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How to find the Microsoft product info you need

Microsoft's site contains great technical discussions and useful software. Here are some tips for finding what you want.

December 11, 1998
Web posted at: 1:45 PM EST

by Judy Heim

(IDG) -- Finding what you want on Microsoft's site is easy. Type into your browser, click the Search tab, and type a file name or search word -- and the free program you've been looking for starts downloading. Yeah, right.

A likelier scenario: Your friend says you can get a new Windows 98 utility free from Microsoft's site; but after 20 minutes of thrashing around, you can't find it. Or you hear about a patch to fix a nasty bug in Outlook, but 30 minutes after typing Outlook and bug into Microsoft's search tool, you've found no trace of it.

Microsoft's Search tool (accessible from is too limiting. It doesn't search the Knowledge Base (the database of technical discussions), nor is it good at locating freebie utilities. It does uncover product information well. And Microsoft's site contains great technical discussions and useful software. Here are some tips for finding what you want:

The necessary goods

  • PowerToys (an essential collection of utilities), Kernel Toys (a favorite among system gurus), service packs, updates, resource kits, administrative tools, and Win 95/98 shareware: Go to and click "Downloads."
  • Internet Explorer software, service packs, and add-ons: Go to or
  • Service packs for Internet Explorer 3.x or 4.x, Exchange Server, Office 97, and Windows NT 4.0: Go to
  • Items you were unable to locate elsewhere: Try going to
  • Drivers, FAQs, and subject-specific support newsgroups: Go to On your first visit, you'll be asked for your name and e-mail address. Don't forget to click each of the four check boxes that begin "I do not wish to receive unsolicited...." You can search the site in either of two ways: Basic and Advanced. Head to the Advanced search, type your question in natural language (for example, How can I hide the Start button?), and the search engine will return what it considers likely answers. Unfortunately, I have yet to obtain the information I was searching for by this means. Similarly, I've never found any driver or other free Microsoft software by typing its file name. So here are a few tips for increasing your chances of getting the desired results:

In step 1, select All Products to broaden your search. In step 2, check the Keywords option. In step 3, if you're looking for a product, type its name in quotes; if you want a specific feature, type it in quotes; use an operative (and or or) between search terms. For example, if you type "Outlook Express" and address, you'll get a list of technical documents discussing Outlook Express's address book. In my experience, this works much better than selecting Outlook Express in step 1 and then typing the keywords address book. Under More Options, select Full text. Select "Titles with excerpts" to get a better idea of what an article is about.

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Telnet with confidence

When hackers break into a computer over the Internet, they most often employ Telnet, a UNIX tool that enables a user to tap into remote computers to run applications and issue commands. When personnel at a major university's computing center discovered that a hacker was using code ingeniously disguised as Oracle routines to intercept Telnet packets and sniff out user passwords, they advised staff to stop using Telnet. To replace it, they installed SSH (or secure shell) on their servers and distributed copies of a product called SecureCRT to all users.

Like Telnet, SSH is a protocol for logging in to other computers on a network to run applications remotely or to issue commands. But unlike Telnet, which passes data in ASCII streams that outsiders can eavesdrop on, SSH relies on encryption and prevents Telnet hackers from gaining network access by impersonating a legitimate computer's IP address or another network service.

SSH is being adopted by a growing number of corporate, government, and university computer systems, as well as by some Internet service providers for their servers. It can offer you and your company these advantages:

  • If you regularly log in to your work computer from your home PC via the Internet, you use a dial-up ISP. With SSH running on your company's server, you can use SSH software like SecureCRT to communicate with your work computer via an encrypted link -- even if the ISP doesn't support SSH.
  • If you want to be able to check your office computer's e-mail by tapping into the office network through the Internet from your laptop or home PC, SSH supports port forwarding. This allows you to use your regular mail program to retrieve mail through an encrypted link.
  • If your ISP supports SSH, you can get e-mail and transmit files for your Web site through encrypted links.

FTP is highly insecure because it sends passwords to an FTP host in a single unencrypted packet. But new SSH 2.0 server and client software incorporating secure FTP should be available by the time you read this.

The SSH 2.0­compliant SecureCRT program enables users to work over their office LAN or communicate via an SSH link with an ISP that supports SSH. It also gives users who don't want to risk using FTP the ability to run encrypted Zmodem file transfers for those who'd rather not risk using FTP. And if you work behind a corporate firewall but want to avoid the slowdown of an encrypted link, SecureCRT supports Telnet. You can download a 30-day trial version of the $99 product from Van Dyke Technologies .

For additional information about SSH, check out the newsgroup devoted to it ( or the SSH home page.

Different browsers for different URLs

In response to "Peaceful Coexistence for Communicator and IE 4.0" (link below), Jack Perry sent me an e-mail with an additional suggestion. His tip lets Windows 9x users launch different browsers for different sites (to get the most from Web sites specifically optimized for Navigator or IE). The trick is to create appropriate desktop shortcuts. Right-click the desktop and select New, Shortcut. When prompted for a Command line, type (in quotation marks) the location of the executable file of the browser you wish to use. In the case of Internet Explorer, that might be "c:\program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe"; whereas for Netscape, you might instead employ "c:\program files\netscape\communicator\program\netscape.exe". Check your hard disk for the exact folders. Next, type a space followed by the URL. Click Next, type a name for the shortcut, and click Finish. The only drawback is that shell extensions to shortcuts, such as IE's Subscribe feature, won't work.

Favemarks? Bookrites?

Meanwhile, Neil Murphy of Atkinson, New Hampshire, writes that Favtool -- a free utility from Microsoft -- can turn one browser's bookmarks into another's more easily than any of the methods I recommended in "Peaceful Coexistence". Download Favtool and place it in any folder; then double-click the favtool.exe icon, and a pop-up box will offer you two buttons to choose from: Import Bookmarks into Favorites, and Save Favorites as Bookmarks. Click one of these buttons, select a file, and your bookmarks will cross the great divide. You can download Favtool from FileWorld.

Stifle a squawking modem

If your officemates have taken to complaining about the screeching sounds your modem makes, don't just offer them aspirin: Do something about the noise. In My Computer, select Dial-Up Networking. Right-click the icon for the connection for which the modem's noise is a problem, and click Properties. Then head to the General tab, and under 'Connect using:' click the Configure button. On the General tab you'll find a slide bar; use it to pump up or lower the volume. Click OK twice when you're done.

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