Top Tips

Here's the condensed wisdom of twenty years of work in IT!  If nothing else, backup , install system updates  and Keep your Anti Virus up to dateWhy is this so important? Simple. Most software tricks and improvements to your setup can be learned or implemented at a later date. However, if you data is lost or your identity stolen, it may be impossible to undo the damage.

Tip # 1. Backup backup backup!

Your work is precious.Computers break down (trust me, I've seen this too many times!), and when they do, it may be difficult or impossible to retrieve your data from them. Indeed, computers can also be stolen or suffer damage from water, fire or knocks.

At a bare minimum, make sure you have a copy of your important documents in a different location such as another room, or preferably, off site (if you have very few important documents, you can even email them to yourself!).

Secondly, there's the rest of your data. Your photos, music, old email, bookmarks or favourites... Would you be willing to lose them? Backup of all your data could be a simple matter of copying it to a USB drive, or may require a backup program. Such software need not cost any money, and is very easy to use once you set it up. You can find reviews of some free backup software here and here.

Mac users rejoice! If you have a recent system then there's the excellent 'Time Machine' backup software built right into the operating system - just make use of it.

Finally, your computer's system itself should be backed up so it can be recovered when the time comes. Most modern Computers come with 'recovery discs' or the means to create them (e.g. 'eRecovery' on Acer and Packard Bell PCs). If not, get yourself  a 'disc imaging package', as this sort of software is known, and create your own backup. Some disc imaging products, both free or paid for, are reviewed here.

Whatever you do, don't leave it until it's too late!

Tip # 2: Install system updates!

Both Microsoft and Apple regularly provide updates to their systems (Miscrosoft does so on the second Tuesday of each month). These updates address a range of issues, from plugging 'security holes' in the system, through fixing software bugs to adding new features.

If your computer is connected to the internet, it is very important that you install all security updates. Ordinarily, you would only need to do this once a month. These fixes are there for a reason, and you should not wait to find out if you are going to be the next victim of a hacker or virus. The lesson is simple, install your updates when recommended to do so!

One word of caution though. Whenever you install new software, there's a chance the system will not start up again, either because of a bug in the new software, or because of existing damage to your system which will reach a critical level as a result of the installation. Before updating, back up your important documents or, if you can, the whole sytem.

Tip # 3: Keep your Anti Virus up to date!

I am still amazed by how many security programs which I come across are out of date. Thousands of new viruses appear on the internet every day, so leaving an antivirus package for more than a few days is akin to leaving your home with the front door open and an enticing pile of money in the hall.

It only takes a few minutes to update your secutiry package, and most programs will do this automatically for you. All you need is to open them occasionally to make sure they're working and your AV subscription is still valid.

If you're home user (as opposed a business user), there are several excellent AV packages which are completely free. The most well known among those are Panda Free Antivirus  AVG Free, AVIRA and Avast! Free Antivirus

For Apple Macs, there are also several excellent options including Sophos Antivirus for Mac from the highly-regarded British IT-security firm, Avira Antivirus and Comodo Antivirus. If you can't use the aforementioned programs, ClamXav is a worthy alternative, but not that it can only scans the disc upon demand and does not protect hte Mac in the background.

IMPORTANT NOTE: you must have exactly ONE anti-virus package on your computer. Having more than one can cause your system to slow down, or even 'lock up' completely.

If you are willing to put a bit more effort into security, you can also install and run anti-spyware programs, such as MalwareBytes Free version, Spybot Search and Destroy, Ad-Aware Free and SpywareBlaster (unlike anti-virus packages, as many of these as desired can be installed on the computer).