THUNDER BAY – Our computers have become a multi-purpose tool in our daily lives.
Protecting your computer, valuable data and programs is increasingly important, and thankfully easy. Almost weekly we hear of new virus threats or other computer issues that can affect you, and your computer.
With your computer, as in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
In this article, I will discuss a few ideas from my personal experience, along with some tidbits picked up along the Information Super Highway.
How is your Power Supply?
A few years ago, an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) was fairly expensive. Not many home computer users, or home-based businesses had a UPS. Today, for under a $100.00 you can purchase a UPS. Recent power problems, which have been experienced in many parts of the world, are a reason for concern. Some experts suggest we may experience power issues in most major metropolitan cities. Protecting your computer is from problems is economical and easier than ever.
A UPS offers you several benefits. First, it serves to stabilize the electricity coming into your system. In many areas, the power coming into your home, or office will fluctuate through out the day. These surges can affect sensitive electronic systems. Monitoring the voltage of incoming power on your UPS might surprise you; there can be a 5 to 10 percent fluctuation, even in a major urban centre.
Second, it serves as your Surge Protection. If all that is between your $2000.00 computer system and a lightening strike is a $15.00 power bar, you may one day suffer a computer failure.
Having effective protection can be achieved very economically. Imagine the difference one day if your computer crashes, and you realise that but for an investment of under $100 you could have prevented that problem?
There are two common types of firewalls. You can use a computer program as a firewall, or use a physical barrier as your firewall. Many network routers offer a built-in firewall. A firewall serves as a barrier between the Internet and your computer. Microsoft™ says “Connecting to the Internet without a firewall is like leaving the keys in your car with the engine running and the doors unlocked while you run into the store. Although you may be able to get in and out before anyone notices, someone may take advantage of the opportunity. On the Internet, hackers use malicious code—such as viruses, worms, and Trojan horses—to try to find unprotected computers. A firewall can help protect your computer against these and other security attacks.”
Your computer, once hooked up the Internet can be open to hackers trying to get into your computer. A firewall protects you from most hackers. Microsoft Window XP™ offers a built-in firewall, however many users prefer the protection offered by other products. You can run both the Microsoft™ Windows Firewall and an additional firewall program.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may also offer a firewall or security package as a part of their service. America Online offers a security package, which offers some protection.
- Download: Free Version of Zone Alarm™
Spyware can be a serious problem to your computer. It is not one which you should ignore.
Spyware range from advertising pop-ups, tracking cookies, key-logging software and other malicious bugs, which will affect your computer. However, chances are you do not want, or need the slow performance or security threats caused by spyware and other unwanted software.
While some kinds of Spyware are somewhat unobtrusive, Spyware will consume some of your computer’s memory and will affect the performance of your computer.
Fortunately, if you are vigilant about protecting your computer system against spyware, you can operate fairly safely on the Internet.
There are several anti-spyware programs you can use, both free and commercial products.
- Microsoft Windows Defender™ (Beta 2) is a free program that helps protect your computer against pop-ups, slow performance, and security threats caused by spyware and other unwanted software. It features Real-Time Protection, a monitoring system that recommends actions against spyware when it’s detected, and a new streamlined interface that minimizes interruptions and helps you stay productive.
- Download Microsoft Windows Defender™http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx
- CounterSpy™ detects, deletes and protects you against spyware. According to PC World it has the best spyware database in the industry.
- Download CounterSpy™ http://www.sunbelt-software.com/CounterSpy.cfm
- Spybot Search & Destroy (free)
This is an easy download and install. It can be set to update the database automatically. The first time I ran it, I was rather surprised that it found several problems, which other programs had not found. It found 40 problems!
- Download Spybot: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
- LavaSoft’s Ad-Aware (free)
This free program is quite good. Be sure that you update the spyware database on a regular basis. You can do either Smart Scans or a complete scan of your computer. This is fast, easy to us and effective.
Protecting your computer from virus attacks requires you to have effective anti-virus software. There are several options both free programs, and commercial programs. The key, regardless of the program, or program you choose is the update the program on a regular basis.
- Grissoft’s AVG (Free) — This program is an effective, and free solution for your anti-virus program. Be sure you create a rescue disk. It will be required to restart if you ever need to completely restart after a serious virus infection.
- AntiVir™ (Free) — The new AntiVir Personal Edition Premium provides more security against viruses, worms and trojans: The Premium version expands the basic overall protection of the popular free-of-charge Classic version with a whole lot of useful security and comfort features.
Many of the web surfing problems you hear about affect the Microsoft Internet Explorer™ brower. While Microsoft has worked to improve their browser, there are still many computer users who are deeply concerned over security issues with the browser.
Google’s new browser, Chrome is a welcome addition to the browser options as well.
For many computer users, the Firefox™ browser is an effective replacement.
Firefox™ is not as vulnerable to spyware as some other browsers. It is an open source “tabbed” browser developed by programmers all over the world. It is the preferred browser among many knowledgeable Internet users.
Firefox™ is not just good idea for preventing Spyware. It’s just a generally excellent, standards-compliant browser. It will make your web surfing more enjoyable. There are add-ons to Firefox such as AdBlock, NoScript and SiteAdvisor, which enhance its protection.
Oh! And Firefox™ is Free!
Do you have Enough RAM?
Computer programs today need space to operate. That space is the RAM Memory installed on your computer. Often computer users won’t have enough RAM to fully run all of the programs they are running.
Microsoft Windows™ uses memory resources, so do many of the programs we like to run.
Consider adding more RAM, it is not a decision you will regret.
Back it up!
If you have ever had a hard drive crash, and lost data, chances are you will start backing up your files far more frequently.
Today, there are several options you may use to back up your computer. Pen drives, portable hard drives, or write your data to a CD or DVD drive.
Microsoft Windows XP™ and Windows 7™ have back up programs build in. For some users, they need to load it. Microsoft™ offers instructions on how to do back ups.
A neat, and free program is Belarc Advisor builds “a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, missing Microsoft hot fixes, anti-virus status, CIS (Center for Internet Security) benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser. All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server”.
This is a great addition to your computer, as it helps you keeping track of your computer’s profile.
This information is meant as a means to let you start to learn how to protect your computer. It is important to enhance your online experience and make sure you don’t suffer from common online problems.