Blocking images can be a good defense

Q. When I click on a new e-mail message, it says, “external images are not displayed” and I have to click a button to get the pictures to show up. Is there a way to change my system so that the images come up with the message every time?

You may not want to do that. These pictures and graphics are not directly attached to the message. They are stored on remote servers (and are typically referred to as “external” or “remote” images by mail programs). Because of this, a security setting in your e-mail software may be blocking the images in your messages.

When you open a message and an image loads from a distant server, your computer may send a signal back that it has opened the message. This can be valuable information for people trying to gather marketing data – or an opportunity for exploitation by someone with malicious software on the remote server.

To keep your computer more secure, many mail programs now have a feature that blocks images from displaying automatically when you open the message. Once you have identified the sender and assessed the security risks, you can click on a button to load the images in the message manually.

But you can usually change your software's settings. In Microsoft Outlook Express 6, go into the Tools menu to Options, click the Security tab, and remove the check mark from the box next to “Block images and other external content in HTML mail.” In the mail program that comes with Apple's Mac OS X 10.5, go to Preferences under the Mail menu, click the Viewing icon and put a check in the box next to “Display remote images in HTML messages.”

If you are still having trouble getting the images to display in your messages, check your computer's security software program.

Q. My computer has the Windows Me operating system with AOL dial-up, and now McAfee no longer provides virus protection for Windows Me; neither does Norton or AOL. I love my computer, but I need to have virus protection. What can I do?

Microsoft released Windows Me in 2000 and officially stopped the extended support phase for the software two years ago. As Microsoft has moved on, so have the software manufacturers that make programs for the system.

Most antivirus utilities from the larger companies now require a computer to be running at least Windows 2000 or Windows XP. You can still find a few programs that claim to support Windows Me from smaller companies, like Proland Software (based in India and found online at and Alwil Software (based in the Czech Republic,

Your tech support options will be limited to e-mail and forums.