I noticed while browsing the General forum that there are multiple threads by folks who state their pc is 'acting up' or has a virus. I'm writing this in the hopes my fellow blades will read it before they have pc problems and follow these fairly simple steps to a happy, healthy, computing experience. There is also some limited 'recovery' how-to info here if someone reads this after the damage is done. I know this is a long post. Explaining this stuff on the novice level requires wordy explanations. Maintaining your pc A pc is like a car in as much as you have to maintain it properly if you want it to run properly. If you do not maintain your pc, like a car, it will eventually stop running. So lets begin with basic maintenance. Since I have no way of knowing what OS you are running, for the purposes of this thread, let's assume you are running XP on a pc that is fast enough to handle today's software's. Defragmentation - You cannot properly maintain a pc without certain types of software being installed on it. One of the primary software's you will need to keep any pc running fast is a defragmentation software. A hard drive becomes fragmented over time as data is written to, deleted from, or moved on a hard drive. This is normal. When data is 'fragmented', it is written on the hard drive in various places, which means the hard drive has to search for the fragments before it can use them. This slows down the pc because it takes time for the hard drive to search for these fragments. Defragmentation software puts all the fragmented pieces of data back in the proper order on the hard drive, which reduces search time, and makes your pc respond to your commands faster. Most OS's have some sort of built in defrag software. But these built in software's are usually very basic. They generally attempt to defrag the entire hard drive, even the pieces of data that are not defragmented and don't need to be moved. If you have a big hard drive, or lots of data on your pc, this can mean it can take hours to defragment your hard drive. I use a defragmentation software called 'Diskeeper'. It has tons of features including the ability to defrag the hard drive continuously in the background, even while you are using the pc. This allows your pc to stay defragmented without you having to do anything, which is about as easy as it gets. Should you need to do a manual defragmentation, this software only moves fragmented bits of data, not every bit of data on the hard drive, which greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to complete the process. This is not a free software, but you will be glad you bought it if you do! Anti-Virus Software - Much like the real world, the cyber world is full of nasty little bugs! About 200 new virus', trojans, worms, etc. come out every month. So if you use your pc for 3 months without a legitimate up to date anti-virus software, that's 600 viruses you've potentially exposed your pc to! The only answer is to install a legitimate anti-virus software on your pc. Now there are some free one's out there that are okay, like AVG. But be aware, the free software's do not have the latest anti-virus definitions. An anti-virus 'definition' is a little piece of programming designed to detect/remove a specific virus, trojan, etc. If you do not update your anti-virus definitions regularly either manually or by setting your anti-virus software to look for updates automatically, then there are viruses you aren't protected against. My advice is to get a legitimate anti-virus software like MacAfee or Norton on your pc, and configure it to update automatically. This way you will always be fully protected with minimal interaction on your part. How often you should run a full anti-virus scan on your hard drive depends a lot on how often you go on the internet or receive e-mails, and what types of websites you visit. Even respectable websites can sometimes harbor viruses, trojans, worms, or spyware. But certain types of websites (like porno sites) are notorious for harboring viruses and spyware. So if you go to 'risky' sites often, you should run a full virus scan more often than someone who doesn't visit those kinds of websites. Sometimes you can get great virus software for free. Some ISP's (Internet Service Providers - The company you pay for internet access) offer free virus protection to their paying customers. I use a high speed internet connection through my cable TV provider. They offer MacAfee anti-virus software, with all the latest anti-virus definitions, for free! Check with your ISP and see if they offer this service before you go out and spend your hard earned money on expensive anti-virus software. If your ISP does not offer this service, and you can't afford to buy a good anti-virus software, then get something like AVG. Limited anti-virus protection is still better than no anti-virus protection. But be advised, if you rely on a free service to protect your pc, and you go to risky websites (like porno) you will eventually catch something! So if you are forced to rely on a free service, be cautious about the websites you visit and the e-mails you open! Spyware - Spyware are little programs that track what you do on your pc. This is dangerous to your privacy and possibly your finances! For example, a 'key logger' is a little spyware that records every keystroke you make on your pc, and sends that information to a server somewhere so someone can read it. Why is this bad? Well, let's say you have a key logger on your pc, and you use your pc to go on the internet and buy things with a credit card. When you type in your credit card numbers, the key logger is sending those numbers to a server somewhere, and believe me, there is someone reading all that information that's being sent to the server! So someone will get your credit card numbers, passwords, and all kinds of other stuff they will then use to steal your identity, ruin your credit, or empty your bank account! See how serious not protecting your pc can be? The solution is to have a software installed on your pc that can run a scan and detect/remove these spywares. Do not rely on your anti-virus software to do this! Viruses and spywares are two completely different things, and if you want to be protected, you need two completely different software's to do both jobs. The good news is there are some free anti-spyware software's out there that work great! The two best are Spybot and Ad-Aware. Spybot is completely free, and Ad-Aware has a free version that works well. I suggest installing both on your pc and doing manual spyware scans with both. I do this, and it seems like no matter which one I run first, the second one will catch at least one spyware the first one did not catch. Again, even legitimate websites can have spyware. So don't think you are safe just because you don't go to porno sites! Back Up Your Data! - As frustrating as this may sound, the reality is you are not 100% safe from getting a virus no matter how well you protect your pc. A virus, trojan, worm, etc. can corrupt your data so bad no anti-virus program in the world can repair your data! When I worked in the computer industry, I wish I had $10 for every time someone would bring me a pc full of critical data that was so corrupted by a virus that I, even with my computer skills, could not repair their data. Do not assume that no matter what happens to your data some pc guru can magically repair it, this is simply not true! The best pc guru is only as good as the hardware/software he has to work with. It is your responsibility to protect any critical data you have on your pc that you cannot afford to loose! The only way to be sure you have protected your data is to occasionally copy your critical data to an external source. This means once a week, either burn your data to a CD or DVD, or copy it over to an external hard drive or USB type data storage device. (If you do not have a CD or DVD burner installed on your pc, get one ASAP! Most CD/DVD burners come with a burner software when you buy them. If you have a CD/DVD burner, but don't have a software to make it work, try Nero, it isn't free, but is worth the money!) That way, if you do get a virus that eats up your hard drive, at least you have a good virus free copy of your critical data to restore from once you have eliminated the virus from your pc. Besides the threat of viruses, there is another very good reason to do this regularly; your hard drive will eventually die one day no matter how well you maintain your pc! No component of a pc is designed to last forever, and this includes hard drives! Should you come home one day and find that your hard drive died, if you backed up your data to removable medium a week ago, at least you only lost one weeks worth of critical data, not all of it! Always make sure you have good working copies (CD's or DVD's) of not only your data, but your OS and all other programs as well! If you don't, you are in for an expensive and frustrating experience (see below)! You have a virus, what now? - As I said, no matter how well you protect your pc, you may one day realize you have a virus. Many viruses are designed to corrupt your OS's system files. System files are the hart of your OS. These 'files' tell your pc what to do and how to do it. If a virus corrupts system files to the point that your legitimate and up to date anti-virus software cannot repair the files, the best thing to do is reformat your hard drive, re-install the OS, all your applications, and all of your data. If you've never had to do this before, be advised it is a time consuming pain in the ass! But if a virus corrupts your system files, you have no choice. "But wait Mr. Computer Dude, I don't know where the CD's with my OS and other programs are! I think I lost them!" Again, if I only had $10 for every time I heard this! Another critical part of protecting your pc is protecting your software programs! You paid a lot of money for your software programs, which you would not have done if you didn't need them. So does it make sense to loose track of these valuable CD's/DVD's you paid so much for? The best way to keep track of your data back up disks, and your programs, is to buy a CD/DVD storage container. A plastic CD/DVD rack will do. Mine looks kind of like a brief case with a shoulder strap, which is great because I can carry it with me if I have to go to someone's house and re-install everything. Keep your CD/DVD storage container in a safe place! Since all your critical data is in there, if you loose it or it gets ripped off, not only are you out a lot of money, but you have compromised your personal security since your critical data probably has things you don't want people to know, like passwords and personal info that could potentially be used to steal your identity! I did everything you said, but my pc got destroyed by a big power surge! - Even if you built it yourself, pc's cost a lot of money! Don't skimp on protecting your pc from power surges! Even a power surge that only makes your lights flicker could potentially damage your pc's components. You can get a surge protector for around $20+. A surge protector is rated by 'joules'. A joule is a measurement of electricity. The higher the surge protector's joule rating, the more of an electrical hit it can take without getting fried or passing electricity onto your pc and frying it. So you should buy a surge protector with the highest joule rating you can afford. An even better option is to buy a battery backup device, and connect your pc, monitor, and peripheral devices (printers, etc.) power cables to the battery back up, then connect the battery backup to the outlet on your wall. A good battery backup device has built in surge protection, plus it will allow your pc to stay on if the power goes out long enough for you to save your work and shut the pc down properly. So if a power surge hits your power lines, the battery backup will take the hit and NOT your pc! You should be able to find a decent battery backup unit online for around $100 to $150. It's cheaper to replace a battery backup that got fried than to have to replace your whole computer! Another Option – Okay, so you are hopelessly addicted to porn or other types of websites that are notorious for downloading viruses, trojans, worms, and spyware to your pc. Your hormones are raging, and you are going to go to these websites even though you know you are exposing your pc to serious risks. An option for you may be to install a second hard drive on your pc. Format it and install an OS on it. This is called a ‘dual boot’ configuration, meaning when you start your pc you will be shown a screen that will give you the option of which hard drive you want to boot to. If you plan on surfing dangerous websites, always boot to your secondary hard drive. This hard drive doesn’t have to be big or expensive since you are only going to use it to surf the web. You should have an up to date anti-virus software installed on this hard drive too. Do not store any important data on this hard drive! This way, if you get a virus while browsing risky websites, you are not jeopardizing your main hard drive that has all your important data on it. Since you won’t have a lot of software programs or anything on this hard drive (keep it simple), if you get a virus that cannot be removed, it will be less time consuming to reformat this little hard drive and re-install the OS than it would be if you got a fatal virus on your big hard drive which has all your programs on it. That’s about all I can think of for now, if I think of more later, I’ll come back and update this post. I really hope this info helps folks! If you found it helpful, feel free to pass this info on! And I promise I won’t hold it against you if you decide to give me a +rep for taking the time to write this!