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Expert: Most can make their own computers Y2K-ready

September 07, 1999|By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - There are do-it-yourself Y2K fixes for personal computers, but owners should exercise caution when attempting to make their machines millennium ready, according to Franklin County Management Information Systems Manager Robert Mahoney.

"Anything less than a Pentium (processor) is suspect, and anything Pentium and above should still be checked," said the man in charge of making the county's 345 computers Y2K compliant.

"There's probably somewhere upwards of 20,000 computers in Franklin County homes," according to Mahoney, who based his estimate on the county's population of approximately 130,000. "Everyone who has a home computer is at risk, mostly from the operating system and the hardware," he said.

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There's a good chance computer owners won't have to spend any money to update their systems, he said.

"There's free software testing on the Web. There's free patches on the Web," Mahoney said. Corporate websites can tell consumers whether their software is compliant and software and operating-system patches can be downloaded at no cost.

"A software patch is a piece of software to fix Y2K problems in the operating system of your computer," Mahoney explained. "You would need one for Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT," among others, he said.

"They're almost always www.companyname.com," Mahoney said about the corporate web sites. Pennsylvania also has a Y2K site, www.pa2k.org, and there is also a general information site, www.everything2000.com.

"It's not hard, but you have to be careful and follow directions," Mahoney said. Failing to follow directions to the letter "could mess up your computer," he said. Files should be backed up before attempting to download and install a patch, according to Mahoney.

Computer owners who are not on the Internet can take machines to computer or office supply stores. The patches are usually free, and the consumer will usually just pay for the time it takes a technician to run the patch.

Mahoney said some Y2K packages at stores often include anti-virus packages, all for about $40. He said that's a wise investment.

"There's probably some pretty bad Y2K bugs that are going to go off on (Jan. 1, 2000)," he said. The viruses may be a bigger problem than the dire predictions of institutional, utility and government computer failures, according to Mahoney.

"Computer hardware is a much trickier fix and should be done by a professional," he said.

Mahoney advises computer owners not to wait for trouble. "You don't want to worry about that when you're at your Y2K party," he said.

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