Q: What is the best practical defense for email recipients who get messages from seeming friends or seemingly reliable senders that have attachments or links in the messages?

On the flip side, what is the best way for one to send a message with an interesting link or attachment in a way that gives the recipient confidence that it is a legitimate message with a (probably) safe attachment or trusted link?

— David Webber, Seattle

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A: On the receiving end, I recommend that you never open an attachment unless you are sure about the sender. How can you be sure, especially since email addresses can be spoofed? You can’t.

But you can significantly lower the odds of being victimized by never opening attachments in unsolicited emails from addresses you don’t recognize.

On the flip side, the best way to reassure recipients when you’re sending an attachment is to say something personal that tips off the recipient that it’s really you.

Q: I have two questions. If you upgrade your Windows XP to Windows 7, do you have to worry about the drivers, or will Windows 7 find them automatically? Can you provide some steps for upgrading to a new operating system?

The second question: I currently have an XP desktop with a Pentium 4 processor with 3.00 GHz. It has always run very well (except for Google Chrome). I see new computers that have the Core i3 or i5 and only 1.5 GHz or up to 3.00 GHz.

What is your opinion on processors? I use my computer for Word, the Internet, Netflix-type video and email for the most part.

Any information that you can provide to help make the decision on whether to upgrade to Windows 7 or buy Windows 8 would be appreciated.

— Candis

A: Will Windows automatically install your drivers during an upgrade to Windows 7? It depends on whether the maker of the device has provided Windows 7 drivers for its device to Microsoft.

If Windows 7 drivers don’t install automatically, they still may be available from the device manufacturer, so you’ll want to check its website.

For older devices, however, many manufacturers don’t provide Windows 7 drivers. If that’s the case, the device won’t work under Windows 7.

However, since Windows XP is no longer supported and is, therefore, increasingly vulnerable to hackers, I’d certainly recommend upgrading. If you want to keep your current equipment, you can probably move to Linux, an open-source operating system, for free.

If you want to move up to Windows 7 or 8, you’ll almost certainly need to buy a new computer that has a faster processor and more memory.

As for what type of processor you should buy, you’ll get better performance out of faster processors. But if you don’t need faster processing, why spend the extra money?

If your Internet experience, including your streaming Netflix, is to your satisfaction and you are pretty certain you’re not going to need more power, go for the bargain buy.

Q: I have a couple-of-years-old Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv6 laptop running Windows 7. About two weeks ago I started getting an error message each time I booted up the computer. It reads: “Runtime Error! Program C:\Program Files (x86) R6034.”

Also, I get an error message when I try to update iTunes, and it won’t complete updating referring to a problem with my C: drive. I cannot seem to find anything from Microsoft that really addresses this message.

— Jim Mauser

A: There is a known problem with the way iTunes updates in Windows 7. If you’re getting that runtime error, first uninstall the following programs from your computer: iTunes, Apple Software Update, Apple Mobile Device Support, Bonjour, and Apple Application Support.

Next, download the iTunes installer from www.apple.com/itunes/download/.

Finally, reinstall iTunes by right-clicking on the downloaded installer and selecting “Run as Administrator.”

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.