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Making sure your computer is up-to-date

Keeping computer software updated is important maintenance for both operation and security interests. Updates are needed for the operating system, applications and utility programs such as the antivirus/antispyware solutions. When it comes to the operating system I ask "what's your spack?"

Spack is a geek term meaning "service pack" which is considered to be a major software update. Operating systems are routinely updated through a hotfix or security update but Spacks are a culmination of many minor changes that, taken all together, are considered major. Currently Windows XP is at SP3 while Vista is at SP2.

One method to see the level is to right-click on "My Computer" ("Computer" in Vista) and select "properties" from the menu. On XP, the System Properties dialog box appears with the desired info located on the General tab. The info includes the operating system version, OS type (32 or 64-bit) and current Service Pack level. On Vista, the info is not tabbed as it is with XP but it does normally appear on the initial page.

Typically the Windows update mechanism will install Service Packs automatically. Another way is to do a manual installation, which includes downloading the file (making sure the Spack matches the operating system as 32 or 64-bit) and then running it. Know that some Service Packs require other Service Packs before they can be installed. If I remember correctly Windows Vista SP2 requires the PC to already have SP1 before installing SP2 so a little homework goes a long way toward success.

Spacks come as .exe files which are self extracting executables. Close and save any work in progress and backup everything important, then double-click the downloaded file to start the procedure. When complete, the downloaded .exe file may be deleted. Visit microsoft.com for more information.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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