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JimZipCode writes:
I have a Dell desktop at home running WinXP, and I have Comcast cable modem for 24/7 internet access. (And it's wonderful.) Two questions:

o How do I turn off that stupid messenger service with all the pop-ups? Can I even do that, or is it part of the price I pay? I'm getting spammed with pop-up messages: "Come watch me on my webcam!" etc.

o Should I install some sort of firewall? Why? What?

The "messenger service" could be any number of annoying pop-ups, some driven by "ad-ware" you might have inadvertently installed on your machine. There is also the Microsoft "Messenger" service that is enabled by default on many installations that has recently been attacked by spammers. You can turn off that service by going to Administrative Tools (I think, I don't have WinXP handy) and opening Services and setting either Messenger or Microsoft Messenger to "Manual" and stop that service from running again.

A better way is throw hardware at the problem. A nice, easy, cheap solution that will measurably improve your on-line experience is a Linksys router/switch/firewall thing.

I recently purchased this puppy: for my DSL and it was all of $55 at

If you need a USB connector (because your computer doesn't have a network card), this might work:

It is very easy to set up (I spent more time unpacking it than configuring it), you do not need a separate firewall (software or hardware), and you get a slight speed improvement. Even for just one computer, I love my toy. All of the computer geeks I know have some device like the above to manage their high-speed internet connections. Linksys is not your only choice, simply the name I had handy.

Games work better, too.

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