Q. My Windows directory (I run XP Home) keeps getting more and more folders named something like "$NtUninstallKB820291$. " Most are small...

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Q. My Windows directory (I run XP Home) keeps getting more and more folders named something like “$NtUninstallKB820291$.” Most are small but some are huge. What are these files? I now have 57 of them.

— Nikki Phillips, Seattle

A. Those files are left over after an update to your Windows operating system. They are kept on your drive in case you decide to uninstall later because you’ve encountered a conflict of some sort. Those folders contain the original files and registry settings that were changed by the update. If you uninstall the update, those files and settings will be restored to your Windows directory. Obviously, if you delete those files you can’t uninstall the update. But if you’ve decided you’re not going to need to uninstall the update, feel free to remove the folders.

Q. I am running Windows XP Professional. When I reboot the machine, I am getting an error message that says, “Runner Error: Runner File Name (Backweb-137903.exe_tobedeleted) must end in .dll or .exe.” The only option I have is to click OK. Then there is a second window that says, “Windows cannot open this file: File: (Backweb-137903.exe_tobedeleted). To open this file, Windows needs to know what program created it.” Do you have any idea what’s going on here? This has been happening for about a month or so.

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— Patti Johnson

A. BackWeb is a program used by a number of vendors for automatically checking for software updates when you connect to the Internet. In many cases, a vendor uses BackWeb software and gives it the vendor’s own name. The specific method of removing BackWeb varies a bit depending upon how it was implemented by the vendor.

I’m not sure why Norton isn’t successfully removing the files. No anti-virus or anti-spyware program, however, catches everything. So you may want to try another program. There are a wide variety of anti-spyware programs available and many of them offer free versions. Just Google “spyware” and you’ll see a broad selection.

Q. I use Microsoft Outlook as my e-mail program. I’ve noticed that much of my obnoxious spam uses symbols and characters in the subject line that I don’t know how to create, and can’t put in the Rules Wizard where you enter the words you want to filter. Much to my frustration, it doesn’t allow me to cut and paste, either! I’m sure you’ve seen them, but in case you haven’t, here is an example: VlàGRRA CIALìSS VÁLLlUM. Am I missing something, or is this a missing capability? I could filter a lot more of my spam if I could cut and paste these words into this box.

— Stuart MacMillan

A. You have put your finger on it. Spammers use special characters and unusual spelling specifically to get around spam filters.

And you’re right that Outlook’s Rules Wizard doesn’t allow you to insert special symbols and characters. There are only two options: First, you can write a script for use in the Rules Wizard. Unfortunately, that script must be written in Outlook Visual Basic for Applications. If you happen to be a programmer, you can find more details at: support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;306108.

Second, and much more appealing, is to try the Outlook Spam Filter, a piece of third-party software I’m testing right now. In addition to offering a host of other spam-fighting tools, the add-in lets you cut and paste special characters into spam-filtering rules. The program costs $29, but you can download a 30-day trial version at no cost. Just go to: www.outlook-spam-filter.com.

Either way, I’d also recommend lobbying your elected officials for stronger measures against deceptive spam.

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.