How To Prevent Computer Problems, Before They Happen!

Discussion in 'General' started by SkunkApe, Aug 24, 2008.

  1. #1 SkunkApe, Aug 24, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2008
    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! :wave:
  2. Or you could just buy a mac
  3. Quoted for bumpage
  4. hah as a computer tech u can tell people all this till the cows come home they will defrag like once then never again and as far as antivirus and people "not wanting to pay" AVG is free and ive used it for a couple years and its done wonders so look that shit up and to the guy that said get a mac i hope your kidding
  5. pfftt... like macs are immune to stupidity.....

    good job OP
  6. What I do: It may be easy for you or not.

    From a fresh install(OEM OS CDs) I configure my OS, using mandatory access controls, sandboxing, limited account, reg entries etc .... and install all my software or whatever software I use. I encrypt the whole drive using True-Crypt, making a nice fat file container. And before I get online I create an image of the disk using Driveimage-XML.

    Bam, if anything ever messes up w/ the drive(non hardware related), or if I just want a quick reinstall, I pop in my image and I'm back on a fresh system in under 15 min.

    You can create an image of a full drive, but it's gonna take a long while and the image file will be somewhat similar in size, depending if you chose to partition the Image.

    This works for me.

    IMO a large percentage of virus ridden "corrupted" drives 99% of the data is still there waiting to be retrieved. If you can't boot into the drive, hook it up to another machine as a secondary drive and drag the data you want to keep to a non-corrupted drive.
  7. if you are going to run windows anything, plan on reinstalling every 3-6 months.

    Are they still using NTFS as the file system for Vista?

    Why doesn't microsuck use a journalized file system instead?

    Fuck microsoft.
  8. Wow, I've been building computers for 15 years now, went to college for it and every thing, yes some good advice here, but lets be honest. Who in their right mind would buy a battery back up for surge protection at $200-$500 dollars or more when you can go to walmart or any hardware store and pick up a decent surge protector for $20. So you wont be able to use your comp if the power goes out but you have that extra cash in your pocket to go watch a movie or go out to eat. Secondly the only way to stop lightning from reaching your computer is to unplug it from the wall and your internet line during a storm. No surge protector or battery back up in the world can prevent this. Windows defrag does just fine for normal users without having to buy some bulky software. Defraging software that runs while you're using your computer eats up system RAM and is prone to software corruption due to system over write while in use. If you're going to buy software for viruses, spyware & one you forgot malicious software get a bundle software that does it all instead of multiple programs that will take up hard drive space. I recommend system mechanic as it uses little hard drive space and system resources. Norton is good for its' purpose but uses to many resources slowing your system down. System back up is simple. Buy a secondary hard drive, external or internal and copy your hard drive to it and leave it unplugged and in a safe place. Write new information to it as necessary. Even an OS disk can be copied, make a copy of your system disk in the event you lose your main copy and need to reinstall. Another easy way of doing this is to keep all your important files on a secondary hard drive or partition your primary into to parts. If you want to make things really easy, keep all information on a secondary HD buy a third and intall your OS to it before you lose your disk. If you system fails just plug in the other drive and you're good to go no waiting... I'm not one to try starting things on GC as I'm not trying to do now but please. You must be on the Geek Squad or something cause what you've suggested sounds like some stuff they would say.. I have gone head to head with a few Geek Squard Members.. Fools the lot of them,, Made 1 quit his job once cause he felt small after running into me...
  9. There will always be someone that knows more than you.
  10. This is true but this isn't one of those times... LOL...
    And on the computer scale I'm sure the numbers are few.
    Highest in my School, Silicon Valley.. Ty TY no applause..

    Ps. Yes NTFS is the primary file system for windows still.. Yes bill gates is an idiot, but he's on the verge of a corporate monopoly so why would he change anything. Besides he doesn't actually design the software anymore he just takes the credit for the geeks he's got locked in his closet. Thats why when he introduces a new OS and it blue screens on live TV he just gives that stupid look and giggles..
  11. #11 SkunkApe, Aug 26, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2008
    Thanks for all the feedback from the power users. I started this thread to help the typical pc end user who may not understand the basics of pc maintainence, so I kept the advice simple for a reason. No better way to scare the hell out of a typical pc user than to start talking techie, the minute you say something they don't understand, they stop listening. The best techie is one who speaks to his clients on their level, not on his level. ;)

    For the techies who disagree with my advice...Put ten techies in a room, ask them all how to do something, and you'll more than likely get ten different answers, all or most of which will work. There's more than one way to do these things. Again, my focus was on keeping it simple so the novice users could understand, not to get into any debates with other techies on 'the best' way to maintain a pc. After all, arguing with someone on the internet is like competing in the special olympics...even if you win, your still a retard.
  12. #12 DeviousByNature, Aug 26, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2008
    Whats simple about recommending a $500+ battery back up saying it will protect your PC from lightning when it wont. Sounds more like a focus on getting people to spend money on a pointless item that wont do what you've claimed it will..The only thing you advised that was simple was a way to waste allot of money. This is not a debate nor by any means the special Olympics, just letting people know not to waste their money. Only thing an ac back up is good for is a power outage. In which case even then, only major companies or large servers use these resources. Besides that the only people who quote the special Olympics are those who compete in them..or plan to...Also some people prefer you tell it to them on your level so they learn to do it for them selves eliminating people like us from their budget. I for one am open to teaching and have held classes at my shop for those people..
  13. I have been running XP now for nearly two years without a format/reinstall and it is running just fine. If you do not know what you're doing, then yes, you will have to reinstall Windows often, same as with a Mac.
  14. #14 eleven357, Aug 26, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2008

    Oh thats right, you are on microsoft's payroll.

    Yeah lets compare an OS with a file system that fragments with another OS with a journalized file system that doesn't fragment.

    Aren't you the one that was telling me that Windows 9x is better than anything based on unix? LOL.

    The fact of the matter is, the majority of people using windows are idiots in the first place. So what you said is null.

    So yeah, you can lie and tell me that its been 2 months since you restarted your windows box, but the truth of the matter is, windows is for the weak minded.

    Seriously, all my kids will learn the bash shell.

    I understand that *nix is different, but you as a computer tech should always be wanting to learn new things. Thats why I seriously think you are paid from microsoft to argue this useless argument.

    I have my MCP, MCSA, and MCSE and I will still tell you that microsoft sucks dick.

    and thats why so many people run shit like apache, cuz its stable.

    There is no such thing as stability in windows. If you think so, then you are mistaken.
  15. Maybe the majority of people who use Windows aren't anal-retentive nerds who freak out over their operating system...they just want to use a handful of programs and the Internet. Simple.
  16. #16 Liquidtruth, Aug 26, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2008
    Nope, I never told you that. What I did tell you was that, at one point, we had (where I used to work) a system running Windows 98 SE that had been up for an extremely long period of time, without issues, and it only went down due to a power failure in our building. Never mentioned it being superior to Unix, or anything else for that matter. I believe I mentioned that due to your overly negative, and seemingly uninformed, opinion about a certain companies products. Which I use, though I do not claim they are perfect.

    My above statement is quite true. If you know what you are doing (and that does not even include constant maintenance as I pay little attention to that on my own machine) then your OS will run fine. Be it Windows 98, Windows XP, OS X, FreeBSD, Linux, or anything else you can probably name... Except for Windows Me of course, that OS is pure garbage... If you do not know what you are doing chances are shit will hit the fan. I do not see how my statement is null simply because you feel some people who use a different OS than you are idiots.

    I never did lie and tell you that it has been 2 months since I restarted my Windows Box. It seems you like putting words into my mouth. Perhaps you should go and re-read the PM on this subject, since cherry picking from memory does not seem to serve you well.

    I am not arguing for Microsoft, I am arguing against literal lies about their products. The truth is the truth, I need no lies to discourage me from something or to make me feel better about the OS I choose to use.

    Microsoft does suck dicks, but it is not the crash-riddled-bug fest the Mac commercials try and make it out to be.

    Apache is not an OS, so that came out of left field. There is stability in Windows, and if you do not think so, then sadly, you are probably the one who is mistaken.
  17. Much rather be a "anal-retentive nerd" than an imbecile who likes to play their games on the easy level.
  18. I don't play games and that's one of the reasons I don't worry about how fast my computer is.
  19. The simple fact here is that the majority of the people who own computers are, in fact, idiots.

    Otherwise, we would be out of a job.
  20. The simple fact is that the majority of people are idiots. Some of them happen to own computers.

Share This Page