Thursday, September 30, 2010

Computer Maintenance: Part Three

Welcome to the final installment of the Computer Maintenance series. Part three will discuss a small battery of defenses that can be installed to help round out the protection to your computer. These are merely suggestions. Many IT professionals have patterns and techniques that work. This article lays out a plan that has proven successful in 99.4% of computers serviced by the author’s consultation firm, Delaware Valley Tech Rescue.

The computer has been physically cleaned and firewall and anti-virus are installed and running. Now it’s time to place the finishing touches on the computer utilizing the following FREE utilities.

SpywareBlaster – SpywareBlaster is an invaluable tool and is available through Java Cool Software ( After installing the program, be sure and run the updater so that the definitions can be updated. Then be sure to enable protection for all items. SpywareBlaster does not need to be opened to run and it will work completely unnoticed by the user. It protects the computer from a database of malicious websites that contain content that could be harmful to the computer.

Spybot Search & Destroy – Created by Safer-Networking (, Spybot S&D also maintains a database of big bad websites. Besides updating the database regularly, you also must run the immunization module to place the new databases into effect. This program also comes with a scanner so if you feel that you might be infected then you can scan the computer. The added bonus is that this program builds a HOSTS file automatically to be sure that the websites in the database cannot push their wares through to your environment.

MalwareBytes Anti-Malware – MalwareBytes is a great addition to your protection scheme and like Spybot S&D, it needs to be updated regularly and then scanned if you feel there is a problem. It can be downloaded by the vendor ( MalwareBytes has actually been known for finding issues that other scanners do not pick up and therefore has become an industry favorite. Keep in mind that MalwareBytes and Spybot S&D should be updated and scanned about once per week just to be sure that there are no issues brewing. There are many malicious packages out there that will not load immediately and can lay dormant.

There are no guarantees that any program will win over all the malicious objects floating around the Internet and sometimes, it takes different combinations of resources to rid the computer of the infestation. If used properly, these three programs can aid the anti-virus and firewall in keeping the operating environment safe and efficient. If a more severe problem is discovered then consult with a professional computer technician as most cases, severe as they can be, are able to be cleaned without drastic measures.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Computer Maintenance: Part Two

Computer Maintenance Part One explained how to get the case of the computer cleaned and free of dust and debris. Now that the very essential of the project is complete, it is time to ensure that the system will be safe from the outside intruders. Part Two will focus on Anti-Virus programs and Firewalls.

Looking first at firewalls, what exactly is a firewall? A firewall is a software utility or hardware device that limits outside network access to a computer or network by blocking ports. Though firewalls are very simple to use and plug and play ready, they can also be customized and tuned to block additional port requests or control every port if the user wishes to do so. Windows comes with a built in firewall that for most users, will do the job necessary without issues. When a program that you install, an instant messenger program for example, requests outbound or inbound traffic the firewall will notify you and also allow you to determine if you want to be notified each time the instance occurs. The only time it may be necessary to install a more comprehensive firewall is if you have very serious attacks on your system frequently. In that case, good recommendations would be Comodo, Sygate or Zone Alarm. These are the top rated firewalls and are also the simplest to use and the least demanding of your computer’s resources.

The single most important piece of software that every user should have in the computer is anti-virus software. There is no excuse for not including this as a basic strategy to combating the horrors of the internet. When choosing a solution, be sure that the program has the most complete protection for your overall security but do not allow it to go overboard. Simply put, there are some products on the market that will run amok with the computer’s resources and that will slow the performance down. For the purpose of this article, look at AVG Anti-Virus Free available from Grisoft. AVG comes with a complete protection package including email scanning, link checking, real time scanning of downloads and basic spyware protection built in plus much more. The price of $0 makes it all the more attractive. AVG is extremely customizable and allows the user to select how often and when the computer is scanned. One very nice feature of the free version is that the program must update virus definitions everyday and cannot be customized; an easy feature to live with.

Firewalls and anti-virus; two critical items in the computer maintenance department and should not be overlooked. Look for Part Three of this series which will square up on the balancing factor of protecting the computer, spyware and malware protection.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Computer Maintenance: Part One

Welcome to Part One of this three part series on maintaining your computer to keep it running smoothly and keep it protected from the worries of the Internet. The common factor in this series will be that the methods will cost you very little money or, in most cases, be completely free.

Part One will deal with basic maintenance of the actual hardware of the computer. There are some differences in desktop cases as well as differences in laptop computers. The differences are far too numerous to break down here so I would suggest that almost every computer manufacturer maintains a great support site on the web that should supply you with a manual to show you how different components to the system come apart. Be sure to follow a few precautionary tips if you decide to do the maintenance yourself. Properly ground yourself using a ground strap, be sure that any static electricity is discharged from your body and use the proper tools.

There are three main elements that are harmful to your computer; dust, smoke and food/liquids. The best advice here is to keep the computer in a well ventilated area free from tobacco smoke and avoid eating or drinking around the computer to avoid accidental spills.

To clean the case, remove the side covers of the desktop and if the computer is a laptop, remove only covers recommended by the manufacturer. Using a can of compressed air (available at most electronic or computer superstores) in a sweeping motion, blow the dust and dirt out of the machine. Pay special attention to the heat sink and all fans in the case because this is where dust really gathers up. You can also spray the air through the slots of the power supply unit to move the dust out of the back side thus keeping the electrical components inside dust free. Use the same technique by opening the CD drives and spray in them as well as any floppy drives that you may have.

Next, using electrical wipes, clean only the metallic surfaces in the case (for example the bottom). Use the wipes to clean the entire outside of the case as well. Finish up by using a vacuum with a brush attachment to gently vacuum the crevices, grills and other fine areas to get any hidden dust out. When completed, put the case back together or return the covers of the laptop.

This is a good first step to maintaining the computer. As with any electrical device, keeping them free of the dangers of elements will help them last longer and operate more efficiently. The recommendation is to clean your computer case a minimum of once per 6 months. If you have pets or feel that your home or office generates more dust than usual, feel free to do this more often. Watch out for Part Two of the series which deals with Anti-Virus software and Firewalls.