POP3 vs IMAP – What’s the difference and which one is better?

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!

So, you’ve got your nice little email program (such as OE Classic), and you want to configure an email account and it offers you a choice between POP (or POP3) and IMAP but you don’t know which one to choose. What is the difference?

First off, both POP and IMAP are email protocols designed to fetch emails from a server. As email is a two-part system, the first part being an email program which you install on your computer, tablet or smartphone, called the email client, and the second part being the email server.

Think of it as a postman and a post office.

The postman (email client) goes to the post office (email server) to fetch some emails. Post offices (email servers) communicate between themselves to send emails and finally a postman on the other end (another email client) fetches the mail from another post office. In reality, it is a bit more complicated than that, but that is the general idea.

To communicate, both the client and the server must agree on a common standard, or protocol – and POP and IMAP are the names of these protocols, and they represent a set of commands (or a vocabulary if you will), designed to make it possible for the client and the server to understand each other.

Now, do not be confused by the name POP3 as that is also just POP, just with the number 3, which indicates the version of the protocol (before POP3 there were POP1 and POP2 which are no longer in use today).

So let’s start with POP protocol.

POP, which stands for Post Office Protocol is the older and simpler of the two protocols and it is designed with a simple goal of fetching emails off of a server by a single email client and then removing them from the server. It is also possible to keep emails on the server but more on that later.

How does POP work?

1) First, an email client connects to the server and authenticates with the username and password you put into its account settings. At that moment, the mailbox on the server is locked and you cannot access it from an another computer or device – POP protocol specifies that another connection is disallowed, while the current one is in use. The lock is there to prevent 2 computers to access the mailbox at the same time as POP is not designed for that. (POP commands used: USER, PASS, APOP).

2) Then it examines the list of messages the server offers and figures out which ones are new. The server replies with the list of messages and their unique identifiers. POP can only check the contents of your Inbox folder messages and that is the only folder it can access usually. (POP commands used: STAT, LIST, UIDL, TOP).

3) After establishing the new messages list, email client proceeds with the download, one message at the time. (POP commands used: RETR, TOP).

4) At the end of the session, email client decides, based on the options you’ve set whether or not it should delete some emails. Deleting messages can happen immediately or after a few days, again depending on the options in your email client. When it is done, it disconnects. (POP commands used: DELE, QUIT).

5) Right after the client has disconnected, the server performs actual deletion of messages (as they cannot be deleted before the QUIT command is sent by the client) and frees the connection for another email client (or a repeated connection by the same email client).

All of the above happens very quickly due to POP protocol being very lightweight and simple.

How does IMAP work?

1) Just like with POP, an email client connects to the server and authenticates with your username and password. (IMAP commands used: LOGIN).

2) At this point an email client can choose which folder (also called mailbox) it wants to access and selects that mailbox. For example that folder might be the “Inbox”, “Junk”, “Trash” or any other folder available on the server. (IMAP commands used: SELECT).

3) Then, usually it fetches the list of messages in the selected folder and updates the local list it already has, removing the messages which are no longer present and adding the new ones to the local list. In other words, it synchronizes local list to match the server list. (IMAP commands used: FETCH).

4) Since IMAP is more complicated, now a few things can happen – an email program can continue checking other folders like “Sent”, “Deleted”, “Drafts”, “Junk” and so on, so it might return to the step 2 in this example. In that process it will again update local lists and synchronize it with the server message list. However, it can also choose to remain idle in the current folder and remain connected, waiting for new messages to arrive. You can also search for messages in folders as IMAP also offers search capability. (IMAP commands used: IDLE, SELECT, FETCH, SEARCH).

5) As IMAP is designed to be “always online” any messages you download are just stored temporarily, as a cache, to avoid downloading it again. If a message is deleted from the server, for example by another email program or device, the currently running program will simply update its cache to reflect the changes done on the server the next time it synchronizes the folder. Note that unlike POP, IMAP doesn’t prevent other clients to connect at the same time. Multiple connections may happen and they will eventually be synchronized between each other.

6) If you delete a message, the deletion happens immediately and the change is again synchronized with every other client or device connected at the same time. The same happens if another email client deletes a message – eventually it is synchronized to your email program and you see the change as well. Additionally, IMAP supports flags such as \Seen, \Draft, \Deleted, \Answered, \Flagged, common among email clients to indicate if the message is read, draft, deleted, replied and flagged (starred), respectively. (IMAP commands used: COPY, MOVE, STORE, EXPUNGE).

7) At a certain point you decide to disconnect from the server and your synchronization then stops and resumes the next time you connect to the server. If your email client has cached the messages they can be still read, while offline, but if the messages are not cached, an Internet connection will be required to read them. Also, if you decide to move message to another folder or delete them, an Internet connection will again be required as the change cannot be performed while being offline.

So unlike the POP protocol which is like fetch-and-delete kind of protocol better suited for offline use on a single device, IMAP is more like always-online protocol which just shows you a window into the messages stored on the server (or in the cloud, if you will).

What about advantages and disadvantages of both and how to choose one?

The choice really depends on your situation.

To put it simply:

  • If your goal is just to download messages on a single computer and remove them from server, then POP is an easy choice, giving you just that. It is designed to be fast and simple for use on a single device.
  • If you want to synchronize or use multiple devices or computers and you want to have identical copy of your email on each of those devices, including all of the folders and messages, then you can use IMAP instead.

Advantages of POP

– It is fast and lightweight and uses less bandwidth (may not be an issue nowadays with fast connections but might be an issue in a rural area or with a mobile connection). This also makes it easier choice when access to the Internet is not available all the time.

– It downloads messages from server onto your computer.

– You have a local copy of messages which means you can read them even if you are disconnected from the Internet.

– Emails are removed from the server so if your email account is hacked nobody can read your older emails as they are downloaded onto your computer. Note though that many email programs (including OE Classic), allow you to leave a copy of messages on the server and delete after a certain time has passed. Option like this can help you download email onto multiple computers.

– Organizing your email is much faster as they are basically just local files so there isn’t a need to communicate the change with the server. So it can be done while offline as well.

– If you lose access to your email account or your email account is hacked, your emails are stored on your disk drive and are not in the cloud (on the server).

– The size of the mailbox only depends on the size of your disk drive and you don’t have to pay for the extra space on the server. Also, if your server offers low storage capacity POP will help you keep that storage clean if you choose to delete messages from server after downloading them.

Disadvantages of POP

– Since it usually deletes messages from the server, you have to have a backup plan for your emails. If your disk drive fails for any reason, so will your messages as well as they are just files on the disk drive. Note that this applies to all of your data which you store on your disk drive, not just emails.

– It does not synchronize server folders and messages. The only folder it has access to is the “Inbox” folder but it is not synchronized. Even though many email clients (including OE Classic) allow you to leave a copy of messages on the server and with that option enabled it is possible to download emails onto multiple computers, when you want to delete a message from one computer it is not deleted from all of them so they are not synchronized. This is especially a problem if you want to use email from multiple devices like mobile phone, computer, tablet and want to have identical copy of all folders and messages across all of your devices.

– It only can access “Inbox” folder unlike IMAP, so if your emails end up in the server “Spam” folder you cannot see them – you have to use webmail or IMAP to fetch “Spam” folder messages as well. Although some POP servers do offer tricks to fetch messages from different folders, this is not really a rule and many of them don’t so the lack of access to the server folders makes it a disadvantage.

– If you lose your computer data, have your device stolen, broken etc., your emails will be lost with it unless you have a backup. The same goes if your email folders are damaged. Having a backup is important.

Advantages of IMAP

– If you use multiple computers or devices you can have your email folders and messages synchronized between these devices – if you delete a message, add or rename a folder, receive a message, change the message status from read to unread or add a flag – all of these changes are registered across all of the devices connected to that email account, when they synchronize. So you can access it on the go or in the office (or at home).

– Your messages are backed up in the cloud so aside from local cached copy there is also a cloud (server) copy. Servers, if properly maintained, are regularly backed up so your emails are safer that way.

– More people can use the same mailbox and organize/delete/flag messages. This makes it a better choice for single mailbox shared between team members, for example if a single company mailbox is answered by multiple employees.

Disadvantages of IMAP

– IMAP involves much more communication with the server so it will eat up more bandwidth and Internet. Also, as each change has to be registered (synchronized) with the server, it is slower, so it depends on your Internet speed and server speed. Servers which are unstable or slow might cause problems so the server has to be good as well.

– If your server is unreachable, hacked, or if you’re offline, you cannot read your email except the cached messages in your email client. If messages have not been cached, you won’t be able to read them. You also cannot organize your emails while offline – move, copy, flag, mark as read, all of these operations require to be synchronized with the server so you have to be online to perform them.

– If you lose access to your email account, you may also lose access to all of your messages, again, unless they have been cached locally.

– The size of your mailbox depends on the amount of disk space you have available on your email server and you may need to pay for the extra space if it is not sufficient.

How to remove “Get Windows 10” update notification from system tray (KB3035583)?

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!If you are running Windows 7 or Windows 8 you may have seen the “Get Windows 10” icon in the system tray.

If you are annoyed by it (like me), you can remove it easily. Here is how:

1) Press Windows logo key and start typing: Windows Update and press Enter key to open Windows Update window

2) Click on the small link Installed Updates (on the left side)

3) List of updates will open. Now, in the search bar (upper right) type in KB3035583 – that is the number of update responsible for displaying this icon.

4) Click Uninstall and restart your computer when it asks you.

After doing the above the update may reappear in the list of offered updates. If that happens, simply right click on the update and select Hide Update and it won’t be offered again.

Once again Microsoft is pushing sneaky updates described as “Important” and “Recommended Update”. While I welcome their move to offer Windows 10 for free to users, I still think the option to disable the tool or to uninstall it should also be offered, and not pushed to users.

How to clean up your Inbox

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!New email keeps on coming every day. You carefully read it, file it, archive it, move it to various folders, reply to it, but it just keeps on coming. Forgetting to file one email often means leaving it “for later” and that later never really comes. Time passes and you end up accumulating tons of messages in your Inbox. And you never seem to reach your “Inbox Zero” nirvana. Does this sound familiar?

“Inbox Zero” is actually a great idea but for many, it is hard to achieve, due to just one simple thing – lack of simple habit of cleaning up.

So here are 5 ideas how to clean up your email to eventually reach empty Inbox.

1) Each day, set aside a minute or two to clean up 5-10 emails which are not needed and can be deleted. The key here is to develop a habit. It does not take much time to clean up 5-10 emails. To file them to proper folders or to simply delete them. It may seem overwhelming to see tons of messages in the Inbox and quickly give up, but the fact is that the more you clean it up, the less there will be and with time, just as they accumulated, they will be cleaned up. If you don’t know where to start – start with the oldest ones. They are most likely best candidates to be deleted.

2) Speaking of delete – do not be afraid to use delete. It might seem a good idea to file everything, archive into special folders and so on, but some things are simply not worth keeping. Do not attempt to be perfect, as that will not get you nowhere. Do you file every conversation you had with every person (in real life that is)? Of course not. So why do it with email? Many messages are simply not worth keeping once they have been read.

3) Use the rule – if it is older than 2 years, it will likely never be read again and can be deleted.

4) If you replied to it and there is nothing there to keep, delete it immediately.

5) If you really have to keep some messages, then at least remove them from Inbox. Move them to “Archive” folder or something of that sort. Leaving Inbox empty will remove visual clutter and will give you some sense of accomplishment at the end of a day.

How to install Windows 10 without Microsoft Account

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!When you are prompted to sign in to your Microsoft Account do the following:

1) Click on the small link Create a new account

2) Just below the form for creating Microsoft Account there is again small link called Sign in without a Microsoft account. Click on this link as well.

3) And that’s it – Now you can create a regular local account!

Windows XP end of support – What happens after April 8th, 2014?

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!I though I’d take a few moments to write about this topic. As many of you know, April 8th, 2014 has been set as the date when Windows XP extended support will end. So what will happen to existing Windows XP installations as there are still at least 10% of Windows XP installations out there. It may not seem much but it is millions of users.

After the given date, Microsoft will stop publishing security updates for Windows XP which are distributed through the Windows Update system. This means, security patches for the discovered security issues with Windows won’t be published anymore. Of course, the Windows XP won’t stop working after April 8th, but your system could quickly become compromised by malware.

Here is a mechanism hackers will abuse – once a security issue is patched within Windows 7 or Windows 8 and published through Windows Update, hackers will check for these updates, reverse engineer them and check if some of the security issues are shared with Windows XP. If they discover they are, they will attempt to create a so called 0-day vulnerability and as there won’t be no more security updates the vulnerability will essentially stay there forever. As Microsoft publishes patches every Tuesday, this may happen sooner than you may expect. Microsoft will start showing warning dialog on March 8th notifying users of the end of support.

Some sites have reported that the support for anti-malware will be extended to 2015. One of the reasons I write this post is because this has been misinterpreted quite a bit that this means that the security updates will be published until 2015. This is not true – only the anti-malware warnings will be issued. In other words, you’ll be given new buckets but the holes that leak won’t be patched anymore. And the effectiveness of antivirus or antispyware software on compromised system is at best limited. So in the long run, the upgrade to more recent operating system will be required. Of course, having malware on your system means all kinds of security issues, issues like compromising your private data and its integrity.

Will it be possible to continue using Windows XP – it depends – if you don’t need to connect it to Internet or any other network, then you can probably continue to use it. If however you need to connect online (even if it is from time to time) it means the system may be compromised. The time required to be online doesn’t need to be long so even short connection can be enough. My best advice is forget about patches and quick fixes and – upgrade.

Windows 8.1 Preview – How to install without Microsoft account (skip Microsoft account)

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!Windows 8.1, also known as Windows Blue was released as Windows 8.1 Preview. If you wanted to try it out and install it like I did, you may have found that there is no option to skip connecting it to Microsoft account. In fact, FAQ on Microsoft page – http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/preview-faq says the following:

Warning – In order to use Windows 8.1 Preview you must sign in to your PC with a Microsoft account. The option to create a local account will be made available at the final release of Windows 8.1.

So according to this you can’t install it and bypass Microsoft account and additionally, there is no option to skip connecting it to Microsoft account and creating a local account instead. However, there is a way to do this.

Update: It seems that this “feature” has made it into the final version as well. But the following methods to avoid it still work:

Method 1:

1. Click on link Create a new account (near the bottom of screen, below the “Don’t have an account?” text)

2. When sign up form appears click on Sign in without a Microsoft account (also on the bottom).

Method 2:

1. Disconnect your Internet connection before installing Windows 8.1 (or after the first part of installation has finished). Windows detects at some point if there is an active Internet connection – if it isn’t available, it will skip the screen where Windows wants you to Connect this PC to your Microsoft account and offer you to create a local account instead. This is the simplest method of skipping this screen.

Method 3:

You can keep your Internet connection enabled. When a screen called Connect this PC to your Microsoft account appears it will ask you for Email Address and Password (for Outlook.com or similar Microsoft service). If you have one you may put it in or if you don’t have it (or use Gmail instead), you have an option to create one. I suppose you want neither otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right?

1. If you don’t want to create Microsoft account enter some invalid email here for example:

  • Email Address: localhost@localhost.localhost
  • Password: whatever you like, doesn’t matter (I entered 12345678).

2. Windows will now check this account and conclude that there was a problem with logging into this account (as it obviously doesn’t exist).

3. On the side a text will appear – “The email address or password is incorrect. If you don’t remember your password, create a local account now and set up your Microsoft account later.”

4. Click on create a local account now part of the text and you’re now creating a local account.

It is likely that Microsoft did this on purpose to test the resistance against mandatory cloud services. As this is a beta version and not the one which will sell, it certainly looked like a perfect opportunity to do this test. If they really wanted, they could easily disable logging in with local account but instead they advertised it like “it can’t be done” even though they left a small gap to squeeze through.

It is also possible that they wanted to use this beta to increase a number of accounts for their Outlook.com service (once people sign up, some of them are likely to continue using it).

As for the first impressions here is something you might also be interested in:

  • Start button is a fake – instead of start menu it opens start screen. It is back but that’s not really it. There is an option though to show only applications – it is called Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start (right click Taskbar, then select Properties and finally click Navigation tab).
  • To boot directly to desktop right click Taskbar, then select Properties and finally click Navigation tab. The checkbox option is called Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in.

Slow or inaccessible network on Windows 7 or Windows Vista – these tips may help

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!If you had an issue with yellow exclamation point showing over the network icon in Windows 7 (or Windows Vista) this may be caused by certain network related technologies which this operating system enables automatically. Sometimes, they can cause issues so you may need to disable them manually.

This problem may manifest after putting a lot of load under network (like for example – downloading or uploading a lot of files at the same time). Then you may experience network slowdowns or complete inaccessibility and a yellow exclamation point could appear over the network icon indicating a problem.

Word of caution
Although these tips may help, you should exercise them with caution and only apply them if you are sure what you are doing, because you will be modifying some low-level network settings. You should modify settings if you actually experience a problem with your network. If you want to return to original settings, this is possible too and it is described below.

Running an elevated command prompt

In order to execute these commands you need to open an elevated command prompt:

  1. Click on Windows orb (or press Windows key) to open Start menu
  2. Into the Search programs and files type cmd (or command prompt)
  3. Right mouse click command prompt icon and select Run as administrator – this will run command prompt in elevated mode

Running elevated command prompt on Windows 7
Running elevated command prompt on Windows 7

Viewing current network settings

In order to know the default values of the settings you are about to modify you need to view them. Type the following into command prompt and press Enter key to execute command:

netsh interface tcp show global

This will show you all the settings as they are currently configured so you may return them to original values if something doesn’t work properly. I suggest you remember or write these down.

TIP 1 – TCP Chimney Offload

TCP Chimney Offload option releases some of the workload from your CPU to the network card, whenever possible. If the network card supports this and it works correctly, then it should be enabled. But if it doesn’t work well, you may want to disable this by entering the following command:

netsh int tcp set global chimney=disabled

In case you encounter difficulties you can return this to default value which you can view using the netsh interface tcp show global command from before. So if it was set to automatic you may return it to original value by entering the following into the command prompt:

netsh int tcp set global chimney=automatic

The same goes for all of the following options.

TIP 2 – TCP Auto Tuning

Windows can automatically optimize your network for best performance, but sometimes they may also optimize it incorrectly, causing problems. Disabling this optimization may help – type into command prompt:

netsh int tcp set global autotuninglevel=disabled

As before you can return to default value by looking at it first using the command netsh interface tcp show global and typing the displayed value back into the above command.

TIP 3 – ECN Capability

ECN or Explicit Congestion Notification improves network optimization when a lot of data is being transferred back and forth. But it is not compatible with some routers so you may need to disable it. To do so type:

netsh interface tcp set global ecncapability=disabled

If you have a router that can support this, then you may also try to enable this option to see if there are some improvements.

TIP 4 – Receive Side Scaling

Receive Side Scaling or RSS speeds up things by utilizing your dual or quad core CPU cores. Once again, it may cause issues under certain occasions. To disable it type:

netsh int tcp set global rss=disabled

Tourist promotional video about Zagreb ft. Phazze music

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!I was involved in interesting project for the purpose of tourist promotion of Zagreb, capital of Croatia. My part of the assignment was producing custom music and synchronizing it with provided video. Based on comments we received on various news portals, people like the movie. 🙂

Note: I am available for hiring for other music projects – if interested – contact me.

Here is full length YouTube video in HD 720p quality:

And this is shorter, 3 minute version:

More information about the video:

A short film made of thousands of photos, timelapse and video sequences filled with special visual effects and custom composed music. The goal of this film was to capture positive energy of the city of Zagreb, Croatia. The film also shows Zagreb’s rich street and nightlife, culture and sacral heritage together with internationally known attractions, events and many more.

Material for this film was filmed during the period of 2010-2012, post-production and special effects were made by Dražen Zeljković while music and sound effects were made by Zvonko Tešić.

Gear used: Canon 5D Mark2, Canon 7D, Kessler’s Cineslider, Revolution Head and Oracle controller with lenses Canon 17-40 F4 L, Canon 70-200 F4 L IS, Canon 100-400 F4-5.6 L IS and Sigma 300-800 F 5.6.

Music and sound effects are produced using Renoise. Zvonko Tešić is also one of the original authors of Renoise software.

Authors wish to thank to all the people and organizations who helped in making of this project. For more info on our works and contact details please visit our web sites: Marko Vrdoljak, Drazen Zeljković, Zvonko Tešić.

DuckDuckGo – new search engine that might hit jackpot

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!If you thought that in the search engine world everything is established this might be a nice little surprise for you.

There is a new player in town and it’s called Duck Duck Go – http://duckduckgo.com/ – well, not exactly new, it’s been around since April 2010.

Despite of its funny name, the interesting thing about this new search engine is that it doesn’t try to compete with Google (which is nearly impossible) but instead it hurts Google where it hurts the most – privacy issues. With increased concern about user and search privacy and new Google privacy policy recently introduced more and more people are looking for an alternative way to search. It also adds wisdom of crowds to the search results (e.g. from sites like Wikipedia) to better fulfill search requests.

Will this one hit the jackpot? We’ll have to see – according to their own public search statistics their traffic is increasing and it looks much like an exponential curve to me – see it yourself: https://duckduckgo.com/traffic.html

Did I also mention that it also gives pretty good search results? Try it out yourself and tell me what you think.

Internet safety and how to protect yourself online – proven and reliable tips

At last, perfect replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail is available, called OE Classic - Click here to download!I am quite often asked by individuals or companies how to protect yourself and your computer online – you know, the usual stuff – avoiding viruses, spam and such things. Often, the rationale is – “If I bought the computer and service from my Internet provider – it should all work flawlessly right?”

Well – not quite, the story is a bit more complicated than that. If you are not a car mechanic you don’t service your car – you leave it to professionals. But unfortunately, the perception is not the same with computers – just because you keep them in your bedroom doesn’t mean they are any less complicated to maintain and that you can use them carelessly without knowing what you are doing. You do need to learn to drive your car, don’t you? Well, computers are zillion times more complicated than driving a car but fortunately, there are some simple rules you can apply to make them easier to handle.

As a software publisher, security to our users is of utmost importance – so we have a set of rules you can all use to be safer when connecting to Internet (but also when designing software too). Here they are in arbitrary order and in plain language without too much technobabble.

  1. Use original software – Original software at least gives you a certain level of guarantee that the program hasn’t been tampered with (software developers and virus-makers are both engineers after all) and with pirated software you cannot be that certain. This doesn’t mean original software is any more secure if the authors don’t apply the security measures themselves.
  2. Apply software patches and updates religiously – especially if computer is connected to Internet or if the software is Internet-related. In Microsoft Windows this is called Windows Update and for Microsoft Office it is called Office Update. Many other programs from less known companies also have their own update mechanisms – use them! This also applies to online-software (blog software, forum software and similar). Also to bust one more myth – people often claim that Macintosh is more secure than Windows-based PC. Not really true – in fact, there are security leaks a few months old in OS X and still not taken care of. Similar goes for iOS and sometimes for Linux too. So if you paid it more that doesn’t mean it is automatically more secure. Windows are most popular but for this reason alone their emphasis on security is at higher level. I’m not advertising the use of any of these systems, just pointing the fact that software developers do need to patch their software too as well as their users.
  3. Use latest version of your Internet browser. These days any is really good and a matter of choice – IE 9 is as good as Chrome 17 or Firefox 10 (yes, I know about Safari and Opera too). Yes, there are differences, but they are all very competitive. When using the latest version you make sure you have all the security updates all the time.
  4. Use firewall and anti-virus (anti-spyware) program. Paid or free is a choice of yours but more often, paid has more advantages – and these guys are constantly into security leaks and patches. Use their wisdom. Companies I would recommend are Kaspersky, Norton 2012 products and the one I personally use – NOD32. As for free variants I like Avira – has some quite nice features but AVG or Avast are also quite good (I did not go too much into virus-detection charts as they change all the time). Note that they can’t be used as substitute to Windows Update – you still need to have fully patched operating system. Fortunately, with Windows and antivirus software – update mechanisms are very easy to use and completely automated. Firewalls on the other hand will stop software to send outgoing data unless you permit them to and with most of them you can do this on individual program level.
  5. Quick guide to less reliable software sources – Even though you should install software from reliable sources, sometimes you might need to install something from less known manufacturer. Note that digital signature doesn’t mean software is more secure – Gator Corporation for example had fully legit digital signatures while their software was installing spyware. Good way to install unreliable software is to use Sandboxie. The solution which I use myself is virtualization – a full operating system within isolated environment such as VirtualBox or VMware Workstation. The idea here is to install software in a controlled environment and not onto your main operating system. If the software or manufacturer proves to be reliable one, you can proceed to install it onto your main system, if not, you can easily remove it or restore virtualized operating system image to starting one.
  6. Read those “Do you want to…” dialogs… for God’s sake! Don’t just click “Yes”. I am always amazed how many spyware, toolbars and similar things are installed just because user doesn’t read whatever is offered on the screen. Do not install software if you are tired.
  7. Do not use unsecured or low-security WiFi – There is always someone listening to such connections – this is probably the easiest way to steal passwords. WEP encryption is easily broken, with WPA and WPA2 you are a bit more secure. But it doesn’t hurt to add additional level of security – make sure you always use HTTPS (secure) version of web sites if available (Facebook has it and Google has it and so do many others). Make sure you always use SSL/TLS-encrypted connections (for Email access, for Usenet access, for web access) wherever possible and available.

I tried to minimize this list as much as I could but security issues are not something that should be taken lightly and you should at least do those minimal measures I’ve covered above. Of course, me – as software developer has quite a bunch of others like – checksuming (MD5, SHA1), comparing binaries by content, compiling software in an isolated environment (like virtualized operating system), making a copy of installation file before running it for testing or storing it in non-compatible environment (for example Windows binary hosted for download on Linux host – where it can’t be executed) and much more – but I don’t think these should be presented to average user that just wants to use his computer without having to worry too much – after all, software can be very complex and needs to be as easy for the end user as possible.