28 January, 2018 by Gary Cox
It goes without saying we all need to have current Microsoft Windows updates and virus protection running on our systems. But what else do we need to do to keep our computers running at optimal performance levels, while maintaining security and protecting our valuable data? Below are several things you should be doing that could ultimately save your computing butt.
Create a Disk Image
What is a disk image and why do you need one? A disk image is a compressed copy of your current hard drive that you can quickly and easily restore. Unlike tricky recovery disks that always seem to fail, disk images are pretty reliable. Ideally, you would create a disk image from a freshly setup computer – one with all of the Microsoft Updates, all applications installed, all tweaks made. You would then create this pristine copy on an External Hard Drive using free or licenced disk image software. You can also create a clone of the drive using the same software. A clone is a sector by sector duplicate of your existing drive that can be stored on a separate hard drive and swapped in if the current drive ever fails.
Embrace Cloud Computing
You hear about cloud computing all of the time, but like real clouds the topic can be as confusing as those floating in the skies above us. The “cloud” is represented as such on network diagrams. You have an internal LAN network, for example, that leads out from your computer, either through a bridge or switch and exits from your router (These devices are commonly combined into one device) – into a cloud-shaped icon we also refer to as the Internet. Cloud servers reside on the Internet and are provided by companies such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google. These servers allow you to sync data from one device to another, or simply store data offsite.
So how does this help you?
You can use programs like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox to backup important data in case your home computer ever fails. The best part is, these services are completely free however you will have to purchase extra storage space if required.
Create a Power Scheme
Most new computers are already setup with some type of power scheme. A power scheme allows you to automatically power down devices when not using them for a certain period of time. For instance, you can have your hard drive power down after twenty minutes of non-use and your monitor or laptop display will shut down after ten minutes. The benefit? The less your hard drive works, the longer it is likely to last. Same goes with your monitor. In addition to saving money, you’ll prolong the life of your computer’s most valuable components. Play with the setting to see what works best for your computing needs.
Protect Your Wi-Fi
It’s hard to find a router that does not come out of the box with some type of encryption automatically running. But drive down any street in your neighbourhood with a smartphone with Wi-Fi enabled and you’ll likely find a dozen unprotected networks in your area. Does this mean these people are going to be hacked? Most likely not. It could, however, mean neighbours are probably both intentionally or unintentionally connecting to and using these Internet connections. Never mind the impact this is having on your download speeds as your neighbour streams Netflix over your connection. Imagine the consequences if these neighbours are also pirating movies and music and the IP address tracked by prosecutors leads directly to your house, not theirs.
To change your wireless encryption setting you will need to login to your router. In most cases you will do this by typing in either http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1 into your web browser’s address bar. Type in your router’s admin username and password and then proceed to the wireless section. You might see options for WEP, WPA and WPA-2. Select the latter. Enter a passphrase, save it and your router will restart. Going forward, whenever you want to connect to your local router, you will need to enter that passphrase when prompted.
If you are unsure how to access your router and have a router supplied by your ISP, it’s best to contact them for assistance.
Perform General Computer Maintenance
A monthly Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter are essential for keeping your bits in order. While performing general maintenance is important, performing a defrag too frequently will cause unnecessary stress on the hard drive that could result in failure. You’ll want to adjust that monthly schedule based on how you use your computer. Are you constantly creating and deleting large files? Are you constantly installing and uninstalling programs? Or do you mostly surf the web and check email? If you do the latter, you can decrease the disk Cleanup and defrag to a quarterly schedule.
Note: You will not need to defrag a solid state hard drive (SSD), but routine Disk Cleanup is still recommended.
Ready to get back up to speed with GCComp Computer Repair & Maintenance services? Give us a call on 072-898-0362
Use a VPN when on the go
Virtual Private Networks are not just for major companies. Users that find themselves sitting in restaurants, coffee shops or hotels a lot should consider a VPN service to shield their personal data from prying eyes. So what is a VPN, exactly? Think of a VPN as a secure tunnel between your home computer and your laptop while you’re on the road. While sitting at that coffee shop, you login to your home computer and work directly from that connection, not the “free” connection provided by the coffee shop. Because this is a secure connection, “hackers” sitting around you will not be able to capture username, passwords and other important data a packet-sniffing tool could easily see.
Create Standard User Accounts
It is recommended to create a standard user account in Windows, rather than continuously run as an administrator. When working as administrator, programs have virtually unrestricted rights to your system. Under a standard account, programs – such as viruses – do not have free reign to change security settings and alter system files.
To run as standard user, do the following:
- Create a NEW admin account. Give it a username and password you will remember.
- Log out of your current account, and then log into the new admin account.
- Go into the User Account settings and change your old Administrator account to a Standard user.
- Log out of your admin account and then log into the Standard account. Your desktop, favourites and other files will still be there because this is the same user profile you had always been using. The only difference now is you no longer have admin rights.
Whenever you need to install a program or make a change to the system, simply log into the admin account you were originally using. When done with your admin tasks, log out and switch back to your standard account.
Document Your Computer Information
While it may not seem important, you should keep detailed records of your computer’s serial numbers, date of purchase and any important license keys for software you have purchased since buying your PC. If you ever need to have your system serviced, you can easily check your warranty information based on your records, or if your laptop is ever stolen (This is a regular occurrence in Kenya), you will have the information you need at your fingertips. But software license keys are also important. If you just paid a fortune for Photoshop suite, you will want to keep track of your licence keys.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when owning a computer. Some of these may seem like a lot of trouble, but once you set up that maintenance schedule, that power scheme and that WPA2 Wi-Fi password, you will not have to worry about it again. Take a few moments to assess your current needs and apply these tactics if you feel they will benefit you and your family or your business.
Call us on 072-898-0362 to answer your questions or to provide Computer and IT Support, we would be happy to hear from you. We at GCComp have the experience and technical knowledge to help you with your technology issues “We know technology so you don’t have to”.