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Cliff's Corner: Help With Computers

You can count on having slowdowns and other issues with your computer ... it's just the nature of the beast. On this page you'll find help to speed up your computer, get rid of problem areas and how to avoid malware (short for 'malicious software', same as virus).

Computer Performance
 
Computer performance can be affected by several things. If your computer has slowed down, it's usually an easy fix. Try these suggestions first. If this doesn't help, then you may have a malware infection. More later about that.
 
 
1)  The biggest mistake is leaving your computer on overnight. To avoid memory clutter, turn off your computer at night or restart it in the morning. This refreshes memory and your computer will run smoother and faster.

2)  The second biggest problem is insufficient memory. Your computer accesses memory every time you perform a function. Listening to music or watching videos requires more memory than just typing a document or sending an email. Upgrading to at least 4GB (8GB is even better) should significantly improve performance.

3)  If your internet browsing has slowed, resetting your modem/router should fix the problem.
    a)  Unplug your modem for a minute, then replug. Within a few minutes, it will reset with a fresh signal.
    b)  If you have a separate router, do the same. The router will reset.
    c)  Once the reset is done, run a speed test and make a note of your upload and download speeds.
    d)  Periodically run a speed test. If speeds have slowed, repeat the above procedure.
 
4)  Visit this website for more ways to speed up your computer.

Malware & How To Fix It
 
Malware is software code written by hackers, designed to reside hidden in your computer. When you connect to the internet, the desired information is transferred to the hacker's computer. You can get malware in several ways (see Prevention section below).

It's critical to get rid of malware quickly before it causes further damage or steals your private information. Here are some things you can do.
 
1)  Open your Antivirus (AV) software and run a full system scan to find and remove malware (see below if you don't have AV software).
 

2)  If the above doesn't work, use System Restore (see below) to roll your computer back to an earlier date.
 
3)  Some malware can resist virtually all attempts at removal, even by disabling your AV software and/or Windows System Restore. If this happens and you're not computer savvy, take your computer to a repair shop to fix it for you.

Window's Time Machine
 
Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP all have an important feature called System Restore. From time to time, Windows automatically creates snapshots (restore points) of the Windows registry. This means that you will have multiple restore points to choose from when attempting a system restore. Here's how:
 
1)  Learn how to use System Restore for your version of Windows.
 
2)  Choose a restore point dated earlier than when your problem started. System Restore can take from 5 to 30 minutes, depending upon your system, so be patient. Do not turn off your computer or try to use it during the restore operation. After the restore, if the problem isn't fixed, restore again to an even earlier date. System Restore will solve problems 95% of the time (as mentioned earlier, sophisticated malware can disable System Restore).
 
3)  System Restore does not affect your personal files such as documents, emails or photos, but any software installed after the restore date will need to be reinstalled as the restore process will have removed them.

Prevention is the Key
 
1)  It's critical that you have antivirus software to protect your computer. If you're running Windows 10 or 8, you already have Windows Defender installed. If you have Windows 7, Vista or XP, download the free Microsoft Security Essentials. Both Defender and Essentials provide adequate protection when browsing the internet and if you use Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmal, etc. as emails are already scanned for viruses. But Defender and Essentials do not scan emails downloaded to Microsoft Outlook or similar computer-installed software. For this, use one of the alternatives mentioned below.

2)  For even better virus protection, opt for the free Avast or paid subscription-based Norton Security, WebRoot, McAfee, etc. They do a much better job of removing malware if your computer becomes infected.
It is best not to use Russia-based Kaspersky, as the U.S. government has banned Kaspersky from all government computers for suspected spying on U.S. government computers.

3)  Always update to the latest version of your web browser (Firefox, Edge, Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc). The latest versions always have improved built-in security.
 
4)  While surfing the internet, don't click on popups, even if it says you have a virus and asks if you want to remove it (it may even say Microsoft Security in the popup box). Don't click on anything in the popup box (not yes, not no, not even the red X to close the popup box). Any of these actions can download malware to your computer. Instead, click on the red X in the far upper right hand corner of your browser to close it. Then restart your browser to continue surfing.
 
5)  Don't visit unsafe web sites. They can infect your computer with "drive-by" malware, even if you don't click on anything at the site. Stay with better known mainstream sites that tend to be more trustworthy.
 
6)  Don't open or click on risky email attachments or links. This is the #1 way that computers become infected. It is safe to open emails from friends with documents or photos that they created. It is NOT safe to open emails forwarded around the internet, even if from friends. No matter how tempting, just delete them.
 
6)  Malware can also affect smart phones and tablets. Search the internet to learn how to keep your specific device secure.

Is it Time to Upgrade Windows?
 
Windows 10 is much more secure than previous versions. And it is the only version that protects you from ransomware, which alone is reason enough to upgrade. Most computers running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 can be upgraded. Visit this page to upgrade. Windows 98, XP and Vista cannot be upgraded. If you're running one of these dinosaurs, then it's time for new computer with Windows 10 pre-installed.

Practice Safe Computing
 
All you need do to maintain a happy relationship with your computer is just be careful where you surf and what you click on. It's as simple as that.

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