by David Stergo
Technical people often forget just how intimidating and frustrating a computer can be and wonder why the majority of the population often want throw their computer out the window. Rather than eyeing off that small box in the corner with suspicion, I thought I would list my top 5 tips for building a healthy relationship with your PC or Laptop. If you have any questions about my top 5, please send me an email.
1. If you don't know it's good, it's bad.
Email attachments, disks in the mail, and funny looking links in emails, even downloaded software. If you don't know or don't trust whom they are from, or if they look suspicious, delete them. If it is important, I'm sure the person who sent it to you will chase you up. Nasty things called viruses and spyware have become one of the greatest contributions to computer stability problems. As a technical professional and an obsessive computer user, I have only rarely contracted a virus because I follow this practice. Do not believe for one minute that having a virus scanner prevents your beloved computer from getting a virus. Just like getting an influenza vaccine, just because you got this year's model, it doesn't mean you are protected from next year's infection. Particularly for Windows based computers, it is a highly recommended practice to have either a software or hardware firewall to protect you. Windows XP with Service Pack 2 has a built-in firewall which works quite well. The these three items can make a real difference. If you do not have anti-virus protection or anti-spyware protection, get some now.
Free anti-virus software, ClamAV is available at http://www.clamwin.com and anti-spyware, Ad-Aware at http://www.lavasoft.com
2. Keep your operating system up to date.
Whether you tolerate Windows, or a religious devotee to the wonderful Mac, make sure that you keep you computer up to date with the latest security patches. Having all the virus protection in the world, means nothing if your operating system is vulnerable. It's like having an iron gate complete with snarling dogs, and leaving the side gate open, sporting a large neon sign proudly displaying 'WELCOME ALL NASTIES!'
3. Organise Your Files
It is important to invest some time in creating a logical file and folder structure. For a start, if you know where everything is, it is easier to be more productive but more importantly, by organising everything in one place, backup and recovery pain is substantially reduced. It is often not easy to do this, as manufacturers of software often decide to bury all your precious information deep in the bowels of the folder structure of you computer. We know what happens in the bowels don't we. Also. Save, save save your work and save often.
4. Backup you files and test your backup.
Just about every computer these days comes with a CD Writer and many people are carrying around USB Memory Sticks on their key rings and so there is no excuse for not having backup copies of things. Much like riding a motorcycle, assume that at some stage, you are going to crash and burn, or at least your computer will, and create for yourself a new habit of backing up at least once a week. Then, make sure that you can read the files from your backup.
5. Get a Checkup
Men are notoriously bad at going to the doctor, but as your mother might have said, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. A good computer serviceperson should be able to catch potential problems before they happen. Funny noises and higher temperatures can be a sign that something is not quite right. It is quite heartbreaking to see people lose family photos, budget spreadsheets and thesis papers when their computer crashes and when I have asked, 'do you have a backup' the answer is surprisingly often no. It is then when it starts getting expensive and while it is often possible to recover these lost treasures, it is not always possible and sometimes many years of work are lost.