by Terry Rogers
If you found a new electronic device under your tree this year, whether it was a new smartphone, tablet or laptop, you want to keep your machine as healthy as possible. Bryan Eshelman and Pat Coulter of Response Computer Group offered several tips for keeping your computer or phone operating at peak performance.
“Learn where the maintenance tools are and how to use them,” Eshelman said. “The average user does not need third-party utilities. Disk Cleanup, Disk Checker and Disk Optimizer are built into Windows and will do an adequate job if run regularly. Disk Optimizer is normally scheduled to run once a week if the PC is left on. Periodically, clear your temporary internet files and browsing history. Check addons and browser extensions and removed unused items.” Eshelman also suggested that you avoid using any search engines other than Google, Yahoo, Bing or DuckDuckGo as others may be ad driven and prone to malware attacks.
Another way to keep your new computer healthy, according to Eshelman, is to avoid clicking on web pages that popup and show dire warnings. Instead of simply clicking on the “X” to close them, use the Task Manager or shut down the computer completely. All computers should have active anti-virus programs running and it is important to keep the software current. Keep the internal fans and vents clean, use compressed air every few months.
“Smartphones and tablets are better designed than PCs to minimize the potential damage caused by viruses and other malicious programs,” Coulter said. “There are classes of malware capable of infecting Android and iOS devices. Don’t install apps from unknown sources and be careful what permissions you grant apps on your devices.”
The biggest mistakes people make that can jeopardize the health of their electronic device is assuming every message that shows up on a device is a highly technical error message, Coulter explained. Often, messages are requesting a simple user interaction such as a password or approval to install a program.
“For example, if you start installing software you have purchased and know it is safe, when you receive a popup asking if you want to allow it to run, wouldn’t the answer be yes?” Coulter said. “The opposite of that is people who blindly click yes on everything that pops up and follow every email link they receive, enter account credentials on unknown sites and engage in other risky behavior. Generally, read what the device is telling you and don’t assume you won’t’ be able to comprehend it just because it is on an electronic device. Also, do not call numbers or click on popups from websites claiming your PC is infected. Popups that provide a number to call for support are scams. Never let anyone you do not know access your computer remotely. Microsoft, Apple, HP, etc. None of these companies call consumers to help them fix their computer issues. If you are imitating a call for support, always verify who you are calling. Never give out personal information or bank account information.”
If you received a new laptop or tablet, Eshelman says closing the device usually puts it into hibernation or sleep mode and is only risky if the computer is installing updates. However, shutting the device down completely is not only safe for your computer, it is beneficial as it clears temp files, clears running processes and allows updates to complete.
“If things are not working correctly on your computer, try a restart,” Coulter said. “This will often clear up minor problems. The exception to this would be if you suffered a ransomware infection, your antivirus software should alert you if this happens. Restarting after a ransomware infection can prevent recovering data that otherwise may not have been lost. Also, run disk check and try a system restore. These will often clear up minor problems. IF none of these tips resolve your problem, you may need to bring the machine in for repair.”
Some of the signs that an electronic device may have been hacked or infected include slow performance, a web browser running in the background constantly, redirects to different websites, new icons on the desktop and other odd behavior. These issues may also be caused by non-viral malware that includes Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs), software and adware. Eshelman said that if you cannot open any of your files and have recovery messages in every directory, you have been infected with ransomware. This type of infection needs to be handled by a professional.
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