Some of these tips are
very basic and some are reminders for seasoned computer users.
They are to prevent avoidable problems and save you time.
To be helpful to the most people, tips are generic or relate to
the most widely used products, which happen to be PC computers
and Microsoft's Windows XP Operating System, Word, and Internet
Explorer (Version 6; note Version 7 in Beta testing phase is not
widely used yet). Because these products are so
popular, they appeal to attackers who want to cause the
greatest havoc. Prevention is your best protection.
Instead of trying to do them
at once, take a look at them, then bookmark this page in your Favorites
to revisit and see additions and updates. You can also print this
out for easy reference.
Organizing A New
Whenever getting a new
computer, file installation disks (with the product key # on
each) in one rack so you can find
them quickly if you ever need to fix a corrupted program or a
computer crash. Store manuals on a nearby shelf. In
a file drawer or loose-leaf notebook, keep tech support phone
numbers, receipts, model and serial numbers, and other important
information. Retain disks with earlier versions of
programs, bar codes from boxes, and first pages of old manuals
so you can save money
by purchasing future updates instead of full versions and to get
Protecting Your Computer
Always use a surge protector. They are
available with and without battery back-up. The surge
protector prevents electrical spikes from damaging your
computer, while the battery back-up provides brief power to
prevent loss of data from the time a power outage begins until
you can save active data. Unplug computers (and other
sensitive electrical equipment) during thunderstorms and prior
to going away when storms may occur.
there are malicious people who attack computers. Viruses are codes
deliberately created to reproduce
themselves so many times that they use up computer
memory and the
computer crashes. You should install a reliable
anti-virus program. There are numerous programs,
with Norton (by Symantec) among
the oldest and most popular. The best anti-virus programs are
worthless if not kept up-to-date. Even if automatic updates
are promised, get in the habit of manually doing a live update
whenever you turn on your computer. When anti-virus programs expire, buy the
latest edition to get improvements, instead of renewing a subscription for the same edition.
Recognizing a sender's name or
clicking on a link inside the body of an e-mail may
offer some protection, but no guarantee against viruses.
You can reduce risk from new, unknown viruses by deleting
unopened e-mail attachments and asking
people to send content of attachments in the body of
an e-mail and do the same for them.
From time to time, there are hoaxes about viruses, but
it is easy to check them out by going to the web sites
of Symantec.com (Norton's site) and McAfee.com
In contrast to
anti-virus programs, firewalls keep intruders out of a computer.
However, both types of programs may be bundled together
(ex. Norton Internet Security). Cable hook-ups are
particularly vulnerable to break-ins.
Hardware firewalls (such as in a hard wired router)
offer excellent protection. Software firewalls should be updated so
update them manually whenever you turn on your computer.
People often neglect to
protect laptop and notebook computers by not using protective
features available in Wi-Fi routers (Wi-Fi Protected Access and
Wired Equivalent Privacy) to conceal connections, change default
settings, add passwords for access, and encrypt data.
Anyone within 200 feet can tap into a wireless Internet
connection, even when at home. It is amazing how many
people surreptitiously use their neighbors' Internet connections
or use wireless networks for identity theft. Public places
(coffee shops, universities, towns, etc.) that offer Wi-Fi
connections often leave their connections wide open and
vulnerable to identity thieves. Remember to protect your
computer before using wireless connections at home and away.
Windows XP Service
Pack 2 includes anti-virus and firewall programs that
can interfere with such programs you've installed.
You can use SP2, while selectively opting out of using those specific features.
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Your Internet Service
Provider may also provide anti-virus and firewall protection,
which may need to be reset for compatibility with what you have
installed on your computer.
Enabling ActiveX Control
for Flash action scripts and plugins for video and audio, which
are used on some web sites, risks allowing those sites to have full access to your
Windows operating system. Thus, Internet Explorer should
show you a warning that asks you whether you want to run software
such as ActiveX controls and plugins. Don't turn off this
default warning, which is important protection. Your
permission response is per time, per page, not blanket permission, but be
cautious about risking your computer's security.
Get accustomed to using Windows XP's Restore feature.
Prior to installing new software or making major changes that
could crash or corrupt your computer, take a minute to
create a restore point (to supplement those it
automatically makes). Then if necessary, you
can restore your computer to its pre-problem
functioning within minutes.
Don't be overly casual with passwords.
Pick those unlikely to be guessed. Mixing letters and
numbers together helps. Don't use the same password for
more than one purpose. Hide your passwords in a safe
place...and remember where that is!
Speeding Up Your
A high-speed cable connection can
be 100 times faster than dial-up connections.
Cable and DSL prevent tying up a phone line while using
the computer and are not necessarily more expensive than
the alternative of an additional phone line reserved for
the computer. Unlike dial-ups, there is no waiting
for a connection nor being disconnected. You can
maintain the connection all day and use the Internet and
e-mail whenever you want. Since cable and DSL
enable using the phone and computer simultaneously, it's
a good idea to have a speaker phone near your computer.
Avoid keeping software programs
installed that you never use. While data files
take up little room on today's huge hard drives, you can
store files you don't use and only want for
archives on CDs, instead of taking up space
on your computer's hard drive.
Ever get stuck with an older
version of a web site page instead of viewing a recently
published page? It is a problem on your local
computer, not the server. You need to clean out your
computer's cache (storage) and should do so frequently.
Computers keep files, which have been used recently for
quick reuse, just as you might keep books you anticipate
using soon open and nearby to avoid wasting time with
trips to distant bookcases. To clean out cache,
while in Internet Explorer, click on Tools at the top
menu bar, then Internet Options, then under Temporary
Internet Files select Delete Files and under History,
select Clear History. When too many files collect,
they also take up valuable space and slow down your
computer. You can run the System Tool, Disk
Cleanup, to delete and compress old files.
Computers function fastest when
related material is contiguous, rather than separated,
just as you save time by keeping several books in a
series next to each other rather than in separate
bookcases. Putting related parts of files next to
each other on a computer is called optimization or
defragmentation. Unlike previous versions of
Windows, XP rarely needs to be defragmented.
Nevertheless, run an analysis with
the Disk Defragmenter in System Tools occasionally to be
Spam mail filters from Internet
Service Providers are helping reduce spam, but it is still
overwhelming. Be careful about clicking an
opt-out e-mail option that could verify to spammers
that your address is active.
Do not reply to offers or requests for information, even
if they sound like they came from big corporations
("spoofing") because bone fide businesses do not ask you
to send or verify your social security number, password,
or other private information by e-mail or a web site
they direct you to. (You can place a phone call to
them to verify.) Such identity theft is called "phishing"
and is based on the fishing premise that throwing lots
of bait will result in some bites; an amazing 5% do.
Such scams are akin to selling you the Brooklyn Bridge
or asking you to transfer money on behalf of a wealthy
individual from Nigeria.
To manage e-mail and prevent it
from becoming overwhelming, the first line of defense is
to keep unwanted mail from entering your computer, using
a spam filter that is tight enough to block junk mail,
but loose enough not to block bone fide mail.
Don't hesitate to tell people not to put your address on
unwanted mailing lists and not to send unwanted mail.
Next, be able to sort mail quickly. Since you
probably have multiple e-mail addresses, you can use
them to categorize mail and reserve one to give to
places you suspect might sell their mailing lists.
Make folders (ex. in Outlook Express, right click on
Local Folders, new, and name each) for sweeping mail
into categories (such as by level of urgency, topic,
sender, things to keep for a particular purpose, things
to archive for the record). You also can mark
messages as read or unread (Outlook Express edit menu)
and flag messages (message menu).
Don't forget to delete mail
you are finished with. How to find time to
delete mail you don't want, sort
what you want, and read what you want to read?
Whenever you are on hold on a phone call.
E-mail is not
private so don't send private information in e-mail.
Even programs that promise to protect e-mail and require
being installed in both the sending and the receiving
computers are not sufficiently secure. Passwords and
encryption can be cracked quite easily since most people
are not strict with firewalls and updating protective
programs. If you read the small print on honest
disclaimers, they talk about reporting break-ins,
severing connections, and stopping future break-ins, but
can't undo the damage once security is breached (akin to
closing the barn door after the horse is out). We can
encrypt pages with SSL encryption, as we do with credit
card transmission, to be picked up on a secure server.
However, this is not e-mail.
When you want to send a message to
a group of people, you can avoid showing a long
list of addresses and annoying recipients by giving out
Go into your e-mail and click
on View, then All Headers, create a message, but instead
of putting addresses into the To bar, put them in the
(blind carbon copy) bar.
(Although there are ways to trace the
addresses, blinding them reduces the likelihood that
addresses will be harvested.)
Since recipients will not see names, only undisclosed
recipients, put a good description in the subject bar so
they know it is really from you and not spam mail.
Want to test your
e-mail? You don't have to bother a friend to send
you a message. Send one to yourself. (E-mail
can travel to and from the same address.) Should
Don't let the mouse confuse you.
Right click is to get a menu. Left click is to
select from a menu. Only click once, except twice to open a file.
To get a menu of useful functions,
highlight holding the left mouse button down, release
the button, point to the highlighted area and right
click. The resulting menu will have useful
functions, such as copy, paste, rename, and delete (the
exact ones depend upon the program).
The top bars are tool bars.
The bottom bar is a task bar, which indicates what
programs are open. When you minimize a program to
the bottom task bar, you can click once on it to restore
it to full screen.
To save time locating information,
whether in a Word document or on a web site, click Edit
on the top tool bar, then Find, and list what you are
If your computer
behaves strangely, try to save active data and then shut
down your computer. Wait a few minutes and then restart
it. Sometimes doing this miraculously clears out
conflicts, computer memory that has become overloaded
and overwhelmed, and garbage.
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