SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

Summary: Which posts were most popular among this site's visitors in 2011? Well, you care a lot about speeding up Windows 7, you're curious about Windows 8, and you know that security issues affect Macs and PCs. Here's my year-end review.

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No, the PC is not dead, and there's plenty of life left in Windows. Those are the unmistakable conclusions I draw when I look at the topics that my readers zeroed in on this year.

A record number of visitors stopped by this site in 2011. (Thanks to all of you for that support!) With the help of Google Analytics, I went back through all the posts I published during the year to see which ones had the highest readership. It’s a fascinating and ultimately useful exercise, one that helps me get a better handle on what you care about most.The Year in Review, the Year Ahead

Before I get to the actual Top 10 list, I'll mention a few popular pages that I excluded from the list. Two posts I wrote at the end of 2009 were still among the best-read in 2011:

They qualify as genuine evergreens, but they make this list only with an asterisk.

My best-read article of the year wasn't a blog post at all. So I'll cheat just a little and put it at the beginning of the list without making it part of the top 10...

Ten tricks every Windows 7 power user should know

I scoured my archive of tips, shortcuts, and secrets to find the hidden gems even some Windows experts don't know about. These aren't esoteric tweaks - they're honest-to-goodness productivity boosters that will save you time and keystrokes. In this case, the gallery format was the best way to illustrate some of my absolute favorite expert tips and tricks for Windows.

And with that exception out of the way...

#1: Windows 7 and SSDs: Setup secrets and tune-up tweaks

This post on how to get the best results out of upgrading your system with a solid-state drive (SSD) is the hands-down winner among every post I published in 2011. That shouldn’t be surprising. Switching to an SSD is the single most effective upgrade you can make these days, and the cost of SSDs has dropped substantially over the course of the year.

The other two installments in my three-part series on Windows 7 and SSDs were pretty popular, too:

#2: Stay safe online: 5 secrets every PC (and Mac) owner should know

When I talk to computer users, I hear a depressing amount of mythology and misinformation about computer security. Part of that is the fault of the security software industry, which does its best to scare the crap out of you so that you’ll buy their wares. The reality, as I documented in several posts over the course of the year, is that most malware makes it onto PCs and Macs via social engineering. Making smart decisions is much more important than choosing an antivirus program.

#3: Should you install Windows 7 Service Pack 1?

Microsoft released its long-awaited first service pack for Windows 7 back in May. As with most such big updates, there were a few initial glitches, all of which were fixed in short order. (For a follow-up, see Patch Tuesday updates fix a trio of Windows 7 SP1 glitches.) The short answer today: Yes, you absolutely should install SP1.

#4: Windows 8 unveiled

After providing a few teasing glimpses of Windows 8, Microsoft finally gave the new OS an official public debut. If you’re curious about what’s in store for Windows users next year, this is a good overview.

#5: Trojans, viruses, worms: How does malware get on PCs and Macs?

When Mac Defender and its variants hit the Mac community this spring, one of the most common refrains I heard was that the attacks on Apple didn’t really count, because they were Trojans and required the user to participate in the installation process. The reality, as I explain in this post, is that the same is true for Windows PCs. PCs and Macs are both reasonably safe, as long as you stay up to date and avoid falling for scams and social engineering. This post is still well worth reading and sharing.

#6: Apple vs. Microsoft: Which user interface do you prefer?

OS X apps are intuitive, Windows apps are clunky. Right? Wrong. In this post, I took a detailed look at the user interface design decisions made by Microsoft and Apple for their two flagship consumer photo-editing programs. I report, you decide.

#7: Apple to support reps: "Do not attempt to remove malware"

In 2011, Mac users got their first taste of what PC users have been dealing with for the past decade, when an Eastern European gang targeted Mac users with a sustained and successful malware campaign. What was most interesting about the story was not the malware itself but Apple’s panic-stricken, customer-hostile response. Even the most partisan among the Mac faithful were disappointed by Apple’s cover-up attempt. A close second was this exclusive interview at the height of the attack: An AppleCare support rep talks: Mac malware is "getting worse"

#8: The one security tool every Windows user should know about

I was surprised by the popularity of this post, which looks at a frankly geeky Microsoft utility called the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, also known as EMET. If you use Windows XP, you’ll want to check it out. For more recent versions, it's still worth a look, especially in corporate environments where targeted attacks are a possibility.

#9: Why Internet Explorer will survive and Firefox won't

2011 marked an unfortunate turning point for Firefox, which had enjoyed a sustained run as the safer, faster alternative to Internet Explorer. Google’s phenomenal success with its Chrome browser took a big chunk out of both Microsoft and Mozilla. In this post, I make the case that Firefox might slide into irrelevance in a world where browsers are tightly wedded to platforms. See if you agree.

#10: IE9 versus Chrome: which one blocks malware better?

Internet Explorer 9 is a potential game-changer for Microsoft, which has put an enormous effort into making its next-generation browser both standards-compliant and secure. This in-depth look at IE9’s security underpinnings is one of three IE9 posts I wrote in 2011 that wound up in a virtual dead heat. The others:

Thanks again for all the support in 2011. I appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

Topics: Software, Apple, Hardware, Malware, Operating Systems, Security, Windows

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31 comments
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  • Here's to another year of EB + ZDN

    [i]A record number of visitors stopped by this site in 2011. (Thanks to all of you for that support!) [/i]

    I don't candy up to much, but you deserve it. Congrats.
    klumper
  • Thanks

    I enjoy reading your articles, you put in a lot of effort to do proper research. I hope to read more of your articles in the next year.
    sboverie
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    Thanks Ed, for your insight and articles for the past year. Much appreciated.
    zetR1
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    sorry for the double post
    zetR1
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    Well, it was a big year for me, I switched to OS X for my desktop, my Xbox 360S is the ultimate widget, useful for everything and my one W7 machine performs perfectly. This is what I call progress, of course I'm not in the IT business.
    wuboyblue
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    Thanks Ed! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Look forward to more great articles!!
    eargasm
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    You're my favourite writer on this site. Honest, interesting and your articles stand up with their own merit rather than abusing attention-grabbing titles. Keep it up Ed :) Merry Christmas!
    Imrhien
    • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

      @Imrhien

      Hay Ed

      I may not always agree with you but I really enjoy (most) of your posts. Keep up the good work.

      Merry Christmas!
      gribittmep
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    But Macs don't have malware!!

    I think I'm one of the few Mac owners that don't believe that Macs can and do get viruses and malware.
    gribittmep
    • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

      @gribittmep
      Since you choose to separate out viruses from malware, please name a single OSX virus. It will be interesting, seeing as there aren't any.
      That is, assuming that your odd, incorrect use of negation is what it appears.
      .DeusExMachina.
    • And you aren't splitting hairs here?

      @deusexmachinaA
      [i]Since you choose to separate out viruses from malware, please name a single OSX virus. It will be interesting, seeing as there aren't any.[/i]

      Various forms of malware today can be just as bad as viruses. You don't remember MacDefender and the muck it caused earlier this year? Ed Bott himself wrote about it.

      It's a myth that Macs are immune to viruses and other parasitical nasties. All you can say is they haven't circulated in the wild in the numbers they have for their big brother, the PC.

      Recall as early as 2006 the OSX/Leap-A worm, which was spread via the iChat instant messaging system.

      Some other known Mac OS X viruses: Olxy backdoor, FakeAVZp-B, FakeAv-DD, Blackhole (MusMinim), Bancos, Bckdr-RID, OSX/Tored-A, OSX/Jahlav-C.

      Sophos catalogs quite a few pages worth of returns for Trojans and Worms for OS X. Look for yourself (move spaces together): h t t p:// tinyurl. com/4qz89lu

      Remote Access Trojans have already been targeted for the Mac, and no OS is invincible. You'd do well to remember that.
      klumper
      • Bumped below

        ---
        klumper
      • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

        @klumper
        "Various forms of malware today can be just as bad as viruses."

        And... so?
        You entirely miss my point, and make it at the same time. It is not I, but rather the OP that insisted on making viruses distinct from other forms of malware in his diatribe. Thus any comment on things other than viruses is totally irrelevant.

        "You don't remember MacDefender and the muck it caused earlier this year?"

        Sure I do. Do you? What muck are you talking about? Despite the HIGHLY inaccurate and sensational pablum being put forth from Ed Bott, almost NO ONE was affected by Mac Defender, the problem was readily addressed by Apple, and for those few who WERE affected, easily fixed with a simple deletion of files. No HDD reformat, no OS reinstall, not even any anti-virus software needed.

        "It's a myth that Macs are immune to viruses and other parasitical nasties. All you can say is they haven't circulated in the wild in the numbers they have for their big brother, the PC."

        Um... what?
        Who said anything about OSX being immune to viruses?!? And how on earth are Windows machines the Mac's "big brother"?

        "Recall as early as 2006 the OSX/Leap-A worm, which was spread via the iChat instant messaging system."

        And which, FAIAP, affected absolutely NO ONE ever in the wild.

        "Some other known Mac OS X viruses: Olxy backdoor, FakeAVZp-B, FakeAv-DD, Blackhole (MusMinim), Bancos, Bckdr-RID, OSX/Tored-A, OSX/Jahlav-C."

        And again, NONE of those listed are viruses, and ALL of them affected essentially NO ONE in the wild.

        Some people know enough to see your diatribe as the FUD garbage that it is, and to not be hoodwinked into thinking you know what you are talking about. You'd do well to remember that.
        .DeusExMachina.
      • You're taking Macfandom to new heights

        @deusexmachinaA
        [i]It is not I, but rather the OP that insisted on making viruses distinct from other forms of malware in his diatribe.[/i]

        Truth is, it cuts both ways. Viruses (virii) once upon a time were held as something distinct from emerging adware and spyware. With their increase, the latter two got lumped together to become "malware." Then with the emergence of additional stripes of scareware, rootkits, crimeware (etc.), ALL (including virii) coalesced under that same convenient title [malicious software].

        As for MacDefender and everything else I stated, apparently you prefer your cozy hut in some parallel universe where getting drunk on Apple cider is the norm. How can one expect a rational debate with you on such things when you conveniently talk past everything presented, and simply deny realities? Not just mine, but established experts in the field.

        [i]Since you choose to separate out viruses from malware, please name a single OSX virus.[/i]

        Who asked that silly question? Oh yes, you did. So I gave you an answer with a well documented handful, and pointed you to the Sophos security team for additional pages worth. But that still isn't good enough for you. ["La la la la ..."]

        Now as long as PC's constitute 95% of the market, and Macs less than 5%, big brother is a fitting tag. Anything else would be denying the obvious. *Oh wait*
        klumper
      • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

        @klumper<br>First, let's get this out of the way right now. There is NO SUCH WORD AS *virii!!!!!<br>*virii (or: please god make it stop!!!)<br>For god's sake please everybody stop over-regularizing Latin <br>pluralization rules and applying them where they do not belong! It <br>doesn't make you look smart.<br>There is no such word as "virii." The correct plural of the word virus is <br>viruses. Sorry, this in not a debatable point. The ending "ii" is not even <br>possible in Latin, since the "ii" ending only occurs with words that end <br>in "ius."<br>First, if it were to be pluralized using the same rule for second <br>declension words such as alumnus and radius, it would pluralize as <br>viri, not *virii. Where, pray tell, are you getting that extra "i from, <br>anyway? ("Radii" has two because it started with one to begin with.)<br>The problem here is many fold. But the main one at this juncture is <br>that the word viri already exists; it is the plural of vir, or "man." And it <br>doesn't help to pretend that virus is first, third, or fourth declension <br>either. The plural of virus in not *virora, *vira, or the absurd *virae.<br>All this is beside the point, however. The word virus in Latin, needless <br>to say, does NOT mean the same thing as it does in English. (Electron <br>microscopes were way too expensive back in those days, and I think <br>Augustus Caesar declared them illegal.) Virus in Latin means "poison" <br>or "slime," and as such was what is known as a non-count noun. I.e. it <br>had no plural in Latin. Just like the words "love" (as in affection) hate <br>(also as in affection) and mail have no plural in English (and yes that <br>means *e-mails is wrong too) so too "virus" had no plural in Latin. <br>Since it's co-opting for use in English as a word for a countable entity, <br>it has acquired a need for a plural. But since that plural is for an <br>English construct, it must have an English plural, i.e. "viruses." Besides <br>which, again, it never had one in Latin in the first place.<br><br>That out of the way, let's deal with your points:<br>First, no, I am not splitting hairs. First as I have already stated twice, it was not me making the distinction, it was the OP. You can't have it both ways, treating them differently when it suits your argument, and then trying to lump them together when it does not, just to call the poster pedantic.<br>Second, you simply do not know what you are talking about regarding MacDefender. You write:<br>"As for MacDefender and everything else I stated, apparently you prefer your cozy hut in some parallel universe where getting drunk on Apple cider is the norm. How can one expect a rational debate with you on such things when you conveniently talk past everything presented, and simply deny realities? Not just mine, but established experts in the field."<br><br>Excuse me?!? The only person hiding from reality here is you. MacDefender affected almost no one. Not just relatively, but absolutely. Your argument about PC viruses not affecting many people relative to the PC installed base is misinformed, and off base. First, the fact that it is a de facto requirement that you run anti malware software when you use Windows completely negates your point. Second, again, ANY look at the numbers shows that the total number of people affected by MacDefender, relative to the OSX install base is minuscule, even compared to similar situations on other platforms. Simply shutting your eyes, and covering your ears and pretending this is not so does not change these facts. Third, you cite "experts in the field". Name one. Seriously, name a SINGLE security expert who claims MacDefender was a serious issue. Aside from self-serving rants from security software companies that "the sky is falling, buy our product," NO ONE in the Mac security field did more than yawn over this one.<br><br>"Who asked that silly question? Oh yes, you did. So I gave you an answer with a well documented handful, and pointed you to the Sophos security team for additional pages worth. But that still isn't good enough for you."<br><br>Un, no, you didn't. Ignorant much?!? NONE of the items you mentioned were viruses. NONE OF THEM. But thanks for making it clear that even when it is pointed out to you, you are still clueless about security issues.<br><br>"Now as long as PC's constitute 95% of the market, and Macs less than 5%, big brother is a fitting tag. Anything else would be denying the obvious. *Oh wait*"<br><br>First of all, that's now over 10%. Second of all, your argument is nonsensical. What does Big Brother have to do with anything?!? Did you even READ 1984?!?<br><br>As with many matters on which you post here, you quite simple do not know what you are talking about.
        .DeusExMachina.
    • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

      @gribittmep

      "Various forms of malware today can be just as bad as viruses. You don't remember MacDefender and the muck it caused earlier this year? Ed Bott himself wrote about it."

      But unlike Ed's "the sky is falling" articles the majority remained unaffected. Yet more scare stories to keep the Microsoft faithful, faithful.
      jgpmolloy
      • The majority remained unaffected

        @john@... <br>[i]But unlike Ed's "the sky is falling" articles the majority remained unaffected. Yet more scare stories to keep the Microsoft faithful, faithful. [/i]<br><br>The Mac to date has had a impressive record on system security. Overall. Let's get that out of the way right off.

        However when you smugly quip "The majority remained unaffected" re MacDefender, here's a news flash for you: No matter what virus, rootkit or stripe of malware has struck the PC world, on each and every instance of it, even dating back to Day One, the majority remained unaffected.

        Without exception. :O

        Oh my.
        klumper
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    I a
    petin_y@...
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    I always stop to read your articles. I find them interesting, balanced, and informative. Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas!
    petin_y@...
  • RE: SSD secrets, Windows 8 unveiled, Mac malware: my top 10 for 2011

    I am an avid reader of your articles. They are always very well researched and balanced. I am sure 2012 will be even better! Thanks for all your hard work and keep it up
    sunilgmishra