KEEPING A HEALTHY WINDOWS COMPUTER
Computers require some degree of maintenance as all tools do. Though all
tools are intended to increase your productivity, the amount of attention required
to maintain a trouble-free computer reduces the net productivity of the tool.
So the goal here is to find the simplest, least time consuming way of achieving
a trouble-free computing experience.
GET A MAC
The easiest way to have a trouble free computer is to get an Apple Macintosh
computer. That's not just the opinion of Mac-Addicts like me. The
CEO of Intel said the same thing. With a Mac you don't really need
to worry about hackers, viruses, or spyware, so you
save yourself all the time PC users spend on maintenance.
But Mac users should still maintain a good anti-virus program, not because the
viruses will bother your Mac, but because you can pass the viruses on to your
friends that use Windows. I use McAfee which
is free if you have a .Mac account. You should also have a utility that will
check and optimize your hard drive. For this I highly recommend the the software
I use their product named DiskWarrior.
That's about it for Mac users.
BACK TO WINDOWS
Microsoft Windows XP (Home or Pro) provides the desired level of stability and
the basic tools for disk maintenance. With a few added utilities you can protect
your Windows computer from the 4 dreaded productivity killers - Hackers, Viruses,
Spyware, and Spam.
For additional information Microsoft dedicates a section of their web site to
KEEPING OUT THE BAD STUFF
By adding a couple of FREE utilities to your system you can prevent problems from the first two productivity killers, Hackers and Viruses. There's a minor learning curve to all of these software programs but they are generally very simple to install and use.
is a generic term that refers to anyone that would use some invasive software
process to access your machine and do something you would rather they didn't
do. The appropriate tool to block these evil-doers is a firewall. The best firewall
is a hardware firewall also known as a router. If you have a cable or DSL connection
to the internet a router is the best way to go. Routers can be purchased for
less then $50 and will benefit you greatly if you have more then one computer
using your internet connection. Some of the more popular routers are made by LinkSys,
D-Link and Netgear.
can use a software firewall. Microsoft
XP SR2 comes with it's own firewall which is activated by default, or can easily
be activated by selecting the "Security
panel (Start/Settings/Control Panel/Security Center). Most experts do not rate
this firewall very highly. As an alternative I have received good results
from a FREE software firewall from Check
Point named ZoneAlarm.
Unfortunately, since I have stopped using Zone Alarm it has added spyware protection
and other features and become
a bit of a bloat-ware program diminishing its overall efficiency.
from Sunbelt Software is
now the recommended free software firewall.
In layman's terms,
what the firewall does is control the doors and windows through which data
passes between your computer and other computers. These doors and windows are
referred to as ports. You can test your firewall to see how well it is managing
the ports of your computer by going to the Gibson
Research website and running the Shields
Up test. The worst outcome of the test would be if it detected open ports
on your computer because a hacker could also find the open ports
and access your computer through them. The best result is for your computer to
be determined to be stealth, meaning it is completely invisible to hackers.
Viruses: You MUST run an anti-virus program to protect your computer from viruses, and it should be running at all times as opposed to running it on a routine basis. You MUST also keep the virus definitions up to date. Most anti-virus programs have a feature to automatically check for updates, or you may choose to do that manually on a weekly basis. But an anti-virus program that isn't kept up-to-date is almost as bad as no anti-virus protection at all.
There are several
anti-virus programs to choose from. I used a FREE program from Grisoft named AVG
Anti-Virus for over a year until it failed to update for three consecutive
days. I then switched to NOD32
by ESET which is currently considered the best. It has stopped 100% of
all viruses since 1995. Optionally you may wish to purchase your program from
one of the big guys at Symantec or McAfee.
Your Firewall and Anti-Virus software are programs you should have running at all times.