Tips for a Problem-Free Computing Experience
It is beneficial to be paranoid
The more of these suggestions you follow, the fewer problems you should have. They won't solve any existing problems you have, but if you follow them all you should be able to avoid most problems in the future.
Practices to AVOID
2: Do not have more than one active antivirus (AV) program on your PC. Two active AV programs may conflict with one another rendering you defenseless. Use Programs and Features in the Control Panel or Apps and Features in Win 8 or 10 PC Settings to uninstall extra programs you don't want, or need.
3: Do not use unsafe email practices. (Where do I start?)
Note: Since email attachments are the favorite way that hackers attempt to spread malware, especially Ransomware, you should pay careful attention here.
4: Do not open email attachments you haven't manually scanned with your virus scanner.
5: So, Do not open email attachments you were not expecting, no matter who they appear to be from. Be Safe! JUST DELETE THEM!!
6: Do not respond to spam email messages. Be wary about using using unsubscribe links (just mark message as junk) and never click directly on links in email messages. Again, just delete them!
7: Never visit questionable websites (ie porn, warez, hacking) However if you must download files from these sites use discretion, scan all downloads with your up-to-date antivirus program as soon as download is complete. If files are compressed, scan again after decompressing or extracting!
8: Do not poke unnecessary holes in your firewall by clicking 'Allow' every time some program requests access to the Internet. When it doubt over whether or not to allow some program, use Google to find out what it is and whether or not it needs access to the Internet. Otherwise, denying access is the safest course of action, since you can always change the rule later if something does not work as you expect.
9: Never download programs and files from questionable sites. Use Filehippo (safe) or search with Google or Yahoo to find out what others are saying about a site before downloading any software or files.
10: It's not a good idea to use file sharing or P2P programs. (Torrent sites are filled with malware.)
11: Do not use pirated programs. You have no idea what the creators have placed into these programs. There are too many free programs available to take such chances. See my Freeware page at http://www.greenthumbnsy.com/freeware.htm
12: Never connect to unknown devices. Don't plug strange USB flash drives into your PC.
13: Never use Registry cleaners or optimizers unless you know EXACTLY what you are doing. No matter what anyone says you cannot magically gain great speed increases from using these programs. Leave the Windows Registry alone until you gain more knowledge about how it works. You can easily render your PC unusable by poking into the Registry.
14: Do not use the same password and/or username for every internet site you login to. If a hacker were to gain access to your username and password for one site then he (or she) would be able to login to any site you use and possibly create enormous problems for you.
15: Don't click on any bogus popup ads - especially if the ad says your PC is infected with a virus. Close the window or turn off the browser. Use Alt+F4 or the Task Manager to close the program if necessary. It's better to take the time to restart your PC than to take a chance of getting PC malware. At best you'll need to spend your valuable time researching and dealing with the problems or at worst you may need to replace your operating system, potentially losing files and installed programs.
16: Never provide any passwords or personal information in response to any message, email or a phone call, informing you that your account(s) were hacked or compromised. Deleting all such emails or ending the phone call is an appropriate response.
Windows XP is obsolete!
Things you SHOULD do
1: Topping the list of the things you should do is to create recovery media (DVDs or USB Flash Drive) for your new Windows 8 or Windows 10 computer. PC manufacturers typically no longer include recovery disks with new PCs.
2: Either disable all extensions (browser helper programs) in Internet Explorer or use a non-IE web browser. Mozilla's Firefox and Google Chrome are much better alternatives. Even the aggravation called Windows Edge in Windows 10 is more secure than Internet Explorer.
3: Always have an up-to-date antivirus program running. There is no reason not to have one since it is not necessary to pay for a good antivirus program. Good ones are available from Filehippo. (See my file Freeware to identify and locate them.)
4: Always have a firewall running. Windows firewall should always be on unless you have a router or gateway that includes a firewall. Note: Running two firewalls may slow your connection speed.
5: Always use Windows Update to download and install all the latest Windows updates, including all security updates, from Microsoft. Service packs should ALWAYS be installed. They frequently contain security updates that will ONLY be found in that service pack.
6: Always delete all unsolicited emails containing attachments without reading. Curiosity killed the cat. (I know, I mentioned some of these things earlier. But people can't hear it enough. It's important.)
7: It is a good idea to manually scan all email attachments with your antivirus program, regardless of whether it's supposed to be done automatically.
8: Always copy and paste URLs from email messages into your web browser. Don't simply click on them! If they don't look right turn off your browser rather than going to a potentially dangerous site.
9: Always inspect links copied and pasted into your web browser to ensure they don't seem to contain a second/different address.
10: Always backup your data files. In Windows 7 and Windows 8 you can create a system image that backs up your entire drive if you have a large enough backup disk. It's a good idea, especially if your hard drive contains irreplaceable or valuable data. At least get a USB Flash drive or use a free service like Microsoft Onedrive to backup your personal data.
11: Always download programs and files from reputable sources only. Filehippo, and others like it scan all their files and programs for viruses and malware before offering them for download. See my Freeware page to find good free software.
12: Watch the installer when installing new software - especially freeware. At times these installers will attempt to install software you neither want nor expect. Decline all extra software installs.
13: Keep your software updated.
A note concerning Adobe Reader and Java.
If you want to speed up your PC disable unnecessary startup programs and/or install more Random Access Memory (RAM). (RAM is not that expensive now.) See Is your PC running Sloowly Now? for help.
Other things you should avoid.
2: Do not use stationary or any other kind of special formatting in emails.
3: Do not TYPE IN ALL CAPS.
4: Avoid texting speak in forums.
5: Do not poke sleeping bears.
6: Avoid using online registry or PC check sites.
7: Another last warning about Windows Registry.
If you should get a computer virus or malware on your computer use another PC to access internet help forums - such as Bleeping Computer - for advice on how to get rid of it. Quite frequently the advice you will receive will require that you have more than a passing knowledge about computers. So if you would rather have a technician solve your problem for you, be sure of the charges before leaving your PC with him.
Disabling Startup Programs
It is possible for a user to run the system configuration utility program (MSconfig.exe) to disable some of these unnecessary or unwanted startup programs. However the best way to rid yourself of troublesome startup items is to change the settings of these programs or as a last option, uninstall the programs that put them there in the first place.
If you prefer to use a third-party utility then download a program called Ccleaner from Filehippo.com. Ccleaner is for beginning to moderate users
The Ccleaner program also does a very acceptable job of cleaning the trash files from your PC. However, it does have a registry cleaning feature that I do not recommend using unless you have more than a passing knowledge of how the Windows Registry works.
AutoRuns for Windows is also recommended. (download it from Microsoft Technet). Autoruns is for advanced users. Be careful with this program!
To learn how to safely disable unneeded startup programs see my page Is your PC running Sloowly Now.
The benefits of being paranoid
Note: This file of tips and suggestions was not originally compiled by me. The original file was downloaded from a PC help forum and I altered and updated it significantly before presenting it to others, but I do not claim original authorship. Be that as it may, it is good advice and I thank the unremembered and unknown person or persons who first came up with the idea on that forgotten forum.