Similar to the way people feel about their cars, computers are often a black box which they pretty much know nothing about except how to turn it on and use it. Computers are actually pretty complex but by following a few simple rules you shouldn’t have to worry about what’s under the hood. The list below is a compilation of common mistakes that people make which can lead to serious computer problems.
10.) Installing Software with Reckless Abandon
Ahh, this one can be tricky. We love to download all kinds of cool little programs to our computers including software for downloading music, games, new wallpapers, etc. While these can be lots of fun and serve a purpose, many of these programs are a vehicle to install malware on your computer. While it’s not always the case, over time, you may see some extra pop-ups or your computer may begin to run a bit more slowly. The best thing to do is only download software that you are sure you need and avoid anything from websites that aren’t well known sites.
9.) Leaving the Administrator password blank
Its always a bad idea to have a blank administrator password. Without having a password set you make it much easier for hackers and trojan viruses to connect to your computer remotely and take control of it. It’s highly recommended to set a password with at least 8 characters which contains numbers and letters as well as some uppercase letters. Also, its generally a best practice to login to your computer (for all of your daily routines) with an account that does not have admin access. This way you can’t accidentally install software you weren’t intending on or execute a virus you weren’t unaware of.
8.) Not Using WEP/WPA Wireless Security
Are you familiar with WEP/WPA? If not, pay close attention to this section. Many people nowadays have switched over to wireless networks and are using either Linksys or Netgear type wireless routers bought from big name electronic stores. One of the great selling points is how easy they are to setup but this out of the box configuration leaves your network wide open for anyone within about a 100-200 foot radius to connect in and surf the Internet on your dime. Not to mention, possibly hacking your computers. Anyways, if you’re setting up one of these wireless routers be sure to read the section on WEP, or even better, WPA security. It’s really not that complicated to setup and it provides you with another strong layer of security.
7.) Not Shutting Down Properly
Do you always wait for your computer to fully shutdown? Do you actually go to the Start MenuàThen Shutdown? If so, you’re better than most. Many people just press the power button on their computer and this can cause some serious problems ranging from hardware issues (primarily the hard drive) to things like OS corruption. Whenever possible its definitely better to click the Start button on the lower left corner and then select Shutdown. By doing this, your computer will gracefully shutdown and will leave much less room for any problems.
6.) Not Defragging Your Hard Drive
Disk Defragmenter – A simple, yet often forgotten tool, which can be accessed by going to Start->Programs->Accessories->System Tools. This defrag tool will analyze the volumes on your hard drive and then consolidate fragmented files/folders so that they each occupy a single, contiguous area on the volume. By defragging your drive, your computer will be able to access files and folders more quickly and efficiently. It’s always a good idea to do this at least once a month.
5.) Not Installing Windows Security Updates
While many times security updates go unforgotten, these can be the deciding factor on whether or not you get infected with certain viruses/malware or even becoming a victim of someone hacking your computer. It’s highly recommended to download and install updates on a monthly basis. If you don’t think you’ll remember, its probably a good idea to just go into your Control Panel->Automatic Updates and set them to download and install automatically. This way you won’t have to worry about it.
4.) Opening Email From People You Don’t Know
This one is very important. A good majority of viruses/malware is spread through emails, whether it’s an attachment or even just an embedded link within the email, so it’s always best to just delete anything you don’t recognize. Many Anti-Virus programs will do much of the work for you but if you’re not sure who the sender is just treat the email as SPAM.
3.) No Anti-Virus Installed
In this day and age, there’s no excuse for not having an Anti-Virus program installed. There’s more viruses and spyware out there than ever before and for the $30-50 investment it’s well worth the cost. Some of the good names in Anti-Virus software are Symantec, Mcafee, Panda, and AVG among others. Many computers now come with an AV program preinstalled so its just a matter of purchasing a subscription to download the updates.
2.) Not Keeping Your Anti-Virus Updated with New Virus Defs
Anti-Virus programs need to constantly be updated so they can detect the new viruses as they come out. Without these updates, many viruses will go undetected since the AV software isn’t looking out for it. Having an AV program is important. Having an ‘updated’ AV program is all the difference. If at all possible, setup your AV program to download updates and install them automatically every few days or at most once a week.
1.) Not doing backups
First and foremost, the biggest mistake that people make is not backing up their data. Most people have GB’s of important data on their computers and never think twice about the possibility of losing it. That is, until they’re hard drive crashes and they lose everything. From that point on, you can be sure they’ll be backing things up. Today there are numerous options for backing up data from just a basic external hard drive to online backups over the Internet. For the small cost of setting something like this up you’ll be glad you did if you ever run into problems.