I don't think you are ungrateful and I know I couldn't find the loading point of the win*.tmp.exe files. I still believe it has something to do with the data service you recently subscribed to. In your initial post you said
So it seems to me that the files are created as part of the validation process. Or there is something on this computer that is not present on the desktop computer that is trying to load the files. But since they aren't in the usual places one would find files like this attempting to load at startup, either I didn't find the load point or they are being created by the validation process.
Each time I run the downloader, at the start where it says 'validating registration', it throws up an error message that win23(or some other two digit number or a number and/or a letter).tmp.exe has encountered a problem and needs to close (screenshot copy attached). It asks whether to send an error report to Microsoft or not. Once I click out of this box, the program launches normally...
That is not my area of expertise, but I like to look for things like that.
But you can still open a topic in the XP operating system forum and see if a Tech can track it down. Like I said earlier, just post a link to this topic so the Tech can see what we've tried and that the system is malware free.
Your machine was relatively clean. The only thing I found, other than some files that were downloaded when programs like Java were updated and the flies were left on the computer was the Babylon toolbar. So your approach to security is sound and effective. The regime you are following is the safest we can recommend short of locking the system and browser settings down to a point where you can't visit any sites except for sites like Microsoft.
When you download a program, or any file, your browser normally scans the file for viruses. But as an added layer of protection you can also right click on the file after downloading it and click Scan with "Your Antivirus's" name.
As for the questions in b):
You would not normally need to update programs like that. Updates for programs of that nature focus on enhancements to program features and not security.
does one need to update even those applications that do not normally access the web, e.g., winzip or vlc player.
Yes and no. They could lead to infections if a malware programmer targeted that specific program with the malware file. But malware programmers tend to focus on programs that everyone has...like certain browsers, or programs that use Java, or even the Windows operating systems.
Can even such programs, if not updated, lead to infections?
I understand what you are saying, but you should make a few notable exceptions.
I normally prefer not to have auto-update enabled on any applications(barring anti-virus), just so I am not bombarded by constant reminders etc.
I don't have Windows automatically install updates (for various reasons) but mostly because I want to see what the updates are. But I do have Windows Update set to notify me when updates are present. And I run Windows Update every month even if I haven't been notified of pending updates just to be sure.
I have Java and Adobe flash set to check for updates and notify me so I can install them. And I check the Java and Adobe sites every month to be sure there isn't a newer version that I didn't get notification for. Those two program are constantly being targeted by malware programmers.
Same thing for Adobe Reader. I don't use Adobe Reader. I use Foxit reader. It is just as functional and it's a much smaller program. BUT...whether you use Adobe or Foxit you should turn Java off in the reader (see the NOTE under Keep Adobe Reader Updated in the Prevention suggestions).
As an example. Your installed Java version was 6.29. The current Java version is 7.7. The security community has found some pretty serious exploits in Java since an early version of Java 7 was released.
Your installed version of Adobe Reader was 6.0. The new version is 10.4. So that program was pretty seriously out of date and vulnerable.
So I would recommend that most people set those programs to automatically update. At the very least set them to automatically check for updates and notify you when one is available....and don't fail to install it.