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Tips For Long Term Computer Happiness


I just setup a new machine for my wife's co-worker because his old machine has one foot in the grave due to spyware. I decided to type up a "manual" for him and everyone else in the office. Comments are appriciated.


Tips for Long Term Computer Happiness

Keeping your machine running at full speed and without spyware is 95% user behavior and 5% (bad) luck. The 5% luck part can almost always be taken care of with antivirus tools, regular updates, and spyware scanning. Here are a few tips to keep your machine running at top performance (and not having to bring it back to me).


Things to always do

1. Update Windows. Starting with Windows Vista, automatic Windows updating is usually turned on by default but if you havenât done so, check to make sure. This can be accomplished by going to the Control Panel and clicking Windows Update. You should check for updates manually each month anyway because by default Windows will not install what Microsoft calls âoptionalâ updates. Optional updates can be a fix that is not considered critical but should be installed to hardware driver updates which can add features or fix hardware problems. Updates are very important because they represent a bug or vulnerability that has been found with Windows. The worst can cause a bad guy to completely take over your computer without you doing anything or simply visiting a website. With the update you are safe, without you are a sitting duck that WILL be taken advantage of. Research has shown that an unpatched version of Windows XP out of the box will last an average of 6 minutes before it is taken over.

2. Run Antivirus. Antivirus programs help to catch things that get in even if you are careful. Microsoft makes good free antivirus program called Microsoft Security Essentials (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/14210/security-essentials-download). I also like Avast! which offers a free antivirus program for personal use (https://www.avast.com/index).

3. Use a Hardware Firewall. A firewall is a program or hardware that blocks âunwantedâ network (Internet) traffic from being sent or received from your computer. A software firewall is installed in Windows and usually pops up messages asking if you want to allow some particular traffic. Software firewalls are useful for laptops because you still receive protection even when you are away from your regular connection. A hardware firewall is much better because it is faster and much less prone to let an attack in. You donât need a firewall specific hardware device, any NAT router or switch does the same thing. This includes common consumer products such as the standard Linksys home router. The main thing is that you donât have your machine directly connected to your Internet modem without first going thought a router of some sort. It is also fine to run both a hardware and software firewall.

4. Update Applications. Before about 2 years ago, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office were the two largest attack targets. Currently most of the attacks are against third-party applications such as Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader. There is no easy way to update all of your third-party applications except to pay attention to update notifications within each program. These usually show up in the icon tray and will not install automatically. One way to check everything at once is to use a program like Secunia PSI (http://www.flexerasoftware.com/enterprise/products/software-vulnerability-management/personal-software-inspector/). PSI will scan your computer and compare its results to an online database of outdated or known bad software.

5. Scan for Spyware. There are several good programs you can use but I still recommend SpyBot (https://www.safer-networking.org/). Beware of any program that you have not heard of. âSpyware scannersâ are a current attack vector and Google is full of fake scanners that are nothing more than viruses. Get a spyware scanner recommendation from a live person (not over the computer).

6. Secure Wireless Access Points. WEP is bad but WPA or WPA2 is good for a wireless access point encryption. Currently WEP (which is the earlier standard) can be broken in under a minute. Another vulnerability is not changing your default wireless router password. The first thing a bad guy will do is try a well-known list of default router passwords (for Linksys this is admin/admin). You may be wondering what the big deal is. If a bad guy can gain access to your wireless access point, they can possibly see everything you are doing, including banking, email, and anything else.

7. Backup Your Data. If you have never been a victim of a hard drive failure, you will. Your hard drive, the thing that keeps all of your data, is a mechanical device and will die eventually. Just like the brakes on your car, it has a certain life expectancy. Most experts recommend storing your data in three different places. The first is the original which is already covered. The second is a local backup such as DVDs or an external hard drive. The third is offsite such as at a friendâs house or online. I recommend an online backup service such as Carbonite (https://www.carbonite.com/). The reason for the offsite back up is just in case something happens to your home such as a robbery or fire. If you only have the local back up, it will be taken or destroyed along with the original. Backing up is a pain but just think of what you would lose if your hard drive crashed. The one of a kind pictures, documents, work data?


Things to Never Do (Behavior)

1. Click Email Links. This is an oldie but goodie. Never trust anyone that sends you email, not even your mother. The fact is they may have been infected and are sending you your very own copy of their virus. This is the same for any social networking site such as Facebook. The typical suspects are fake back messages, Viagra SPAM, and dating sites. Trust me; Kate, Sue, or Jenny is not looking to hook up. âSheâ wants to take over your computer. If you want to visit a link in email, copy the information into Google and see what it says.

2. Donât Download or Install Anything Youâre Not Sure About. Here are the things you should almost never download or install.

a. Browser Toolbars. Just donât do it, period. This is easily the best way to get your computer taken over. This means absolutely none including Google. All of the toolbar features are included in the latest browser versions.

b. Antivirus/Spyware Scanners. This is another great way for your computer to die a slow and painful death while your bank account is emptied out. Know what antivirus and spyware program you use and what it looks like. If anything shows up on your screen that doesnât looks like them, close the box and restart the computer. The big offender is Antivirus 2010 or perhaps Antivirus 2011 by the time you are reading this. It is actually a browser window that is designed to look like legitimate antivirus software. Itâs far from legitimate. As long as you donât install the program associated with the pop-up, you should be fine.

c. ActiveX Controls. I can think of only two reasons you should run an ActiveX control. That is on a Microsoft site or installing Adobe software. Otherwise donât do it, ever! An ActiveX control is a browser add-on that presents itself as a yellow bar at the top of your browser asking if you want to install it.

d. Background Changing Programs. Known bad software most of the time. Donâtâ do it.

3. Limit Online Information. Social networks can hold a lot of information about you. Some is good but some can get you into trouble. Just remember this; donât post anything you donât want your mother to see at the trial.


Maintenance Schedule

Every Day

⢠See if there are any program updates in the system tray and update if needed


2 Weeks⢠Check for Windows Updates


Monthly⢠Run a full antivirus scan

⢠Run a full spyware scan


How much does your intended audience know about computers. If they don't know computer terms you can add like a glossary or foot notes, and maybe a URL list. And note things that are free and things that cost money. And maybe include something about how long a typical task will take to run or complete and if there is any prior preparation required on their part.If this is something you plan to do for them... like a support agreement. Making a checklist could help. Listing your contact or phone numbers or 3rd party technical support. And if possible install and run the programs at least once for them to make sure the proper settings are inplace. A hands on walk through on the software for them would greatly be appreciated. You could also setup some batch scripts that they can double click on, schedule tasks for them, or setup automatic updates.Let me know. I have more ideas.levimage


I suppose you would call my audience the typical office worker. They can do most tasks such as install the latest Texas Hold’em game but can’t do anything to get out of a mess.This is not a formal agreement. These are my wife’s co-workers and boss in a very small office which I am friends with most of them. They all know that I am the computer guy so I do free work just to be nice. The problem is no matter how many times I tell them not to install software, they always do and it ends up trashing their machines. I also don’t want to make a very formal document with a bunch of terms and a glossary because all of them have shot attention spans and will just throw it down.The most recent machine (the one that I was replacing in the previous post) had a bunch of toolbars installed. They are also deep in fantasy football so a lot of sports related junk shows up such as programs that automatically change the background image on your desktop to the latest game day photo.


The most recent machine (the one that I was replacing in the previous post) had a bunch of toolbars installed. They are also deep in fantasy football so a lot of sports related junk shows up such as programs that automatically change the background image on your desktop to the latest game day photo.

What kind of sofware do you use to troubleshoot or figure out what kind a problems they are having. Like showing the toolbars and browser attachements? Just curious here.


It's a good tip also to use only trusted software, usually there are quite enough alternative freeware and open source software for most popular things..Usually those viruses come from keygens, cracks, patches and other not legal software, even though it seems that most of torrent sites which are private are filtering this kind of stuff and a big community can spot "bad" software, it's not like DC++ there you can download a virus thinking it's a simple tool?You just need to try not to open anything, especially exe files, most of other spyware comes from USB keys, the only way to protect from it is having some kind of antivirus, I personally use Microsoft Security Essentials which is free for home users.Furthermore, it seems that people need to browse with a browser which is not Internet Explorer..As suggested, a good firewall is a good tool to protect againsts spyware which comes from Lan, you can get a trojan or something like that by just being connected to the Internet.. :)It's a good topic, a suggestion how to protect, but sometimes updating to the latest version isn't good, sometimes the updated software has more bugs than the previous version, but only sometimes.


Some of the softwares from opencandy and similar shareware softwares contain the spyware. It tracks the data and the software usage and do the suggestion based on that. You can even see the digsby as big spyware. There are many such softwares which installs on your disk and collect data and transfer while updating their componenets. You need to understand and read security forums to know about them. I found out digsby like spyware messenger from security forums when they examined it as spyware.


First off, I don’t really use anything to diagnose the problem. It is usually fairly obvious. The last one I worked on had more toolbars than browser window and wouldn’t connect to any antivirus sites. I ran Avast! as a boot time scan which fixed enough things to at least get antivirus definitions. From there I ran Avast! numerous more times along with SpyBot and then removed almost every program from the system. I was left with instructions to rebuild as the very last resort. In the end it should have been reformatted but the owner was very excited just to use AOL again (yea I know a completely different story).When I turn the computers over I tell them not to install anything at all because all they need has already been installed. Of course I have no power in enforce this so they always come back loaded with more spyware than a CIA honeypot. I ask if they installed something and they always say their kids or coworkers did. What can you do when it’s not your machine?

grim reaper1666

i say its always best to run virus scans in safe mode, without networking since that's where less programs are allowed to run hence it makes it harder for viruses, spyware, root-kits, Malware and all the other malicious programs to be able to hide. its always best to have a good firewall like zonealarm. i personally set my anti-spyware/virus/malware program to scan archives exes infact it even scans downloads as they come in so harder job for a virus to get in. i never install toolbars they just annoy me. i don't use internet explorer since in my opinion thats a doorman to a hotel welcoming the viruses into your system files. saying "welcome feel at home why don't you go into the windows exe sir". i personally think windows is easier to infect because the majority of people who get infected by viruses use internet explorer. good thing is i have my own computer which only me goes on so i know not to download anything that will most likely contain a virus or more often a virus butler who opens the way for the more dangerous viruses. sometimes it's best to have more than one firewall that way you have a free one at the front then a better one behind it so the free weaker one gets broken through then most of the weaker viruses are taken out then the tougher ones get wiped out.


Don't forget tips like deleting your temp folder or other unnecessary files. To do this automatically, you can use a program such as CCleaner. CCleaner also gives you the option of passing through your files multiple times just in case it missed something on its first pass.


I'm not sure about running virus software in safemode or not. Sure there are certain troubleshooting situations where you really cannot do a thorough clean in windows and safemode would be an option. Really what you should learn how to do is use recovery cd's/bootable usb images to assist in the removing of computer viruses/annoyances outside of the Windows environment.Also I found out it is best to update your antivirus and other internet security software in a seperate session from running your windows, installed software, and hardware updates. If you try to do multiple things at once without a reboot between different tasks... you may be asking for future trouble. I'm noticing this with Windows 7 and updating of hardware and software when you first connect to the internet.Levimage.


Don't forget tips like deleting your temp folder or other unnecessary files. To do this automatically, you can use a program such as CCleaner. CCleaner also gives you the option of passing through your files multiple times just in case it missed something on its first pass.

I will agree that clearing your browser cache and deleting all temporary files on a regular basis is a good idea, but remember, I am talking about the absolutely bare essentials for non-computer nerds. I am considering it a great success if my users keep Windows updated and have the virus scanner on all the time.
I may add your suggestion to a second âpower userâ document but not to the original.


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