Do you often see a file named with just a single tilde (~) character residing on your desktop? Do you worry that it is a virus? Well, you can relax. It is probably not a virus. It may simply be a file created by Microsoft Outlook Express. If you have installed the update named “Cumulative Patch for Outlook Express (330994)”, and made some changes to the Address Book, then you will see this file on your Desktop.

Under normal circumstances, whenever you make changes to your address book, a backup is automatically created. This is done so that you can revert to any previous versions of the address book in future, should you need to. The backup file that is created should be placed in the directory C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book. The file itself should be named “yourname.wa~”, where yourname is the name of your user account. This is the backup to the actual address book file, named “yourname.wab”. If you install the above update, however, the process gets a little messed up. The backup file now appears in the desktop (where the shortcut for the Outlook Express is located), and its name is shortened down to just a single tilde (~).

There are four ways in which you can tackle the problem. These are:

1. Uninstall the patch: This is not a very viable solution, because if you have Automatic Updates enabled in Windows®, it may simply reinstall the patch next time it runs, causing the problem to reappear. Also, the patch does fix some serious security issues of Outlook Express, which is why you should keep it.

2. Leave the patch as it is and delete the file: This is one tiresome option, because Outlook Express will again create the file eventually, no matter how many times you delete it. Besides, can you be sure you will never need the backup of your address book? Bad idea!

3. Leave the patch as it is and rename the file: You may manually rename the “tilde” file by removing the “tilde” every time you see it, and move it to the address book directory of Outlook Express. Again, a tiresome option.

4. Change the startup directory: This is the most convenient and safe option. Simply right click the shortcut of Outlook Express on the Desktop, and change the path given in the “Start In:” field to that of the Outlook Express folder. Now, the tilde file will be created in there, so that you can access it if you need to, while still keeping your desktop free of this nuisance.

The tilde file is harmless, but by following this process you can prevent it from cluttering up your Desktop anyway.