As you know everyone has a list of top computer tips, we are only going to focus on maintenance of a computer and how to protect your investment.

1. Tune your computer on a regular basis - What we mean by "on a regular basis" will vary with everyone based upon computer usage. If you use your computer for business or gaming, you may have to tune your computer quarterly or even monthly if you are transferring a lot of files to and from your computer. For the average user, it may be once or twice a year. You can use Windows Systems tools or Norton's System tools to tune up your computer. If you are not comfortable doing it yourself, contact us or a local computer service company to do it for you. In addition to tune up, you should do a complete maintenance check on your computer once a year. This will ensure the computer is working at its top performance. Contact us for more information on a computer checkup.

2. Virus protection - Virus protection is a must have for any computer system today. You do not realize the importance of having it until you get a virus or know someone who has had one. Most computers today come with an free trail copy of virus protection for six months. Most people believe it is still working and will protect them from viruses even though it has expired. This is true for already know viruses, but viruses are developed daily and you will be at risk of new viruses striking your computer. It is also important to download new virus signature updates from your virus protection provider. They have options to automatically update your virus protection at regular intervals to ensure it is not outdated; a good choice for most computer users.

3. Organize your data and programs - This is something most people do not do, and can make life so much easier in the event of a computer failure, when upgrading to a new computer, or when backing up data. Most applications and systems automatically setup default locations for storing data for their program. This may or may not be good for the user, since a lot of programs put the information in a sub-directory where the program is stored on the computer. This makes the task of backing up data time consuming and difficult. Like most companies, I have create two directories for this purpose. They are simply called "data" and "apps". I store all my data under the data directory by the type of document (e.g. Word, Excel, Quicken, etc.) to easily find and backup the information. Find what works for you and stay with it, you will be glad you did.

4. Backups of your data - This should be easier to do if you followed Tip 3. Backups are a must for all computer users. Most people not only store their email and word documents on computers, but financial information too. We trust our computer to never go down, but it is a machine and over time will fail. If you do not backup your data, you can spend hours, days or even months trying to reconstruct and gather all the information. Since you own all your programs, the only information you really need to backup is your data. Don't forget your email!.

5. Firewalls - If you have an "always on" connection to the internet or you are on for long periods of time, a firewall is an inexpensive way to safeguard your computer. There are both software and hardware versions of firewalls. For most computers connected to an "always on" internet connection (e.g. cable modem, DSL, Wireless, etc.) it is recommended to get a hardware firewall. This can protect all the computers in a business or homes from hackers. The price has really dropped over the last year and will cost about the same as two copies of the software version. The other advantage to the hardware firewall is that the program is run on the firewall, verses your computer, which can impact the performance of your system. For most dialup internet connections, a software version will work just fine, especially, if you have a laptop computer and travel a lot and require access to the internet while you are on the road.

6. Update your computer software - Updating your computer software is just as important as tuning up your system. There are regular updates for security patches for operating systems, email, internet browsers, music programs, etc. Companies continue to update their programs in an effort to minimize the risk of computers on the internet and improve the functionality of the programs. Some of the updates include software drives to improve the system performance of your computer.

7. Do not open e-mail attachments from people you don't know - Opening attachments to email is the number one way to get a virus on your computer. This can really ruin your day and potentially cost you a lot of time and money to fix your computer.

8. Web freebies (Spyware) - They look harmless, but can be gathering information about your web-surfing behavior and view your entire hard drive. Most of them look innocent enough by providing useful services such as password saving, music downloads, news, etc. What they are doing is tracking your personal information and selling it to marketing companies or subjecting you to pop-up advertisements. Since you have downloaded the program, the program has full access to your computer and is capable of severely damaging your computer or stealing information from you. Be careful on what you download. Some known Spyware includes Gator, BonziBuddy, AudioGalazy, KaZaa, BearShare, and GoHip.

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