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The information presented on this page was originally released on July 14, 2011. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Take simple steps to protect computer's health
Maintaining the health of a computer keeps the computer running smoothly and the user’s sanity intact. Many computer issues can be avoided by taking preventative measures.
First, every computer should have a current anti-virus program. Many companies sell the computer with a 30-day, trial version of the anti-virus program, which then expires unless a full version of the anti-virus program is purchased.
Anti-virus software works in two different ways, depending on the software. The first method uses a virus dictionary of known viruses to detect infected files. Opened files are compared to known files listed in the virus dictionary. If the opened file is found in the virus dictionary, the software may then delete or quarantine the file. The virus dictionary must be updated often to keep the dictionary current with the latest virus definitions.
The second method monitors all computer programs by looking for suspicious behavior. Once the computer identifies the suspicious behavior, it alerts the user to the behavior and asks the user what they would like for the software to do.
Some examples of anti-virus software are Symantec/Norton, McAfee and AVG-Antivirus. If a virus, Trojan or spyware infect a computer, it can cause the anti-virus program to quit updating, so make sure the software remains current.
Most computer users run the Microsoft Windows operating system. Many hackers try to write software programs to harm those computers. When Microsoft discovers a vulnerability in its operating system, the company releases a patch to update the operating system and protect it from rogue hackers.
Check for Windows Critical Updates every other week by opening Internet Explorer and left-clicking on the “Tools” button. In the drop-down menu, left-click on “Windows Update.” In the Update screen, left-click “Express,” and follow the on-screen prompts. Do not perform Custom updates, as they can cause unexpected problems for the computer.
Temporary Internet files and cookies store on the computer every time it goes to a website. Most of the time these temporary files and cookies help the website remember purchase choices or viewing preferences. However, if you stumble upon a website that has a virus or pop-ups, the computer may become infected.
Deleting temporary Internet files and cookies can help prevent unwanted pop-ups. To delete cookies and temporary files, open Internet Explorer and left-click on “Tools.” In the drop down menu, left-click “Internet Options.” In the Internet Options window, locate browsing history and left-click the “Delete” button. Next, check the box next to “Delete Cookies” and “Delete Temporary Internet Files.” Left-click on “Delete.” It may take several minutes to complete the deletions.
The main way users infect their computer with a virus or other malware is by clicking on a pop-up that asks them to install or update a piece of software, such as a fake anti-virus program or fake windows update. Never click or roll your mouse over a pop-up window. Simply moving the mouse over the pop-up allows the software to install itself. If a suspicious pop-up appears, simply press the “Alt” and the F4 on the keyboard simultaneously. The combination of “Alt” and F4 closes the foremost window on the screen.
Most of us assume that computers are willful in nature and get viruses and pop-ups just to vex us, but actually, your computer’s health is a reflection of your computer habits. Following these simple tips can ensure your computer’s longevity.