Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Got A Computer? Top 10 Things You Should Do

The plague of Internet rogue antivirus has me super busy (again) and so today I am re-posting an article which aggregates what I believe are the most important computer tips into a single checklist…a “Top 10″ list. Click on the blue links to get more instructions on the topic.

There are several things a PC owner should do to have a healthy, smooth-running computer, and be safer from cyber criminals when they browse the Internet. Not surprisingly, I have covered these topics over the course of writing this six-days-a-week series of articles. So I thought I would put the more important ones into a single list — a “Top 10 List” — and provide direct links (blue text) to the articles which cover the How To steps of making these things happen… and provide you with a simple way to find out what you need to do, compared to what you’ve done already. In case you missed one, or two.

Tip of the day: Run down this list, and ask yourself, “have I done that?” to each one.

1) Install an antivirus, and keep it up-to-date (with the latest “definitions”).
To read my articles on malware, click here. To see a list of links to free antivirus programs, click here. To read my article on how to configure your antivirus for maximum protection, click here.

2) Install two anti-spyware apps, with one having “active” shielding.
To read all my articles which discuss spyware, click here. To see a list of links to free anti-spyware programs, click here.

3) Install a 3rd Party firewall OR turn on the Widows Firewall.
* If you have a home router or Wireless AP, make sure its firewall is enabled (NAT).

4) Enable Automatic Updates from Microsoft (and either set it to automatically install [for the non-geeky] or to prompt for install [for the hands-on type]) and set your programs to “automatically check for updates”.
And then actually click on the “Install” button when told there are updates available.. and please, do not tell them to “go away, you’re busy.”
[note: you should keep all the programs on your computer updated, and gladly accept the install prompts. Also, visit Secunia’s free online scanner to check your system for missing patches, and out-of-date (read “vulnerable”) applications.]

5) Password protect your User Accounts. (see #8)

6) Make a (monthly) system backup.. or at least a “files and settings” backup.. and store a copy — on two different types of media — someplace other than your hard drive.
To read all my articles on backups, click here.

7) Upgrade to IE 8 and/or an “alternative” Web browser (like Firefox, Opera, or Avant). Click here to read my articles on browsers and browsing.

8: Use strong (and complex) passwords. Everywhere. And change them every so often.

9) “Optimize” your hard drive. Sometimes you’ll hear this referred to as “file system maintenance”; basically it means to clean old files and ‘build up’ and “defrag” your machine for faster performance.

10) Tell Windows to show file extensions.

* (Windows XP/older):
– Use the NTFS file system, and disable Simple File Sharing.
Rename the Administrator account.

* (Laptops) Encrypt your hard drive.

There is more you can do to optimize your PC (of course) and the odds are good that I have told you the steps in a prior article, as I’ve written over 900 of them– so far, and I invite you type the word “optimize” into my Search box and see what comes up.

I hope this find-it-in-one-spot review of basic PC advice has been helpful to you.

Today’s free download(s): By clicking the links above, you will see all the previously posted downloads, of which there are many. And, also, there are links to more free links in no’s 1 and 2 above.

* And for those of you lucky folks who have a brand new PC… Whenever you buy a new computer, it will come preloaded with all sorts of trialware (as it’s called) that most of us don’t want. If you have just purchased a new PC, download and run the wonderful PC Decrapifier and clean off that *stuff*.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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March 4, 2010 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, security | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Thanks Paul for this valuable information. It is working for me.

    While I had always put basic protection on my computers, I have not paid attention to the finer details of further protecting my computers until I started reading your positngs.

    Recently I was attacked while on a site, but luckly it was caught in time. I had gone through the list of the protection you recommended, Spyware Dr., Norton…and put it on my system, so happy I did.

    I also NOW pay attention to what appears on my screen in the way of up dates, etc. Again, becsuse of the alerts I read in your postings.

    Reading your blogs every day, with all the useful, important info. is like having my own “personal computer consultant.”

    thanks again.

    At times it feels like a lot of work and time consuming and “who has the time” to “read and apply” but, with the increase of the ROUGES out there, what choice do I have but to DO IT!


    Comment by Gaia | March 5, 2010 | Reply

    • Gaia,
      Thank you.

      My loyal readers are quite familiar with that Top 10 list, as I regularly repost it (with a different title). It is the ABC’s of computer ownership in a nutshell. It is 734 words… and it is a ratings bomb, and has been from day one. (My day’s number of “visitors” drops by 1/3 to 1/2.)
      … Maybe I just haven’t found the right title for it, yet…?

      Anyway.. I am gratified to hear you have found the information provided here useful to you in a practical way, and I am glad to hear that your malware protection detected the attack. I recommend, though, that you also use an online scanner – such as Trend Micro’s Housecall – as the first thing modern malware does is try to cripple your installed antivirus.

      (Bill Mullins has published a wonderful “round up” of the legit online services. Think You’re Infected? Find Out – Run An Online Scanner From Your Browser)


      Comment by techpaul | March 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. TechPaul,

    I keep telling you that “Tech-for Everyone” should be compiled into an eBook… This article is a “PC Maintenance To Do list” that everyone should be adhering to. Great job on this.



    Comment by Ramblinrick | March 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you Rick.

      PS — I am actually looking into what creating an e-book might entail, and so far it’s looking a lot like “time consuming work”… anyone know of a 1-click solution?


      Comment by techpaul | March 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] To be certain you are doing all the right things to ensure you have “a healthy, smooth-running computer”, checkout TechPaul’s article – Elementary, My Dear Watson. […]


    Pingback by Save Time Money and Aggravation – Physically Clean Your Machine « Bill Mullins’ Weblog – Tech Thoughts | March 6, 2010 | Reply

  4. nice info, thanks for sharing.


    Comment by admin | March 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms, I am glad you found my article informative. Thanks for commenting.


      Comment by techpaul | March 7, 2010 | Reply

  5. Switch to Ubuntu! No More Bull Shiite!


    Comment by Uncle B | October 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Uncle B,
      Ah… it has been a while since I have heard from a Linux fan.

      The current state of Internet insecurity has many folks looking at alternative computers (operating systems, really) to Windows – true.

      Ubuntu is easier to use than ever before – true.

      Ubuntu, and the Open Source software one uses to replace Microsoft (and other names) titles, is/are free – true.

      The “average computer user” could easily and effortlessly transition to Ubuntu, with almost no learning curve – well… IMHO, no.
      Uber-geeks and “Power Users” who are acquainted with the command line, and already use Open Source instead of name-brand will have a much easier time transitioning.

      For those curious about Ubuntu, click this –> Ubuntu


      Comment by techpaul | October 2, 2010 | Reply

      • Oh dear, whenever I stumble upon a list like that I am so glad that I don’t use Windows anymore.

        I such a shame that PCs are still sold with Windows almost exclusively. GNOME is so powerful and complete these days that even “average computer users” can work easily with it.

        But there are forces at work behind the scenes that want to continue to make boatloads of money and they will not let anyone interfere.

        Did you know that manufacturers receive millions for gluing those nasty “Windows/Intel/..” stickers on? A Lenovo employee said that they are unable to remove them because they would loose too much money.

        Windows computers today are not only packed with stickers but also have like 20 *useless* programs preinstalled that somehow want you (the average user) to charge after some months, otherwise you will loose antivirus, security etc. (so they say). Of course the average user does not know that there are plenty of free programs that can do the same job even better.

        I think it’s time to escape from this madness. Maybe find someone who can help you with it.



        Comment by pallgone | October 8, 2010 | Reply

        • pallgone,
          I have neither the time nor patience to debate yet another Linux fan, nor conspiracy theorist. This is not the forum for that. (Try Tech Republic.) I will simply say I am glad you are able to enjoy a rich and full computing experience on your Linux OS.

          And btw, I regularly post links to the free programs. (And there’s a link or two to the best of them in my Blogroll.)


          Comment by techpaul | October 8, 2010 | Reply

  6. Just install linux


    Comment by Anon | October 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms,
      Yes.. then, you can skip #1 and #2, right? And #7 is done for you (so no IE-only websites).. What about the rest?
      #4 .. well, you would still want to update, and apply bugfixes and patches, but you would use different sources (none automatic, that I know of, but..)

      And you would have to learn how to use Linux.. which means learning about computers.. which the “average computer user” does not do..

      So yes, great suggestion. Bravo.
      As I said to “Uncle B” — Uber-geeks and “Power Users” who are acquainted with the command line, and already use Open Source instead of name-brand, will have a much easier time transitioning.


      Comment by techpaul | October 10, 2010 | Reply

  7. Even better would be to totally dump Windows and all other Microsoft products, especially any version of IE and Outlook. Between them those two alone have more vulnerabilities to virus and malware of all types than all other programs combined.

    There are enough versions of Linux that anyone can find something that works for them with just a little research.

    For that matter, most newer computers can be converted to a Hackintosh even more easily. Run a search engine for it and pick the installation for your system.

    There is a computer store here about two blocks from my house that will even do it for you or even build a new one. This is in a medium-sized city in Brazil. Do either one of these and your exposure to malware is now about 1% of using Windows. This is not to say you shouldn’t still use virus protection and a Firewall to be even more secure.

    Oh, stop surfing all of those porn sites and relax. :D


    Comment by James Smith | October 11, 2010 | Reply

    • James Smith,
      I am afraid my person experience with people and computers, and knowledge of available facts does not jibe with your statements.

      For one thing, “Between them those two alone have more vulnerabilities to virus and malware of all types than all other programs combined… is a … misunderstanding of the technical realities. (Adobe and Apple are the top 2)
      (Those who are curious can look at, or visit SANS)

      However, it is true that 95% (or so) of the computers in use in the world are Windows-based – so when an Evil Doer goes to the effort and writes a script, or sets up an automated boobytrap, they target the largest possible number of machines so they can get fast and numerous results; thus –> he/she targets Windows. Because of that fact, at this time, there are very few “viruses” that effect Linux/Mac.. if any.

      And my experience with regular, everyday people, trying to use their computers and keep up with tech (I am a Tech/Help Desk type) makes me scorn the idea of “There are enough versions of Linux that anyone can find something that works for them with just a little research.“. (Keyword = “anyone”.) There are certain types of computer users for whom the switch to Linux would be (practically) painless, and other types (the larger %, IMHO) who – if they want an alternative to Windows – should get a Mac. My opinion.

      .. the “hackintosh”.. Well, again I must object; this time to your use of the word “easily”. (There’s a reason “hack” is in the name.) However, it is an intriguing, and increasingly popular possibility amongst “power users”. (Make sure your firmware #s match up with the instructions.)

      I agree with your other recommendations, though. And I am not saying there is anything wrong with, or handicapping about Linux. Thanks for your input.


      Comment by techpaul | October 11, 2010 | Reply

      • Personally, I have used Apple and Windows computers side-by-side on a daily basis since 1986. In that time, I have had more problems with security on operations with Windows computers in any one month than I have had with Macintosh computers total

        The popular misconception is that Windows computers are attacked more simply because there are more of them. That is only partially true. The core programming of OSX, for example is more difficult to attack because of design, not popularity. Having said that, I repeat, I would still not operate any computer without malware protection, connected to the internet or not.

        You are completely wrong about Hackintosh. That is only a popular name. If you research it,you will find you can download or buy on DVD programs to automatically modify the Bios, when needed. After that, you need only insert an OSX disk and follow the simple on-screen instructions. These are far easier and more simple than installing Windows. IN addition, it does not require one to wipe the entire hard drive to either repair or re-install the Apple OS, something that Microsoft has never managed to master despite copying Apple for over two decades.

        In my personal experience with Linux, admittedly a bit out of date, Installation was also easy and operation quite good although, at that time, I felt it was “Not ready for prime time” due to some shortfalls in available programs and compatibilities. I have been assured that many of these have been successfully addressed. The fact that entire countries are switching to Linux as their OS of choice is proof that it has come of age as an OS. Here in Brazil, for example, most computers are sold with Linux and Windows in often an “extra-cost option”.

        The store I mentioned that will convert your Windows system to the Mac OSX promises one-day turn-around on the conversion. That’s very fast indeed here for any service. They have been a bit evasive about how that part of their business is going, probably a little nervous about the propensity of Apple to initiate lawsuits, even out of the USA. I can’t blame them for that. But I certainly wish them well and think they are doing fine with it.


        Comment by James Smith | October 11, 2010 | Reply

        • James Smith,
          I am familiar with the argument and reasoning that the *nix OS is inherently more secure. This is a point that is hotly debated on other forums, and is not – I don’t believe – appropriate “for Everyone” (the title of my series).

          I stand corrected on “hackintosh”. I was aware that to a very large degree, BIOS, and other firmware files (for the conversion) were available online, but I was not aware that you could buy DVD’s. I have never found myself with the desire to go through the procedure myself, so I have not looked at any “hack” guides recently..

          I have never disparaged either Linux (any flavor) nor Apple. I agree that Windows was designed for ease-of-use and “backwards compatibility” and not security. And I repeat: if you are knowledgeable about computers, and not afraid to step away from name-brand software titles, Linux is a robust, full-feature OS that is free of charge. I agree with you that it is “coming of age”, and it improves with each release. (Personally, I advise those curious to try Linux, to experiment with a “live CD” version first.)

          Perhaps I should add.. for those who think I am not suitably a “Linux advocate”.. that I wish Linux (and Open Source) every success — competition is a very healthy thing.


          Comment by techpaul | October 11, 2010 | Reply

  8. With thanks for your posting, I will probably add this web site to my rss feeds, a buddy just informed me relating to this the other day. this is the greatest!


    Comment by Annamarie Degree | October 24, 2010 | Reply

    • Annamarie Degree,
      Thank you for the support.


      Comment by techpaul | October 24, 2010 | Reply

  9. Thanks Paul.



    Comment by Grr | December 30, 2010 | Reply

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