I remember when I got my first computer back around 2000. It was a great machine when it first came out. It operated quickly, my programs ran quick, and it didn’t act up too much. All of that changed after about three months of using it. It started getting sluggish, programs would not run properly, and it would lock up quite a bit. I didn’t know what to do at the time. Afterwards I just bought a new computer. A few months after that I learned what was causing the original computer to act up. It was due to a lack of maintenance. I didn’t have any AV (anti-virus) or anti-malware programs on it. I also did not regularly run two built in Windows tools: chkdsk (check disk) and defrag. If I had used this set of tools then I may have been able to keep the older computer healthy. This post is about how to keep your computer virus and malware free. Also this post will show you what built in Windows tools will help with file system maintenance.
First let’s start with anti-virus programs. What exactly is an anti-virus program? These types of programs fall under an umbrella of programs called HIDS (Host based intrusion detection). Some may disagree with this assumption but I believe that AV does fall under this category since these types of programs monitor the internals of the computer system for unwanted software. Examples of AV programs are:
- Microsoft Security Essentials
- Norton Anti-Virus
- McAfee Anti-Virus
How do these programs work? After installation of the program it usually updates with files called signatures. These signatures are used by the program to pick up unwanted software that is on the computer. When the AV program scans the computer it will look for programs that match the signatures that the AV program has in its database. If there are any matches then the program will flag them and inform the user about what it has found. After that the program prompts the user about the unwanted software it found and gives the user options on what to do with the unwanted programs. Most AV programs have the same set of features: virus detection, real time protection, signature downloads, etc.
In my opinion there is nothing but pros when it comes to having AV software. No computer in use today should be without some form of AV software.
Here are some of the pros:
- Instant detection of viruses
- Deletion of viruses
- Quarantine of viruses
There are no cons to having an anti- virus program installed on your computer. Today with hacking being so widespread anti-virus is critical to the safety and security of computers.
I use Microsoft Security essentials. It’s a free anti-virus solution that is available from Microsoft.
Download website: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security-essentials-download
Another type of program that is extremely useful for computer security is anti-malware. These programs do essentially what anti-virus does. These programs are built to target malware. Make no mistake a virus is not a piece of malware. They are two different malicious programs. In my experience it’s best to have both an anti-virus and an anti-malware program installed on a computer at all times. Some examples of anti-malware programs are:
- Download website: https://www.malwarebytes.org/mwb-download/
- Microsoft malicious software removal tool
Features, pros, and cons for the anti-malware are pretty much the same as the features for the anti-virus software packages. These days never have a computer that does not have some form of anti-malware installed on it.
The next couple of tools that are useful are two built in windows utilities that assist with maintaining the file system and hard drive(s) of the computer. The first is chkdsk (check disk) and the second is disk defragment.
The first tool: chkdsk (pronounced check disk) is a Windows built in tool that checks the hard drive for errors in the file system. These errors can prevent the computer from functioning if they are not repaired. This tool will help in fixing these errors. This tool can be used in both the Windows GUI (graphical user interface) and the command line.
This is the second method for checking the disk drive, using the command line.
The second tool: disk defragment is a tool that is used to organize the contents of a hard drive. As the hard drive is used the contents of the drive become fragmented. As fragmentation occurs the performance of the computer slows down. This tool helps to mitigate that problem. This tool can also be used in the GUI and the command line. I will demonstrate both methods in the tutorial below.
Here’s the command line method of using defragment.
One of the most important things you can do with your computer is to keep Windows patched. What exactly is a patch? A patch is a piece of code that fixes a flaw in a program. When Microsoft finds a flaw in Windows they create a patch to fix the problem. Sometimes you will see a window pop up that says updates are ready to be installed on the computer. These are the patches that Microsoft comes out with to fix problems. These patches are usually released on the second Tuesday of every month. This Tuesday is called patch Tuesday. Always keep your computer patched with updates. There is a GUI window that will allow you to check for updates anytime you want. I’ll show this in the tutorial below.
The settings for Windows update can also be set to download important updates automatically.
The last thing is probably the most important task of all: backup your data. I remember on one of my older computers I lost all of my data because I didn’t back it up. Do not make this mistake. With all of the information that is on the average computer these days it is a real pain to have to start from scratch if data is lost.
I run my anti-virus, anti-malware, patch updates, and my data backup once a week. This has been good practice for me and I’m sure it will work well for you.
There is a real neat tool that helps with backups called free file sync. I use this tool to back up my data. I’ll cover this tool in the first post of a new blog post series called Rob’s tool box. Thanks for reading this post and if there are any questions or comments feel free to comment below.