleaner v4.12.4657.

This update to CCleaner improves cleaning support for Opera, improves registry cleaning, and adds or improves junk file cleaning for a number of programs. You can read about all changes in Piriform's Change Log, which you find here.

You can download CCleaner v4.12.4657 for free here.

Related Content:

Free Registry Cleaner Programs
Registry Cleaner FAQ

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