Frequently Asked Questions
maintenance can I do on my computer?
Q:What is the minimum stuff I need to be safe on the Internet?
Q: Why do I get all this spam and what can I do about it?
Q: Why should I backup my data on my computer?
Q: What is the best and least expensive way to backup my computer?
maintenance can I do on my computer?
Disk space issues...
If you are low on disk space your computer will run slowly. With large drives these days this is not a common problem. You can check how much free disk space you have by double clicking on My Computer, then right clicking on the C drive and clicking Properties. In the window that opens you will see a pie chart showing your disk space usage. If you have less than 15% of your hard drive free, you will probably benefit from removing unnecessary files and programs.
While there is a "Disk Cleanup" button in the disk properties, it's not very useful. This is a Microsoft utility that is supposed to clean up temporary files. It is so conservative in it's selection of what might be un-necessary that it is almost useless. It also takes a very long time to run on some computers. To quickly and easily clean up temporary files use the Cleanup program found here:
This is a free utility. Please consider making a donation to the author.
After you have run the above mentioned Cleanup program, you should defragment your hard drive. I emphasize After because there is no reason to defragment files you don't need, and these will still be on your hard drive if you don't run Cleanup first.
To defragment, double click on My Computer, then right click on the C: drive and click Properties. In the window that opens click on the "Tools" tab, then on the "Defragment Now" button. In the Defragmentation program window, click the Defragment button. If the display shows lots of RED and not much BLUE, it will take a while to defragment your hard drive. The program may say that you don't need to defragment, but there's no harm in doing it. If you really want to optimize your drive, keep defragmenting until it takes only a few seconds to do it.
You can do other things with your computer while this is happening, but your computer will run slowly because the hard drive will be very busy moving files around.
Q:What is the minimum stuff I need to
be safe on the Internet?
A:For computers running any version of Windows you need a hardware firewall/router or firewall software, and Anti Virus software.
I recommend a hardware router over a software firewall. A hardware router stops people from getting past it to your computer. A software firewall works only when they have connected to your computer. Also because software firewalls run on your computer, they make your computer run more slowly because they use a big piece of your RAM to run and check every network packet coming into or going out of your computer.
Routers made by Airlink, Dlink, Linksys, US Robotics, SMC and Belkin are all fine for home users.
I recommend AVG antivirus software. It has very little impact on how fast your computer runs and comes with a 2 year subscription for updates for about the same price as most other software's one year subscription. You can try it from free for 30 days. If you like it, let me know and I can send you a license by email for Cdn$46. The AVG Anti Virus Trial software can be downloaded here.
Some people feel an Anti Spyware program is necessary. This is only true for people who regularly visit dubious web sites or who download a lot of FREE software from many websites. Should you need anti spyware software you can download trial or free versions at any time, and purchase it if necessary. Contact me if you think you might need this, as what is effective and free changes regularly.
BEWARE OF MISLEADING SOFTWARE
Some websites will open a window that tells you that there are various errors and pieces of malicious software on your computer, and that these can be fixed if you buy their software on-line right now.
These programs are part of the problem, not the solution. The trouble they claim to detect on your computer is not there. This is just a way to sell useless software. Often this software installs Spyware on your computer, rather than removing it. No software producer with a real product is going to pop open a window on your computer and tell you that you have trouble on your computer that only they can fix.
Q: Why do I get all this spam and what
can I do about it?
A: You receive spam because either
You give your address to websites who sell their address lists,
Your address appears on web sites or discussion groups,
Your address is easy to guess or create with software.*
Once your address is on a spammers list it will get sold multiple times to other spammers.
* some spammers have software that combines common names, initials and email domain names to create huge lists of random and un-tested email addresses. As sending spam costs little or nothing they don't care if a large percentage of the addresses are not valid.
What to do?
You can stop getting spam by changing your email address.
This is easier than it sounds. Create a new address with your
ISP, send an email to everyone in your address book, using the new
address, and telling people the new address. Leave the old
address working for another two weeks to make sure that everyone is
using the new address. Delete the old address from your ISP
(Internet Service Provider).
Your ISP may (and should) have a spam filter than you can turn on
for your email address. Note that no spam filter gets 100% of
the incoming spam.
You can get stand alone anti spam software. Most of this software uses your internet connection to compare your incoming email with a spam or known spamming domain list on a web site. If you have a slow Internet connection this software may slow down the process of receiving your email.
Q: Why should I backup my
data on my computer?
A: The hard drive that stores all your data, email, pictures, music, and personal information is your computers major moving part. It is also the one most likely to be corrupted or to fail completely. If you think it can't happen to you, it might motivate you to know that I see almost one failing (or failed) hard drive every week. ALL hard drives FAIL, eventually. What do you do when all the stuff on your computer goes away? You get used to it.
Q: What is the best and least expensive
way to backup my computer?
A: For complete protection, a USB hard drive with disk image software is most effective. A disk image is a snapshot of your hard drive at the time of the backup. If your hard drive fails completely a disk image backup can restore everything without making you re-install Windows and all the other programs on your computer.
Less expensive, but more work when your hard drive fails is a USB flash drive. These small devices plug into a USB port and appear on your computer as another hard drive. They come in sizes from 512mb up to 16gb or more. It is best to buy 2 that will hold all the data you have in your My Documents folder.
I suggest having 2 and alternating them, as you can never have too many copies of things you don't want to lose.
Note that your email is probably not stored in your My Documents folder, and won't be backed up by copying that folder to a USB drive. Each email program stores it's data in different locations. Contact me about backing up email.