E-mail, shopping online, banking, social media threads, web browsing, game playing, movie watching, photo editing and more. Think of all the things you do on a computer these days – you have come to lean on your computer more and more. Your computer has become a vital component in your life. Perhaps it has become too slow as you ask it to do more and more all at the same time. What would happen if it suddenly stopped working? Is your important data backed up somewhere else? Then, there are the dangers of being online. You expose your computer to a melee of viruses, Trojan horses, worms, back door, and keystroke-logging spyware that can steal sensitive information, corrupt files and wreck your computer’s operating system. Some of these nasty problems can even spread to others from your computer. Innocent-looking e-mails can be infested with these viruses and spyware. Getting a little nervous yet? You should be. It’s easy to avoid these problems with a little perseverance and care. Here are few tips to help keep your machine running smoothly.
1. Find an anti-virus program and keep it updated! Microsoft Security Essentials (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/security-essentials) is a good program and it’s free. If you feel you need to purchase a program, Norton Internet Security is currently in favor. (http://www.symantec-norton.com/) You should never run more than one anti-virus program at a time. They will see each other as a threat and cause problems with your machine.
2. Find a good anti-spyware program. Both products outlined above include an anti-spyware feature.
3. Use a secure web browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox. Internet Explorer 9 is not bad either. These browsers can spot spoofed web sites and warn you or block them before they can damage your computer.
4. Avoid installing “Tool Bars”. Some come disguised as “shopping helpers”. A toolbar is supposed to be something handy. Many of the toolbars distributed today are handy, but only for advertisers. They can alter search engines such as Google’s or Yahoo’s and add hits to those companies that have ordered them. These alleged helpers are helping themselves to your internet habits and personal data. The can direct your search for products or information that may not give you the results you are looking for. These tool bars can harbor worms and Trojan horses that, once they are in your computer, they can disable your anti-virus software and allow even more bad guys in.
5. If you should suddenly get a screen that states “your computer is infected” DO NOT CLICK on it. Instead immediately press Control, Alt and Delete keys on your keyboard all at the same time. The task manager will pop up and you can close that page without allowing the bad guy in. Learn what the real warning windows of the anti-virus software you have installed on your computer look like. Often these programs will simply tell they have stopped something and ask you if you with to delete or quarantine the problem. For more info, see: (http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/antivirus-rogue.aspx)
Screen shot of the Task Manager
6. You will never receive an e-mail from your bank, the IRS, a credit card company, your credit union, USPS, E-bay, Amazon, Craig’s List or any other legitimate company asking for your password or other sensitive data. Never! No matter how authentic the e-mail may appear, do not enter your sensitive data. Call the bank, credit card company or whoever seems to have sent the e-mail. All these companies have that data already. If not, they should call you. Be suspect of calls from these companies also. You should ask for a name and extension number and call back.
Then, there is your data. Important data should be backed up somewhere outside of your computer. A USB thumb drive can be used if the files are small enough. Burn larger files to a CD or DVD. Very large files can be backed up to an external hard disk. There are even online storage sites that can store your data for you. If you have more than one computer, use software such as Drop Box (www.dropbox.com) to synchronize your data to the other computer. I use Google G-mail to store some data. You get up to one gigabyte of storage for free. You just email the data to yourself and it will stay in our G-mail account until you delete it. Hardware fails. The hard drive in your computer could die. Other components could fail. A virus could wipe out your data. Even a power surge could corrupt your data and render it unusable. I have worked on many, many computers trying to recover data after hardware has failed. Sometimes the data can be recovered. It is an expensive proposition and may not work for all the lost data. Back it up!
External Hard Drive (Bottom)
So the worst has happened. A virus has infected your computer. What do you do now? You could try a few online programs designed to remove viruses. If you can even download one, the virus may not allow you to install the removal tool. It’s time to see me or another professional computer repair person. If you do manage to install the removal tool, there are steps you need to take before you use the tool. Turn off the System Restore in Windows while you remove the offending bad guy. If you don’t turn off the system restore, the bad guy will simply hide in the system restore files and reinstall itself. Turn the System Restore back on once your are certain that your system is clean of the problem.
If your computer is slow, it may be infected as viruses run in the background and use up system resources. Or your computer may just need some help. If your hard drive is getting full, that can slow down the computer. Consider adding a second hard drive or replacing your existing drive. RAM is what your computer uses to perform the tasks you ask of it. Additional RAM could save you from replacing your computer sooner than necessary.
If your computer is older it may not have the capacity to add a hard drive or add more RAM. Selecting a new computer, or better yet, have a custom built computer made for you can be a solution. These days, processor MHZ speed is not as important as it used to be. Without getting technical, today’s processors handle data faster with greater amounts of memory that’s built onto the chip, called on-die memory (cache). The latest processors feature more than one core. If you really want power and some future proofing, consider a processor with a dual, quad, hexi (6), or even an octocore (8 cores!) chip. Figure out your needs so you can procure the right system. If you are into playing games or performing heavy tasks such as video editing, you will need a lot of hard drive space (500 Gigabytes or more), a lot of RAM (8 gigabytes or more), a separate video card and a multi-core processor. If you are just surfing and word processing, a dual core chip and a smaller hard drive and less RAM will do the job. As for Microsoft operating systems, Windows 7 Home is the preferred choice. Windows XP is being phased out by Microsoft as well as most software and hardware manufacturers.
Should your computer be acting strangely, blue screens, shutting down on it’s own or other unexpected activity, you may have issues related to hardware. A weak power supply or perhaps swollen and leaking capacitors on the motherboard or other circuits could be the issue. These problems are best left to expert technicians as there could be serious loss of data or even a fire.
If you have problems with your machine and don’t want to tackle difficult problems such as a virus, Spyware or other electrical failures, I can perform such tasks and make the proper repairs. If you want to upgrade, I can do that too. If you want a nice new machine without all the bloatware mass-produced machines come with, I can build a computer that fits your needs as well as your budget.
A simple but serviceable case (above)
A serious performance case (below)
Thanks for reading. Drop me an e-mail if you have questions.
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