Security Essentials

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Mr. Modem’s Sites of the Week Optical Illusions If you enjoy optical illusions, Michael Bach, the proprietor of this site, studies them from a scientific perspective, as opposed to my less-sophisticated “Ooooh, ain’t that something?” approach. Caution is advised: The Motion Aftereffect (Waterfall Illusion) made my eyes hemorrhage, but I think I’ll be okay. Underwater Webcam This camera is located 15 meters (a smidge below 50 feet) below the surface at Kralendijk, which is the capital city and main port of the island of Bonaire, in the Netherlands Antilles -- as if you didn’t know. The beautiful images of flora, fauna and flounder update every 15 seconds.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

I have been paying for antivirus protection every year. I recently came across something called Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free. Do you think it will provide enough protection or should I pay to renew my current antivirus license?

While there are never any guarantees with any security-type software, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is used by millions of people worldwide and does a reasonably good job protecting systems.

Programs such as,, and NOD32, to name a few, are arguably a notch above MSE, but ultimately it comes down to a matter of probabilities. Could your system become infected despite using Security Essentials? Sure. But that’s true with other programs, as well, so you will be as reasonably well protected with Microsoft Security Essentials as you would be with any other program. Some might be a bit better, but being a “bit better” only comes into play if your system becomes infected, and the likelihood of your system becoming infected while using MSE is minimal.

In Windows XP there was a Desktop Cleanup Wizard. Is there an equivalent in Windows 7?

That functionality exists, but it is integrated into the System Maintenance Wizard. This utility will typically run automatically, but if you would like to run it manually, click the Start button and type “troubleshooting” into the Search field. Click to select the Troubleshooting search result.

In the next window, locate System and Security and click Run Maintenance Tasks or System Mainenance to open the System Maintenance window. Click Next and you will be off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Ah’s. (I can’t help myself.) The Wizard will run through a series of tasks, one of which will be a Desktop cleanup function.

Somebody told me that TMP or temporary files can slow down a computer. How does that happen?

It can occur in a number of ways: Any time an application creates a temporary file, Windows has to determine if a duplicate file exists. In addition, whenever Windows looks for an application to execute (launch), where the exact file path is not known, it first reviews all files in all folders listed in what’s called the system’s PE or Path Environment. If there are thousands of files, it’s going to require more time and computing horsepower.

A less-technical answer is that the more files, the more processing (review) Windows has to undertake which places an ever-increasing burden on the system. Depending on the power of the CPU (processor), all this extra work can really slow things down. It’s not unlike each week placing a cement block in the trunk of your car. As the weight increases, performance and gas mileage are adversely affected. The change will be more noticeable in a little 4-cylinder engine than in a powerful V8, but it will have an effect, either way.

Mr. Modem publishes “Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?