The other day I opened my antivirus as I normally do and a little message popped out on the screen “We’re ready for April 1st; are you?” This definitely got my attention and I clicked on it; it led me to a page explaining all about the surplus of viruses and the kick creators get out of releasing them on April Fool’s Day. But this was no laughing matter. I work with my computer all day long. I can’t afford to deal with a virus. So I did as they advised and have been running my antivirus everyday for the last few days, and guess what – my antivirus has successfully blocked not one or two but six Trojan horses! The first time the little siren went off (I have a very theatrical antivirus) I couldn’t believe it! Then I started paying more attention to odd things that were happening while I was online. When logged on to my MSN messenger I kept receiving strange messages from friends, some with links that were clearly viruses. I checked my e-mail and I had more than a few e-mails from “friends” urging me to add them by clicking a link to a nonexistent social network, asking me to check out their new pictures in a different language than their own, and some blunt proposals to rob banks, inherit a million dollars or some similar silliness. I decided to run my anti-spyware program as well and surprise surprise! it found 69 problems. I hadn’t run this in a little while and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to run it religiously at least once a week.
If despite my findings you think I’m being paranoid let me tell you a little story about a friend of mine who would never run her antivirus or check for spyware. One day her computer broke down and she was obviously very upset about it. She decided to take it to Best Buy to get it fixed. They diagnosed it but wouldn’t tell her exactly what was wrong with it. What they did tell her was that it was going to cost $299 to fix it and depending on the seriousness of what they found when doing the repairs, the cost could go up to $600…BUMMER, especially because this was a $600 laptop. Lucky for her, she has a computer savvy uncle who decided to help her out. Just by updating her antivirus, deleting suspicious programs and running her anti-spyware program the computer was miraculously fixed. So ok, I know this is not the kind of miracle Donna Lee would blog about in her I Believe in Miracles blog, but to my friend it felt like the Red Sea had opened in front of her eyes.
So if you’re starting to get concerned and you’re thinking that you wouldn’t even know where to begin to search for problems in your computer, let me point you in the right direction:
1. Antivirus: having an antivirus is not optional, kind of like having car insurance, but unlike the big bucks you have to shell out for insurance, anti-viruses can be found online free of charge. I got mine at http://www.Avast.com. Now remember that just because you have it in your computer doesn’t mean that you can forget all about it, you need to run it often and update EVERYTIME it prompts you to do it.
2. Anti-spyware: this is another must for every Internet surfer. Again being broke is no excuse – I downloaded free anti-spyware at http://www.spybot.com; and there’s also http://www.cyber-defender.com.
These next three steps are once a month maintenance that you need to do if you want to remain computer glitch-free. Just pick a day, like the day you pay your rent or your first paycheck of the month and knock out these easy tasks that will take you all of 5 minutes to put in motion.
3. Add/Remove Programs: Some Web sites or emails may install programs on your computer. These can really bog you down and for what? You probably don’t even know they’re there. Access Add/Remove programs by going to “Start,” “Settings,” “Control Panel” and clicking on Add or Remove Programs. It’s not rocket science girls! You click on the suspicious program and if you definitely don’t recognize it then click on remove and voila! Double check the names of your important software though. For instance, Quickbooks, an accounting software, can show up under its manufacturer’s name: Intuit. Careful not to delete something you use!
4. Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr.exe) is a maintenance utility included in Microsoft Windows and designed to free up disk space on your computer’s hard drive. Because instructions vary slightly for XP and Vista users, I recommend a quick Google search. It’s real easy to find.
5. Defrag is another real simple maintenance that will keep your computer in top shape. After doing this it’ll run faster and will improve the retrieval time of your computer. For instructions with a video on how to defragment your computer go to http://www.wikihow.com/Defragment-Your-Computer.
If all this info is a little late getting to you and you have a machine that currently doesn’t work, try to stay away from mega stores like Circuit City or Best Buy where fixing your computer while likely cost only a little less than a brand new computer (which they will gladly sell you!). Try small businesses, that little computer shop in a strip mall, or even some Joe who’s card you found posted on the student center bulletin board. Often what a computer needs is for the hard drive to be swiped and all the software reloaded. I’m willing to admit this is above my pay grade, but it’s still not rocket science. Computer geeks everywhere know how to do this and there’s no reason why you should shell out big bucks to a box store if that’s all you need.
For being inanimate objects, the truth is that computers are needy. Give them the TLC they need and they’ll reward us with good service and long life.