Did you get a new computer for Christmas? If so, you have probably spent the time since Christmas exploring your computer and surfing the internet to find out what all this Internet fuss is about. Perhaps playing games, watching videos, exploring things you are interested in – hobbies etc., chatting with others, and generally looking around. In a word you’ve had fun with your new toy!
Included with your new computer are the OS (most likely Windows XP or Windows Vista), some Proprietary software from the manufacturer and some Trial software. Most manufacturers today no longer include disks containing the Windows Operating System, the proprietary software or the trial software that was on the hard drive of your new PC. In other words, the manufacturere gives you nothing with which to restore your computer to the condition it was in, when you first turned it on.
Instead of disks, the manufacturers provide you with a program that helps you create your own backup disks of the data on your PC when it was purchased. Many people procrastinate or ignore this procedure because they may not have the CD’s or DVD’s to use for the backup, and they are thrilled with their new PC and anxious to get online to find out what their computer has to offer. These disks are vital to your future computing needs because at some point in the future, you will have to reinstall everything your computer came with. This can occur when a problem arises with your hardware, software or as a result of a malware attack. However, if you haven’t created these disks containing the original software, you will be left with a large, very expensive paperweight when your hardware fails, you are the victim of a malware attack, or you have one of a myriad of problems that requires you to reinstall all of your software.
The software included with your new PC, especially the Trial Software needs attention within a short time of starting to use your new PC. The operative word here is TRIAL, meaning that this software expires after 30, 60 or 90 days and on that date it becomes totally useless! New PC’s usually have several trial programs, maybe Microsoft Office, a few games and a Security Suite. Buying Microsoft Office, the games and other trial software are a personal decision that will not affect the security of your new PC at this time. However, the Trial Security Suite Software will affect your security because during the trial you and your PC have been protected by a trial AntiVirus Program, a trial AntiSpyware Program and a trial Firewall as part of the Suite, for 30, 60 or 90 days. The Trial Security Suite has been your only protection from the evils of the internet including malware, rootkits, Identity Theft etc. for the specified length of time, and at the end of that time it becomes totally useless if it has not been either purchased or replaced. After just over 30 days of use you may still have time before the trial ends to ensure your PC is protected, preventing you and your computer from becoming a victim of the evils of the Internet. You may think I am exaggerating, but the results of studies have shown that an unprotected computer will become infected with some type of malware, in less than 5 minutes of exposure to the Internet!
You’ve now had time to familiarize yourself with your new PC, have searched the internet, played a game or two, sent and received email and you now know how to enjoy your new PC. Now it’s time for you to take a few minutes to make sure your fun continues without any unpleasant and nasty interruptions. Start preparing your computer for a safe and secure future with the following:
1. The first thing you need to do
is make the backup disks of all the manufacturer’s software and the Operating
System. The built-in software from your computer manufacturer only allows you to make ONE copy. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THESE BACKUPS, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RELOAD YOUR ORIGINAL SOFTWARE INCLUDING THE OS. Use the built-in backup software to make the only copy of your built-in software NOW. Then put the DVD’s, CD’s or other backup media in a safe place where they can’t be damaged. If you used DVD’s or CD’s, I suggest that you buy cases for the disks to keep them safe from dust and other contaminants
2. Your Anitvirus, Antispyware,
and Firewall program as well as other offerings in the Security Suite on your
new PC, are in most cases TRIALS. Assess each program that is trial software that came with your computer.
· Is it a Security Suite? If so you need to make a decision to either BUY it or REPLACE it as soon as possible to maintain continual protection, so that it does not expire leaving you unprotected.
· If you don’t like the Security Suite that was included with your PC, then check out the available Security Suites on the internet or individual programs Antivirus, Antispyware and/or Firewall. Download and install them before the trial ends and your security suite expires. You can always use the Windows built-in Firewall and a free Antivirus and/or AntiSpyware such as the ones from AVG, Antivir or Avast while you decide which Security Suite you like best that is easy to use. Free Security programs are available see my article Protection For Your PC
Is it a program like Microsoft Office that you may not want or
need? If it is a suite of programs like Microsoft Office, do you want it? Is it affordable? If your answers are yes, then buy the program. The most important protection for any program or suite is to set it up so that when there are updates, they will be downloaded and installed.
3. Setup your AntiVirus,
AntiSpyware and Firewall Programs to update automatically when there are either
updates to the program itself and for new definitions. Your computer is not
protected unless it has the most recent definitions for your programs.
4. Set up Windows to
automatically update your Windows Operating System when an update is available.
If you set it up to notify you of updates, make sure you download them as soon
as possible because it is likely the updates are to close a hole or
vulnerability that has been discovered.
5. For your other programs, check
each program for an update setting in the Options that will automatically update your program.
If there is no update setting in the options, then go to the
developer’s website and arrange to have them notify you when there are updates
by email. You will then receive an email anytime there are updates to the
program, and you will be able to go to the website, download and install the update as
soon as you are notified.
6. You will also need to check
for updates from the manufacturer of your computer because the proprietary
software that came with your PC and usually major updates to the Operating
System, will be available through them. Your hardware including your video
card, audio system, modem, Ethernet card, in fact all of your hardware is
operated by software ‘drivers’. Without these drivers your hardware will not
function. Updated drivers are released regularly by your PC manufacturer. If by any chance you are unable to sign up to receive email updates, check the manufacturer’s website regularly. I suggest you use a calendar to remind yourself to check for these updates on a regular basis.
7. If you have any questions
about your computer, the manufacturer of your PC should be contacted first. If you do not receive a satisfactory response
to your question, some of the manufacturers have a forum where you can ask questions and receive answers. There are also many online forums where trained people respond to
users questions. You will find them by using a search engine with the basic
information in your question as the search string.
8. To prevent the loss of all of your personal files, you need to set up a schedule for backing them up onto a DVD or CD or other media. It is very important to have them backed up onto media that is not accessible to a malware attack or you will lose all of them if/when you have to format your computer.
Whether your OS is Windows XP or Windows Vista, it is absolutely necessary to complete the above. There are many ongoing activities that will keep your computer running well eg: Defragmenting the files on your hard drive which improves the speed of your computer. Current protection and security with up-to-date definitions is also necessary for a good online experience. Windows Vista is advertised, quite rightly, as the most secure Windows Operating System to date. However, the scumware writers keep busy creating more and more devious ways of infecting innocent users and their computers, to rob you of your positive Internet experience and make your life miserable. In many cases prevention is far more effective and much less trouble than cleaning up after a malware attack. Prevention involves keeping ALL of your software and hardware drivers up-to-date. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that your PC will remain clean but there is a far better chance of staying clean, if you follow the simple rules of protection and security.