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PC Best Practices
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Keep Passwords Confidential

When it comes to passwords, never share your password. Your password is secret and confidential; be sure to keep it that way. Never divulge your password to anyone, whether in person or over the phone -- no matter who asks, no matter why they say it's needed. Intruders look for passwords posted on your computer, under your keyboard, inside your desk, on your bulletin board and in every other area of your workspace. This is why it's best not to write down your password at all. But, if you must write it down, treat it like money and keep it in your wallet or another secure location.

Backup important files to a separate location/media

Creating original documents is a time consuming process. Hours of irreplaceable work can be destroyed in a flash due to computer hardware failure, virus infection, disk failure, or user error. “Backup” is the most practical means of protection.

“Backup” means keeping one or more extra copies of your document, preferably in separate places.

  • Compose your document with frequent saves to your computer’s hard disk, and always consider that version to be your "original."
  • When you stop for the day, “back up” by saving the file(s) to removable media: flash drive, external hard drive etc. With a PC, select File from your menu, select Save As while your document is open.
  • At the earliest opportunity, store the backup in a separate physical location. The backup should be far enough from the original that the likelihood of both locations being destroyed is extremely small.
  • If you can’t immediately store the backup media in another physical location and the document isn't too big, consider emailing it to a friend or colleague. You can also email it to yourself. That way, the document is safely stored on your email server until the next time you check your email.
  • If you must do significant editing to the document, save it under a different name, for example, mypaper2.doc . Continue to use new names with each successive edition, being careful not to delete the old ones until you are 100% sure that you will never need them. This is especially important when combining documents to make a new document: always give the new document a different name, and always save the original pieces in case they are needed later.

For extra protection, periodically print your document. That way, the document can be re-typed or scanned if the disk version is destroyed or damaged.

Always run a current up-to-date version of anti-virus software

A virus is a program that can wreak havoc on your computer and use your Internet connection to spread itself to other computers, usually those of your co-workers, friends, and family. You can prevent many viruses by only opening email attachments when you know where the email came from and are expecting the attachment. Unfortunately, sometimes that isn't even enough.

Step 1: Check your computer for antivirus software

Most computers now come with antivirus software installed. Follow these steps to determine if you already have the software you need to prevent viruses.

  • Click Start, and then type or click Apps & features.
  • Look for the name of a popular antivirus manufacturer such as McAfee, Norton, Trend Micro, Symantec, or Malwarebytes.

Step 2: Keep your antivirus program up to date

Antivirus software will only help protect you from viruses if you update it regularly. Antivirus programs work by comparing your machine against known viruses. When you update your software, you download information about all the latest viruses. Depending on your software this information is usually referred to as "virus definitions." As virus writers are always coming up with new ways to infect your computer, we recommend that you download all the new virus definitions monthly or even weekly.

Here are two ways to find out when you last updated your antivirus program:

  • Click the antivirus software icon in your system tray in the bottom right side of your screen, near the clock. You should see the date that you last updated your software.
  • Open your antivirus software, and look for information about the update status.

Check your virus software to ensure auto-update is set to daily. If it has been more than a month since you manually updated your software, do it now to help ensure your safety. You can usually download up to date virus definitions (antivirus software updates) by visiting the website of the company that makes your software.

Remember, you must have a current antivirus subscription to download updates to your software. If your subscription has expired, be sure to renew—or, if you prefer, take this opportunity to try a different antivirus program.

Tip: Two antivirus programs are not better than one. If you already have antivirus software but you'd like to try a different one, always uninstall the old program before you install the new one. Running more than one antivirus program at the same time may cause major conflicts.

Step 3: Choose antivirus software that's right for you

If you don't have antivirus software on your system, or if you'd like to install a different program here are two key factors to consider before you make your choice:

  • Auto-updates. Downloading the latest updates is critical. Many companies offer an automated option for their products.
  • The manufacturer's reputation. If you search the Internet long enough you're bound to find antivirus software for which you don't have to pay a dime. Yet other antivirus vendors allow you to download a free trial version of their antivirus software to see if you like it before you buy it.

Regularly download Microsoft critical updates

Microsoft regularly issues patches or updates to solve security problems in their software. The critical updates are the ones you should be concerned about. If these are not applied, it leaves your computer vulnerable to hackers. Service Packs are larger updates which upgrade and fix security problems. In order to manually check for updates, there are multiple procedures one may follow.

For Windows 10:
  1. Open the Start Menu and then Settings.
  2. Within Settings, select Update & Security, and finally Windows Update on the left
  3. From here, updating is as simple as clicking the Check for Updates button.

For Windows XP

: click Express Install and it will scan your computer for updates. The main updates that should be selected are the critical and the security updates. Click Install to start downloading and installing critical updates

Set up critical Windows Updates for 2000 and XP

Windows Automatic Update feature is available in with Windows 2000, ME, and XP. This is a tool that will automatically check for any new Critical updates that your computer needs and install them at a designated time.

There are several ways that updates and downloads can be applied, but we recommend the last setting so that your computer is kept up to date.

Steps:

In Windows 2000: Start > Settings > Control Panel > Automatic Updates

In Windows XP: Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Automatic Updates

  • Click on the checkbox to Keep my computer up to date.
  • Under settings, choose the last choice, Automatically download the updates, and install them on the schedule that I specify.
  • Click on OK.

Regularly run updated anti-spyware software

Spyware is software that is placed on a computer to secretly gather information about the user such as their browsing habits which is then passed on to advertisers or other interested parties. Spyware will slow down your computer, alter your homepage, produce lots of adverts or links to websites and even include keystroke loggers to record details such as passwords and user names.

These programs are often installed without the user's consent as a result of visiting a website or through clicking on an option in a deceptive pop-up window. Spyware can also be carried in viruses or installed alongside other free software downloaded from the internet. You should read the license agreements for such software very carefully before you agree to install it.

There are a number of free anti-spyware software tools and commercial products that claim to be able to remove Spyware from your computer. These should be regularly updated like anti-virus software with the latest definition files from the vendor. Two such free products are Ad-aware and Spybot Search & Destroy.

Important points to remember:

  • Be careful when clicking on links on websites you do not trust.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date
  • Pay careful attention to the license agreements of software downloaded from the internet.
  • Run anti-spyware software regularly and make sure it is up-to-date by using it's built in update tool or from the software vendor's website.

Email: run routine maintenance

This is an important part of your email management. When you no longer need an email, it should be deleted. When you first delete an email, your software will send the email to the Trash Bin. Your email is not actually deleted until you first empty your trash bin. Emptying your trash bin compresses the mailboxes from where the email was originally filed. This is absolutely paramount to the protection of your email data. If you go too long between compressing your email data, then your email data could become corrupted and you might need assistance in recovering your email data.

Organization is key to any emails that you intend to save. You are the best judge as to how to organize your email into topics that provide an easy method of retrieval of the information when you need it most. Fortunately, the popular email clients make it easy to organize your information. By allowing you to create folders within your email software, you can file specific emails into folders dedicated to the topic of the email.

Beware of unexpected or unsolicited email attachments. Because email is one of the primary ways to exchange information among Internet users, it is also a key method for spreading viruses. A basic plain text email is unable to transmit most viruses. It is the attachment to the email that contains the potential hazard. If the attachment is unexpected or unsolicited and from an unknown sender, the wisest decision would be to delete the email without opening the attachment. If the email is from a known and trusted source, but you did not expect an attached file from that source, you may want to contact the sender to confirm that the attachment is legitimate.

Keep original copies of software

You should always store all CDs and floppy disks that came with the computer in a safe place where you will find them if they are needed for troubleshooting problems with your computer. These disks can resolve most issues with your computer.

Most brand name PCs such as Dell and Gateway ship with a "restore" CD, which contains a utility that will restore your PC to its original state (as it was when you initially purchased it). This is a great utility if you need to re-format your PC, however, reformatting is usually a last resort for most problems that your system may encounter. Furthermore, this utility is not appropriate for resolving most problems, which require files to be copied from the original operating system software. Therefore, you want to have the actual Windows 95/98/2000/XP CD or Mac OS CD that shipped with your computer. If the system you purchased did not include these CDs, you should contact the manufacturer and request that they ship you the appropriate operating system CD.

Turn off PC & monitor when leaving for the day

Reasons:

Waste of Electricity: Leaving a computer on overnight may use a lot of electricity.

Internet Security: If your computer accesses the Internet through a modem, this section does not apply. However, if you use DSL, a cable modem, or have "always-on" Internet access at work, your computer may be an open target for a hacker. If your computer is connected to the Internet even when you aren't sitting at it, turn it off to prevent access from outsiders.

Network Security: If you work in a networked office, leaving your computer on may not be a bad thing, but leaving your computer on while you are stilled logged in to your company's network is a VERY BAD thing. Make sure you log out every night.

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