Saturday, 2 February 2013

Seven Tips for a Healthier & Safer PC

With the new year upon us, the change of season usually prompts us to think about health in all matters. That also means thinking about running through a few health checks on your PC to ensure its WOF is up to date.

My suggested list of maintenance checks, largely thanks to WindowsSecrets, are:
  1. Backup your data REGULARLY. Download Microsoft's SyncToy 2.0 from http://www.microsoft.com/en-nz/download/details.aspx?id=15155, set up folder pairs with your removable hard drive and regularly run (weekly is generally recommended).
  2. Temp files. Delete all your temp files. This is really easy - go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-nz/windows-vista/delete-files-using-disk-cleanup and follow the instructions.
  3. Empty Recycle Bin. Clean out the rubbish from time to time. Makes the house smell fresh :-)
  4. Defrag. defragging is still good maintenance in all versions of Windows - run it after you have done the first three steps. Windows defragmentation utility — defrag.exe — is adequate in XP, moderately good in Vista, and more refined in Win7. Vista’s and Win7's Task Scheduler automatically runs defrag.exe weekly during system-idle times, determining whether defragging is needed by estimating the percentage of fragmented files. If fragmentation is low, it skips 'til the next week. A percentage in the high single digits or greater should trigger automatic defragging. However, you can verify that it’s working properly by entering defrag.exe in the search field above the start button in Windows 7.
  5. Antivirus. AVG is still a great free piece of anti-virus software for private use. Download it from http://download.cnet.com/AVG-AntiVirus-Free-2013/3000-2239_4-10320142.html. Ensure you download all the updates, and run it regularly. I have used this on my home PC for fifteen years without one single infection.
  6. Malware. Windows Defender Offline (WDO) for Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 & 8. Download at http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/security/pc-security/mse.aspx. WDO is Microsoft's most powerful anti-malware consumer tool. It's a self-contained, downloadable utility that operates completely outside Windows. After you've downloaded and launched, it swill walk you through creating bootable media (from a CD, DVD, flash drive, etc.) and installing the WDO files. You then restart the PC with the bootable disc/drive. Because WDO is both operating system and AV scanner, neither the Windows installed on the system hard drive nor any other software is active. Everything on the hard drive is effectively inert. This lets WDO detect malware that is in one way or another well hidden in the Windows system. Because it's completely standalone, WDO can't conflict with other security tools you normally use. Scan regularly.
  7. More Malware. Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows XP, Vista & Windows 7 (or go for "Windows Defender" - not "offline' if you have Windows 8). Download at http://windows.microsoft.com/is-is/windows/what-is-windows-defender-offline. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is Microsoft's all-in-one, consumer-security tool. It targets both types of malware - malicious software and potentially unwanted software. It's a free download (site) for XP, Vista, and Windows 7. MSE provides always-on, real-time protection for your PC. It detects and removes a wide range of malware. It's also highly automated, operating with little or no user intervention. Do nothing aside from checking for updates from time to time.
That lot should keep your computing fit and healthy until spring!

Thanks to Windows Secrets for a lot of this information. Go to https://windowssecrets.com/newsletter/microsofts-six-free-desktop-security-tools/ and https://windowssecrets.com/best-software/a-windows-system-that-never-needs-defragging/ to read Window's Secret's original updates.

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