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Q. After two years of using Windows 7 Home Premium on my desktop PC, it is likely that portions of user account profiles, Windows Live Mail, add-ons in Internet Explorer 10 and the registry have each experienced some corrupted or inconsistent settings. I would like to perform a periodic “clean” installation of Windows 7, then reinstall applications software from saved downloads, while avoiding the reintroduction of corrupted settings, even if that means each user account should be created anew rather than copying settings from a source file. I presume my existing user data (music, pictures, videos, documents) could be transferred from either a Windows backup or perhaps Windows Easy Transfer. What procedure do you recommend for this “clean” installation?

— Jerry Rudy

A. If you simply install Windows over the existing installation, you won’t have to reinstall your applications or data. But you also won’t be eliminating old, unneeded drivers, registry entries and the like. In addition to taking up disc space, those old pieces of applications and registry entries can in some cases continue to cause problems. Performing a “clean” installation means reformatting the drive during the installation process, wiping out everything — including malware and viruses — then installing Windows from scratch.

And, yes, that type of installation means you’ll have to reinstall applications and data. The applications have to be reinstalled from their original program files rather than simply copied to a backup. That’s because they modify the Windows registry and other files during the installation process.

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As for your data, you can simply make a backup using any backup program and then restore it once you are set up again. (Windows Easy Transfer is really designed for moving your data from an old computer to a new computer, rather than restoring files to the same computer.) But in addition to your documents and photos, don’t forget to back up “embedded” data, such as emails and web-browser favorites.

Q. In the last two months, I have been receiving several emails a day. None has the same sender. Most of these are financially related in the subject matter, about invoices, receipts, “thank you for your deposit,” etc. Some also have a zip file or an attachment. I have not opened any of these.

My wife has a separate account and she has received a few also.

I have contracted Frontier, and they did an email security check on their end and all was good. I use the free version of Malwarebytes but that evidently is not stopping these emails. I have Windows 7 with Security Essentials and I use Windows Live Mail.

Frontier said they could provide an anti-malware program for a monthly fee. Any help you can provide is much appreciated.

— Ted Williams.

A. First of all, you’re wise not to open any attachments unless you’re sure of the sender. That’s a quick way to pick up a virus or other malware.

As for those emails, what you’re describing is spam — unsolicited bulk emails. They are usually harmless, though very irritating, and are sent by people trying to sell something. Still, some spam may also carry malware.

Unfortunately, anti-malware programs do nothing to stop spam. They might detect the malware if you inadvertently install it by opening an attachment or visiting a website included in the in spam, but they don’t block spam itself.

Most email clients, including Live Mail, provide a spam filter, though you’ll want to check the junk mail folder periodically to make sure no legitimate mail has been diverted there. And don’t expect the filter to catch all spam. Spammers are constantly changing their tactics to avoid the techniques employed by spam filters.

I do believe that the only way to eliminate spam is by regulating access to the Internet and possibly imposing charges for each email sent. Those are steps many people — spammers and non-spammers alike — find objectionable.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at


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