If you have important documents, pictures, financial records, or information stored on your computer, you need to make frequent backups. Computers, especially the hard drives that store the information, have a finite life. If you wait long enough, someday your information won't be there. Also, there are tens of thousands of computer viruses out there. Many of these can damage, alter, or destroy your data. For some people, the information on their computers is even more valuable than the computer itself. Setting up a backup system is not difficult, and can be very easy to implement. Backups can be made to a floppy, CD-R, Zip Disk, or even another hard drive.

2. Use Antivirus software.

While the threat of Computer viruses is sometimes overstated, having, and using an Antivirus tool is very important. A virus can come from a floppy disk, CD-ROM, a program downloaded from the Internet, or even an infected e-mail message. A good Antivirus program will find, and often remove most viruses. It is also important that you update the virus database frequently. The way Antivirus programs work is that they contain a database of known viruses, and look for these. However, new viruses are coming out every day, and an out of date database won't detect these new viruses.

Also, if you have Antivirus software, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you make sure the virus definitions are up to date. Many people hit with viruses had Antivirus software, and assumed this protected them. An Antivirus program can only find a virus it knows about. The 'Virus Definitions' is the database of viruses your Antivirus program knows about. The older this database, the less valuable it is. Many Antivirus companies sell updates to these databases. If your computer came preconfigured with Antivirus software, and you've never looked at it, chances are very good you have little or no protection from viruses.

3. Use Anti-Spyware Software.

Many people think that Antivirus software will protect them from all the harmful things from the Internet. Unfortunately, Spyware is considered a different category from viruses. What is Spyware? Spyware is a general term for software that is installed on your computer, either without your permission, by tricking you to install it, bundled with another program you install, or often without your permission, by merely going to the wrong website. Spyware does all kinds of bad things, from tracking where you go on the Internet, to forcing advertisements to be displayed on your computer, often even if you're not on the Internet! Usually, Spyware is very poorly written, and can make your computer crash constantly, make it run very slow, or prevent you from getting on the Internet. Fortunately, Spyware can usually be completely removed with a good Anti-Spyware program. We recommend Ad Aware and Spybot. Both are available for free, and can be downloaded from our Downloads page.

4. Do you have a Cable Modem or DSL? You need a firewall!

While most people have some risk the moment they are connected to the Internet, those with high speed connections are particularly at risk. Hackers can break into your computer and steal information, leave viruses, and even delete your entire hard drive. They can also do these things to someone else, using your computer as a gateway. This could make it look like it was you that damaged somebody else's computer.

5. Don't ignore problems.

Do you have any weird problems, or strange error messages? Does your computer start making strange noises? If you suddenly get an error message repeatedly, or if your computer keeps getting more and more strange problems, this could be a symptom! While these symptoms can have many causes, these problems often get worse over time. It is almost always better to fix these problems sooner rather than later.

6. Use a Surge Protector.

Many people already understand the importance of having a surge protector, and thankfully most people already have one. However, most of these surge protectors protect ONLY the Computer. The modem, connected directly to the phone lines, also needs a surge protector. If, after a lightning storm, you suddenly get a 'No Dial Tone' message while trying to connect to the Internet, odds are good you'll need a new modem. A good phone line surge suppressor will help protect your modem. Also, if you own your cable modem, you'll want a surge suppressor for your Cable TV line as well.

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