Tips for protecting your computer from harm

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Keep all software current

Hackers and crackers take advantage of exploits found in outdated software. The developers of the software will quickly release a patch to plug up the security problems before it gets critical. Set your Windows Update to take advantage of the many updates that occur. Download the latest version of outdated software, and pay attention to the status of the Web browser and antivirus program to make sure that they are update on a regular basis. You should be checking for updates on critical software often.

Enable the lock features when you leave the computer unattended

Do not leave your computer accessible to strangers if you should happen to leave it unattended. Press Windows key+L to lock the computer from prying eyes. You can use the screensaver to demand a password if it's deactivated by checking the box in "Settings" that says "On resume, password protect." Do this by clicking the Screensaver tab in Display Settings under Control Panel.

Disable the remote registry editing

You should be the only one to edit the Windows registry on your computer. Disable this by clicking Start, Run, and typing "services.msc." Scroll down to Remote Registry to confirm and set to manual or disable.

Prevent Phishing Attacks

You can protect your computer from identity theft and phishing attacks simply by using the latest versions of browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Chrome. They include protection that double-checks all accessible URLs against a published blacklist. You will get a pop-up message to notify you if the website you are about to visit is a known phishing site.

Be careful of P2P Files

Virus makers use peer-to-peer file-sharing services to spread havoc. They will name the virus with a fun and inviting message to make you upload it. It spreads around the world when these messages are shared, infecting millions of computers, and causing the computer owners to wonder why their computers are infected with viruses. Always download with extreme caution, and always use antivirus software. If you want free antivirus software, AVG Free works well.

Wipe or destroy the hard drive before donating or recycling your old computer

You will want to make sure that the hard drive of the old computer does not have any data that is recoverable. In the past, I have used the discs that come with the computer that allows you to reset the computer to its factory settings. That works well when you are going to sell or donate the computer. If you are going to recycle the computer, you can still do this to guarantee that no data will ever be taken from it. Then you can take the computer apart and destroy the hard drive. I have done this on the two computers that I recycled. I removed the hard drive and gave it a few hard blows with a hammer, which destroyed it and rendered it useless. It was off to the recycle center after that.

Back up your data

It is very important to have an external hard drive to back up data. Buy a reputable brand and model and make it a point to back up your critical data at least once a month. This has saved me before when one of our computers was infected with a virus years ago forced me to wipe the hard drive clean and start over. All of my music files, work and personal files were restored.

Turn off your computer during lightning storms

Surge protectors can be overwhelmed during electrical storms, and I've seen the results —destroyed motherboards, processors, hard drives and power supplies. Turn off your computer if you are plugged into a wall outlet. If you have a battery powered laptop, use it until the storm is over. I have seen this happen to a neighbor’s computer. It was destroyed by a lightning strike at the power box in the front yard.

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