Maintaining a Healthy
Whether you use your computer for business or for
recreation, there are 4 important steps to keeping your computer
working smoothly and with a minimal number of lock-ups. As a business
should already have these protections in place, this discussion will be
aimed at the home computer using Windows.
Keep your software
Use and maintain
Scan for malware
Use a firewall
Have a backup web
None of these need to cost you any additional money and
can help keep your computer running in tip top shape. While the links
provided here are for Windows based computers, these rules hold just as
true for any operating system.
Your Software Current
This first rule of thumb is to make sure you have the latest patches and
updates to the software you computer uses. Starting with Windows 98,
Microsoft began including the Windows Update option from your Start
button to install important updates to your
version of Windows. Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1
include it in your Control Panel.
Windows is not the only software
you need to keep current. Java by Oracle and Flash by Adobe are two
commonly used programs used in conjunction with surfing the web that are
continually being updated to remove
security issues. They also will install unwanted additional software if
you use the default install settings so always use the custom install to
and Maintain Anti-Virus Software
One of the recurring news stories regarding computers seems to be
related to viruses that are sent from one computer to another in an
attempt to cause your computer to do something it would not normally do.
While some viruses may just flash a message on your monitor telling you
somebody got access, others can cause bigger headaches by altering your
configuration or even erasing your hard drive.
Most computers sold today have anti-virus software already installed.
Windows 8 and 8.1 come with Microsoft Defender already installed.
Previous versions of Windows can use Microsoft Security Essentials which
is a free download. While these Microsoft products do not provide the
most robust protection, they do provide out-of-the-box security not
previously available on new computers.
Many users do not realize that they have to constantly update
the virus library in order for their anti-virus software to catch any of
the new viruses being found on a daily basis. If you have a paid
anti-virus program, you must make sure to pay for the annual
subscription or their program refuses to remove any detected viruses. It
may only becomes apparent
when something seems to be not-quite-right on the computer. Then you
find out that your software is out of date and may not fix your
Fortunately, there are several online virus scanners that are available.
A company called Trend Micro, provides an web site that can
remotely scan your computer over the internet for viruses and tell you
how to remove it if one is found. If you suspect you might have a virus,
Trend Micro's On-Line Virus Scan and see what it discovers. While it
will not provide you with virus protection while surfing the web, it is
always current and can help you track down and fix any virus your
computer may catch.
If your computer does not currently have any anti-virus software, check
out the links below for some of the popular currently packages
PC-Cillin by Trend Micro
For computers that are used at home,
GRI Soft provides an anti-virus
program that you can download for free for personal use. Look for the AVG - Free Edition
and protect that computer today!
Scan for Malware
Malware, also referred to as spyware, is not really a virus but can
still be used to transmit personal information without your knowledge.
These are commonly used by individuals or companies to record and track your surfing
habits on the web to try and decide what kind of spam to send you.
Sometimes it is embedded within free software included with an
application. Java and Flash updates are notorious for doing this. Other times, a web
site will put a cookie on your system.
Paid anti-virus programs will likely have malware
detection included with their product while free versions may not. There are two products on the market that lead the
pack in detecting spyware on your computer.
SpyBot Search and Destroy by PepiMK Software
Both of these products are available is a free
version that you can use to help add to the security of your system.
Be aware that the free versions do not provide ongoing protection but
must be run manually in order to scan your system.
Use A Firewall
Firewalls are designed to prevent others from gaining access to your
computer using internet ports without your knowledge. Computers with
broadband access are especially susceptible to hackers looking for
computers that have "always on" access to the internet to use for
staging internet attacks. Many denial of services attacks are performed
by planting viruses on unsuspecting computers designed to attack a
specific web site at a specific time.
If you have a network, the easiest way to install a
firewall is to use a router to connect your computers together. Most
routers will have firewall software built into them. As with Windows, it
is important to check periodically to see if any firmware updates exist
for your router. Firmware is just a fancy name for the program that the
router uses to do its job. The biggest advantage of using a router with
a built-in firewall is that your computer does not have to run any
firewall software. This leaves your computer free to do the tasks you
want to do without wasting computing horsepower to monitor your
internet connection while you work. Microsoft provides a basic firewall
with all supported versions of Windows but it provides only one-way
If you don't have a router, you can still get good protection using a
firewall program. One of the better products is called ZoneAlarm from
Zone Labs, Incorporated. It provides an easy to use firewall that is
free for home and non-profit use. For a free download of this product,
or for more information, visit Zone
Have A Backup Web
Some viruses and malware will install add-ons into your browser that may
prevent it from working correctly. Having a second browser downloaded
and ready to install is a plan to insure you can access the web in the
event you become infected in this manner. Chrome and FireFox are
examples of commonly used browsers. Any browser that is already
installed may become infected so it is a best practice to have the
install files already on your computer but not actually installed.