I ate breakfast in front of my computer for over a year before that fateful day when a coffee-in-the-laptop accident made me change my ways. Well, at least my habits involving liquids in proximity to electronics. You’re probably saying you’ll never have computer problems like this… until you do. Here are ten more high-tech bad habits to break:
1. Computer Problems: Bad Password Practices. Raise your hand if you’ve ever used 123456 as your password. The most popular passwords are also the worst: password, letmein, abc123. If your password makes the list, it’s time to get more creative. Try using a phrase and interspersing numbers and capital letters in it. The phrase “ilovemydog” can be “ILov3MyDOG,” for example.
2. Computer Problems: Ignoring Windows Updates. Microsoft issues these for a reason, and it’s not just to torment you. Not installing security fixes leaves you vulnerable to viruses and malware that exploit the holes Microsoft is trying to close. Start the process before you head to bed for the night so your computer is ready and waiting in the morning.
3. Computer Problems: Out of Date Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Protection. Would you leave your tax preparations with an accountant who hasn’t reviewed income tax laws since 1985? Keep your software updated at least once a week. While you’re at it, set up your scanning programs to run on Sunday night at 2 AM so it doesn’t interrupt your work.
4. Computer Problems: Clicking on “Your Computer is Infected” Pop-Up Ads. People still click on these or they wouldn’t exist. Never install a program that you came upon by clicking on an ad. Worried your computer may be legitimately infected? Install Microsoft Security Essentials or run your installed anti-virus software (provided it’s up to date).
5. Computer Problems: Giving Your Email Address To … Anyone. My Yahoo email was squeaky clean (read: spam free) until the one time I forgot to UN-check that little “free offers” box. Now I get more than 500 spam emails a week in that account. Ugh. Set up one email address that you use solely for friends and family and they’ll thank you when you can actually find their messages in your inbox again.
6. Computer Problems: Failing to Set Up Automatic Data Backup. Take it from someone who has lost three hard drives in one week (not a funny story): someday your hard drive will fail. Don’t let it be with your only photos of your baby’s first steps, because that’s just heartbreaking. Get an external hard drive or subscribe to a cloud service like CrashPlan and set it on autopilot. You’ll be glad you did.
7. Computer Problems: Suffocating Your Laptop. Laptops run hotter than desktops because there’s no space for air to circulate and just one small fan intake on the bottom. Don’t compound the problem by leaving your machine running on your down comforter, or worse, packed into your laptop briefcase. Use a lap desk when surfing in bed and shut it down before you pack it away for travel.
8. Computer Problems: Installing Junk. Is your Firefox viewing space reduced to 4×4 inches because you’ve installed every toolbar known to man? It may seem like you need that nifty desktop emoticon program, but the resources it’s sucking up running all the time is slowing your system to a crawl. Review your Add/Remove programs list and uninstall any extraneous “tools”. Consider a fresh Windows install if it doesn’t speed things up.
9. Computer Problems: Saving Files All Over Your Computer. Guilty as charged. I have files scattered all over, from “My Documents” to my desktop, and remembering where everything is before reinstalling Windows is a nightmare. Consolidate all files to your “My Documents” folder and you’ll be your tech support’s favorite customer – particularly if you are your tech support.
10. Computer Problems: Paying for Components You Won’t Use. I need a custom, powerful PC because I play graphics-heavy games. My mom uses her computer to surf the Internet and read email. Most users can save themselves serious cash and still be pretty happy with a no-frills PC. Before you get talked into the top-of-the-line, think hard about your actual usage. Did we leave out your dirty little secret tech habit? Contact us at callnerds.com/nerdchick for tips on how to break it.