Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Uninstalling Games to Increase Disk Space

Here are a few questions I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about increasing disk storage space, security software for Parallels, and Ooma availability.


I bought a Compaq Presario notebook that came with many games that I don’t use. Can I increase the available memory by deleting all of the games?

You can increase the disk storage space that’s available to you by deleting the games, which take up room on your hard disk. But that isn’t the same as increasing “available memory.” Memory is the capacity of the computer to manage data at any one moment, and it is governed by the random-access memory, or RAM, inside the machine. Unless any of the games, or some game-launching programs, are automatically loading into memory when your PC starts up, the games aren’t wasting memory, just disk space. Getting rid of the games is still a good idea, but don’t try to do so by simply deleting them, as you would a file. You should do it by properly uninstalling them using the Windows uninstaller control panel, which is called “Add or Remove Programs” in Windows XP, and “Programs and Features” in Windows Vista.

I plan to buy an Intel-based Mac. I will need to run some Windows software for school. If I use Parallels to run Windows and the Mac operating system simultaneously, and someone does happen to get me with a Windows virus, can that migrate over to the Macintosh side of my computer?

First of all, I can’t stress enough that anyone running Windows, on any hardware — even an Apple computer — should obtain, install and run Windows security software, including antivirus and antispyware software. I do so, not only on my physical Windows computers, but on the virtual Windows computers that run on my Macs via Parallels. Even if you are using Apple’s own Boot Camp solution for running Windows on a Mac, which doesn’t allow the two operating systems to run simultaneously, you should be running security software on the Windows side. Such security software is primarily intended to protect the Windows environment on a Mac. It is unlikely that a Windows virus could migrate onto the part of the computer controlled by the Mac operating system, and even if it did, it couldn’t run there if it was written strictly for use in Windows. It could run only in the faux Windows computer created by Parallels. However, the people who write malicious software are relentless and creative, and it’s impossible to rule out anything they might try, or do. There is one danger to your Mac in this scenario. Parallels includes an optional feature that allows Windows, and Windows programs, to access folders and files on the Mac side of the machine. If you turn on this file-sharing feature, and if you get a virus whose purpose is to delete or corrupt files, it could attack these Mac files, because Windows has access to them. So, for maximum security, I’d advise that you leave this feature off. But, even if you do so, you should still obtain, install and use Windows security software for use when running Windows.

In your column last week about the Ooma device that gives you free domestic phone calls over the Internet, you mentioned that, until the product goes on sale in September, the company is giving away 1,500 free models, but only to people who have been given a special token by existing owners. Can I get one of your tokens?

Sorry, even if I had been sent enough tokens to fulfill the numerous requests I got, I couldn’t fulfill them. I am sending my few tokens back to the company, along with the Ooma gear I was lent for my testing. For ethical reasons, I don’t keep the products companies lend me for review, or take anything of value from them, including tokens entitling people to get a $399 product free of charge. Nor can I help the numerous other readers who asked me to get them on Ooma’s free distribution list.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online free of charge at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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