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Tech 101 | Tech Q&A

Ever Think About Switching ISPs?


Question: I just bought a computer running Microsoft's new XP operating system and have been having problems with my America Online service ever since.

It seems that when you're running XP and log on to AOL you will be prompted to upgrade to AOL version 7.0 from 6.0, which I am currently using.

The problem is that my computer keeps locking up at the "checking password" phase of the log-on process with 7.0. My only recourse is that, though the upgrade is mandatory, AOL lets you log on about three times with version 6.0 (which works fine by the way, but AOL says it and XP are not compatible).

After the third time, you must upgrade or you cannot use AOL. I then must uninstall and reinstall 6.0 so I can get three more log-ons until I have to do it all over again.

I have tried at least 15 times with AOL techs both online and on the phone and they have had me try an array of "fixes" that don't fix anything. Have you heard about any incompatibility issues between the two systems and do you have a fix for me?

Answer: Both Microsoft and AOL have said that XP will work with AOL 6.0. This is, of course, a lie. The friendly geeks at Q&A labs once again urge everyone to abandon America Online for a network provider that uses standard Internet protocols and not some proprietary system that slows everything down for all its users.

There are thousands of Internet service providers in the United States, and pretty much any one of them will give you more reliable, cheaper, faster service than AOL. There are lots of Internet tools that will help you find a local ISP. One is at

But, hey, you're probably stuck using that AOL e-mail address at least in the short term. Try installing AOL 7.0 from any one of the zillion CDs the company has distributed with the software on it.


Q: I keep getting a screen message that says "WUCRTUPD. This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. If this persists please contact your vendor." Can you please tell me what's happening?

A: The wayward program is the Windows Critical Update Notification tool. Once a day, it uses your Internet connection to check in with the mother ship in Redmond, Wash., to see whether Microsoft has released a new patch for its software. These patches are often designed to fill gaping security holes, such as the recently revealed problem with universal plug and play. Incidentally, if you haven't already done so, visit Microsoft's Web site and download that patch, because that hole really is serious.

The easiest fix you can make is to simply remove the Windows Critical ya-da ya-da. But then you'll have to make the effort to regularly check for system patches using the Windows Update feature manually.

To remove the program, go to the Start button (lower left), then Settings, and then open Control Panel. Double click Add/Remove Programs, click on Microsoft Windows Critical Update Notification, then hit the Add/Remove button and follow the instructions.


Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A at Please be specific about your computer and operating system and include a daytime phone number.

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