Computer Guide

Am I at risk during boot up?

by George Skarbek - 27 November 2007

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Am I at risk during boot up?

Q: If my cable connection is on all the time, isn't my computer vulnerable to malicious interference from the internet during the time my computer is booting up and before my firewall software is loaded? Should I turn my cable connection off before rebooting my computer to avoid this?

A: I feel that you do not have to take this precaution as this will cause inconvenience and additional delay during startup.  While the computer is booting, there are no network drivers loaded, so for a substantial period during the boot process your computer is not accessible from the Internet even if a hacker was monitoring your IP address. They would have to probe your IP address at the correct instant as a second or two earlier there would be no computer visible and the probe would move on. It is only in the latter stages of booting that the network drivers are loaded and within seconds the firewall and anti-virus will be loaded, giving you protection.

If you have a router that has an in-built firewall, and most do, then there is no reason at all to worry about because you are protected all the time from intruders.


Firewall for Windows 98

Q: I have an old PC running Windows 98 which has an up-to-date anti-virus program and a free edition of the Zone Alarms firewall which no longer provides Windows 98 updates. Do you know of any firewall program (preferably a free one) that still supports Windows 98? Whilst I do my entire internet surfing on my laptop running Windows XP, I would like to use my old PC occasionally.  The hard drive on the PC is about 6 GB, and has only 192 MB of RAM, so I am not keen to try upgrading to a more current operating system.

A: Just because there are no more Zone Alarms firewall upgrades does not mean that the existing firewall no longer works and I would not alter anything. The basic firewall functions that were introduced with the first version were designed to keep human hackers out and they worked. Progressive updates added some additional functionality and many extras, such as logging and alerts that did nothing to improve the fundamental security.

To test your existing firewall I suggest that you visit a reputable site that will probe your computer for all weaknesses.   One such site is the Gibson Research Corporation at: From there locate and click on the ShieldsUP! option and then run both the File Sharing and Common Ports tests. If your computer passes then there is no need to take any additional action.

If you do wish to upgrade then there are some other free firewall products that still support Windows 98. One is Kerio Personal Firewall from:

Restoring files

Q: For some time I have been using your simple backup formula to an external hard disk drive. Thankfully I have not needed to restore from it. Today I find myself in a bind and think I will need to reformat the C drive to recover. Can I in any way simply copy all the files on the external drive back to the C: drive?

A: Assuming that you have used a BAT file and Xcopy to backup your files then use Windows Explorer.

I urge all users who perform regular backup (and all should do this) is to very occasionally test the backup recovery when you are not under stress such as after a hard disk failure. The best way to do this is to create say, a small Word file, and then run the backup program and either delete or rename it and then restore it from backup. You should not run a test with an important file such as your mail in case you accidentally lose it and the backups have failed.

Running PPS on Vista

Q: I have recently bought a new computer with Vista Home Premium installed and have had pps files sent to me and Media Player says it does not support the these files. How can I get the files to run?

A: This is not a problem with Vista but is caused by the fact that you do not have the appropriate version of Microsoft Office installed that has PowerPoint.

You can download a free PowerPoint viewer from This program will allow you to view all PowerPoint presentations but not to edit them or to create new PowerPoint files. There is a complete set of Office 2007 Converters at –This is one combined into one 28 MB file.

To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here