Long summer days with the kids downloading all manner of Internet sludge has likely left your computer with the technology equivalent of a hangover. Before you give in to your kids’ pleas to replace your old reliable, try a few simple things to help you get back to a clean computer. After all, your computer needs to run smoothly for schoolwork (at least until winter break).
I know, I know, you’re probably tired of me saying it. However, when the kids have been wreaking havoc on your system all summer, it’s highly likely that viruses and spyware are slowing it down.One of the best suggestions to help your computer is to run regular and through virus scans, bu before you click “Run Scan” and assume all is good, make sure you download the most current updates. If your protection programs have expired, consider downloading Microsoft’s free all-in-one solution, Microsoft Security Essentials (www.microsoft.com/en-us/security_essentials/). Once you’ve installed it, it will automatically update itself and run regular scans without much more interaction from you. The best protection is the one you can forget you have.
Your teenager may think the program he installed to download and share music with his friends is imperative, but I bet you don’t need it running in the background slowing down your system. Go to your control panel’s “Add or Remove Programs” option to remove programs that have mysteriously popped up over the summer.
Don’t use your computer as an administrator. Upon pulling that new computer out of the box, most people create one user account for the whole family to access computer programs and the Internet. If instead you create more than one user login (I’d recommend one for each member of the family), you can set rules and restrictions on your kids’ accounts. This is a great way to limit kids’ ability to download and install potentially malicious programs to your computer’s hard drive. Accomplish this easily via the control panel’s “User Accounts” option.
Both Windows 7 & Windows Vista operating systems have embedded parental control options that will allow you to limit your child’s screen time and control Internet access and downloads.
One of the most reliable ways to help your computer, is to install a hardware firewall. Most users access the Internet through some sort of broadband connection (cable and DSL are the most common). While they’re far speedier than dial-up Internet access, the lines also let malicious software more easily access and attack your system if you don’t install some sort of firewall on the connection. Windows has a software firewall you can (and should) activate. But a better line of defense is to also install a hardware version.
Installing a basic router will adequately protect most home-based users. Make sure that it’s configured per the manufacturer’s recommendations, that you change the router’s default password settings and that you keep the firmware updated.
If your kids protest these measures, tell them they’ll have to make it through high school without Internet access. I would love to hear any other clean computer suggestions that you have tried. Drop a note in the comments below.
I’ve said it a million times, run your anti-virus and your anti-spyware. If you don’t have one, go to Microsoft.com and download Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’ll run in the background and not take up a lot of resources.
Next, you’re going to want to remove unwanted programs. Now, they do more than just take up space on your hard drive. A lot of times, different programs have security risks. For example, you ever wonder why Microsoft Office always needs an update? It’s because people find different ways to exploit problems in their code in order to attack your system. So, you want to go through and clean out programs you don’t ever use.
Next, you’re going to want to set up user accounts. Don’t ever run as an administrator. Set up one administrator account, and then set up a different account for everyone else that’s a limited user. The reason you want to so this is, one, you can customize your experience. Have different desktops, different program for every single user without anybody having to cross-infect anybody else if one person happens to download a virus.
Next, you want to activate parental controls in Windows 7. The reason you want to do this is because there’s no reason why you want your kids going to some of those unwanted websites. And a lot of times, those are infected with all kinds of stuff, and all of a sudden your computer is running slow and not working right.
Last, you want to install a hardware firewall. Now, an unsecured connection like DSL or cable, that is perfect for hacker to use to attack other computers, and a lot of times you won’t even know it’s happening. Go down to the store and buy a cheap hardware firewall or a wireless router, and attach that to your system and you’ll stay more protected.