Hints and Tips

Sometimes I write up some tips or hints. I've collected some here for your amusement.

Here are some hints

Scroll up for the full list of hints

Clean up your own PC

As many friends know, I clean up a lot of PCs. I usually charge very little if anything. However, after hearing of a friend who was charged $80 and left not much better than what she started, I decided to create this little tutorial. It works. It's free. Did I mention it's free? Of course, each of these programs has a paid version. If you use it and like it, it's good to buy it. Programmers need beer too.

The thing you do NOT want to do is go to one of those "CleanMyPC.com" sites. Here's a true fact. I got a new laptop. Right out of the box. Connected to my network and went to one of those sites. I let it scan my brand new computer. It found 8000+ problems! Malware! Virus Infections! Ad-Ware! What a mess. Then it offered to fix these horrible problems for a fee. True story. You can do it yourself and only fix REAL problems. And did I mention it's free?

This does NOT cover bad things that may already have happened. If you're infected with Ransomware (which prevents you from using your computer entirely and prompts you to pay to get your machine back), you're going to need more help. Likewise, if you fell for a fake anti-virus popup and installed something that keeps asking you to active their program, you're going to need a boot disk.

However, general cleaning up of your machine isn't hard. You need to look at three areas. Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware and general machine hardware/operating system tuneup. Most people understand the first two. The hardware/operating system part can get a bit confusing. Here's what I do in order.

Note that the sites in my screen captures have probably changed.
You should be able to find your software though.

Step 1. Be sure the machine's free of virus infections.

When a computer comes in, I hook it up to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. I do NOT connect it to my network. If there's a virus on it, I don't want my other machines infected. I quarantine it. If the computer has a working virus scanner (and you'd be amazed how many do not) with up to date virus signatures (see previous comment), I do a full scan. If, however, there is a problem with the virus software or it's missing, I download one, on another machine, to a flash drive. I use Avast free version for this. Of course, if you're tuning your own machine you're already on the network.

If you have a different virus program prefer it, that's perfectly fine with me. Just be sure you're up to date and scan everything. If you have McAfee or Norton that came with your machine 3 years ago, your license has probably expired. If you're not going to renew, uninstall them right now. You can't have two anti-virus programs at once. To uninstall it, go to Control Panel and choose Add/Remove programs.

As I said, Avast is free and very good. Here's how to get it. First, go to http://www.avast.com and get the free version. Sometimes it's hard to "find" the free version. They, obviously, want you to pay. When you click the big button to get the free version, you'll go to another screen.

When you install it, you may be asked to install other things such as toolbars. Watch your install screens for any checkbox that is checked. It's a good idea not to install extras right now. Once it's downloaded and installed, run it. Let it update itself and do a full scan.

Step 2. Getting rid of Malware

Malware is almost always software that you installed. Maybe it was a "free" game or a neat toolbar. Whatever it is, it's not doing you any good. This is the thing most people suffer from. While you're running around the web, these guys are watching you and reporting to big brother the pages you visit. For instance, if you're shopping for cookbooks, you may visit Amazon and look around. Soon, you're seeing ads for cookbooks everywhere you go.

Like Anti-Virus programs, there are a several I use. I think the most powerful is MalWareBytes. It's available at http://www.malwarebytes.com/. Go to the Download link and then choose the free version

Install it, let it update then run a full scan. It'll take a few minutes. Get a coffee. When it finds problems (and it will), just follow your prompts to get rid of the bad stuff. That's it. Now remember to run this once a month. If you have kids using your computer, once a week.

Step 3. Under the Hood

As you use your computer, like driving your car, you need some attention once in awhile. Your disk drive gets fragmented (files are broken up to store them - ineffecient), your registry (Windows config files) gets corrupted and your Temp file area gets loaded. There's a great tool for that. It's called Advanced System Care and it's found at http://www.iobit.com/download.html. This one hides the free version very well.

Install it and run it. This program is powerful. Here's what it looks like.

Ignore the big friendly Activate button. That's to activate the Pro Version. If you like it, you should buy Pro.
As soon as you get it installed, check all the things you can (some are for Pro version) and click Scan. That's what you should do every week or so. That'll be like an afternoon at the dealer for your car.

And Finally

Use these tools. Regular use of all of these programs and a bit of common sense will help keep your silicon friend very happy.