How to run DOS programs in a current version of Windows

Kenneth M. Frith is moving away from Windows XP (as he should). But he still has some old DOS programs he’s either unwilling or unable to give up. Can they run in Windows 8?

The big question is: Does your new PC run the 32- or 64-bit version of Windows 7 or 8? If you have the 32-bit version (referred to as x86 for historical reasons), you should have no trouble with many (but not all) DOS programs. But if you’re using the 64-bit version (x64), running a DOS program is officially impossible.

But that doesn't mean it can't be done.

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Why you don’t need to encrypt your backup

Richard O'Hara backs up regularly to an external hard drive, but that leaves him worried. “How can I make the data on the external drive secure in case it's lost or stolen?”

Back up and encrypt. Those are vital habits for everyone in our digital society. Without a backup, each and every document, spreadsheet, photo and video on your hard drive could disappear in seconds. And without encryption, your sensitive files could fall into the wrong hands, resulting in identity theft and other disasters.

In short, you need to back up all of your files. You also need to encrypt the ones containing sensitive information. And the encrypted files need to remain encrypted in the backup.

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The pros and cons (mostly cons) of saving files to the desktop

For years, Jocelyn Warfield saved her document files to the desktop. She asked me about continuing the process.

As far back as I can remember, no version of Windows has ever, by default, saved data files (documents, spreadsheets, photos, and so on) to the desktop. And at least since XP, it has not been a particularly safe place to save them.

But, because the desktop is always visible, some people just can’t resist temptation.

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Replace Windows 8 with Windows 7 or a look-alike

Cheryle Fields’ husband hates his new Windows 8 PC. Cheryle asked me if she can replace the operating system with Windows 7.

You may or may not be able to install Windows 7 on your particular Windows 8 PC. A lot of that depends on the hardware. And, of course, you’ll have to buy a new copy of Windows 7.

But if you or a close family member hates Windows 8 that much (and I’m in complete sympathy), there are better options than paying for two versions of Windows and only using one of them.

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The Windows 8 activation-key problem

Brian Freeman found a flaw in my article Reinstall Windows when you've lost your reinstall disc or partition. I told readers that “when it comes time to activate Windows, use the activation number on your PC.” But Microsoft no longer requires vendors to make this number readily available.

Every legal copy of Windows has its own activation key, also called a product key or a product identification (PID). It’s made up of five groups of five characters each, and it’s unique to your copy of Windows. Basically, it’s a proof of purchase. You can download and install Windows for free, but without a unique activation key issued by Microsoft and not in use on another computer, it won’t work for long.

[Email your tech questions to]

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Gather similar files from multiple folders and copy them in one simple step

Ka3ebe asked the Utilities forum for a way to copy all of the .txt or .jpg files on a computer to a particular folder.

I’ve got two ways to do this. One uses familiar, Windows-based drag and drop methods. The other harkens back to the dark days of DOS, but it still works in all versions of Windows.

[Email your tech questions to]

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Watch out for photos containing malware

Jerseygirlinfl asked the Answer Line forum if photos floating around the Internet could contain mailware.

Cybercriminals use images in a number of ways to infect your computer. In most cases, the photo itself is harmless; it's just a trick to get you to do something stupid. But sometimes, a .jpg file itself will contain malicious code.

Let's look at a few ways in which an image can contain some real bad news.

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