A couple of my tidbits from last week generated some questions, so I want to hit those before we move on to some product reviews in the coming weeks.

Q. You suggested installing Service Pack 3 for Windows XP, but then I read that it was causing computers to endlessly reboot. Should I install it on my Dell laptop or not?

A. There have been some reports of some reboot issues, especially involving computers with AMD processors, so you may want to hold off on installing the patch if your computer is running an AMD. (You can tell if you have an AMD sticker on your PC or also by right-clicking on MY COMPUTER and hitting PROPERTIES.) Most PCs are running Intel processors, but there quite a few AMD processors out there, and of course, not all AMDs are affected by this bug.

Microsoft is working on the issue, according to blog posts, and should be releasing an update to the update. Of course, you should always back up your data before installing a service pack, so even if you end up in trouble, you should be okay. I have installed the patch on about 30 PCs, including some AMDs, and have had no issues yet. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Q. I have a Mac Ibook G4 with a bad screen. It still works if I plug in an external monitor, but it flickers on and off when I don't use a monitor, so it's not a very satisfactory experience. I have quotes of about $500 to get a used screen installed to repair it and $800 for a new one. Is it worth fixing?

A. Your Mac is older than I would invest in. I'd hook up the external monitor or sell it to someone who will (or sell it to a tech who can repair it) and invest in a newer Mac. You'd have better performance with a $1,100 new Mac laptop than with your old one, which has a far slower hard drive, older technology and slower processor. It's a great excuse to buy a MacBook Pro.

Q. Is it true that the Firefox browser has a virus in it?

A. No. A Vietnamese language plug-in for Firefox 2 was infected with a Trojan, but Firefox itself was not infected and remains a highly recommended browser. Your installation is not infected if you did not install that plug-in. If you did, run your favorite anti-spyware tool to remove it.

Q. Should I wait to install the Office 2007 Service Pack?

A. Service Pack 1 for Office 2007 will be released on June 16 for automatic update, if all goes well. I don't see any need to wait for this one, but like everything else, it is a good idea to make a backup of your data before you install it. However, Office service packs are usually no big deal and install without a hitch. This one has been installed tens of thousands of times already and is well tested.


James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim@cyberdads.com.