How to protect your computer

Malware, Spyware, Viruses are everywhere.  Here are some ways to keep your computer safe while surfing the net.

If you’re running Windows and you’re connected to the internet, you have a good chance of having spyware or viruses and not knowing it.  Obviously removing these will greatly help system performance.

www.microsoft.com/Security_Essentials/ Is actually a very good, completely free anti-virus program. It has a very good detection engine. Even better for gamers, it has a very small footprint. That means it won’t eat up resources and slow down your computer. This will run on XP, Vista, and 7, so long as you have a legit copy of Windows.

If you are a dirty pirate, I shouldn’t be helping you out, but you can run free.avg.com/ It isn’t as good at detecting viruses, and it uses tons more memory. Hopefully you eye-patch wearers at least paid for Dragon Age.

Every anti-virus database is imperfect. None of them catch everything. You may want to run a scan with a second product.housecall.trendmicro.com/ is a free virus scan that runs over the web. You don’t need to install software that will constantly eat system resources the way a typical anti-virus program will.

Install a HOSTS file. www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm If you’re on Vista or 7, you’ll need to read the instructions for how to install with UAC. On XP, you just extract the hosts file to C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\Etc The HOSTS file blocks your computer from talking to certain domain names. The one I linked is a list of ads, adware, spyware, viruses, etc. That file alone will block mosts ads on the internet, and go a long way to keeping your computer secure so you won’t get any new spyware or viruses.

www.safer-networking.org/en/download/ – Spybot Search and Destroy is a free program aimed at spyware scans, and immunization. It also provides real-time protection, but takes system resources to run in the background. At the very least, install this, do a scan to remove spyware, and then immunize against threats in the future. You can decide to run the realtime protection or not.

To protect against spyware and viruses in the future, do not ever surf the web with IE unless there is a site that absolutely needs it. Use Firefox or Google Chrome. The Chrome 4 beta is very fast, but you can’t enable the Adblock extension yet. You can use Adblock Plus with Firefox to block more ads, making the web faster, and safer!

www.blackviper.com/ Black Viper has service guides for Vista, XP, 7, and even 2000. These guides will show you how to disable unneeded Windows services. I highly recommend that every home user disable Remote Registry, which is a just a giant security hole. Don’t run unneeded services in the background!

netsquirrel.com/msconfig/index.html – MSCONFIG is a tool to help remove other applications that startup in the background. I prefer to just use Regedit, but I imagine most users will find MSCONFIG easier to use. You’ll see tons of programs in the startup area. These are almost always third-party apps. You can probably disable most, it not most everything here. If you uncheck it in MSCONFIG and decide you need it later, you can check it and reenable it. If you’re not sure what a program is in the list, Google the program name.

www.ccleaner.com/ – Now that you’ve removed viruses, spyware, services and background apps, lets clean up temp files and your registry. This is a great free tool. It used to be called crap cleaner, but was later renamed ccleaner. It is very easy to use. I enable all the advanced options except for “wipe free space” which will take forever to go to every empty bit of your HDD and scrub away data. It doesn’t free more room. It makes it harder to recover data that has been deleted if you’re worried about privacy.

I live a little dangerously and disable System Restore. Right click on My Computer, go to Properties, and then System Restore. System Restore rarely works well. Your computer came with a Windows disk that has a repair Windows install feature. System Restore is writing to the hard drive in the background. It eats up a good chunk of your hard drive, slows your computer down, and doesn’t help much, especially since you’re backing up the most volatile piece of your computer (your hard drive) to itself. Really, you need to be uploading your crucial data online, burning it to DVD, or backing up to an external hard drive. The hard drive in your computer will die at some point at eat your data. Don’t trust it. And don’t back up a drive to itself. That is asinine.

I also disable Remote Desktop for home PCs. This is just another security concern.

Also in System Properties, go to the Advanced Tab, and then Performance, Advanced, and then Virtual Memory. Use custom settings, and set the minimum and maximum to the same number. You can go with the figure that Windows recommends. But use the same value for both min and max. This stops Windows from trying to adjust your pagefile up and down, which just freezes your computer completely during the pagefile operation.

Defragging doesn’t hurt, but doesn’t help a great deal either. The impact is somewhat minimal.

If your computer is still running really slow with no explanation, it can be that Windows has dropped your hard drive to a slower DMA setting. Even some SATA drives are treated like ATA drives in legacy mode. There is a very simple visual basic script which can reset your DMA mode, and try to set it to the highest/fastest setting on a reboot. This is harmless. A friend of mine recently couldn’t figure out for the life of him why his laptop was so slow with no viruses, and it was the DMA mode. Running this script took two seconds, but made a world of difference. winhlp.com/tools/resetdma.vbs

Obviously having more memory, faster hard drives, etc. will make a huge difference. But this guide was aimed at simple, and free optimizations. You can look for a variety of registry tweaks, or look for specially optimized video drivers, etc. However, they often give a very small performance boost, and can be complicated to many people who aren’t very computer savvy.

Feel free to copy and paste this information as you see fit. I don’t even need/want acknowledgement. I just like helping people fix their problems. I also like to encourage good security practices for safer computing. If you really want a fast, stable, secure computer with absolute zero spyware and viruses, then run Linux. But that is a rant for another day.

If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

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About greekfire

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to it's old dimensions.