Computer “gurus” are not necessarily any smarter than anyone else, they just know the ins-and-outs of their computer system. Here are five ways that the average user fails to protect or maintain his or her computer. If you take care of these five areas, you will avoid many of the hassles connected with computer ownership.
Surfing without protection: Install one anti-virus and at least one anti-spyware program. We like AVG (grisoft.com) which provides both virus and spyware protection. Avast (avast.com) is also a high quality anti-virus program. Both of these have free downloads online. Please, be sure that you are going to the original Web site. Especially if you are not familiar with the source, downloading anything can invite problems onto your computer.
Opening unsolicited communications: Never open e-mail or accept chat requests from someone you don’t know. There are real professionals out there, trying to figure out ways to get you to open their mail, download their file, or visit their Web site. They want to sell something, collect your contact information, or simply generate as much damage as possible. Avoid these enticements at all costs. Watch for unknown instant messages, and close out uninvited pop-ups by clicking on the X in the upper right corner.
If you see that something is beginning to download that you did not intend to receive, close out your Web page or e-mail connection in order to stop the transmission.
Neglecting Routine Maintenance: Normal use can result in an accumulation of junk. If extraneous programs are starting when you power on the computer, it will start slowly and run less efficiently. Clearing out start-up items can be very helpful, but it takes a trained eye to be sure that the important files remain intact. Proceed with great care.
The “spring cleaning” of computer maintenance is an operating system reload. We recommend that you do a back up and reload once a year.
Do understand that a reload will wipe clean your hard drive and put on a fresh copy of Windows. Any programs or files you have added will need to be reinstalled by disk or download. Back up important files before a reload. Banking and budgets are the first order of business, but don’t forget photos, music, e-mail, favorites, etc..
Ignoring Updates: Don’t ignore the legitimate updates that occasionally pop up on your screen. There are operating system updates for Windows XP or Vista, and there are crucial updates for your anti-virus. Usually, these can run in the background as you work, so go ahead and let them run, it will keep your system running smoothly.
Failing to secure your wireless network: Without some security, your wireless network is open to anyone within range of your wireless router. By adding a password to your wireless connection, you will thwart nearly all intruders. There are several other security options, with varying degrees of protection. Security is set up through the wireless router or access point. Contact your local computer professional for advice on securing your network.
Keeping up with these critical needs will really help your system to run as it should. And before you know it, your neighbors will be coming to you with their computer questions.