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New Computer Security FAQ

Congratulations! You've got a new computer. Some of the first things you do will either help secure it for years to come, or may cause nothing but grief.

What's the First Thing I Should Do With My New Computer?

If your computer doesn't have an operating system installed, the first thing you should do is install the operating system. This can be a simple process requiring the insertion of a CD into the computer, or may be a very involved procedure. Read the instructions that came with your computer to find out if, or how, to install your operating system.

If your computer does have an operating system installed, you may want to make a copy of the on-disk install discs. Many of the new computers don't ship with CDs containing the operating system. Instead these machines have a special partition hidden away on the hard disk which contains images of these CDs. Making a copy of these CDs can save you grief if you end up with a hard disk crash later in life.

When Should I Plug My Computer Into the Network?

Your new computer should only be plugged into your local network, cable modem or the Internet once it is completely ready to go. Once connected to the Internet your computer is vulnerable to attack. Be careful, because the average Internet-connected computer is subjected to dozens of attacks per day, and your computer will be vulnerable from the minute it is plugged in.

As soon as your computer is on the Internet you should immediately update it and install firewall and anti-virus software (see below).

What's the First Thing to do Once My Computer is On the Internet?

As soon as your computer is connected to, and working on, the Internet you should:

  1. Install a Firewall. A quality, free firewall can be found from Zone Alarm. The free version is easier to use than the paid-for version. This software can be complicated for a novice user, but should be manageable for most users.
  2. Install any Operating System Updates. Microsoft users should go to WindowsUpdate.Microsoft.com. Once there Microsoft may install a program on your computer which will check which updates your computer may need to fix known security problems. As a rule you should install all recommended updates.
  3. Install Anti-Virus Software. Anti-Virus software will help prevent your machine from being infected via Malware. Quality, free anti-virus software can be found from Grisoft. Called AVG Anti-Virus it can keep close tabs on your machine and all of your e-mail and software.

Should I Install the Firewall or Anti-Virus Software That Came With My PC?

If you've followed the other steps in this FAQ you probably won't need any other Anti-Virus or Firewall software on your PC. In fact, some of these packages can interfere with each other, and most of these products that come bundled with a PC are paid subscription programs that you may not need.

What Sort of On-Going Maintenance Do I Need to Perform?

You should allow your Anti-Virus software to perform daily updates of its database and its engine. New viruses, worms and trojans appear every week, and many of them require changes in your anti-virus software.

Backup your machine frequently. You never know when its going to crash, or when you might accidently delete an important file.

Run your Windows Update frequently.

Don't load P2P programs such as Kazaa on your computer. These will cause problems, both legal and functional.

What About Spyware?

Download, install and use SpyWare removal software such as Spybot - Search & Destroy 1.2, Spyware Blaster, NoAdWare, SpywareEliminator. This software will help make sure that your Internet usage is not being spied upon -- or worse!

Should I Get More RAM, More Disk?

Consult your computer professional about your personal computer. (The answer, by the way, is almost always yes, and yes!)

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