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Jim's Tech Tips

Below are some tips on subjects that affect most all PC owners sooner or later.  Read them and use them wisely.  If you have another problem, or questions on these, that you'd like more advice on just fill out our contact form and we'll be glad to answer your question free of charge.

Fighting Computer Viruses

Virus writers, also known as malicious code programmers, are constantly writing new virus programs with new methods of attack.  You must have some protection against these guys or your computer will be open for infestation.

My suggestion is to always keep your antivirus data files up to date.  If you want to spend your hard earned money on a big brand name anti-virus program, go for it.  However, be aware that many of them have grown so big that viruses are being written to specifically target them.

Instead I suggest Avast or Microsoft Security Essentials.  Both of these are free and both are very effective.  Both are much more transparent than many you have to pay for and most of the time you won't even know they're running.

If you have critical or precious items stored on your computer, always maintain good backups.

NOTE: Do NOT run two different anti-virus programs at the same time!

Cleaner Emails

Stop forwarding those "chain letter" or "pass it on" emails.  Nobody is going to send you cash, your wish will not be guaranteed, you're not going to help anyone, your prayers will not be heard any faster, or anything else promised.  Worst of all, many of those forwarded emails contain viruses or links to an infected website.  If you receive such from someone else and feel it is important for others to read do this:  First check out the entire email before doing anything.  Check any links, read it carefully and be sure it is legit.  Copy the text of the email into a New empty email, leave out any unnecessary text or links and then send the cleaned up new one on to your friends.

Also, Please show email etiquette. When sending mail out to numerous people, do NOT put everyone's address in the TO: field.  Instead, put them all in the BCC field so no one sees all the addresses.  In the event mail gets intercepted or sent to a spammer, they cannot harvest all of the addresses in your address book this way as no one sees the addresses that mail is going to.

Drop the Browser Toolbars

Just about every time I work on a PC I quickly notice that the owner has multiple browser toolbars installed. Funny thing is, part of their complaint is the slow loading browser. Google toolbar is the most popular along with Yahoo, Ask, and MSN. What most people don’t realize is that anything added to their browser is just another item that must be loaded every time the browser is opened. The average computer we see in the shop is usually loaded with so many browser toolbars and add-ons that the browser takes an unusual amount of time to load. Many times the strain on the browser can cause the computer to stall waiting on the browser to completely load.

While some find a toolbar handy and use it regularly most never use them and didn’t knowingly install the add-ons. This is where I take offense with the distributers of most toolbars. The reason I do is because most browser toolbars are installed without the knowledge of the owner. The toolbars are commonly piggy backed on top of other programs or devices. Many times it’s the free programs owners download and install. I will give the toolbar designers and the free programs credit as they do warn the person installing the program that a toolbar will also be installed. Thing is, most just simply click right past the message warning them of the new toolbar about to be added on. Sometimes the toolbar is hidden if the user selects the “recommended” method of installation. Sadly a few well known programs owners have actually paid for also include browser add-ons. Here are some steps to avoid the toolbar trap:

    1. When installing any program carefully read every step and every screen.
    2. Choose the “custom” method of installation as this usually shows you everything that will be installed.
    3. When you see any toolbar or add-on listed in the install uncheck it where indicated.
    4. If you are not sure about an installation ask someone else. Many professionals like ourselves will gladly give free advice on the installation of most programs.

One final point: Remember the old saying, “nothing is ever really free.” When you choose to download and install a free program it is common for them to contain advertising or some type of add-on. Just be careful each and every time you install any program. If you do inadvertently install an unwanted toolbar or add-on look for a way to uninstall it, usually in the ‘Control Panel’ under ‘Add/Remove Programs’ or ‘Program Features’.

As always, keep your PC clean and have it checked by a professional whenever you suspect a problem.

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