The best time to get a fresh and secure start on your new computer is right when you buy it! Have you ever wondered what you should be doing to “protect” your new computer and make sure it works? It’s pretty simple: your computer needs to be secured against malware, optimized for performance and then protected from failure.
Installing a strong anti-virus to keep your computer safe should be the first thing you do with your computer (before even going online). We recommend Avast anti-virus because it is easy to use even for beginner users and it is also very effective (not to mention free for home use!). Your computer may already have a sponsored trial of some anti-virus installed. In that case, we recommend removing the trial version and installing your preferred solution.
The best way to optimize your computer from day one is to simply have a clean installation of Windows installed. That means installing a fresh copy of Windows without the 70 additional programs (known as bloatware) that your manufacturer might have pre-installed for you. These programs clutter up your desktop and slow down your computer. If it is not possible for you to install a fresh copy of Windows, then we suggest taking the time to remove all the bloatware that came with your system.
This is the most important step. You should setup an automatic data back-up solution to safeguard your personal data against loss. Once that is done, you should make sure that System Restore points are being created. To do so, go to Start Menu -> Control Panel -> System -> Advanced System Properties ->System Protection -> Configure.
Voila! You’re done! Make sure to download the basic programs you need to use your computer such as Adobe Reader for PDF files and Adobe Flash to view videos online.
Viruses are programs developed by people for various reasons. Some of them hijack your computer to record your keystrokes and steal your passwords. Others trick you into buying their “premium removal tool” after detecting hundreds of “infections”. Even worst, some silent infections will add your computer to a giant network of other hijacked computers in order to create a computer army that can be directed to shut down websites via DDOS attacks. Finally, some of them just crash your computer. Viruses can be a tricky to remove and usually a computer has more than one infection. If a computer technician fails to completely remove an infection it may leave behind vulnerabilities that will lead to a future malware infection. Therefore, it is extremely important to be thorough in your virus removal process.
Virus removal is hard to teach because while the core process can be repetitive it takes years of experience before you’ve “seen it all” and can quickly deal with the by products of a hijacked computer. For example, some viruses will reconfigure your internet proxy settings in order to prevent you from accessing the web. However, your network connections will show that you are properly online and connected but you won’t be able to pull up a website. In other cases, today’s viruses aim to set all files to hidden on your machine so that it looks like all your data has been lost. Without prior knowledge, you will assume the worst and wonder why you never made that backup you’ve been meaning to make. The following steps aim to create a basic guide for removing an infection and cleaning up a computer.
Step 1: Work in safe mode with networking. The networking component will allow you to download updates for your removal tools.
Step 2: Basic pre-removal maintenance:
- Access the internet options and remove all proxy settings.
- Run msconfig and disable all non-essential start-up items.
- Delete all temp files.
- Show hidden files.
- Run a cleaner tool to remove other temp items and clean the registry.
- Check the time settings for correctness (incorrect time settings will deny access to secure websites)
- Empty the Recycling bin.
- Create a system restore point.
Step 3: Virus Removal
- Use a raw access tool like HijackThis to access registry and files settings. Manually scan and remove malware entries.
- Use a malware/spyware remover to clear low level infections.
- Run a full scan anti-virus to clean up high threat items.
- Fix Shell commands.
- Restore moved hidden files.
- Reset hidden volumes.
- Reset networking settings.
- Install an anti-virus with real-time scanning and detection. Make sure to enable automatic updating of the virus database and to register the software if necessary.
- Create a system restore point.
A relatively high level of technical savvy is necessary to use some of the tools out there such as HijackThis. Therefore, if you’re not sure what you’re turning on and what you’re turning off you should consider having a professional take a look at your machine. It only takes one wrong click to crash your entire system and then you may have to deal with re-installing your programs or recovering your data.