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PC Health Issues
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Pod Team
Pod Team

Joined: 11 Oct 2002
Posts: 449
Location: Moonpod Central

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2004 8:14 am    Post subject: PC Health Issues Reply with quote

Goober's handy hints for a healthy computer.

I thought it might be helpful for some people if I made a list of things that can be done to keep computers happy and healthy. We've seen some support issues where the solution has been to install the latest graphics card drivers and such, so this might be a useful list of things to do in case Starscape (or any application) doesn't work on a PC. I'm a PC+Windows user, so this will be totally PC-centric, although I would assume that some of the concepts translate to OSX/Linux.

I won't be providing detailed instructions on how to do any of these things. There are too many different versions of MS Windows to cover all adequately and, to be honest, I don't want the blame if you screw something up and end up with a large beige paperweight where there once was a computer. If you don't know how to do anything here then bug your friend that does. You know the one. The friend that you always bug to fix your PC. He/She will know what to do.

1. Install a firewall (or enable the built in one if you have WinXP). In case you don't know, a firewall is an application (not really, but that description will do) that hooks into the network layer and decides whether or not to let any particular piece of network traffic through. Whether your computer can be exploited this way is dependant on a number of things, but, fundamentally, if someone in the outside world doesn't need access to your computer via certain ports, then don't let them.

2. Enable your firewall. Far too many people install a firewall, then just open all the ports to everything because it's a minor hassle configuring it. Don't do this, it's just plain dumb.

3. Install antivirus software. I loathe to use the phrase "no-brainer", but really you should install some sort of antivirus software. Hopefully with some of the other hints here I'll help to minimize your exposure to viruses, but you can't be too careful. A good one will scan your incoming and outgoing emails too which, as we're all too aware in these days of script kiddies, is definitely a good thing.

4. Use your anti-virus software. As with the firewall, it's no good installing antivirus software, then leaving it disabled, or switching features off. "It takes too long to scan emails with attachments", yeah but it takes even longer reinstalling Windows from scratch when a virus hoses everything.

5. Run an adware/spyware removal application occasionally. Adware and spyware suck. Not only are they an invasion of privacy, a lot of the time they are so badly written they'll cause no end of problems. Adaware 6 is a good adware/spyware removal tool, and you can download the personal version for free (see any large download site, like www.download.com or www.tucows.com for more information).

6. Beware of what you're installing from websites. Sometimes when you go to a website a box will popup asking something along the lines of "Do you want to install X from company Y?". I would recommend most of the time just clicking "no". The only things I would ever install in that manner are the Windows Update ActiveX control, or the Macromedia Flash player. I can't think of any other good reason for a website to want to install something on your computer. Obviously there are exceptions, but you'll just have to use your judgement on those. Rule of thumb there is, if you went to a website and it told you that it was going to install something so you can see extra content (like a 3d viewer embedded in your browser) then that's probably ok. If you go to a site and it doesn't tell you it's going to try to install something, then just tries anyway, then that's probably bad.

7. Turn off HTML emails if you use Outlook or Outlook Express. There's no need for HTML emails, ever. There are a couple of reasons for doing this. The first reason is simply that there's less chance of viruses/trojans/spyware being run if you read your emails in plain text. The second reason is related to spam. What some spammers do is send an HTML email out, and for each email they embed a link to an image on one of their servers somewhere. That image is actually tagged with some identifier which uniquely identifies each email they've sent out. When you open a spam mail with one of those images, if you read it as HTML, the mail viewer dutifully goes and fetches the embedded image. On the spammer's web server they see they just got a request for the image from email ?89fuhjrkashdjkyui2789. It means nothing to you, but to the spammer it means they've just discovered that your email address is a real and active address. You'd better get yourself ready for a lot more spam in the future.

8. Don't run email attachments unless you're sure they are ok. If your mother sent you an email with the subject "OMG! Anna Kournikova naked screensaver!" and an exe attached, then you wouldn't run it, right? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that your mother wouldn't send you something like that (unless she's particularly open minded). Likewise with other people you know. You can usually tell if someone you know has written any particular message, you'll know their writing style, particular words they do/don't use. If you don't recognise the style as being that person then do the right thing, don't run the exe, and send them an email asking if they sent you the attachment. If they reply in the negative then tell them they have some sort of virus and to see section (2) of this post Smile

9. Make sure you have all the latest updates and patches from Windows Update. It's a chore installing them, but it's worth it in the end. If you switched off the automatic update, then at least try to get into the habit of running it once a week or so. You'll be glad you did.

10. If you don't get graphics/sound card drivers through Windows Update then you should check your graphics/sound card vendors' website periodically for updates. Note: If you have a laptop then you should only get updates from the company that made your laptop.

That's enough from me for now. If anyone has any additional hints and tips then feel free to add them to the thread. Please don't ask specific questions on here, ask your PC guru friend, and please don't email us directly asking for technical support, we don't have time to help everyone in the world, sorry. (unless it's related to running Starscape, of course)

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2004 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I strongly recommend that you only get security programs at the official website, and not a major download site. Some people are corrupting the programs, adding warez and virii, and posting them on the internet. Some of them are put on major download sites, and that can cause alot of trouble for you, if you get one.

Here's a list of applications and websites you can use. If you don't have something that'll protect your computer, then get these for free. It's so much better than nothing. Smile

Zonealarm- It's a firewall. Firewalls block unsolicited internet connections, which almost always are viruses or warez. The free version lets you choose what programs have permission to use the internet. It blocks everything else, and can block outward connections.

AVG Virus Scanner- Scans your computer for viruses, and gets rid of them. Some of the newer viruses may still need a special download, to get rid of them.

Adaware- Scans for Illegal warez, and kills them. Warez can steal personal information, CD keys, and will slow down your computer. Get rid of that junk.

Spybot, Search and Destroy- It's an even better warez scanner. It'll scan your system, and kill all warez. A must have for everyone.

Windows Update- Run this at least once a month. This will seal some of the many leaks in windows, and leave you a little more secure. You have to run this in Internet Explorer.

Mozilla, or Firefox+Thunderbird- A great replacement for Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer has tons of holes in it's security. These programs do not. Get them, and you'll be much safer on the internet.

ShieldsUP! Free system probe- This website is devoted to system security. They offer a free system probe, so you can see just how secure your computer is on the internet. Try it out.

There's no reason to leave your computer naked when you surf the internet. So go to these websites, get the programs, and test it at ShieldsUP!
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Pod Team
Pod Team

Joined: 11 Oct 2002
Posts: 449
Location: Moonpod Central

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2004 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good list of stuff, cheers!
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Starscape Jedi
Starscape Jedi

Joined: 21 Dec 2003
Posts: 522

PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2004 3:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some additional tips:

1) Set up 2 webbrowsers (such as Mozilla and Firefox). Configure one of them as tightly as possible, and use it most of the time. Make the other one less secure, and use it for only very specific websites. For example:

- in your main browser, disable java, javascript, activeX, flash, etc. Set it to ask you about cookies, and then hit DENY unless you really want that cookie (there's usually an "allow or deny all from this website" option, too.)

- in your backup browser, allow java, javascript, etc. but ONLY visit sites that have those things and where you want to see the content those things give you. (I use my backup browser to view certain sports sites like sportsline.com that use a lot of scripts to display dynamic content.) Even so, set your browser to ask you about cookies, and deny as many as you can. If a cookie has "ad" or "adserver" in the server name, you should probably not allow it.

I started doing this about a month ago. It took me about a week to get the cookies all configured how I wanted them, but since then, I've run adaware about once a week, and haven't found anything. Just disallowing cookies has blocked most of the spyware...

2) Defrag your hard drive every so often.

3) Back up your important data to CD every so often, as well.

4) If your sister, mom, or somebody else with zero computer sk1llz uses your computer, set up a separate profile for them, and give it limited permissions. This will prevent them from destroying your system settings and doing other really bad things.
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