Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

When Your Computer Starts Up Slowly

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.

My Dell PC, which is an older model running Windows XP, is very slow to boot up and I have a lot of icons on my desktop. Does the number of icons on my desktop have any relationship to the time it takes my PC to boot up?

Everything a PC must do when it starts up takes some time, and that includes drawing the desktop. A desktop with fewer icons takes less time to re-create. But, if your machine is “very slow” to start up, you may also have accumulated too many programs that are set to run upon start-up, including programs that you can’t see because they are launching behind the scenes. So, it would be wise to examine these programs and remove or disable as many as you can, keeping only those you really need. I suggest you obtain and run a program designed to help you do this. One good one comes from PC Magazine and is called Startup Cop Pro 3. It costs $8 and can be found at pcmag.com/downloads.

If I buy a Mac, can I move all the programs on my Dell over to the Mac?

While most common Windows file types can be copied to a Mac and will work there, the Windows programs on your Dell won’t run on the Mac’s operating system, so there’s no point in moving them to a Mac. There is one exception: If you plan to install and use Windows on your Mac, then your programs should run. However, some programs are designed to be locked to a single PC and won’t run on a second machine, even if it is a new Dell instead of a Mac running Windows. Furthermore, it can be difficult to move Windows programs to a new machine, because they are often made up of parts that are scattered in various places on the hard disk.

Two of the companies whose software allows you to run Windows on a Mac, Parallels and VMWare, do offer utilities that will copy the contents of a Windows PC to the portion of the Mac devoted to running Windows. The Parallels utility is called Transporter and the VMWare utility is called Converter.

Like many Internet users I have used Wi-Fi in airports, hotels and coffee bars. I have used it to access banking and brokerage accounts. Just how much at risk have I been? I am a Mac user. Am I more or less at risk than a Windows user?

No matter what kind of computer you use, there is some chance, however small, that a crook can intercept any data you send or receive over a public wireless network. So, my advice is to never, ever conduct financial transactions, or any highly sensitive communications, over any network you don’t control. It’s the same principle people should use when making voice calls on cellphones, which are easier to intercept than voice calls made on land lines. Be cognizant of the content of your communications of any kind when you are using public wireless networks.

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

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