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WinXP Tweaking: Protecting your PC from the outside world

By: Nathan Anderson | Guides | Posted: Mar 8, 2005 5:00 am

Installation of Windows XP


For those who plan to install Windows XP in the future, here are some tips:


Firstly, choose to do a clean Windows installation. This ensures that all previous problems in Operating Systems will not affect the newly installed OS. It also deletes all unneeded files, well actually any files remaining. So while preparing to install Windows XP, backup all of your important documents, these include: Documents, E-mail, usernames / passwords, software setup files, driver files, favourite Internet links and saved games. Depending on your hardware and previous operating system, you may not want to backup your setup or driver files. This is because most software and drivers are specific to an OS, so if you have old drivers from years back, they probably will not work with the new architecture found in Windows XP. This is okay, because Windows XP can support most hardware by default, and once your computer is up and running with Windows XP (WXP) you will be able to download new drivers and software from the Internet at the conclusion of this guide.


Secondly, choose to format your disk in New Technology File System (NTFS), which is above the ranks of the old File Allocation Table (FAT) / FAT 32 (FAT 32-bit) found in Windows 9x. NTFS is designed for today's bigger hard disk capacities with Windows XP being the OS. If you choose this option, you will wipe the hard disk so make a backup before hand (See above paragraph). If you are using WXP with FAT32, you may want to reinstall Windows with NTFS unless you have an extremely small hard disk in which case it's probably not worth reformatting to NTFS.


So now that Windows XP is installed the first thing to do if you have XP Home Edition is to set the default administrators to have passwords. Yes, plural of administrator; you see, on Windows XP Home, you first create your own account which is normal. But try booting into Safe Mode by pressing F8 during the boot. There is an Administrator account there with no password. This account is undeletable, so we must put a password on it.


This is present in any WXP Home edition: an administrator account without a password. So anyone with access to your machine could log on without permission. The simplest way is to give this admin account a password, as you cannot delete it, only rename it. Give it a strong password; one including alpha-numeric characters. For added security, you could use capital letter within your password. For example: H0yat5L2argh1 - Passwords are extremely effective when they are random and around twenty characters long. Random letters are hard to remember, so instead think of a pass phrase, such as: I like kittens...Especially ones with long hair and a tail. Taking the first letter of each word so far looks this is: IlkEowlhaat.


This has two capitalisations which is good, but no numbers yet. In this phrase the number one(1) is there. In this case, we could easily exchange one with 1. So now its: IlkE1wlhaat, which is a better password. The good thing about this password is that it's not a family members name, nor dictionary based words or anything coherent when read by itself. Therefore this password will protect quite strongly. Crackers use methods of brute force using all dictionary words and combinations of dictionary words to hack into computers. They can also know to try the user's family names or pets names as this is a common insecure practise. A pass phrase with alphanumeric characters and above 10 characters is quite safe for a home user. Try to remember it though, but don't write it down. Crackers can get information about your accounts the following ways: key loggers, looking at your screen / what you're typing, bin contents, phishing or ringing you up attempting to be an IT support member or someone else who may work with you (called Social Engineering).


XP Professional requires the admin account to have a password during installation, so you don't need to worry about it on that version.


The above password tips not only apply for your WXP login but any other passwords you use online.


How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?


Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (ZAT00008) for PC


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