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Security Tips

 

WINDOWS UPDATES

 

There is a lot of misunderstanding around Windows updates.  If your PC is set to receive Automatic Updates it will only receive those that Microsoft determine to be High Priority, NOT any others.  Periodically you must check using the Windows Update link on the top left hand column of the All Programs list in XP, otherwise you will find it in the All Programs list in Vista and Windows 7.  In XP wait for the page to load properly, then choose the CUSTOM button.  Let it do it's search then when it has finished see what is shown as needed.  It will list everything that you need, and if it lists them generally YOU NEED THEM!!  You may notice in the left hand margin that it breaks the updates needed into groups relating to Windows, Hardware and Software.  You should choose to accept ALL of them.  Make sure they are all ticked and then click on Download and Install.  It will even tell you how long it will take to download!  Sometimes updates must be carried out in a certain order.  If this is the case it will fail to install updates until they are installed in the correct order.  Just keep going to the Update site until it tells you there are no more required.  In Vista and 7 it will tell you the situation re updates, and a button in the left margin allows you to manually check should you wish.

 

Only by this method will you get any driver and software updates that are non-critical.  So often I have to repair PC's that have had no updates done, ever!.  The updates will sometimes improve the speed of your PC as well.  I know it can be frustrating time wise to do these, but Microsoft regularly put out updates, many of which improve the security of your system, so don't forget them.  If you do them regularly, they will take no time at all.

 

DISKCLEAN UP

 

A much underused utility built into Windows.  It can be found by clicking on All Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools.  I recommend leaving the default settings, of "C" drive, and click OK,  When the box comes up with the options unless you know what you are doing, I suggest you just check that the Temporary Internet Files box, the Temporary Files box and the Recycle Bin box is ticked and just click OK.  Do not tick any others.  This will clean out all the Temporary Internet Files that clog up your drive as all other Temporary Files, that Windows creates as it runs.  If you do this daily or every other day, it will keep you PC clean and quick.  You can even schedule this to run as a "Scheduled Task" using Task Scheduler, but you will need to run it on a user account that has a password, otherwise it will not run.

 

DISK DEFRAGMENTER

 

Again an underused utility built into Windows.  Found by clicking on All Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools.  I suggest that you run this fortnightly, although it will depend upon the amount of use your PC gets.  Once it has opened, click on the "C" Drive and then click Analyse.  It will then tell you if it needs defragmenting.  If it does, then click on Defragment and let it do it for itself.  I recommend doing this when you can walk away and leave it to do it for itself, rather than carry on using it. DISK DEFRAGMENT SHOULD DBE TURNED OFF IF YOU HAVE A SOLID STATE HARD DRIVE FITTED, as it may damage the drive.

 

FIREWALLS

 

ALWAYS USE A FIREWALL.  The firewall in Windows XP is fairly ineffective, although the one in Vista is slightly better, and that in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 is much better still.  If running XP I recommend the use of a third party firewall, just to provide an appropriate level of control and security.  A separate firewall is not needed in either Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 installations.

 

For older XP installations I recommend the use of ZoneAlarm Free, which can be downloaded from my downloads page. Make sure you choose what they call Basic Firewall Protection and make sure that when it is installing you read the windows that come up, and choose the free or basic options otherwise you will be using the trial version or end up paying for the Security Suite.  Whilst there is a definite need to use a separate firewall in XP, there is less need in Vista and no need, in my view, in Windows 7 or Windows 8 or 8.1.  There are other free firewalls available, but I prefer ZoneAlarm as do many millions of others.

 

When in use it acts like a guard for your computer.  When a program it doesn't recognise attempts to access, or accept access from, the internet and what it calls the Trusted Zone, by which it means areas it can trust, ZoneAlarm will ask for permission from you, the user.  It will present in the lower right hand corner of the screen a ZoneAlarm Security Alert box.  Read what it says you may recognise the program as the one you are using.  If you are trying to do something that would require Internet access, then place a tick in the small box entitled "Remember this Setting", and click Allow.  If you are not sure simply Click "Deny" and close the program you are using.  Then re-open the program and retry to do what you wanted.  If the warning comes up again, this time place a tick in the "Remember this Setting" box and Click "Allow".  Then you know that the program should access the internet.  You will not get the warning again for that program, unless there has been an update which has slightly changed the program, like those for example for Internet Explorer that come down automatically.  Sometimes you will get two boxes of different colours.  One will be for access to the Trusted Zone and the other for access to the Internet.  Treat them the same.

 

Don't worry, you won't need to do this for every program, as ZoneAlarm recognises some automatically, but will re ask for permission when a program changes.

 

Periodically there will be ZoneAlarm updates that will make themselves known to you, if they significantly change ZoneAlarm.  Follow the instructions carefully and again make sure you choose the basic or free options.

 

ANTI-VIRUS

 

Same as a firewall, ALWAYS use a good Anti-Virus program.  There are several out there, all free.  On my downloads page you will find a link to the AVG Free AntiVirus, now version 2014.  This is a world class and world used piece of software that is truly excellent.  Use it and although it checks updates for itself, periodically manually check, either right clicking on the tray icon and selecting "Update Now" or open the main screen and select "Update" from the menus on the left hand side of the AVG Interface screen.  It also  contains an email scanner, assuming that you are using Outlook or Outlook Express, rather than a non resident programme (Hotmail or Yahoo) or AOL.  It is a VERY good piece of software and FREE.  You must however set it up properly as by default it does NOT scan.  You must go the Options menu, then Advanced Settings, and expand Schedules and click to "Enable this Task".  The scheduled scan can then be set to what days and times you like to suit you. I recommend an every day or couple of days scan, dependent upon the amount of use the PC gets.  Daily if it is on all the time.

 

SPYWARE

 

USE SOME!!  or rather an Anti-Spyware program.  On my downloads page I provide a link to Spyware Terminator and SpyBot.  Spyware Terminator or SpyBot are my preferred choices.  Spyware Terminator is resident on the machine, does not slow the PC down unnecessarily and asks permission for registry changes.  It self-updates and daily runs auto-scans having sought permission from the user.  It defaults to run if you don't refuse it.  It has caused some problems on PC's that are already infected with some malware and will then slow the PC down considerably.  If this is the case I recommend that you uninstall it, and treat the underlying problem.

 

ADWARE

 

This is different to spyware, although some programs tend to find both.  On my downloads page there is a link to ADW Cleaner.  I recommend the use of this, although there are other free ones out there.  Be aware though that this does not install so you need to save the file on your desktop before running.  Simply double click the icon on the desktop and agree to the terms and conditions, and click Scan, and let it do its search.  When finished click Clean and it will remove all the rubbish. 

 

 

Have fun and keep safe on the Internet!

 

 
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