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WINXP DOs & DON'Ts
  • Don't be afraid to reinstall Windows! It's not hard, especially if you install onto a blank hard drive instead of wiping your existing drive.

  • Do install your F6 SATA drivers instead of the ones built into Windows.  You won't be able to take advantage of advanced features without them.

  • Do use a slipstreamed Windows XP install disc with the latest Service Pack built in.

  • Do collect drivers for all of your software and burn them to CD or DVD before you format your hard drive.

  • Do disconnect your old hard drive before you install Windows.  You don't want to accidentally erase all your files!

  • Don't  copy data or files from your old hard drive until your new machine is protected.

  • Don't waste a bunch of time trying to repair a hopelessly infected Windows install.  It can take more time to clean off the infected files than to back up your data and reinstall Windows.

  • Don't connect your computer to the Internet until you have a firewall installed and configured.

  • Do run a weekly antivirus and anti-spyware scans.  This cannot be emphasized enough.

  • Don't forget the firewall.  A firewall will protect even an unpatched system in the event a new, undocumented work attacks.

  • Do set your antivirus software to scan every new downloaded and every e-mail attachment.

  • Don't assume your virus and spyware definitions are up to date.  Check them frequently to make sure everything is in order.

  • Do run several anti-spyware apps regularly.

  • Don't freak out if your firewalls warns you your computer is being probed.  Every computer on the Internet is regularly scanned by malicious programs.

  • Do ensure your firewall is working properly and your virus definitions are yup to date before you connect your laptop to a foreign network.  Public Wi-Fi networks are the Thai brothels of the PC world.

  • Don't hide file extensions in Windows.  Tricky viruses hide their real extensions behind innocuous extensions.  For example, the file dirtyvirus.jpg.exe will look like dirtyvirus.jpg in many e-mail programs.  Show file extensions by going to the Folder Options control panel, clicking the View Tab, and ensuring that "Hide extensions for known file types" is unchecked.

  • Do keep your software (including Windows) patched and up to date.

  • Do use safer programs like Firefox and Thunderbird instead of internet Explorer and Outlook Express.  Because these alternative, open-source programs are less popular and don't support inherently unsecure ActiveX Controls, they're loess venerable to attack.

  • Don't leave ActiveX enabled for all web sites.  Disable it by going to the Security tab of the Internet control panel, clicking Internet, then Custom Level, and selecting Disable for every object in the Active X section.

  • Do enable ActiveX only for the Windows Update site so you can download Windows updates.  Go back to the Security tab of the Internet control panel, select Trusted Sites, then click Sites and add http://*.microsoft.com.

  • Don't install apps from web sites you don't trust.  Most spyware piggyback on tiny downloads pretending to be utilities or applets necessary to view certain web sites.

  • Don't click on e-mail attachments from strangers, or download software from pop-up ads. That free kitten screensaver or cursor collection might be tempting, but you're sure to catch web cooties if you take the bait.

  • Do stay away from peer-to-peer apps!  Apps like Kazza are chock-full of spyware!  Free music isn't worth the price to pay in blood.

  • Don't compress the contents of you hard drive to save space.  Compression slows down you while machine.  Just buy a new drive.

  • Don't download, install, and uninstall random apps and screensavers from the Internet.  They're common vectors for web cooties.

  • Don't install Windows SP over a precious installation.  Always format your hard drive and install Windows from scratch for optimal long-term stability.

  • Don't install more than one antivirus utility and firewall.  These programs need low-level access to the operating system it can cause major problems for Windows if multiple apps are competing for resources.

  • Do block firewall access to programs you're unfamiliar with.

  • Do create Windows XP restore points before installing drivers, service packs, or other system-altering software.

  • Do be wary of "system optimization" software that doesn't tell you exactly what it's going to do! These apps usually deliver nothing more than snake oil.

  • Do clean the fans inside your PC case regularly in order to keep them running at maximum efficiency.

  • Do defragment your hard drive peroidically to ensure maximum transfer rates.

  • Do run "msconfig" occasionally and trim your PC's startup programs to just the essentials.

Maintenance Schedule

Following a strict regimen of antivirus scans and spyware sweeps will protect your PC from malware.  The good news is you can probably configure your apps to do the legwork automatically

1.  Download antivirus definitions - daily
2.  Download anti-spyware definitions - weekly
3.  Perform a full antivirus scan - weekly
4.  Perform a full anti-spyware scan - weekly
5.  Check firewall software for updates - monthly
6.  Defrag your hard drives - monthly
7.  Check for Windows updates - twice a month

 

IT ONLY TAKES 4 MINUTES

This may be hard to believe, but testing has shown it takes only four minutes for a clean install of Windows XP exposed to the internet to be infected by self-propagating worms!  That's why you shouldn't connect your PC to the net without a firewall!

 

6 SIGNS YOUR MACHINE IS INFECTED

1.  You're deluged with pop-up ads.
2.  Your web browser defaults to a page you never requested, as if possessed by a demon.
3.  Media files open in strange applications.
4.  Your machine takes a long time to do anything - boot, open apps, shut down, etc.
5.  You suffer frequent, unexplainable slowdown.
6.  Your computer just starts acting plain whacked!

 

MALWARE DEFINED

Malware is a catch-all term for any type of unwanted software that wages mischeif on your computer.  Here are some definitions of specific malware types.

Virus:  A small program that causes damage to a computer.  Viruses usally require user action to spread and are transmitted through e-mail attachments disguised as "frendly" programs.

Worm: A type of program that spreads across networks automatically.  Unlike a garden-variety virus, a worm doesn't depend on the user for propagation.

Spyware: A program that gathers your personal sata (web-surfing habits, e-mail addresses, even passwords and credit card numbers), and then transmits the data to some evil home base.

Adware:  A program that displays web advertisements, often in annoying popup windows that are seemingly impossible to close.