By following a few simple guidelines, you can maintain your computer and keep it running smoothly. This article discusses how to use the tools available in Windows 7, Vista, and XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) to more efficiently maintain your computer and safeguard your privacy when you’re online.

1. Free up disk space

The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk to improve the performance of your computer. The tool identifies files that you can safely delete, and then enables you to choose whether you want to delete some or all of the identified files.

Use Disk Cleanup to:

* Remove temporary Internet files.
* Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
* Empty the Recycle Bin.
* Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports.
* Remove optional Windows components that you don’t use.
* Remove installed programs that you no longer use.
* Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore. More »

This milestone in the product lifecycle of XP has generated a range of questions, some easier to answer than others. Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions along with answers, some right from Microsoft. Hopefully, the FAQ will be sufficient to provide guidance for customers that need to make the transition from XP SP2 to more recent releases of Windows.

1. How will XP SP2 customers be impacted by end of support for the service pack?

Microsoft software products evolve constantly, with major products receiving upgrades dubbed service packs. In the case of XP SP2, the upgrade was indeed massive, with some company employees noting that Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista’s successor could easily have been considered an entirely new Windows release. The software giant only offers support for Service Packs for 12 to 24 months after a new release. This period varies, and is connected with the product family. In the specific case of XP SP2, July 13th, 2010 will mark two years since the release of Service Pack 3. More »

July 13, 2010 will bring with it the death of Windows XP Service Pack 2, a landmark upgrade in the history of Windows, of a magnitude that will probably never be reached again by any service pack. Essentially, when Microsoft released Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) on April 21, 2008, it also signed the death sentence for its predecessor.

Per the Windows lifecycle, all service packs reach end of support within 12 or 24 months after a new service pack is offered. This, however, has no bearing on the overall support commitment for XP. This means that customers currently running Windows XP will be able to continue doing so provided that they upgrade to the latest service pack, revealed Eric Ligman, Global Partner Experience Lead Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group.

“The terms of the Service Pack Support policy do not impact the Mainstream Support phase or Extended Support phase dates for Windows XP as a product. Windows XP transitioned from the Mainstream Support phase to the Extended Support phase on April 14, 2009,” Ligman said. “During the Extended Support phase for Windows XP (April 14, 2009 – April 8, 2014), Microsoft will continue to provide paid support and security updates at no additional charge. More »

Microsoft released Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3 to manufacturing in the first half of 2008, and subsequently made the service packs available both as standalone downloads and via Windows Update, Microsoft Update and Automatic Updates. Soon enough, there will be nowhere to hide from the final wave of Vista SP1 and XP SP3 that the Redmond company released through its update infrastructure. This because the software giant is gearing up for the expiration of the last barrier standing in the way of automatic downloads and upgrades to SP1 for Windows Vista and to SP3 for Windows XP, namely the Service Pack Blocker Tool.

“The Service Pack Blocker Tool temporarily prevents the installation of a service pack through Windows Update, typically for one year after general availability of the service pack. We are announcing the upcoming expiration dates for the Service Pack Blocker Tool for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3: Windows Vista SP1: April 28, 2009 – Windows XP SP3: May 19, 2009. After April 28th, Windows Vista SP1 will be delivered via Windows Update. And after May 19th, Windows XP SP3 will also be delivered via Windows Update,” revealed Brandon LeBlanc, Windows Communications Manager on the Windows Client Communications Team. More »

On December 9, Microsoft made available for download the last bouquet of security updates for 2008. the company released no less than eight security bulletins, six of them Critical and two rated as Important. Hot on the heels of the last round of patches for the year hitting Windows Update, the December 2008 Security Release ISO Image went live on the Microsoft Download Center. Via the Security Release ISO Image for the current month, the software giant is providing a single package for all the security updates designed for its Windows client and server operating systems, including Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3.

“As far as vulnerability counts go, this is the largest patch release since Microsoft started the ‘Patch Tuesday’ program back in late 2003. The release contains eight bulletins covering 28 vulnerabilities,” Symantec’s Robert Keith revealed.

“Of those issues, 23 are rated ‘Critical’ and affect Word, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Visual Basic ActiveX controls, GDI, Windows Search, and Excel. All of the ‘Critical’ issues this month require some sort of user interaction, whether visiting a Web page that contains malicious content or viewing a malicious file. The remaining issues affect GDI, Windows Search, SharePoint, and Windows Explorer; they range in importance from ‘Important’ to ‘Moderate.’” More »