NOTE: This is a living page. As you know, technology changes very quickly. I will keep this page updated as I find better ways to keep computers safe and performing well.
I started using computers, the Internet and e-mail in 1988. So far, I have never:
Had a virus infection.
Had a spyware infection.
Had a rootkit infection.
Had a problem caused by bad electrical power.
Had more than 10-12 error messages a year.
Had a slow\sluggish PC for more than a couple of days.
It may feel like maintaining a PC has become nearly a part-time job. It’s up to each individual to weigh the costs versus the benefits of maintaining their own computer or paying someone to do it.
I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend that you have a person in place in advance that is ready, willing and able to handle technical issues that you are not able to deal with. Please do not assume that your tech savvy friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor is interested in fixing your computer.
Below is what I do to keep my computers running with minimal problems. Your experience may be different, so do what works best for you.
SOFTWARE & HARDWARE THAT WORKS WELL FOR ME
American Power Conversion Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
Acronis Imaging Software
Second Copy Backup Software
Western Digital External Hard Drive
Online armor Personal Free Firewall or Zone Alarm Free Personal Firewall
Avast Antivirus Software
Spybot Search & Destroy
Google Chrome Internet Browser or Firefox Browser
Web Of Trust
OpenDNS or KidsWatch – Parental Control
UPS – UNINTERRUPTABLE POWER SUPPLY
Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a computer and then plug it into a $5.00 power strip? If you are using your computer and the power goes out, you may have a small problem or big problem when the power comes back on.
Think of it as insurance for your computer just in case something goes wrong….terribly wrong.
Please buy and use imaging software. Once you have all of your software installed on your computer and it’s working perfectly, make an exact image of your computer. You can copy the image files to DVD’s or an external hard drive. The image file contains ALL of your files, software programs and operating system. If you install software that causes major problems or get infected with a really nasty virus and your computer is basically unusable, you typically have two choices:
A. Spend three+ hours manually reinstalling every program, printer and drivers that were on the computer and then HOPE you get it all configured properly.
B. Simply pop in your DVD’s or connect your external hard drive that contains the image you created and let your computer automatically restore itself back to when it was working perfectly. It typically takes no more than 90 minutes to restore a PC using this method. I like option B much better.
A backup plan is your friend. A co-worker had her Ph.D. dissertation on her home computer and never backed anything up. Her hard drive crashed and she lost her entire dissertation. There are two types of hard drives, those that have failed and those that eventually will.
EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
You can back up your data to a CD or DVD. I like to use an external hard drive as well for fast daily backups. I use CD’s\DVD’s for long term archiving of my important data. If something is important to you, I recommend having it stored in three different places. I have pictures of my daughter backed up to a USB drive, CD, external hard drive and online storage.
Be in control of what leaves and comes into your computer. A computer without a firewall is like a house with no doors and windows. You will have a hard time controlling who goes in and out of your house. The FREE version of both of these software firewall products works fine.
KNOW WHAT’S RUNNING ON YOUR COMPUTER
Do you REALLY know what software is running (especially in the background) on your computer? Is it possible that a hacker installed a key logger on your computer and now everything you type secretly gets transmitted back to her or him?
New computer viruses are created almost daily. You can infect your computer by merely going to an infected website. I use the free version of Avast and it works very well.
ANTI SPYWARE SOFTWARE
I personally do not like relying on JUST antivirus software to catch spyware. I use two programs that are specifically designed to protect computers from spyware attacks.
INTERNET EXPLORER ALTERNATIVE
I have found Firefox and Google Chrome to be more secure browsers than Internet Explorer. I only use Internet Explorer when I have no other choice.
I constantly test (try to infect) my computers to simply learn more and get better at protecting them. One test involved three computers. I had Internet Explorer installed on one, Google Chrome on another and Firefox on the third computer. On each computer I went to 10 websites that are known for infecting computers. Which computer in the end do you think had the most infections?
The computer running Internet Explorer had 68 infections.
The computer running Chrome had 3 infections
The computer running Firefox had 2 infections.
WEB OF TRUST – KNOW BEFORE YOU CLICK
I am sure you would not infect your computer on purpose with a virus. If you knew a website was infected, you would not go there. Well, how do you know if a site is infected or not? When you do a Google search, you have no idea which site is infected or not. With Web of Trust, you know more about what’s going on.
KEEP YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM UPDATED
Microsoft is always making updates available to help keep your computer humming along.
PARENTAL CONTROL MEASURES
My daughter is 7 years old. I gave her my old desktop when she was 4. I got tired of her ALWAYS wanting to use my computer. I know there is plenty of objectionable material on the Internet, but I did not think I had to worry about it with my daughter. I was wrong. My daughter inadvertently surfed over to youtube.com. I don’t know what the video was about, but several partially clothed women were bouncing around on her little 15” monitor. I quickly closed her Internet browser.
There are basically two ways to control what websites your child can access:
1. At the router level.
2. Installing Parental Control software on the computer itself.
I personally use OpenDNS. I prefer it because it is free, easy to configure and it works. I have tested several parental control software packages on the market. If I had to pick one to use it would be KidsWatch. You know your child and how computer savvy he or she is, so research various protection methods and pick the one that is right for you.
I feel a big part of why I have so few performance issues with my computers is because Once a month I run scandisk and defrag…an oil change and tune-up for your computer.
Some people may be confused or overwhelmed at this point. Please feel free to ask me as many questions as you want. I guarantee you that I can explain anything you have just read in simple terms and you will understand. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy (less stressful) computing,
John L. Jones