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Published on 03.15.06 by Brent Trahan

Secure Your PC

Learn a few simple things that will make your computer much more secure.

Did you know that it only takes about 15 seconds from the time you connect your computer to the internet for someone or something to attempt to gain access to your computer? Did you know most free games, antispyware software, and other fun things most kids download and use also come with viruses and spyware? Is your computer properly protected from security threats like this?

This guide will show you how to tighten up the security on your computer to keep people from getting in from the internet and users that are using the computer from harming your computer while they use it.

Get With The Times

If you’re not using Windows XP it’s time to move up to the 21st century. You might have noticed how fast technology changes. As soon as you get used to one thing, something bigger and better comes out. The same is true for the Windows operating system. Older operating systems like Windows 95, 98, ME, and 2000 are no match for today’s threats. Windows XP is not perfect, but it’s the best Microsoft has to offer.

The first step to a safer computing experience is using the latest technology. Right now Windows XP is the latest technology. Windows XP is a huge improvement from Windows 95, 98, and ME in every area (especially security).

Windows Update

The Windows operating system is a VERY complicated thing. It’s also far from perfect and needs to be updated with fixes and improvements as Microsoft finds them. Windows Update makes it VERY easy to update your operating system so that it stays up-to-date. You can visit Windows Update here.

I can safely say about 90% of the personal computers I work on are not up-to-date with Windows updates. A good bit of those computers would not have had as many problems if they were kept up-to-date.

I recommend setting your computer to automatically check Windows update for updates on a regular basis. You can set your computer to check Windows update automatically on a periodic basis by going to the control panel and opening Automatic Updates. Make sure “Automatic” is selected. It’s also a very good idea to set a good time for your computer to update. You need to avoid setting your computer to update at 2am if you turn your computer off at night. You’re computer will never update with setting like that.

Automatic Update will only download and install high priority updates. Windows update has many other medium priority and driver updates too. I suggest visiting Windows update about once a month and install any of the updates Automatic update didn’t install.

User Rights

Pretty much every user on every home computer I’ve worked on had Administrative privileges. Administrative privileges are the ability of a user to administer the computer. That means they can install software, uninstall software, change settings and so on.

In most homes you have 1 computer that is used by the whole family. Windows XP lets you create users for that computer. Mom, Dad, and every kid can have their own user account. You can make it where Mom and Dad have administrative privileges and the kids don’t. Doing that will stop the kids from installing stuff on the computer they should not be installing and in return keep your computer running much better.

For more information on user rights and how to change them click here.

Antivirus & Antispyware Software

These days Antivirus & Antispyware software is a must. If you want your computer to run smooth and last a long time you need to invest in antivirus and antispyware software. There is no way around it.

The majority of computer problems I find are caused directly or indirectly from viruses and spyware. The majority of those computers either didn’t have antivirus and/or antispyware software, had the software installed but disabled it, or had the software but didn’t keep it up-to-date.

You need antivirus and antispyware software that is always running and up-to-date with the latest virus definitions. They need to be scanning your computer at least once a week.

If you want to learn more about antivirus and antispyware software check out my internet and e-mail usage advice guide for a detailed explanation about them.

Network Firewall

A firewall is a barrier between your computer and the internet or network. Think of a firewall as a person who stands next to the door that lets stuff in and out of your computer. You can tell the firewall what to let in and out. The firewall stops people from hacking into your computer and it keeps viruses and worms that make it to your computer from infecting other computers.

By default the Windows firewall will do a good enough job at protecting your computer. You can check to make sure it’s on by going to the control panel and open Network Connections, open your local area connection you are using to access the internet, click properties, click the advanced tab, click settings next to Windows Firewall, make sure On is selected.

Stay Away From Bad Things

The internet can be a VERY dangerous place. Stay away from file sharing (P2P) programs, porn websites, offers that are too good to be true, and errors that say you have a problem and you need to download their software to fix it.

You can keep most viruses and spyware off your computer just by using common sense. If it’s too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Don’t give any information out about yourself via e-mail or instant messaging program. All legitimate businesses will not do business by e-mail or IM program.

It’s a great idea to take away administrative privileges from kids and teen so you have control over what they do to your computer. Click here to find out how.

The bottom line

I’ve noticed most people hook up their new computers to the internet, download every free and fun thing they find and never look back. A few months later they are scratching their head and wondering why their brand new computers are running so slow. They don’t realize that all that free software, free games, pirated music and software, and funny e-mails are the cause.

I know most computer users don’t know what things are OK to download and what is not. It takes experience to figure all of that out. The best advice I can give you is don’t download anything from websites that are not well known. A well known website would be MSN, Yahoo, Google, and so on.

I can’t stress enough that good virus and spyware protection is a MUST. Most computers I fix are having problems that could have been easily prevented with virus and spyware protection. If you choose not to protect your computer I promise you’ll pay for it later.

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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