Q: I purchased a new computer that has temporary programs installed, such as Norton Security and a program called SpySubtract. I am urged to...

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Q: I purchased a new computer that has temporary programs installed, such as Norton Security and a program called SpySubtract.

I am urged to update these when my initial trial period expires at the end of this month.

My question is, should I sign up for SpySubtract? Is there a better program to consider?

I am now running AOL 9.0 Security version. I know I will have to keep some type of virus protection. I am also investigating the various broadband high-speed possibilities in my area, such as Qwest, Comcast and Verizon and AOL.

Some say they come with McAfee, which I had on my old computer.

— Ron Hicks, Lake Forest Park

A: SpySubtract is an anti-spyware program now known as Trend Micro Anti-Spyware 3.0.

Is there a “better” anti-spyware program? That’s a tough question, mainly because I haven’t recently done a detailed comparison of anti-spyware programs.

And the emphasis here is on “recently.” Like anti-virus programs, the key to a good anti-spyware program is how often it is updated to deal with the latest threats, so recent comparisons are important.

You can increase your protection by having multiple anti-spyware programs. But you don’t, of course, want to spend more money than you need to.

And you may not even know you didn’t buy enough protection until you find your system compromised by a spyware program.

My recommendation: Make sure you’ve got a name-brand anti-virus and anti-spyware product installed and regularly update it. And keep your fingers crossed.

By the way, the Trend product certainly fits that description.

Q: This has happened to me twice now. I have my home page in Internet Explorer set to “blank” to speed up loading. I also have Windows XP configured to automatically update to ensure that any security holes are plugged immediately.

Twice now, after an automatic Windows update, my default home page has been hijacked from a blank page to MSN. Why does Microsoft do this?

(I know why — they are marketing MSN.) If Microsoft can do it, am I vulnerable to anyone doing it? I have other automatic updates set up, such as Norton Antivirus. Could they change my home page to Symantec? Is there any way to prevent this from happening?

— Rich Gallaher, Auburn

A: Actually, there are a number of Trojan horses making the rounds that do specifically that: They reset your browser’s home page to one of their choosing.

Anytime you choose to download anything from the Internet you open your system to potential problems.

At least when Microsoft updates your system and sets your browser’s home page to MSN, you’re able to change that setting at will.

Viruses, on the other hand, generally make it much more difficult to undo the changes.

Q: I am running Win XP Professional and Outlook 2003 on my laptop. My ISP is Comcast. When I launch Outlook, very frequently (but not always) it will only download the first or second of all the messages, then it seems to “get stuck.”

The download status in the lower right corner will show it is still “trying” to download the remaining messages (e.g., “receiving 3 of 10”), but it eventually times out.

This happens even if there is not an e-mail note with a large file attachment. After it times out, I click the send/receive button, after which the remainder of the messages successfully download into Outlook.

Any clue how to fix it so all my messages download into Outlook when it is initially launched?

— David Overby, Olympia

A: I have the same problem on occasion, though with a different ISP. The problem isn’t likely with Outlook.

Instead, the problem is almost certainly delays on your ISP’s mail server. You can try to get around the problem, however, by extending the timeout period in Outlook.

To do so, go to the Tools menu and select “E-mail Accounts.” In the dialog box that appears, select “View or change existing e-mail accounts,” and then select the account you’re concerned about and click on the “Change” button.

Next, click on the “More Settings” button and then on the “Advanced” tab.

Finally, move the slider marked “Server Timeouts” farther to the right. Exit out of the configuration utility and try your e-mail to see if you’ve increased the server timeout enough.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail 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.