Hurricane's Hints

Everything you always wanted to know about Web Design, PhotoShop and Flash .... but refused to buy the book! A collection of helpful hints, tips and tricks for creating stunning computer graphics and keeping your computer running smooth.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Simple tips to avoid computer problems

The next time one of my friends asks me if I know how to get rid of those annoying pop up ads on their computer, I may have to just say "no"!

I spent the last few days banging my head against the wall attempting to remove a multitude of problems from a PC infected with spyware, malware, trojans, worms, and who knows what else. Just when I though I had everything cleaned up, I rebooted and it all came back.

Eventually I was able to get everything working (without having to reformat the hard drive), but it occurs to me that it would be a whole lot easier to deal with these sort of problems if they weren't allowed to happen in the first place.

In future posts, I'll get into how I fixed the problems, and what tools I used to do it, but for now, here's a few simple tips to help avoid computer problems that can save you lots of time and money.

Be careful opening emails – Especially email messages that contain file attachments. As a rule, if you don’t know who an email is from, delete it. Even if an email is from someone you know, it could contain a virus without them knowing about it. If an email has a file attachment that has any of the following file extensions, it could contain a virus: exe, com, bat, scr and pif. Malicious code can also be sent to you in the form of a Word Doc, or an image JPG. It is a good practice to virus scan all file attachments before opening them.

Avoid Bad Neighborhoods - Just like you would avoid certain areas of major cities after dark, you will want to do the same thing when surfing online. The most common distributors of spyware and adware are sites that offer adult content, free music downloads, free casino-type games, and cracked / hacked software. Download anything from these types of sites, you can almost guarantee you will be downloading spyware or adware that will profit the site you downloaded from. Examples of these type of download websites are Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheous to name a few.

Say NO to installers - Some sites will prompt you to install toolbars, spyware, adware, trojans, and many other nasties that could destroy your computer or subject you to non-stop advertising - including pop-ups that certainly would not be considered family friendly. Certain recognizable names, such as Macromedia, Microsoft or Apple are generally safe. But if you don't recognize the name, it is better to be safe than sorry and click cancel. If you think you really need it, write down the name of the program and company, and do a search for it to see if it comes up as a spyware or adware problem.

Investigate the Free Software - You have found a cool download for a card game. But how do you know the only thing that will install is the card game itself? Do a quick search for the name of the file on Google and see if anything comes up about it being spyware or adware. This quick one-minute search could save you lots of time, tons of money, and countless hours of therapy from attempting to clean up the mess later.

Follow these simple tips, and help preserve the sanity of a computer technician near you.

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