friends and family have asked how I have my
computer set up and what software I use.
Here are some tips and links to what I recommend:
you're looking for my Android "Apps
Picks," that's a different
page, click here
#1. With Internet Explorer (IE), go to
Update page and make sure your
computer is up to date. Windows Update has all the
latest patches for the Windows Operating System
(Windows 7, Vista, XP), Internet Explorer, Office,
Outlook, etc. There are "Critical" and
"Recommended" updates. The "Critical"
updates are very important to download. They patch
security holes and known bugs that could leave your
computer vulnerable. The "Recommended"
updates are patches and programs that make Microsoft
products run better or add functionality. Some of
these can be ignored. The "Driver" updates
are software for hardware installed, like your video
card, audio card, printer, etc. I recommend that
you check with the manufacturer of these components
for their drivers before downloading Microsoft's
drivers. Drivers are what your hardware uses to
communicate with Windows. Installing the wrong driver
can cause hardware to stop working. Be sure you
get the correct driver for your hardware. Typically
hardware will come with a driver disk, which will
work, but from time to time the manufacturer will
update the driver and it should be downloaded from
Having Windows check for updates automatically can
be turned on in the "Security Center"
section of the "Control Panel." Getting
there and turning it on is different in Windows
7, Vista and XP. If you need specific instructions
for your version, let me know, but keep reading,
you might have more than one question.
Tip #2. Get your computer secured.
Below are several programs that I feel are "must
have" on everyone's computer. Getting
"infected" with adware/spyware/malware
programs is a big problem that is affecting computer
users today. Spyware is a growing problem
and I believe is now a bigger problem than viruses.
Tip #3. So, you've been getting a lot of
junk e-mail a.k.a. "Spam" in your inbox!?!
One way to avoid this is to set up a web based
e-mail account like GMail,
YahooMail or Hotmail.
My current favorite is GMail because of the space
they give with their free account. It's over 7GB
(and increasing) with a free account. All offer
free e-mail accounts that you can use whenever you
need to give out an e-mail address to anyone other
than family, friends, etc. I recommend that
you use your primary e-mail for friends, family,
work and use the web based one for everything else.
This will significantly reduce the spam you
get. As you may know I use the web based
e-mail as my primary e-mail address. They
have built in spam filters that keep most of the
junk out of your inbox. Also, if you change Internet
Providers, you won't have to change you email address.
"Gmail" is provided by Google, everyone's
favorite search engine, and offers a lot of storage
space, so you will never have to delete emails for
fear of filling up your inbox. This works well as
a back up solution. Just email yourself that important
document or photos and they can be saved virtually
forever in your email. I still use my Yahoo email
as my primary "personal" (friends &
family) email address but have Gmail for both a
storage solution and as the email I can give out
for when shopping online or when I don't want to
give out my personal email address.
Tip #4. Consider switching your "Browser."
If you're using Internet Explorer to surf the web,
consider switching to Chrome
Either one is an excellent alternative to IE because
it is not vulnerable to the malicious programs and
web sites that exploit known issues specific to
IE. If you're thinking "Another program that
I have to learn how to use?" Don't worry. they
are very similar to IE in the way they look and
work. They're (in my opinion) better and I recommend
them both without hesitation.
Check them out, they're worth trying, and of course
both are free.
are plugins for your browser that can do this for
you and allow you control so you can turn it on
for trusted / known web sites that you need to have
sites these days)
vulnerablities that could allow the bad guys out
there take over your computer. I explain more about
the bad guys later when I talk about viruses and
spyware. I like browser extension/add on's NoScript
for Firefox & ScriptNo
up your data. Hard drives fail. It's not a matter
of "if" but "when." I have
external hard drives also called NAS's (Network
Attached Storage) but they are not enough. You
also need "offsite" back up. What I
used to do was keep a couple of nas's and take
one to/from work, but sometimes I would forget
it and if your back up is sitting next to your
computer in a fire, you're screwed. For offsite
back up I am now using and recommending DropBox.com
What I like about DropBox is that they offer 2GB
of space for free. It is so easy to set
up and use too. It's a great way to back up offsite.
If you need more space, I would recommend Carbonite,
for only $59.00 they have unlimited space. Disclaimer:
I have set up an affiliation with DropBox.com
If you sign up using my link here, they give me
500mb of more space for free. I recommend that
you do the same and recommend to your friends/family/coworkers
to get more free space. It's a "Win, Win."
#7. Seaching online. Most are using Google
to search online. We now use Google as a verb
and is completely synonymous with "searching."
That said, I no longer use Google, I use DuckDuckGo.com
as my default/primary search engine. What I learned
is that Google tracks and taylors the search results
to what it thinks you would like based on what
you've searched before and also to what others
like you have searched. Now, that can be useful,
but I don't want that, necessarliy. I want the
search engine I use to just find what I'm looking
for based on the terms I'm searching for. If I'm
not happy with the resultes, I do check out the
others as well. Like: Bing & Yahoo. It's not
like you have to use only one or the other. Check
to Google's. DDG's is far less scary than Googles.
#8. Where to shop online? Simply doing a search
online to find your product can take you into
a dangerous world. You really can't trust just
any website you find. I recommed you go with "known
& trusted" websites. You're probably
already using Amazon.com
when you shop online. It's a great place to compare
a bunch of different sellers & prices at once.
For me, it's where I usually go first and come
back to to make my purchase. I'm getting to a
point where I don't even look any further. They
consistantly have the lowest prices. And, what
I really like about them is that the community
(you, me & others) can rate & write reviews,
not just about the product, but about the seller
as well. I'm continually impressed with my shopping
experience on Amazon.com
to go there now.
I also will check TigerDirect.com
for tech related stuff and sometimes can find
some good deals there.
And of course, there's always eBay. I use eBay
for the "not necessarily new" items
I'm looking for. When I need a unique gift or
collectible I go to eBay. Sure, there's new stuff
and I do check there, but not for the newer items.
I stick with Amazon for that stuff.
Firewall software/hardware: If you're
using Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 then the
firewall that is built in is adequate. To check
and see if it's turned on and running, go to the
"Start" button, the "Control Panel"
and then "Security Center" The
firewall should be "On" Today's routers
are excellent hardware firewalls and I recommend
that everyone get "behind" a router.
They're cheap enough at under $50.00 and I personally
recommend Linksys routers, which you can shop
for by using either of the links above. I recommend
Linksys because: 1st: They are very popular and
what that means is there is plenty of info about
them online, which comes in handy if you have
any questions. 2nd: It is what I've been using
for years, so I'm very comfortable with the set
up & configuration. If you have questions
about the Linksys, I can probably help. If you
have a laptop that's wireless you probably already
have a wireless router and that's good. Some might
say that if you have a hardware firewall you don't
need a software firewall and visa-versa. I disagree.
It can be argued that it's a belt & suspenders
kind of thing, but as you will see from my comments
below, I take security very seriously and neither
one is perfect, I think everyone needs both...continue
Anti-Virus software:. As my #1 AV
software I'm now recommending Microsoft's free
Security Essentials" first
& foremost. It's very effective and is easy
to use. The others are more complicated. More
info and download here.
I also recommed Avast.
It's also free and is available here.
They require you to register, which provides a
license for free personal use for about a year.
They just require you to re-register annually
to keep using it for free. It comes highly recommended
by Steve Gibson, a tech security expert and founder
of grc.com. See more about grc.com below. I did
try it for a little while but find Microsoft's
easier to use. The jury is still out on which
I have recommended AVG
in the past, but have not used it since version
8.0. I used it for years and recommended it exclusively,
but when they went to version 8.0, it got bloated
and was a system resource hog so I switched to
Avast and then switched again to Microsoft Security
ahead and try them and see which you prefer. Just
don't try to run more than one antivirus on your
system at a time, they can conflict with each
the Android: AVG
for Android is my AV app recommendation.
I currently use it on my Droid. More info &
"Adware," "Spyware or "Malware:"
For Windows users, as I said above, Microsoft's
Security Essentials but there
are a few of others: Malwarebytes,
Blaster and SpyBot
Search & Destroy
"Adware," "Spyware" or "Malware"
(often used interchangeably) are programs that
can track what you do and where you go on the
net. They can give others access to your
computer and your personal information. At the
very least they can slow down your computer and
cause it to be unstable.
You can run more than one "malware"
program at a time, unlike antivirus programs,
So...download, install, update, and run all these
programs. I know that it may take a while,
but I feel it's important enough to do it.
I have these on disk, and would be glad to make
you a copy or if you're local, I'd be happy to
install them for you. Just ask!! I
feel that strongly about these programs.
To keep your computer secure it is recommended
that you check for updates and run these programs
at least weekly, the jerks out there come
out with new threats daily.
Remember, the programs I'm recommending are free
but do have "Pro" versions that cost
money, so if you're asked for payment info or
are taken to shopping cart you may be installing
the "paid" version. If you have question
about what you're installing, stop, cancel and
let me know so I can help you get the right one
installed. Of course, if you want the paid version,
for added features or support, I understand. But,
while I have upgraded to some paid versions, some
I have not and may not be familiar with that version
and may not be able to help if you have any issues.
Also, some of the download pages are cluttered
with ads and I do want to make sure you're installing
the right program.
Another thing to consider when installing free
programs is that sometimes they have made deals
with other parties like Yahoo or Google and one
of the options when installing is to install one
of their "toolbars" or other applications.
Be sure to read each step when installing and
if you are unsure, stop and cancel and let me
know. I'd be happy to walk you through any of
the installs of these programs.
Lock it down: Are you wondering..."Is
my computer secure?" "Is my computer
at risk?" "How would I know?"
Well there is a way to find out. There
is a web site that will test your computer to
see if it is secure. This is a free
service and does not require you to give
out any personal information, not even your email
address. The web site is grc.com
and the test is called "Shields Up."
to go there now. Scroll down to "Shields
Up" link. Click on the link there and you
will be taken to the Shields Up page, click on
the "Proceed" button, you will see a
pop up warning about encryption, it's ok, click
"Continue" then click on the "All
Service Ports" button. Your IP address will
be displayed and the test will begin and "Test
your shields and probe your ports."
It seems like a lot of steps and the test does
take a minute but it really is quick & easy
and nothing to download. C'mon, go ahead,
you know you're wondering if you're secure. It
is important. If you don't "Pass" let
me know and we'll fix it.
Income tax software: I use TaxAct
It is easy to use and it's inexpensive too. You
can get the federal and state deluxe bundle for
$19.95. This includes a free "e-file"
option. This program will help take the pain out
of doing your taxes. I've been using this
program for years and love it. If you have
any questions, just call or email
Office Suite: Your computer probably
came with Microsoft Works or some other office
suite. You may have paid $150-200 to upgrade to
Microsoft Office. I hope you're reading this before
you have done that, because I have found a free
office suite that is completely compatible with
Microsoft's Office, including Word and Excel.
It looks almost identical and is so similar that
you will hardly notice the difference. It is called
You can download it for free from here.
Check it out. It wouldn't be on this page if I
didn't think it was worthwhile. When you click
on the link, you will be taken to their "please
contribute" page. You can if you wish, but
there is no obligation at all. All you have to
do is click on their "continue to download"
button, save the install file to your computer
and then run it, following their instructions
like any other installation of software.
Little said, "The sky is falling"
and instilled fear in those around him. The above
comments may seem to be similar in nature, but
they are not. What I described above are real
issues that we have to deal with regardless of
how you feel about these issues and how you may
or may not think they affect you. I don't mean
to try and scare anyone, I just want to inform
and help. If you have any questions let me know
and I'd be happy to discuss with you further and/or
help with any issues you may have with your computer,
software and the Internet in general.
There are a ton of excellent (and free) programs
and web sites that I didn't mention so if you're
looking for a particular type of program or need
a solution to a problem that is not covered here,
let me know and I'd be happy to make a recommendation.
Need clarification? Step by step instructions?
Call or email
me. I really would be happy to help.
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