Best Practices & Advice
The importance of backing up your data
The single most important thing that you can do with your computer system is to duplicate your important photos, music, or documents by copying them to a USB drive or USB stick. These devices are very cheap and available at computer stores, drug stores, stationary stores, Radio Shack, Costco, Walmart among others. If your read email from your browser then your email is already backed up by your service provider. Otherwise, you should backup your email data files also.
Some anti-malware programs like McAfee and Norton 360 provide backup services.
Backing up to the cloud can be useful but it might not be suitable for large amounts of data and be aware that storage rental fees may apply.
It is often necessary today to have one or more passwords. Passwords don’t have to be difficult to use. Instead of using a word, think of a short phrase. Phrases are easier to remember than cryptic letter sequences.
- 777Wzzyi2slfhies83llsn (long non-dictionary word but difficult to type and remember)
- MyfavoriteDogisBunny1 (long non-dictionary word and easy to remember (as a phrase)
If you have multiple passwords it is good to write them down in a notebook kept away from the computer. NEVER write them in a document stored on the computer.
About computer infections and where they come from
- A lot of computer infections come from email phishing attacks. An email phishing attack is an email sent to your mailbox claiming to be something legitimate but contains links to illegitimate or malware infected websites. Remedy: If you don’t know where an email comes from or don’t recognize the sender, you should just delete it.
- A second source is downloading programs that seem useful (e.g. music player or photo editor) which carry a malware payload or install malware programs during their install. Remedy: Only download programs from trusted sites.
- Machines that have no anti-malware or anti-virus protection are generally at much greater risk. Remedy: Add anti-malware software to your computer. Many service providers (e.g. Comcast, ATT) provide free anti-malware protection. Search their company sites.
- Not having an administrative password also makes it easier for malware to take over your machine. Remedy: Always set an administrative password. Windows: Control Panel/User Accounts
5 things to do to reduce computer infections
- Always use an anti-virus or anti-malware program. (e.g. McAffee, Symantec, AVG, Kaspersky, ESet, etc)
- Never click on a link in an email from an unknown source. Even if the link is from a known source, you should be sure that the link leads to a site that you trust (or expect) by hovering the mouse over the link (without clicking) and viewing the actual link address (displayed in various ways in all browsers, usually at the bottom of the browser in the status bar). For an example, hover your mouse over the following link and look for the tip in your browser: This is a Link to this page
- Do not download programs from sites on the Internet other than major trusted sites. In general, it is best not to download supplemental software at all. Rather, purchase it from a reputable vendor like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, etc.
- Always keep your Apple or Microsoft system updates current. Always use the latest version of your web browser and keep it up to date. Additionally, keep all Adobe programs like Reader and Flash updated.
- Do not use computers with older unsupported versions of Apple or Microsoft operating systems especially if you are browsing the Internet. They are much more vulnerable to infections.
- A Short video from Google about spotting Malware
Improving the performance of your system
- Remove all unnecessary programs from your system. Many computer manufacturers load up their computers with unnecessary supplemental software of questionable value. Remove it if you don’t actively use it.
- Add more memory to the machine if possible. All machines should have 4 Gbytes minimum now.
- Replace your primary drive with an SSD (Solid State Drive) if possible.
- For desktop systems adding a better graphics card can often improve overall performance.
The importance of a UPS (Uninterpretable Power Supply)
Weather you live in a rural or urban setting, it is always a good idea to have a UPS on your desktop computer. A power spike or outage can destroy a computer. A UPS is a plug-in wall device that provides power to your computer, conditioning the line voltage and switches to battery when the power fails. Laptops do not need UPS support as they have their own built in battery supply. A USP is quite affordable and I recommend one that can connect via USB back to the computer to inform it of power status. I like the APC brand. Some examples from APC - APC Page Here.
Tips on WiFi installations
Most WiFi routers these days have a default password. You should always change the default password on your router unless it is already unique (Some service providers like Comcast and ATT provide pre-installed unique passwords usually written on the bottom of the router). Never leave your network open with no password unless you live isolated in the country, have a great reason, or are very distant from your neighbors (greater than 300 feet away from them). It is best to always have a password.