Reader mail clogs the box this week, after a few weeks of reviews, so let's get right to it.

Q. You mentioned in your column that you are using a scanner that is saving files to a very tiny server with redundant drives. What kind of server is that?

A. In my case, I am using a D-link DNS-323, which is less than $200 and holds two hard drives. It is not a server, per se, but rather an NAS, or network attached storage device that is searchable via Ethernet or USB. So you get it home, plug in the Ethernet cable and two drives, and away you go.

My favorite device in this category is a Drobo (www.drobo.com), which holds up to four drives but also costs twice as much. I went with the cheaper solution, but if money were no object I'd buy the Drobo. If you're interested in a server for your house, consider a Windows Home Server, which will run on an old desktop.

Q. I want a Dell XPS laptop, but it does not come with Windows XP. Dell won't sell it with XP and says if I try to install XP on it, I will void the warranty. I don't want Vista. Do you think XP will run OK on this laptop?

A. I'd give you 90 percent odds of success if you are adept at reinstalling Windows. The laptop used to come with XP, so the drivers are available on the Dell Web site, so that's the main point. As for the warranty, installing XP won't void the warranty on the hardware. If the screen dies or the hard drive dies out during the warranty period, you're still covered. However, if you run into issues with the operating system, you're on your own. Before Dell will touch your laptop, you're going to have to use the reinstall discs (assuming you buy them, which I would for the extra $5) to install Vista, assuming you want Dell's help.

I also would encourage you to give Vista a try, especially with Service Pack 1. You have nothing to lose, since the laptop comes with it preinstalled. Try it for a few weeks and see how you like it. Just get enough RAM (4 GB is nice, since DDR2 RAM is now so cheap).

Q. I see where Norton has come out with anti-virus for the Mac. I know you used to say I didn't need anti-virus for my Apple. What's your take now?

A. Unchanged. I still don't use anti-virus on my Mac. (However, I run Windows XP on my Mac, and I do use Windows anti-virus on that partition.) I personally don't see enough virus activity in the wild aimed at the Apple platform to make it worth the dollar expenditure to make it a good cost versus risk investment at this point. That could change on a dime, but as of today, that's my call.


James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is [email protected].