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Free Ways to Tackle Threats to Your Computer

Protect Your PC

Having problems with your pc? Do your kids, family or friends fill it with all the stuff they find on the internet?

Your computer, just like your car, needs to be serviced regularly to keep it running efficiently. You wouldn't fill your car up with petrol from an old rusty can with a layer of dirty water on the bottom, so you shouldn't allow your pc to be treated that way either.

Any pc connected to the internet is a target for viruses, spyware, adware and trojan horses.

You need to protect and clean your pc of these nasties which slow down your costly computer. We will show you how to do at little or no cost in this free report.

Before we start here is our disclaimer:- we take no responsibility for any harm YOU may do to your computer with this information. Use it at your own risk and be sure you are confident of what you are doing before you start. It's a good idea to make a restore point before installing/uninstalling or changing anything (see below for details)

Firstly Viruses, these are the most newsworthy of the baddies, and because of this most people have heard of them. They are the pc version of the Flu, or in a worse case scenario, Sars, and can kill your computer. There are new viruses released almost daily, and you need to keep up to date with Antivirus software to stop them. Fortunately there is a free program which can help you protect your pc. This is called AVG and is available at http://www.grisoft.com just follow links through the site to AVG Free Edition. Register your email address, download and install it to your pc.

The program is pretty straightforward to use but make sure you keep it updated at least weekly by double clicking the AVG icon (four coloured square) in the taskbar and then clicking on update in the window, tick internet as the source and you are good to go. It will automatically update and restart the main Antivirus program. Remember prevention is better than cure though and don't open attachments in emails or even sent to you over instant messengers unless you are sure of the person sending them, even then if you have AVG installed right click the file and use the "scan with AVG" menu item to double check.

Trojan Horses come next on our hitlist, mostly these are small programs which record either keystrokes or other information and try to send it back to someone to steal your details. But they can be used to take over your pc completely or partially to use your resources to send spam emails, or launch attacks on other computers on the internet, often for denail of service (DOS) attacks. Most Trojan Horses are removed by the AVG antivirus software, or if not it will alert you to its presence, and you can google http://www.google.com to find how to remove it.

A good prevention measure to stop Trojans accessing the net to send their payload is to use a software firewall, again there is at least one free program you can download, called zonealarm. It will ask you wether to allow programs to access the internet or not, meaning if you get something you know you didn't install accessing the net you can tell zonealarm not to allow it. To download zonealarm, go to http://www.zonelabs.com and follow links to the download section, and then to zonealarm (they are not so prominent as the ones for the Pro version which you pay for). It is a good idea to run a firewall to stop attacks coming in from outside as well your details going out. Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed has a built in firewall, but zonealarm is much more configurable and does a better job overall.

Spyware and Adware can also be responsible for a lot of pc problems. These are often programs piggybacked onto a free download offered to help you with some other task like form filling on websites (Gator is a well known example but they are open about it). Spyware is used by less scrupulous companies and individuals to report back your surfing habits so they can send ads you're more likely to respond to. These slow down your surfing and also run in the background using your pc's power to do their dirty work. Sometimes the information sent back is even more sinister than just your browsing habits, so beware of software you download and check first. Adware is very similar although is usually contained in tracking cookies (small text files downloaded by your browser containing information to track you through a website).

Often these 2 terms are used interchangably. Another nasty which falls in with these is Scumware, which is a term used to describe software which hijacks another program (usually your browser or modem dialler) and displays only content which it's maker wants you to see and often prevents you seeing anything else. The diallers reset your modems settings to dial another (usually very expensive) number rather than your ISP's one. Thankfully some thoughtful individuals have kindly donated their time to give us free programs which will release you from the grip of these fiendish programmers.

Download firstly Adaware from http://www.lavasoft.de and install and run that (if it finds nothing on your pc I would be extremely surprised) secondly download Spybot Search and Destroy from http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html and install and run that too, it will pop up a dialog to say it has found adaware also on your machine, but it doesn't really mind so close it and continue. As with virus software you should use these and update them both regularly, as you can be sure the people on the darkside of the internet are updating their stuff to keep you hooked into it. Both programs have a button for downloading and installing updates automatically so there is no excuse not to do it before every scan, which we would recommend doing at least monthly and more frequently if possible.

So now you are protected from viruses, trojan horses, and other pc illnesses so that's it right?

Not quite, I have to say one of the most important things on your pc is your personal data, you can re-install Windows, Office and all the other programs on your computer from the cd's, but your prized pictures, your kids half written essay for that all important exam or your wifes recipes handed down from generation to generation carefully typed out and saved can't be. Back it up. NOW. Onto cd's if you have a cd writer or if not get one installed or use floppy discs. But for the sake of your sanity BACK IT UP.

And finally some tips to keep your pc running at its optimum.

Before making any changes to your pc or programs, it's a good idea to make a restore point by going to Start, then accessories on the start menu, then clicking System tools and finally the system restore icon. Follow the prompts and create a restore point to return to if it all goes wrong. Sometimes a slow pc is just the result of too many programs running, close down those you're not using, obvious but often overlooked. If you're anything like most pc users you have a bundle of programs start when your computer does, and sitting in the task tray at the right of the start menu. You can close these down manually but if you don't use them at all then why not remove them?

If you may want them but not everytime you start up you can go to start, then click RUN and in the text box type "msconfig" without the quotes. Don't worry now this looks daunting but all you need to do is click the tab at the right marked "Startup" and there is a list of all those programs which run as soon windows starts, now apply a little caution and lookup (http://www.google.com again comes to your aid) any you don't recognise. Now those you're sure you don't need running at startup untick the box.

Next time you start windows will put up a box to tell you you've disabled some things, as long as your pc works ok now, tick the box to not show it again. If you took of something you need or want back run msconfig again, and retick the box in the startup tab again, next time you restart it will return. My last tip is to run defrag monthly, go to start, accessories, system tools and run defrag, this can often speed up a slowing pc as it makes all the files on your hard drive quicker to access.

Douglas Titchmarsh runs several websites, and blogs including http://www.cashinonline.info

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