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PC M.D.'s Free Advice, Free Tips & Freeware Links
( In a hurry? Read in bold )

Free Advice

As long time readers of our main local news publication and newspapers around the U.S. know, there is only one King of Good IT Advice, and his name is Bill Husted. For almost two decades, from before the beginning of the Internet boom, he has written intelligent, accurate columns under the byline Technobuddy that ask and answer the questions all regular folks have about all things modern and electronic in clear English language, not technospeak. In all this time, we ATL readers have never seen him advise on IT inaccurately. Not once. Ever.  

Bill still visits us in print on Sundays, but his more regular columns are sorely missed. Why his original publisher has not provided decent clear Internet access to his complete body of work is, to be kind, a question. Bill's columns are on his website TechnoBubba as well as other places on the 'Net and can be found and searched

Here:      A good link to his most recent columns is HERE

Anything you need to know about personal IT, you can find it there (feel free to rummage).
Bill, thank you. Your impact on your readers' lives is immeasurable. You will always be the King.


Free Tips

Free Tip: Many virus and spyware planters put their critters on the most popular sites on the Internet. These days that still means adult sites and music/file sharing sites. Top 2. Now you know.

Surfing the Internet today can be likened to swimming in a pond - the more you go exploring the darker waters and unknown places, the better the chance something could be exploring you too...

Bad News, Good News.

The Bad News is that there is no easy one-button answer or single protection software product that keeps your pc running fast and clean in the long term. This is why there are 57 flavors on the shelf. The truth is your pc is just another machine in a pretty box.

Like all machines, it must be maintained to work effectively. An untuned lawnmower will run crappy, as will any automobile not serviced every 50-60K miles. So too your pc. You maintain your pc by running software procedures: firewall, antivirus, and antispyware software; OS temporary file, registry, & memory processes cleanup software; file defragmentation software; and backup software for off-machine clean data .

The #1 question to pc protection:

"Do you have adequate antivirus and antispyware software installed on your pc, and do you update and run them at least once a week?"

If the answer is not YES, and you use the Internet daily, there is a 99%+ probability today that your pc is infected with something. Don't believe us? Go to our current #1 referral black-belt level FREEware online virus scan tool: the Eset Online Scanner. Click on the link, say yes and install the active-x control, click all 'find critters' option windows and run the scan. Eset is legit - they have 4 or 5 of the protection flavors currently on the shelf at your local retailer (Eset, Nod32, etc. - see more scanners below if you like). If you have a large amount of data, run it at your pc's downtime and come back in an hour or two. Were we wrong?

These days virus, spyware, and malware programs can attach themselves invisibly to the ship of your Internet-connected computer like barnacles on a hull, and they manifest themselves in an infinite variety of symptoms that collectively fall under the umbrella of "my machine is running crappy".

Why all this unnecessary virus and spyware business? The truth is that as good pc protection programming is written, virus and spyware programmers target it as it becomes more popular because it works well. They write programs that attack its specific weaknesses (like human beings, every piece of software has weaknesses). The 'white hat' programmers respond by fortifying the newly discovered code structure anomalies ('filling the holes') and updating their protection programming software and virus definition files. We, the consumers, then download, update and run the software, and the cycle repeats. PC M.D. monitors this 'game cycle' and advises our clients accordingly.

This game exists because there is a large black market on the Internet for stolen identity information, credit card numbers, and stolen data off all kinds. It is rumored to be based in Eastern Europe, the East, and other countries, but it is also found here in the U.S. and basically cyber-everywhere. It is profitable enough to have been around since the beginning of the Internet. We are the pc civilians whose data is caught in this crossfire.

Free Tip: Your pc will break down the weekend before you get around to backing up your data - guaranteed. It's Critters' Law.

The Good News is that, with a little time, effort, and knowledge (the following straightforward procedures), it is fairly easy and cost-effective to keep your machines running well and your valuable data clean.

Realistic General PC Maintenance Procedures for Individual Windows XP/Vista/7 Machines

1) Vista and 7 users: check your security messages and that your firewall is on. XP users: make sure XP firewall is on or use an alternative (see below).

2) Install, update, and run the antivirus and antispyware programs of your choice at least once a week. If they catch something, clean/delete/quarantine, reboot, run them again, check, and repeat until all scans show clean. Double-check with an online scanner if problems persist.

3) DO NOT install or run 2 antivirus or firewall programs at the same time. DO feel free to have multiple antispyware programs installed, such as SuperAntiSpyware AND MalwareBytes. Run them one at a time.

4) Run Disk Cleanup (Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Cleanup) or another temp file cleaner, like CCleaner or ATF Cleaner, at least once a week.

5) Set your OS to update critical and recommended updates automatically. Manually check and update your OS, main software programs, router software & firmware, & Java software at least once a quarter. Takes an hour. Delete older versions of Java and other known unused software (XP: Start/Control Panel/Add or Remove Programs or Vista/7: Start/Control Panel/Programs and Features), unless you know you need a specific older version of Java for your proprietary software. If you don't know, ask someone who does before deleting older Javas in a business or corporate setting.

6) Vista and 7 users: set a file defragmentation schedule as recommended in Disk Defragmenter (Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Defragmenter) and check it. XP users: Run Disk Defragmenter (Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Defragmenter) at least once a quarter or more (Mo' Data, Mo' Often Rule - the more total data you read and write to the XP drive, the more often you need to defragment it).

7) The state of password cracking technology today has advanced to the point that only WPA2 AES/TKIP wireless encryption and strong 8-character upper-and-lower-case alphanumeric passwords are considered reasonably secure. Keep your passwords, bank info, & other sensitive info on a USB flash drive & remove it when not in use. Change your passwords at least once a year (be real - when's the last time? - strict biz SOP is every thirty days!).

8) At least once a year, after clean data scans, deleting temp files and defragmenting hard drive, back up your data (everything savable except OS & software) to an external hard drive by using its built-in backup software, Windows Backup (Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Backup), Ghost, or another program. Unplug and disconnect your data archive HDD when you are not using it.

9) At least once a year, unplug everything from your pc, open the side panel (look up user manual if you don't know how), and check for dust buildup. If lots, put one hand on the metal chassis and use a can of compressed air to remove as much as possible without unplugging anything inside.

10) The first two things you should always consider spending computer upgrade money on are:
i. maximizing the memory for your pc (look it up before buying); and
ii. purchasing an uninterrupted power supply/backup battery (UPS) for your desktops that has enough capacity to protect your critical components. Imagine your electricity as the waves of the ocean breaking on the sand. Your pc is the sand. A good UPS is like a breakwater in a bay, that turns the current flow of the electrical waves into a gentle steady calmness. Best two consistent values for your after purchase pc upgrade investment dollars.

It takes some time to develop into a habit, but "That's it". That's all it takes. We have kept individual systems alive and productive for up to a decade without re-installing Windows with these ten steps. If all of our potential clients could find the time to do these steps themselves, we'd have a lot less work of this type, and we'd be happy about it. It would mean their pc user experiences were safer, faster and cleaner and we could work on maximizing other IT aspects for them. All of our new IT projects work best on clean machines.

That said, we're also happy to take care of any or all of these things for our clients because, well, like Keanu in "The Replacements", we like cleaning barnacles. Battling virus critters and maintaining pc's is what we do. These procedures will keep your machine in good shape through most situations, and PC M.D. is here for you for 'those other times'.

Free Tip: Many people know about TigerDirect.com and Newegg.com for good online IT deals. Heck, even those burly gals from South America sell pc's and pc parts on the 'Net these days. For us at PC M.D., the best pc deals online over the last five years have been found at eDealinfo.com, an online discount IT codes aggregator site. Peruse monthly and follow code instructions closely (up to 40% off online retail!) Hookup courtesy of our compadre Prof. Pauly FlyAway (respects!).

Free Tip: DO NOT forward scary/chain/$millions$/emergency! emails to your friends & associates. They're not true - Ever. Your forwardees are not loving you for it, and no, Bill Gates will not be sending you anything. Do yourself a favor and check them out first at truthorfiction.com, Hoax-Slayer.com, Snopes.com, or Urban Legends at About.com.

Freeware Links

PC M.D. fully supports the work of the open source, shareware, and freeware communities of programmers who help to make Web 2.0 a better place to be for all of us. We donate to their cause when we can, and we encourage our clients and Internet visitors to do the same. These links are provided under no sponsorship or agreement other than that PC M.D. has used these products in a private capacity for more than 12+ months and that we can professionally attest to their effectiveness.

PC M.D. in no way advocates the improper use or distribution of any software products. Please check the fine print on the software vendors' websites - often there are limitations to usage with freeware and shareware regarding personal and business use. Generally speaking, freeware software products are designed with basic functionality, to entice you to try them, with the hope that you will buy the deluxe software edition later to enable the better features (scheduling, automatic updates, etc.). For many, the free basic functions are enough. Check the minimum pc requirements for software before installing. Know what you are downloading - always user beware, always.

We view ourselves as dojo managers in the fight for clean pc. The following is a partial list of our current top black-belt-level-critter-kung-fu-fighting freeware heavyweights. Put them to battle for you!

Unless otherwise specified, all links are from CNet.com, the current king of legit download sites, and listed within category in order of PC M.D. preference. Numbers in parentheses are the number of worldwide CNet downloads as of March 2015. We update these links at least twice a year to reflect changing trends.

(PC M.D. IT Consulting is not responsible in any way for any adverse effects resulting from any software downloaded from any legitimate links on this page or on any of the other pages of pcmdatl.com or for any adverse effects resulting from any improper application of the above industry-standard recommendations and guidelines. The user by their clicking or other use of any of the links here and by their passage through the pcmdatl.com domain agrees to hold PC M.D. IT Consulting harmless from any liability, including any adverse effects suffered resulting from any possible improper use of this information, software or downloaded programming. The user further agrees that by clicking or otherwise using these links and by their passage through the pcmdatl.com domain that any disputes with PC M.D. IT Consulting that may arise from any of the above will be mediated in the County of DeKalb, State of Georgia of the United States of America.)

FireWall Software

Zone Alarm on CNet Zone Alarm free edition (51,175,318)

AntiVirus Software

Avira on CNet Avira AntiVir Personal - Free Antivirus (146,265,493)

Avast on CNet Avast Free Antivirus (350,959,729)

AVG on CNet AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (541,248,739)

Online Antivirus Scanners

Eset Online Scanner Eset free Online Virus Scanner

Trend Micro House Call online virus scanner TrendMicro HouseCall free Online Virus Scanner

Prefer another? Most of the major antivirus vendors have them today as well. Simply Google your brand of choice + free online virus scanner.

AntiSpyware Software

SuperAntiSpyware on CNet SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition (6,092,693)

MalwareBytes on CNet Malwarebytes Anti-Malware free edition (132,834,800)

Spybot - S&D on CNET Spybot - Search & Destroy free edition (125,622,972)

Temporary File Cleaning Software

CCleaner CCleaner free edition (97,266,873)
(use on default settings ONLY for cleaning - see warning below)

Registry Cleaners

Search CNet.com downloads - for advanced users only - Used improperly, these can cripple software and operating systems.

 

Free Tip: Try to make every time you open your mouth with your children and loved ones be an interactive experience.

 

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