Technical Chairperson

So you just received (or gave) a new netbook, laptop, or desktop PC for the holidays. Congratulations.

I’ve written this article to help you keep that shiny new box with buttons on it running BETTER than new for quite a while. 

 

 Please remember these are my personal opinions, and may not reflect the views of the KCRA, it’s members or my employer.  Also, you agree not hold anyone liable for following (or not following) any of this advice, no matter what the outcome, loss, or consequences are to you or anyone else.

Ready?

OK here we go.

 

Five Simple steps to keep your PC running well.

 


 

Your new PC is full of crap.

Yes, I said CRAP!  
Did you know PC manufactures are PAID to install software on your machine? Very little of that preinstalled software is there for YOUR benefit. That Google software on your machine, the various toolbars, Quickbooks Financial Center, Napster, Norton, Office 2007 trial, etc. The manufacturer got paid to place them on your computer. Why? Well they want you to buy the full versions or “Grow The Brand” of course. They can make $20-$30 extra per machine by doing this. Sony will sell you a computer with no crap on it, but you will pay an extra $50 for this privilege.
 
Since some of this software uses valuable system resources, can nag you to buy the full version, and possibly give you a false sense of security,  you should flush all the crap out of your system.
 
My first bit of advice would be to run The PC Decrapifier found at www.pcdecrapifier.com. It can easily remove much of the crap placed onto your machine by the manufacturer. If anything is left try using the “Programs and Features” (Ad/Remove programs in XP) section in Control Panel.

Use some common sense.

Someone is not going to give you $15 million U.S. to help them transfer money stuck in some far away country. See www.419eater.com for some sample letters.

 

You did NOT win a foreign lottery you never entered (www.scambusters.org/foreignlottery.html)
 
Microsoft is NOT going to give you money for forwarding an Email (http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/microsoft-aol.asp)
 
If something pops up while surfing the net (they also come in Emails, via Skype and other programs) indicating that your PC has detected problems and you should click to fix it. Guess what? It’s not true, and most likely your computer will become infected from doing so. In general these programs will find some problem with your machine either immediately or in the near future, and the only cure is to buy their program. If you do buy it, in the near future it may detect something else wrong for which there will be a different program you need to buy to fix it!
I personally know someone who went through 5 iterations of this, spent over $250 on useless software, and wound up with a computer that couldn’t even load solitaire.
Then this person called me for help.
Don't let this happen to you!
 
Bellow are some examples of fake alerts:
 
 
 
Understand where I’m going with this?
 
In general programs of this type are not free. In general nobody wants to give you a “free” pc health test, optimize your machine, etc. There is no such thing as “free” software.  You pay for it one way or another. Some examples you may not be aware of are: Donationware (Like The PC Decrapifier) depends on donations. Privacyware (i.e. any Google program) gives you an application or service in exchange for your privacy, and may actually OWN any content you create. Adware will show you ads in exchange for a program. Even some “open source” products want to be paid.


The Anti-virus that may have come with your computer is not free.

Most likely, the antivirus software that came with your computer will stop working after a period of 30 to 90 days.

Most people think they are covered for life and ignore the warning messages that the program is expired. It is important to have a antivirus/anti malware scanner on your computer. It is also important to test it so you know how it works and what the alerts look like.

I personally recommend the following commercial products:
 
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4 www.eset.com
 
Norton Internet Security 2010 or Norton AntiVirus 2010 www.norton.com . I do not recommend any Norton product prior to their 2010 release.
 
Webroot Spy Sweeper 2010 www.webroot.com for spyware/malware only.
 
I no longer recommend AVG or McAfee for home use (McAfee NAI enterprise is OK though).
 
I personally recommend the following “free” products:
 
Avira AntiVir personal edition (Adware, but ads are shown only during updates), read everything carefully or you could end up buying it. www.free-av.com
 
Microsoft Security Essentials (Youalreadypaidforitware) is my personal favorite. On many occasions it was able to remove the nastiest spyware/malware I hope you never see! Your computer MUST be able to pass Windows Genuine validation to install. www.microsoft.com/Security_Essentials/
 
Your Bank, ISP, university, or employer may also be able to provide you with “free” Anti Virus security software.
 
Test your antivirus/malware software and know how it works.
You can download the harmless Eicar test virus from www.eicar.org/anti_virus_test_file.htm. It’s good to know how you software will alert you should you run into a real virus.


Keep Windows updated.

Microsoft issues fixes and patches to Windows regularly, these patches can improve performance and prevent malicious attacks on your computer. Why not allow Windows to update itself?
 
Open ‘Control Panel’ and select ‘Windows Update’, you should see a screen similar to the one below (Vista version is shown). In general Microsoft release patches on Tuesday. I update on Wednesday as Microsoft can screw up. This gives you a day in case a patch is recalled.

Using an alternative browser may not protect you.

Some people are under the assumption that using an alternative browser like Firefox or Safari will better protect them on the web. While I admit some of the Firefox plugins are great, and I am a Firefox user, it looks like it may be the most vulnerable browser on the planet. www.net-security.org/secworld.php?id=8489.
 
 
It’s well known that Opera (www.opera.com) is a very secure browser, I use it whenever we need a customizable browser that’s will be used by the general public.
My primary browser however is Internet Explorer 8.
If you are still using IE6 or IE7, it’s time for an upgrade.

 

Thats about all for now.

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