Computer Maintenance and Security Recommendations.
Note: These recommendations apply to Microsoft Windows only – I have no knowledge of Apple products and hence don’t know what one would use or need with them.
If you use email and the internet there are many “nasties” out there to interfere with your enjoyment of this great technology. Some of them can stop your computer from working completely, but many just slowly show their presence by making your computer go slower, ask questions on startup that you haven’t seen before, bring up unwanted and unexpected adverts on screen, make programs crash, and spyware will send personal information about your computer usage, and sites visited, secretly to agencies who sell the information to advertisers. We all have a responsibility to keep our PCs clean so that we don't infect our friend's PCs via email. As an absolute minimum, any pc that connects to the internet must have a firewall and an anti-virus program which must be kept up to date.
Don't be tempted to use free virus scans that occasionally pop up on your screen when on the Internet. They will tell you that you have all sorts of problems and then want money to remove them. They are often rubbish and in many cases will actually install viruses or spyware on your PC.
For hassle free computing and to keep your computer running smoothly and free from viruses, spyware, popup adverts, unauthorized connection to your computer, etc, it is my opinion that all home computer users must be running at least the following programs on their computer. These are suitable for all modern versions of Windows ie XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8, and 10. On some sites mentioned below, the free version needs to be searched for as they try to lure you into clicking on the professional version, which you have to pay for of course.
1. An antivirus program – For the average home user I would recommend using one of the free products below, I use them on all my PCs
These free products get very good reviews when tested. They are not shown in any order of merit, they're all good.
1. Microsoft Security Essentials is available from www.microsoft.com/security_essentials
2. AVG which is available free from www.grisoft.com.
3. Avast which is available free from www.avast.com
4. Ad-aware is also free and provides good protection Available from Ad-Aware
5. Avira which is available free from www.free-av.com
Many antivirus products are available to buy and pay an annual fee. I have tried some, particularly Nortons and McAfee, and found many compatibility issues with them. I don’t believe they do anything more than the free products above for the average home user.
Updates and backups on any antivirus program used should be set to automatic or done manually at least once a week, preferably twice a week.
2. A firewall – ZoneAlarm is very good and free. Set it up to load at startup, and to automatically check for updates. If not set to automatic, then check for updates once a month. Available from Zonealarm free Note that Windows has a built in firewall which is much better than it used to be and should be quite adequate for the purpose. Make sure it is turned on (Control Panel – security)
3. A Spyware Find and Remove program – Spybot Search and Destroy is good and free (but is slow). Manually run the program every 1 or 2 weeks and get it to remove anything found. You need to click on the box to the left of each item found and then click “fix selected problems”. Check for updates once a month. Available from https://www.safer-networking.org/private/
4. An Email previewer such as Mailwasher. Click on this and preview any mail waiting for you on your ISP, and delete or bounce any rubbish before it is downloaded onto your PC. A free version is available at http://www.mailwasher.net/
5. PCs tend to get slower as they age primarily due mainly to a build up of old and no longer used files in the operating system although a virus or other malware can have similar effects. There is no simple solution to this apart from the obvious but time consuming task of reinstalling everything new from scratch. However there are a number of things that can be done which may help:
a) ensure that your anti-virus program is up to date and then run a full scan,
b) download Spybot (see 3 above) and let it run a full scan,
c) Do a disc cleanup (see below)
c) download Ashampoo Winoptimizer and do a full scan and let it fix anything it finds.
With many of the software programs referred to above, they will try and sell you their 'Pro' version, just ignore it and close the window when you have downloaded the program you want
In addition to the above, all users should once a week, do a cleanup of unnecessary files on your PC. Click on Start (bottom left of desktop), then Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools, then Disc Cleanup, and check your C drive. Delete all the files it finds. Any other drives you have should be checked occasionally as well.
On a monthly basis check on any Windows updates that have been produced. Click on Start (bottom left of desktop), then Windows Update, if it isn't there then it will be near the top of your programs list. This will need a connection to the internet. If it wants to update your Windows Update software then say yes. When the program does connect click Scan for updates (it will appear halfway down the right-hand window) and update any “Critical Updates and Service Packs” and “Driver Updates” that it finds. If you haven’t done this for a long time then there may be a lot, so only do a few at a time, or you could tie up your phone line for an extended period.
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Last updated: February 2016