Q: I have 200-plus commercial VHS tapes taking up way too much room. I'd like to make copies to free up space and stop color deterioration...

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Q: I have 200-plus commercial VHS tapes taking up way too much room. I’d like to make copies to free up space and stop color deterioration. But when I try to burn a DVD, my DVD recorder displays “copy protected content.” Any suggestions as to how I can make DVD copies?

— Gary Zeune

A: There are ways to hack around most copy-protection schemes, and if you search on the Internet you’ll find them. But it may take some homework and elbow grease to pull it off.

Nevertheless, my role isn’t to inform readers about how to go about breaking the law. It’s a common misunderstanding that if we buy a CD, DVD or any other recording of a product that we “own” it. Unless the purchase license specifically grants it, we don’t purchase the right to make copies of the product.

Besides, given the lower quality of the VHS medium compared to digital DVD recordings, the only thing you’ll gain by making the copies is more space on your bookshelf.

If you really want quality copies of those films, you’re better off buying a legally digitized version since it will be a better recording than the original VHS version.

Q: I have the paid subscription version of AVG Internet Security on my current computer. I am in the process of purchasing a new laptop, and am wondering if you have a personal choice among all the Internet security software suites, including but not limited to Norton 360, McAfee, Microsoft OneCare, etc. My new laptop would have the Vista Home Premium operating system.

Also, do you know enough about the AVG package to give me an opinion on that software one way or another?

— Stan Nicman

A: I don’t make comparative product recommendations unless I’ve recently done an actual comparative review of the products. That’s because with software, information quickly gets dated. A comparative review of antivirus software done six months ago is nothing to rely upon today.

That said, it seems to me that all the packages are pretty comparable. They all hear about the latest viruses when they hit and they all quickly respond with updates. I haven’t seen anything lately to lead me to one package versus another. I periodically hear about users having compatibility problems with one or another program, but there’s no way to determine ahead of time which program might give you issues.

Q: Windows Update indicated I had “important” download waiting: Service Pack 1 for Vista Home Premium. After I downloaded it, I had a nightmare of problems. After five hours (no exaggeration) on the phone with tech support, the problem seemed to be resolved. I signed in next day and had the same occurrence. I finally was able to uninstall the service pack and things have since worked well. However, I still have the notification in Windows Update that this “important” update is waiting. I am afraid to try again. Any advice?

— Linda Hicks, Renton

A: There are usually error messages delivered when updates fail to install properly. Those error messages help trained support staff diagnose the cause of the problem. While the Microsoft support staff may have failed to resolve the issue, I am certainly in no better position to figure this one out.

One common cause of problems is a corrupt file. Incompatible drivers are another. But determining a specific cause is difficult even with the error messages … and impossible without them.

If you’re to the point of really throwing up your hands and you don’t want to deal with the support team anymore, I’d suggest reinstalling Windows and immediately applying the service pack. That would eliminate a number of the possible causes of your problem.

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.