HOW TO keep you computer clean and running smoothly

(updated 10/13/2009)

By this point you should have an idea of how many "holes" are in your computer system, how prevalent the problem is, how persistent hackers are to get your information and how to stay aware of your surroundings online....

So you are ready to take the next step: cleaning up your PC. You do not need to be technically savvy to do some of the basic steps (like service packs and fixes), but never hesitate to ask for help from a professional -- because it is not worth losing your identity over.

This is a checklist of safety tools everyone should have on their PC. The specific brands mentioned here are from firsthand experience -- there are many brands out there, and I would like to hear any comments about other products.
  1. Service Packs and Fixes: seal any cracks in the foundation

  2. Backup Utilities: your contingency plan

  3. "All-in-one" Security Centers: because you do not want to be bothered installing/maintaining many different programs

  4. Parental Controls: because you can't trust who talks to your kids

  5. System Configuration: ensure everything is setup and working within safe measures

  6. Online Virus Scanners: get a quick estimate of the problem

  7. Rootkit Detectors: who is controlling my computer

  8. Virus Scanning Software: call the exterminator

  9. Personal Firewalls: put a lock on that door

  10. Spyware Scanners: pull the shades down on your windows

  11. Browser Safety: see who's knocking at your door

  12. Spam/Phishing Blockers: don't talk to strangers

  13. For the Techies: whiz-bang stuff