Are you concerned about losing your personal family pictures, or your important work documents? Maybe you have been a victim of identity theft or want to prevent this from happening to you? Your computer is vulnerable if you are connected to the internet, and will always be vulnerable, no matter how much protection you have, but you can limit the extent of that vulnerability.
You can search the internet and discover some very scary statistics related to computer infections and loss of data. Did you know that you can give yourself a lot more protection 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 the number of Windows Based PCs that are infected with some type of malicious content. Some estimate that over 90% of all Windows Based personal computers are infected with varying degrees of Trojan horses, viruses, spyware, adware, root kits, browser hijacks and more. What many people do not know is that you can protect your computer for next to nothing in most cases. For starters, Windows XP Service Pack 2 and up have a built in firewall. Make sure this is turned on and this will protect you from some incoming intrusions. You can also download free firewalls that are a little more protective and will warn you of attempts to connect to the internet from your computer or network that you may not even be aware of (Trojan Horse). One such program is called Commodo, it is completely free and it is one of the highest rated personal firewalls on the market. It is sometimes a little overzealous but that is small price to pay for your protection.
Did you know, if you have a router hooked up to your network and your computers are hardwired, they are also protected by your router’s firewall? This firewall can be disabled, but would take someone with some knowledge of logging into the router and knowledge of how the router works to do so.
Now, for protection from Viruses and Spyware, we strongly recommend having an antivirus program and an antispyware program. Again, you can get some highly rated programs free from the internet. The preferred Antivirus program of Techs R Us is AVG. Visiting Grisoft.com will allow you to browse their collection of computer security programs, as well as download a free and complete version of their antivirus suite. Also note that most computers purchased through major computer vendors come preinstalled with at least a trial version of an antivirus program. Do not try to run two antivirus programs at the same time as this may cause problems. AVG Free Version is also very light on your computer resources and requires very little attention from you once it is installed. You can set it up to scan and update daily (We always configure both tasks for 3am).
As far as Antispyware, we have two recommendations. Spybot Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware are both free programs and also do not require as much of your computer resources as some of the more popular versions found at your local electronics store or preinstalled on your new computer. Both programs stack up at the top of their class in their categories. Spybot is a little faster than Ad-Aware.
What about slow computers? Well, if you have been diligent in your computer scans and are confident that there is no malicious content on your computer, then there are a few things you can do here. Windows comes preinstalled with programs to clean up your computer and keep it running quicker. You should perform a Defrag of your hard drive if after all other maintenance and cleanup you believe your computer still runs slow. This can be found under Programs>Accessories>System Tools. There are programs out there that can take over this tool for you, but they are unnecessary at best. Before the defrag, you should try a disk cleanup. This will remove Windows and Internet Temp Files, Cookies, and other files that over time will drastically slow your computer down. This tool can also be found under Programs>Accessories>System Tools. If you are a power browser, you may want to do this often. There is one program that we at Techs R Us also use for Disk Cleanup and Registry Cleanup, it is called CCleaner.
Finally, you should backup any files that you do not want to lose. Whether they are on your computer, flash drive or anywhere else, backing up your information is critical. The average lifespan of a hard drive is 2-5 years, depending on the type of computer, atmosphere and usage. Flash Drives get lost constantly 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 very strongly recommend backing up to an external hard drive or to an online backup site. Techs R Us suggests Carbonite for your online data backup for several reasons. For one flat yearly fee, you can back up all of your personal/professional data and they are the best in the business. It is also suggested that your backup not be in the same place as your computer in the event of a disaster (flood, fire, other natural disasters).