Are you worried about losing your personal family photos or important work documents? Perhaps you have been the victim of identity theft or want to prevent this from happening to you? Your computer is vulnerable if it is connected to the Internet and it will always be vulnerable, no matter how much protection you have, but you can limit the scope of that vulnerability.
You can search the internet and discover some terrifying statistics related to computer infections and data loss. Did you know that you can protect yourself much more for very little money? Here are some tips, tricks, and ideas to help keep the bad guys out and keep your personal and professional information safe.
Antivirus / Antispyware – It is staggering how many Windows PCs are infected with some kind of malicious content. Some estimate that more than 90% of all Windows-based personal computers are infected with varying degrees of Trojan horses, viruses, spyware, adware, rootkits, browser hijackers, and more. What many people don’t know is that, in most cases, you can protect your computer for next to nothing. For starters, Windows XP Service Pack 2 and later versions have a built-in firewall. Make sure it is enabled and this will protect you from some incoming intrusions. You can also download free firewalls that are a bit more protective and will warn you of attempts to connect to the Internet from your computer or network that you may not even know about (Trojan Horse). One of these programs is called Commodo, it is completely free and it is one of the highest rated personal firewalls on the market. It’s a bit of a stretch sometimes, but that’s a small price to pay for your protection.
Did you know that if you have a router connected to your network and your computers are wired, they are also protected by your router’s firewall? This firewall can be disabled, but you would need someone with some knowledge of how to log into the router and knowledge of how the router works to do so.
Now, to protect against viruses and spyware, we highly recommend having an antivirus program and an antispyware program. Again, you can get some highly rated programs for free from the internet. Techs R Us’ preferred antivirus program is AVG. Visiting Grisoft.com will allow you to browse their collection of computer security programs, as well as download a full and free version of their antivirus suite. Also keep in mind that most computers purchased through major computer vendors come pre-installed with at least a trial version of an antivirus program. Do not try to run two antivirus programs at the same time, as this can cause problems. The free version of AVG is also very light on your computer’s resources and requires very little attention from you once it is installed. You can set it to scan and update daily (we always set both tasks for 3am).
As for Antispyware, we have two recommendations. Spybot Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware are free programs and neither do they require as many resources from your computer as some of the more popular versions found at your local electronics store or pre-installed on your new computer. Both programs rank at the top of their class in their categories. Spybot is a bit faster than Ad-Aware.
What about slow computers? Well, if you have been diligent in your computer scans and you are sure that there is no malicious content on your computer, then there are a few things you can do here. Windows comes pre-installed with programs to clean your computer and keep it running faster. You should defragment your hard drive if after all the other maintenance and cleaning you think your computer is still running slow. This can be found in Programs> Accessories> System Tools. There are programs that can take care of this tool for you, but they are unnecessary at best. Before defragmentation, you should try a disk cleanup. This will remove temporary Windows and Internet files, cookies, and other files that will dramatically slow down your computer over time. This tool can also be found in Programs> Accessories> System Tools. If you have an advanced browser, you may want to do this frequently. There is a program that we at Techs R Us also use for disk cleaning and registry cleaning, it’s called CCleaner.
Lastly, you should make a backup of the files that you do not want to lose. Whether they’re on your computer, flash drive, or anywhere else, backing up your information is critical. The average lifespan of a hard drive is 2 to 5 years, depending on the type of computer, atmosphere, and usage. Flash drives are constantly being lost and many of us have experienced a hard drive crash and the horror that comes with it … even if you have your data backed up. We highly recommend backing up to an external hard drive or online backup site. Techs R Us suggests Carbonite for your online data backup for several reasons. For a flat annual fee you can back up all your personal / professional data and they are the best in the business. It is also suggested that your backup is not in the same location as your computer in the event of a disaster (flood, fire, other natural disasters).