Self-Help Documents
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User Basics

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Preventing Problems Yourself...

Routine Preventative Maintenance AND Protection from Invasion
of your computer will keep problems from developing, assuring peak performance, and will make your computer last longer.Here are some things you can do to keep your computer running healthy.

Purchase & Regularly Update a Popular Virus program.
Norton or McAfee Anti-Virus programs are two of the most popular. They are updated regularly and you can obtain the updates directly via the Internet. If you are connected to the Internet or use diskettes, CD-R's, Tapes, LS-120's, Zip's or applications borrowed from others, protecting your system from viruses should be a constant routine.

Connected to Internet with High Speed (DSL/CABLE)
Purchase a Popular Firewall program.

This is possible one of the greatest problems to date. With the vast amount of people now getting connected with high speed or dedicated connections to the Internet, the lack of protection to and from the computer system is severe. Popular programs include ZoneAlarm and BlackIce.

Spyware Protection
Have you ever encountered a Windows PC that says it is shutting down yet never seems to? Alot of the times this is caused bySpyware running in the background. Spyware is marketing software installed on your system unknowingly while surfing on the Internet or when you install a "free" program. The programs are intended to collect information about you and send it back to the originator. The best program out there for detecting Spyware is called Ad-Aware.

Keeping the area around your computer clean and dust-free.
Dust is an insulator, it causes chips & components to overheat. Computers have fans that draw air inside the case to cool the internal components of your computer. If the environment where your computer is dusty, especially near busy roads, then regular "blow outs" are recommended. Simply remove the system cover of your PC, then using an air compressor or canned air, gently blow out all areas of the chassis and cover. Be careful not to blow too hard, possibly knocking off connectors or jumpers and don't blow out CDROM's.

Avoid eating or drinking near your computer.
Spilled drinks are the number one cause of malfunctioning keyboards. Food crumbs may get into the mouse and cause excessive wear and tear of the rollers necessitating cleaning or replacement of the mouse.

Use a mouse pad
Use a mouse pad as a tracking surface to reduce the amount of dirt to your pointing device's roller.

Clean your mouse
Cleaning your mouse's rollers is a fairly simple task. Flip your mouse over, notice the plastic ring retainer, twist it in the direction indicated, remove the ball, notice the horizontal & vertical rollers. If you see any build up, clean with a toothpick, cotton swab & alcohol. When clean, replace the ball and cover, twist the cover back into place.

Clean the CD-ROM read heads
often, at least once a month depending on use. Due to the physical characteristics of high speed CD-ROM drives, they require more frequent cleaning than older drives. Use a can of air once a month, and a cleaning CD every few months.

Run Scandisk
For Windows 95/98 choose the "Start" button then "Programs" then "Accessories" then "System Tools" and then "Scandisk" which performs basic hard disk maintenance tasks. Sometimes running Scandisk alone can solve problems. Shut down all other applications before running Scandisk. Choose standard settings and automatic error repair as the default.

Run "Disk Defragmenter" occasionally after running Scandisk and cleaning up your drive.
Defrag rearranges file storage as files and empty spaces become scattered across the drive over time. Running Defrag regularly helps avoid lost files and clusters by putting files back together or making them contiguous on your hard drive. This can speed operating performance. You can choose this option by clicking on your "Start" button then "Programs" then "Accessories" then "System Tools" then "Disk Defragmenter." The defragmentation occurs faster if you don't choose the "Show Details" option. For Windows NT you need to purchase third party software to perform disk defragmentation.

Make sure your power source is secure and stable.
Inexpensive surge protector devices are available built into power strips and socket adapters that are better than nothing and perhaps sufficient if your power appears to be both stable and dependable. More expensive and thorough line conditioning can be attained through use of a higher quality unit from name brand manufacturers such as Tripp-Lite or American Power Conversion which include protection from larger surges and other line noise and difficulties. If your power source subjects your appliances to brown outs or power outages then a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) may be in order. Lightning Storms or inadvertent power cable crossing with telephone lines can bring a powerful and highly damaging power surge into your computer via the phone line. For this reason, it is recommended that you purchase a Surge Protector or UPS with Telephone Protection.

Back up your data files.
Ideally (and especially for computer systems used for business) two sets of back ups are kept, one on site and one off site. How often these archives are created depends on the frequency of use. CD-RW drives have become quite popular as back-up devices. The old standard of a Tape Backup is still used for large amounts of information.

THREATS to your PC...Expanded Threats

Expanded threats exist outside of commonly known definitions of viruses, worms, and Trojan horses that may provide unauthorized access, threats to system or data security, and other types of threats or nuisances. Expanded threats may be unknowingly downloaded from Web sites, email messages, or instant messengers. They can also be installed as a by-product of accepting the End User License Agreement from another software program related to or linked in some way to the expanded threat.

Adware: Programs that secretly gather personal information through the Internet and relay it back to another computer, generally for advertising purposes. This is often accomplished by tracking information related to Internet browser usage or habits.

Adware can be downloaded from Web sites (typically in shareware or freeware), email messages, and instant messengers. A user may unknowingly trigger adware by accepting an End User License Agreement from a software program linked to the adware.

Dialers: Programs that use a system, without your permission or knowledge, to dial out through the Internet to a 900 number or FTP site, typically to accrue charges.

Hack Tools: Tools used by a hacker to gain unauthorized access to your computer. One example of a hack tool is a keystroke logger -- a program that tracks and records individual keystrokes and can send this information back to the hacker.

Joke Programs: Programs that change or interrupt the normal behavior of your computer, creating a general distraction or nuisance.

Remote Access: Programs that allow another computer to gain information or to attack or alter your computer, usually over the Internet. Remote access programs detected in virus scans may be recognizable commercial software, which are brought to the user’s attention during the scan.

Security Risks: Threats which do not conform to the strict definitions of Viruses, Trojan horses, Worms, or other expanded threat categories, but which may present a threat to your computer and its data.

Spyware: Stand-alone programs that can secretly monitor system activity. These may detect passwords or other confidential information and transmit them to another computer.

Spyware can be downloaded from Web sites (typically in shareware or freeware), email messages, and instant messengers. A user may unknowingly trigger spyware by accepting an End User License Agreement from a software program linked to the spyware.

Viruses, Worms and Trojan Horses: A virus is a program or code that replicates; that is, infects another program, boot sector, partition sector, or document that supports macros, by inserting itself or attaching itself to that medium. Most viruses only replicate, though, many do a large amount of damage as well.

A worm is a program that makes copies of itself; for example, from one disk drive to another, or by copying itself using email or another transport mechanism. The worm may do damage and compromise the security of the computer. It may arrive in the form of a joke program or software of some sort.

A Trojan Horse is a program that neither replicates nor copies itself, but causes damage or compromises the security of the computer. Typically, an individual emails a Trojan Horse to you-it does not email itself-and it may arrive in the form of a joke program or software of some sort.

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