Here are 20 easy steps that will help people using computers running Microsoft Windows keep their system running smoothly. Some relate to maintaining a computer, others to computer security, others to online activity, and some to keeping data safe. While not the last word in computer maintenance, following these suggestions will help in keeping your computer running well on a day to day basis.

20 Easy Steps – Keep Your Computer Running Its Best

1. Security Software — Use Anti Virus and Internet Firewall software. Using an Internet Security Suite is the most effective solution.

2. Expiration of Security Software – Do not let your security software get out of date or let your subscription lapse. Most security software is based on an annual subscription basis. If your subscription runs out you are not protected against new viruses, spyware, Trojans, etc.

3. Multiple Antivirus Programs — Never run more than one antivirus program, firewall program, or internet security suite. They will conflict and cause a number of problems and effect system stability.

4. Regular Virus Scans — Run a full system scan for viruses and spyware every week. Most software can be configured to do this automatically. If you are experiencing unusual pop ups or browser windows opening, or believe that activities are running on your computer even when you do not have any programs open, it might be good to run a full manual scan.

5. Windows Updates – Install updates for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office as they become available from Microsoft.

6. Defragmenting – For optimum performance your hard disk drive should be defragmented every month or two. Not as necessary with computers running Windows Vista as this is done automatically in the background.

7. Cleaning — Desktop computer vents should be checked for dust periodically. If the vents are clogged with dust or pet hair the computer may run significantly hotter which can damage the system. Check both front and back vents. Clean with a vacuum if dusty, but turn the computer off first.

8. Recycle Bin – Empty the recylce bin on a weekly basis, if not more frequently. Deleted files are not permanently erased until the Recyle Bin is emptied.

9. Spam Filtering — Use a Spam filter for all incoming email and check periodically to make sure that the filtering is set to the correct level – not too low.

10. Attached Files in Spam — Do not open email or email attachments unless you know who they are from. Not all spam filters are perfect and some junk will get through. Never download an attached file from an email that you weren’t expecting to receive.

11. “Unsubscribe” in Spam — Never click on “Unsubscribe” on an email that you suspect to be spam or junk mail. This will just tell spammers that your email address is active and you will likely end up getting more junk mail.

12. Exe Attachments – Never click on an email attachment with an .exe file extension such as “myfile.exe”. These are program files and clicking on them will begin running a program that could be nasty.

13. Browser Toolbars — If you add a toolbar to your browser only use one. Multiple Toolbars can slow your browsing and add duplicate functionality.

14. Pop Ups – Never respond to an unwanted pop-up by clicking “OK.” If you don’t know where it came from, you don’t know where it will take you or what “OK” actually means.

15. Spam Links — Never click on a link within a suspected spam email – just delete the message immediately.

16. Pop Up Blockers — Do not download, or install Pop-Up blocker programs. Both Internet Explorer and Firefox provide this capability so additional software is unnecessary.

17. “Free” Programs – This can get a bit tricky in defining what is “safe” and not. Try to only download and install “free” programs from well-known publishers and manufacturers and trusted sites such a and

18. Be Diligent — Keep all components (software programs, browsers, security software, Windows, hardware drivers) up to date.

19. Data Backup – Be sure to back up your data regularly & make sure you are backing up all of your important files.

20. Verify Your Backup – Check your backed up files periodically to make sure all data is actually getting backed up.

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