Tips for a Problem-Free Computing Experience
Sometimes it's 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 problems in the future.
If you are chiefly concerned about your privacy, including data theft, being tracked on the internet, or being monitored by your ISP you should consider using a Virtual Personal Network (VPN) while you surf the net.
QUICK LISTNEVER open questionable internet links
NEVER give out personal information to strangers
NEVER download software from questionable sites
NEVER open mysterious messages or emails, especially emails with attachments
NEVER jailbreak or root (remove manufacturer security from) your device!
ALWAYS keep your Windows & internet device software up to date
ALWAYS use unique passwords for all of the different sites you must login to.
ALWAYS use secure passwords (at least 8 digits in length, containing numbers, letters, and special characters)
PRACTICES TO AVOID
1: Never fail to keep your internet programs, your computer, and/or internet devices (Android & iOS) updated!
2: Never 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. Then restart your PC.
3: Do not use unsafe email practices. (Where do I start?)
Note: Since email and email attachments are the favorite way that hackers attempt to spread malware, especially Ransomware, you should pay careful attention here.
4: Never open emails from unknown or suspicious senders.
5: Never open email attachments you were not expecting, no matter who they appear to be from. Be Safe! JUST DELETE THEM!!
6: Never respond to obvious 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 (or Malwarebytes) as soon as download is complete. If files are compressed, scan again after decompressing or extracting!
8: Never 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: Never 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.
12.5: Also, never disconnect USB devices from your PC without using the Safely Remove Hardware feature in the notification section of the Windows toolbar. This ensures the drive has quit any activity so you can safely remove it without data loss or damage to the USB device itself.
(Note: As of Windows 10 version 1809 USB drives are optimized by default so you can remove them quickly without having to use the "Safely Remove Hardware" notification icon.) But, if you are running an earlier version of Windows you still should use the Safely Remove Hardware feature.
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: Never use the same login credentials 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 potentially create enormous problems for you.
15: Never click on 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 or shut down your PC if nothing else works (hold down the power button). 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 the most appropriate response.
17: Both Windows XP and Windows Vista are 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 10 computer. PC manufacturers typically no longer include recovery disks with new PCs.
2:Also, if you have a new Windows 10 PC you should download all current Windows Updates to make your new PC as secure as it can be. Go to PC Settings by clicking the gear icon in the Windows 10 start menu, then choose Update and Security and then click the Check for Updates button.
3: Either disable all extensions (browser helper programs) in Internet Explorer or stop using Internet Explorer (probably best). Mozilla's Firefox and Google Chrome are much safer and better alternative Internet Browsers. Even Microsoft Edge which now comes with Windows 10 is much more secure than the old Internet Explorer.
4: 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. (See the Security Programs section of my page Freeware to identify and locate them.)
5: 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.
6: Always use Windows Update to download and install all the latest Windows updates, including all security updates, from Microsoft. Don't be concerned with any Optional Updates unless you are positive you need them.
7: 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.)
8: Always use a different and secure password for each site where you must login. (use at least 8 digit passwords containing letters, numbers, and special characters)
9: 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.
10: Always inspect links copied and pasted into your web browser to ensure they don't seem to contain a second/different address.
11: Always backup your data files. In Windows 10 you can go to PC Settings, then Update and Security, then Backup to Backup using file history. (you'll likely need an external hardrive to use as a backup disk, but don't leave it connected to your PC all the time) It's a good idea, especially if your hard drive contains irreplaceable or valuable data. At least copy your files to a USB Flash drive and use a free file-syncing service like Microsoft Onedrive to create another copy of your personal data.
12: 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.
13: 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.
14: 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.) For help see Is your PC running Sloowly Now?.
OTHER THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID.
1: Never send attachments in emails unless they are requested.
2: Never use stationary or any other kind of special formatting in emails.
3: Never TYPE IN ALL CAPS.
4: Avoid texting speak in forums.
5: Never 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/her.
Disabling Startup Programs
It is possible for a user to run the Task Manager startup tab (right-click on the taskbar then choose Task Manager from the context menu) 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. (an excessive accumulation of trash files can slow your PC)
To learn how to safely disable unneeded startup programs see my page Is your PC running Sloowly Now.
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, updated, and refined 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.