Keep Your Operating System Safe

Keep Your Operating System SafeComputer and Web safety might seem like abstract concepts—until you lose all of your important data or discover that your software no longer works. Viruses and spyware are two of the most familiar issues with computer safety, but these are only the beginning of PC vulnerabilities.
The first step to keeping your PC safe is to understand your operating system (OS). Depending on whether you use Microsoft Windows*, Mac OS X* or Linux*, the proper precautions may be radically different. It's also important to know which software programs work best with which OS.

Choose skepticism over paranoia
The real problems concerning computer safety are often minimized in comparison with the hoaxes that make their way around the Web. Do you receive ominous warnings from friends in the form of chain letters? If so, you've probably suffered from paranoia at least a few times regarding the safety of your PC.
Before you believe a virus warning, spyware notice or other cautionary tale, check it out with the appropriate authority. For example, if it concerns a specific software program, contact the manufacturer to verify rumors. This way you won't over-concern yourself with a nonexistent threat.
However, you should realize that viruses and other issues do exist, so don't hesitate to protect your computer against a verified threat. Your should set the security settings for your Web browser to high and read email messages in plain text rather than HTML. For more on email and computing security.
Schedule regular maintenance
One of the best ways to keep your PC safe is to schedule regular maintenance. Just like a car or any other piece of valuable machinery, your computer is most vulnerable when forced to run at less-than-optimal performance.
For example, you can remove unnecessary or harmful files by running disk clean-up and disk defragmentation software at least once a week. According to Apple support, defragmentation is only necessary on Mac OS X when your files have reached hard drive capacity, but it still cannot hurt.
Microsoft Windows Vista*, on the other hand, offers scheduled disk defragmentation that was not available in Windows XP*. This can be beneficial for PC users who have trouble remembering to perform computer maintenance. The schedule can be set for a time when you usually aren't using the machine.
Set restore points
Whenever you install new software or hardware in your computer, the chance of problems increases. Sometimes the program is faulty, the incorrect driver is installed, or there is a compatibility issue with other programs. Whatever the case, setting "restore points" on your PC can protect against potential problems.
A restore point is like a backspace key or "ctlr + z" for computer safety. It establishes a point of operation to which you can return if you install something that doesn't work. When you activate the restore point, your computer will revert to the last saved setting.
Updating antivirus software
Installing antivirus and antispyware software on your PC is a great way to boost computer safety, but that single action is insufficient to protect your data. New bots, viruses, spyware programs and other menaces are developed every day.
To continue PC protection and guard against the latest threats, it is essential that you update your antivirus software on a regular basis. Many of these programs offer automatic updates that initiate as soon as your computer detects a newer version. This is the easiest way to ensure continued protection.
The same goes for your OS. Even if you have separate antivirus protection, Microsoft and Apple will provide security patches and updates to help keep your PC safe. Permit automatic updates so you always have the latest version.
Running error checks
The next step to keeping your PC safe is to run regular error checks to ensure your computer is working properly. In Windows XP, for example, you can right-click the local disk from My Computer, select the Properties option and click Tools. In this section, you can initiate the error-checking function to ensure there are no imminent problems. Follow the same steps for Windows Vista, except you will enter through Computer rather than My Computer.
Mac OS X provides a similar utility, though in versions 4.3 or greater you can utilize Live Verification. This is a simpler error-checking function that provides you with real-time updates.
Maintaining hardware
PC users often focus so intently on software problems that they forget they are working with machines. Your computer hardware is also at risk—providing regular maintenance will prevent many problems.
For example, there are vents on both your CPU and your computer monitor. These vents ensure your PC hardware does not overheat from continued use, but are only effective when properly maintained. Make sure your vents have access to open air and do not become clogged with dust, debris or other contaminants.
Additionally, it is essential that you protect your power source. A surge protector can prevent the loss of data in the event of a power surge or outage. You should also turn off your computer during electrical storms or any time you think the power might be compromised.
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