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purchasing software in the 21st century

Updated on February 26, 2013

Since the world hasn’t ended so far, people are beginning to settle down to life in a depressed economy. With a lot of entertainment out of reach financially, the average American is turning to his computer, not only for entertainment but for income. This means bringing software up to date without endangering the system.

This is an era of viruses, Trojan horses, and other malware which can wipe out the home computer. Most users are now familiar with e-mail scams and dangers, but this is equally important for software which is downloaded or shipped. There are a few simple steps which can be done to protect your computer.

First and foremost, install a really good anti-viral application such as Norton or McAfee. Make sure it not only tracks e-mail, but also any downloads and any CDs or disks you insert into your drives. Free anti-viral software often cannot provide this service, and the small amount you pay for reputable applications will save you much more in the long run. Even very reputable companies can unwittingly carry a virus on their software - in the 1980s Microsoft Word carried a virus. Set your anti-viral application to notify you of any suspicious software. These applications tend to be overly cautious, so you may choose to notify them to continue the download of “unstable” or “suspicious” software. A statement such as “unknown author” is often misleading and can show up even on Microsoft software. If you are certain of the source’s reliability, continue the download or execution.

Be very wary of free software. Except for Adobe Reader, this is usually fraught with peril. If a friend offers to give you software, politely turn down the offer. Even if the software is not infected, installation of pirated software will usually wreak havoc on your registry, if the application can even function.

Purchase from a very reputable company – Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, TaxAct, TurboTax, Intuit (Quicken and QuickBooks), a game site you use all the time, Peachtree, Lotus and more. If you are not familiar with a brand, ask around at work or even in social situations to find out what others are using successfully.

If you are downloading software, download the executable file which does the installation, so you can scan that file with your anti-viral application before running it. If it’s clean, you can then execute it from your hard disk.

Whether you execute from the Web site or from your own hard disk, read each installation window carefully before proceeding. Very often during installation you are asked if you would also like to download an extra application, such as a wallpaper source or a toolbar. Turn down these offers. Each toolbar and freebie adds stress to your computer and ties up RAM, slowing down the processes you need. Google Chrome causes problems with existing applications, but cannot be simply uninstalled. It takes an expert to clean Chrome out of the registry properly, an expensive proposition.

As you review these steps, note that they are more common sense than a requirement for technical expertise. As with e-mail, these simple precautions can avoid a world of hurt.

Ó COPYRIGHT 2013: BONNIE-JEAN ROHNER. All rights reserved. This text cannot be reproduced in whole or part without written permission of the author.

For more technical articles by this author, please see Software Design: How to avoid a continuous loop.


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