Computer trouble

Have you ever had problems with your computer?  I’m sure you have had some at some point.  Trouble with viruses?  The possibility of picking of a virus, worm, or spybot has increased exponentially over the past few years.  My computer is now having trouble again.  It started last week when I was moving some photo files.  My computer has been sluggish for quiet some time, but now Windows itself appears to have a problem.  I can’t open Windows Explorer or any of the Windows management programs.  It could be a virus, but more likely Windows is now corrupted.  My solution is to rebuilding my computer.  I’ve decided that my 30GB hard drive is no longer big enough, and I’m going to install a new 160GB master hard drive.  I need as much space as I can get for video editing.  Each DVD-quality 30-minute video file can run as much as 25-30GB.  If I upgrade the hard drive, reinstall Windows, add more RAM (1GB+) and buy a more powerful power supply that should do the trick (I hope).  I never know, though.  My computer has never run right.  I’m tempted to go buy a Dell or another off-the-shelf computer, but I’m already invested in this home-built unit.  Maybe in 5 years I’ll order a Dell.

The problem with rebuilding the hard drive and reinstalling Windows is that you have to reinstall every program you have on your computer.  I have many programs installed.  I plan to catalog each one, including installation instructions, before rebuilding.  That way I know I didn’t miss anything crucial.  I also invested in a backup unit from Maxtor (the OneTouch II) to do seamless backups.  That way I won’t lose any files.

I also want to make sure that I am not hacked and do not pick up any viruses or other nasties.  That’s why I recommend the following security precautions at home:

  1. If you run Windows XP, make sure you have installed Microsoft‘s service pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP.  It includes many important new security management features.  If your computer automatically runs Microsoft updates then it should have already been installed on your computer.
  2. Invest in a good anti-virus program such as Norton or McAfee.  Set these to auto-update or do an update at least once a week.
  3. Scan your hard drive for viruses and worms once a week.  Most anti-virus programs offer this feature.
  4. Use strong passwords when logging in.  The easiest way to hack a computer is a weak or non-existent password.
  5. Invest in an anti-spyware program.  Ad-Aware by Lavasoft is a great free tool for eliminating spyware.
  6. Secure your home network.  If you have a home network and use Linksys or another router, be sure to set up a strong WEP key to secure your network from outside access.  Consult the router manufacturer’s instructions on setting up a security home network.
  7. Use a strong firewall program.  Zone Alarm is a great free firewall program.  Unfortunately, at the time Microsoft released SP2 it appeared to conflict with Zone Alarm because both provide firewall features.  Zone Alarm is much stronger.
  8. Make sure that your E-mail program is able to scan and isolate attachments before they execute.  For example, scans attachments before download, and Outlook will isolate suspected files.  If you receive an attachment from an unknown person, it’s safest not to open the E-mail.  If an E-mail asks for personal information such as a credit card number do not click through to the web site and enter it.
  9. Power down your computer frequently if you have a broadband connection.  Shutting off your computer is a good defense against receiving unwanted viruses or hackers.
  10. Secure personal information.  Invest in a vault program such as Cryptainer with strong encryption will better secure your personal information.

It’s no guarantee that you’ll be problem-free, but if you do these steps your computer(s) will be much more secure against hackers and viruses.