Intro: Several Easy Steps to Secure Your Computer
VERSION 2.0 will be out soon. You can see on the last step what I have in store for this instructable, please be patient as I sift through it all and get the process rolling.
In this Instructable I will show you a few tips to make your computer a lot more secure. The great thing about this guide is, everything you'll see is free! This can also benefit you in more ways than one. Each step is a separate way to secure your computer. These are all great steps and I hope that you take the time to read them. If you have any suggestions for new topics, feel free to leave a comment and I'll research it!
I update the Instructable pretty much every time someone leaves a suggestion in the comments. Please check back every now and then for something new and update your rating if you see fit. This Instructable will never be "closed" so express your interest and input!
One more thing: If you have a really old computer, and therefore a very small hard drive, do everything that does not involve installing a program first, and then try the programs if your machine is still unsecure.
Just a note: for the steps about Removing Spyware, Adware, Malware, Live internet Protection, etc. This is the program that I use that is free and seems to work great for me. I would suggest using these, but feel free to research into another program and let me know if you found a better one!
Please excuse if there are any steps under construction. If you have any suggestions that would help me, please leave a comment! I am working to get them published in the near future.
Step 1: Priority Updates
Windows Updates..... We all hate them..... But they will save your computer someday!
No operating system [Windows, Linux, Apple] is always complete, or perfect. Hackers work to get through the operating systems every day, looking for vulnerabilities. Each week, and sometimes even on a daily basis, certain 'holes' in the Operating System must be repaired or updated, to prevent the hackers from breaking in.
Windows Update is one such service to the windows user. It is very, VERY, important to the security of your PC to either set your computer to automatic updates [recommended] or visit windows update, regularly.
As always,back up all your personal files [Documents, Pictures, etc] First!
Not only should you update your OS, but also your Internet Browser and Applications. There will often be many bug fixes and speed boosters that will come with an update of your programs, so check it out!
Step 2: Windows Security Center
Windows Security Center in Windows Vista puts all of your computer's security needs in one easy-to-find, easy-to-monitor location.
Windows Security Center helps make your PC more secure by alerting you when your security software is out of date or when your security settings should be strengthened. The Security Center displays your firewall settings and tells you whether your PC is set up to receive automatic software updates from Microsoft.
Other improvements over the version of Windows Security Center that debuted in Microsoft Windows XP SP2 include showing the status of software designed to protect against spyware, your Internet Explorer 7 security settings, and User Account Control. In addition, Windows Security Center can monitor security products from multiple companies and show you which are enabled and up to date.
Windows Security Center monitors the following security components for Windows Vista:
Windows Security Center monitors your system to see if you have a firewall installed, whether it's the Windows Firewall or a firewall product from another company. If there is an issue with your firewall, Windows Security Center notifies you and provides guidance to help you correct the problem.
Windows Security Center verifies that the automatic updating feature is enabled and using recommended Microsoft settings. If automatic updating is not enabled, or if the settings differ from the recommended settings, you will receive an alert and instructions on enabling automatic updating.
Windows Security Center verifies whether your computer is running antivirus software. When you're using antivirus software, Windows Security Center monitors things such as real-time scanning and virus signatures. If real-time scanning is not enabled or if virus signatures are out of date, the Security Center will alert you and recommend a solution.
Antispyware and other malware protection
Windows Security Center verifies whether your computer is running Windows Defender or another company's antispyware software. When you're using both Windows Defender and third-party antispyware software, Windows Security Center monitors spyware definitions and other details. If scanning is not enabled or if spyware definition files are out of date, the Security Center will alert you and recommend a solution.
Internet security settings
Windows Security Center monitors the security settings that are associated with Internet Explorer 7 and alerts you whenever your computer might be at risk from settings that are lower than the recommended levels. Windows Security Center provides a button that you can use to restore settings automatically or access Control Panel, where you can correct settings manually.
User Account Control
To foster safer computing, the User Account Control service and policy must be enabled and uncorrupted. Window Security Center monitors the status of User Account Control and notifies you if User Account Control has been changed to a setting that's at odds with the recommended settings. You can restore User Account Control to the recommended settings with the click of a button.
For more information: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/security-center.aspx
Here is where you can find it:
Step 3: Firewall
Windows Firewall is a critical first line of defense to protect your computer against many types of malicious software.
Properly configured, it can stop many kinds of malware before they can infect your computer or other computers on your network. Windows Firewall, which comes with Windows Vista, is turned on by default and begins protecting your computer as soon as Windows starts. The Windows Firewall Control Panel is designed to be easy to use, with several configuration options and a simple interface.
More advanced than the Windows Firewall in previous versions of Windows, the firewall in Windows Vista helps protect you by restricting other operating system resources if they behave in unexpected ways-a common indicator of the presence of malware. For example, if a component of Windows that is designed to send network messages over a given port on your PC tries to send messages by way of a different port due to an attack, Windows Firewall can prevent that message from leaving your computer, thereby preventing the malware from spreading to other users.
Frequently Asked Questions for Firewalls
For more information: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/firewall.aspx
Here is where you can find it:
Under Search Type in:
For those advance users, to find Advanced Security:
Under Search Type in:
Windows Firewall with Advanced Security
Step 4: Wireless Network
Use a router to share an Internet connection
Consider using a router (also called a residential gateway device) to share an Internet connection. These devices usually have built-in firewalls and other features that can help keep your network better protected against hackers.
Don't stay logged on as an administrator
When you are using programs that require Internet access, such as a web browser or an e-mail program, we recommend that you log on as a standard user rather than an administrator. That's because many viruses and worms can't be stored and run on your computer unless you're logged on as an administrator. Another point is to not stay logged on period whenever you are away from your computer for any length of time.
Use a network security key
If you have a wireless network, you should set up a network security key, which turns on encryption. With encryption, people can't connect to your network without the security key. Also, any information that is sent across your network is encrypted so that only computers that have the key to decrypt the information can read it. This can help avert attempts to access your network and files without your permission. Common wireless network encryption methods are Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2.
Change the default administrator name and password on your router or access point
If you have a router or access point, you probably used a default name and password to set up the equipment. Most manufacturers use the same default name and password for all of their equipment, which someone could use to access your router or access point without you knowing it. To avoid that risk, change the default administrator user name and password for your router. Check the information that came with your device for instructions about how to change the name and password.
Change the default SSID
Routers and access points use a wireless network name known as a service set identifier (SSID). Most manufacturers use the same SSID for all of their routers and access points. We recommend that you change the default SSID to keep your wireless network from overlapping with other wireless networks that might be using the default SSID. It makes it easier for you to identify which wireless network is yours, if there is more than one nearby, because the SSID is typically shown in the list of available networks. Check the information that came with your device for instructions about how to change the default SSID.
Position your router or access point carefully
Wireless signals can transmit a few hundred feet, so the signal from your network could be broadcast outside of your home. You can help limit the area that your wireless signal reaches by positioning your router or access point close to the center of your home rather than near an outside wall or window.
For more information: http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/windows/en-US/help/bf6372bb-c95c-4b39-aa50-de7e5bf034681033.mspx
Step 5: Remove Background Programs (Task Manager)
How to start Task Manager
To start Task Manager, take any of the following actions:
- Press CTRL+ALT+DELETE, and then click Task Manager.
- Press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC.
- Right-click an empty area of the taskbar, and then click Task Manager.
Features and uses of Task Manager:
- View Programs that are running
- View Processes that are running
- Performance measures
The Applications tab displays the status of the programs that are running on the computer. To exit, switch to, or start a program, follow these steps:
1. Click the Applications tab.
2. Do one of the following, as appropriate for the action that you want to perform:
- Exit a program
Note When you exit a program in this manner, any unsaved data in that program is lost.
- Switch to another program
- Start a program
Note This procedure is very similar to starting a program by using the Run command on the Start menu.
How to end a process
The Processes tab displays information about the processes that are running on the computer. A process can be an application that you start or subsystems and services that are managed by the operating system. To end a process, follow these steps.
Note Proceed with caution when you end a process. If you exit a program in this manner, data that has not been saved will be lost. If you end a system process, a system component may no longer function correctly. To match a process with a running program, right-click the program name on the Applications tab of Windows Task Manager, and then click Go To Process.
1. Click the Processes tab.
2. Do one of the following, depending on the action that you want to perform:
- If you want to end a single process, click the process that you want to end, and then click End Process.
- If you want to end a process and all processes directly or indirectly related to it, right-click the process that you want to end, and then click End Process Tree.
Click the Performance tab to view a dynamic overview of the performance of your computer. This includes the following measures:
- Graphs for CPU and memory usage
- The total number of handles, threads, and processes that are running
- The total number of kilobytes (KB) that are used for physical, kernel, and commit memory
Step 6: Remove Startup Tasks (System Configuration)
In Windows Vista, all of Windows' essential programs are loaded through something called "Windows Services." This means that most of the startup items you see in Vista are completely optional and can be turned off. However, a good rule of thumb is to disable only those programs that you recognize and don't need to have running all the time. When in doubt, leave it on. Or, better still, check out Paul Collins' huge "Startup Applications" list at http://www.sysinfo.org/startuplist.php. This list of over 13,000 startup items you may encounter in MSCONFIG tells you which items are absolutely necessary, which items are optional, and which items you should definitely uncheck.
Here is where you can find it:
Select "Run" on the right hand side
In Dialog Box, type in: msconfig
In dialog box, go to the "Startup" tab
Uncheck the programs you don't want to run at start up.
Step 7: Advanced SystemCare Free
Slow down, freeze, crash, and security threats are over. Advanced SystemCare Free is a comprehensive PC care utility that takes a one-click approach to help protect, repair, and optimize your computer. It provides an all-in-one and super convenient solution for PC maintenance and protection. All work will be done with 1 click and 1 minute. Compared with its nearest competitor, Advanced SystemCare Free provides the more essential and practical formula for Windows: Removing Spyware and Adware, Preventing Security Threats, Privacy Protection, Fixing Registry Errors, Temporary Files Cleanup, Startup Cleanup, Repairing Windows, Speeding up System and 1-click Mechanism.
This utility offers a one-stop-shop for cleaning and maintaining your computer for better overall system performance. The interface is very simple, featuring only a few buttons, which makes it easy to get down to cleaning immediately (in fact, it automatically runs on start-up) and doesn't confuse you with multiple steps.
The Maintain Windows section focuses on four areas of maintenance: spyware removal, Registry cleaning, a privacy sweep, and deletion of junk files. The Diagnose System button provides system optimization tools, detects spyware, defragments your disk, and scans for hijacked Windows settings. In our tests the scan and clean for each of these areas took less than 10 minutes to complete. In many of these scans, it is difficult to tell what exactly is being accomplished by some of the tools, but we were able to test against other trusted apps, which confirmed Advanced SystemCare's efficacy in those areas.
Under the utilities section you are given several tools, which are similar to plug-ins, for other areas of optimization and diagnostic tests. Overall, Advanced SystemCare Free is a good way to maintain your system's speed and clear out junk files, but you'll need to remember to run it regularly because scheduling of scans is only available in the paid Pro version.
Advanced SystemCare Free Home Page
Download Advanced SystemCare Free
Step 8: Web Browser: Firefox
And when we hear about a problem, we roll up our sleeves and get to work fixing it right away. It's in your best interest (and ours) to take care of the issue, even if it means admitting we're a little less than perfect.
Simply put, your security is our top priority.
There's a Method to Our Madness.
Nobody loves the Internet more than we do. But, scammers, spammers and trigger-happy viruses are true threats, so you need to protect yourself while using the Web.
That's Where Firefox Comes In.
Using it is the safest way to surf the web because:
- We don't try to tackle the problem alone. An international community of security experts is working around the clock to make your web browsing safer (thanks to our open source way of doing things). It's like having your neighborhood watch led by a group of highly trained ninjas.
- We consider your security every step of the way. Security experts work right from the start to identify and address potential problems before a single line of code is written.
- We stay on top of the issue. We're constantly monitoring threats and releasing new Firefox updates to stay one step ahead. Operating in an open source world means anyone can help us find and fix our weak spots.
Step 9: Avast! Home Edition Antivirus
avast! antivirus Home Edition is FREE to use but it is necessary to register before the end of the initial 60 day trial period. Following the registration you will receive by e-mail a license key valid for a period of 1 year. After you have downloaded and installed the program, the license key must be inserted into it within 60 days. The registration process is very easy, and it will take you only a couple of minutes.
Simple User Interface
Integrated Virus Cleaner
Support for 64-bit Windows
P2P and IM Shields
** Just a note, this really does help! I was looking for a good icon on google, clicked on an image, and this program popped up warning me that there was a virus on that page! With everything going on today, you really need protection.
Step 10: Remove Spyware (Spybot Search and Destroy)
Another tool is Spybot - Search & Destroy. This works a lot like Adware, but having both will further protect your computer.
It detects and removes spyware, a relatively new kind of threat not yet covered by common anti-virus applications. Spyware silently tracks your surfing behaviour to create a marketing profile for you that is transmitted without your knowledge to the compilers and sold to advertising companies. If you see new toolbars in your Internet Explorer that you haven't intentionally installed, if your browser crashes inexplicably, or if your home page has been "hijacked" (or changed without your knowledge), your computer is most probably infected with spyware. Even if you don't see the symptoms, your computer may be infected, because more and more spyware is emerging. Spybot-S&D is free, so there's no harm giving it a try to see if something has invaded your computer.
To see a list of threats Spybot-S&D can remove, in the navigation bar at the left click on Support --> Threats. For an introduction to Spybot-S&D, please read the tutorial. If you fear incompatibility with other software you are now using, although we can assure you that there is no danger you can review our compatibility overview which lists some software whose compatibility has been analyzed.
Spybot-S&D can also clean usage tracks, an interesting function if you share your computer with other users and don't want them to see what you have been working on. And for professional users, Spybot-S&D allows you to fix some registry inconsistencies and extended reports. A list of all the application's features is also available.
Spybot S&D Home Page
Download Spybot Search and Destroy Link
Tutorial on how to use Spybot
Step 11: Remove Adware (Ad-Ware SE Personal 2008)
Another great tool is Ad-Ware SE Personal 2008. They currently give you a free version that I have used for years now and it has worked great. Run it at least once a month!
It is important that you use up-to-date security software to detect and remove malicious programs. Virus programs can slow down your PC and cause unwanted behavior, even damage to your data.
Spyware tracks your movements on the Web for advertising purposes, but can affect your PC's performance as well. Use anti-spyware programs to remove it.
Adware SE Personal Download
Step 12: Live Protection for Online Browsing: Windows Defender
Windows Defender is software that helps protect your computer against pop-ups, slow performance, and security threats caused by spyware and other unwanted software by detecting and removing known spyware from your computer. Windows Defender features Real-Time Protection, a monitoring system that recommends actions against spyware when it's detected, minimizes interruptions, and helps you stay productive.
The benefits of installing Windows Defender include:
Spyware detection and removal
- Windows Defender quickly and easily finds spyware and other unwanted programs that can slow down your computer, display annoying pop-up ads, change Internet settings, or use your private information without your consent.
- Windows Defender eliminates detected spyware easily at your direction, and if you inadvertently remove programs that you actually want, it's easy to get them back.
- Windows Defender allows you to schedule your scanning and removal times when it's convenient for you, whether it's on-demand or on a schedule that you set.
- Windows Defender helps stop spyware before it infiltrates your computer. Windows Defender also offers a continuous safeguard designed to target all the ways that spyware can infiltrate your computer.
- Windows Defender works without distracting you. It runs in the background and automatically handles spyware based on preferences that you set. You can use your computer with minimal interruption.
- A dedicated team of Microsoft researchers continuously searches the Internet to discover new spyware and develop methods to counteract it.
- A voluntary, worldwide network of Windows Defender users helps Microsoft determine which suspicious programs to classify as spyware. Participants help discover new threats quickly and notify Microsoft analysts, so that everyone is better protected. Anyone who uses Windows Defender can join this network and help report potential spyware to Microsoft.
- To help protect your computer from the latest threats, you can choose to have updates that counteract new spyware automatically downloaded to your computer.
Learn more about Windows Defender and other Microsoft anti-malware solutions, and to learn more using Windows Defender, watch this demo.
Download Windows Defender
Check to see if you already have it, if so turn it on!
You can find it here:
Have any questions on the program? Click here: Windows Defender: Support
Step 13: Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware
Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware is considered to be the next step in the detection and removal of malware. In our product we have compiled a number of new technologies that are designed to quickly detect, destroy, and prevent malware. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware can detect and remove malware that even the most well known anti-virus and anti-malware applications fail to detect. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware monitors every process and stops malicious processes before they even start. The Realtime Protection Module uses our advanced heuristic scanning technology which monitors your system to keep it safe and secure. In addition, we have implemented a threats center which will allow you to keep up to date with the latest malware threats.
- Support for Windows 2000, XP, and Vista (32-bit only).
- Light speed quick scanning.
- Ability to perform full scans for all drives.
- Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware Protection Module. (requires registration)
- Database updates released daily.
- Quarantine to hold threats and restore them at your convenience.
- Ignore list for both the scanner and Protection Module.
- Settings to enhance your Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware performance.
- A small list of extra utilities to help remove malware manually.
- Multi-lingual support.
- Works together with other anti-malware utilities.
- Command line support for quick scanning.
- Context menu integration to scan files on demand.
Step 14: Malicious Software Removal Tool
The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool checks computers running Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003 for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom and helps remove any infection found. When the detection and removal process is complete, the tool displays a report describing the outcome, including which, if any, malicious software was detected and removed.
Microsoft releases an updated version of this tool on the second Tuesday of each month, and as needed to respond to security incidents. The tool is available from Microsoft Update, Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center.
Note The version of the tool delivered by Microsoft Update and Windows Update runs in the background and then reports if an infection is found. If you would like to run this tool more than once a month, use the version on this Web page or install the version that is available in the Download Center.
Because computers can appear to function normally when infected, Microsoft advises you to run this tool even if your computer seems to be fine. You should also use up-to-date antivirus software to help protect your computer from other malicious software.
Download Malicious Software Removal
Help and Support for Malicious Software Removal Tool
Click here for the main page, make sure you download the newest version!
NOTE: This is not a program that you keep, it's more of a one time thing, so you'll need to either save the .exe file to a safe place or download it more than once. You'll also find that many of the antivirus and antispyware programs have this built in.
Step 15: Full System Recovery
On some systems it is possible to do a Full System Recovery. In some cases, this requires Recovery CD's, which came with your computer, or are freely available from the manufacturer. Many of the newer systems have the recovery information stored on the machine and it simply requires a key pressed during boot up.
Back up all your personal files [Documents, Pictures, etc] First!
- HP & Compaq computers
- Dell computers
- EMachine computers
- Gateway computers
- IBM & Lenovo computers
- Acer Computers
- Asus computers
- Toshiba computers
Make ....................... Key(s) ....................... Notes
Acer ......................... Alt+F10 .................... During Boot
Asus ........................ F9 ............................. During Boot, after logo appears
Dell ......................... Ctrl+F11 ................... During Boot, after logo appears
Gateway ................. F11 or R ................... During Boot
HP/Compaq .......... F10 ........................... During Boot, after logo appears
IBM/Lenovo ............ F11 ........................... During Boot
Packard Bell .......... F11 ........................... During Boot, after logo Appears
Sony Vaio ............... F10 ........................... During Boot, after logo Appears
Toshiba .................. 0 (zero) .................... Press and hold before powering up
If this doesn't work, you may want to format your computer completely and start over.
Step 16: Macintosh
Step 17: Several Easy Steps to Boost Your Computer's Speed
In this Instructable I will show you a few tips to make your computer run a lot faster. The great thing about this guide is, everything you'll see is free! This can also benefit you in more ways than one. Each step is a separate way to clean up your computer. These are all great steps and I hope that you take the time to read them. If you have any suggestions for new topics, feel free to leave a comment and I'll research it!
PLEASE don't be scared by the amount of steps or excessive wording in the Instructable. Each step is one way. For example: All step 1 is saying is to dust your computer. I am just putting more information on it for those who are wondering why it works. This seems like a lot to do, but is actually not that much. A lot of the steps at the end may not even apply to you.
I update the Instructable pretty much every time someone leaves a suggestion in the comments, as you can note with Spybot S&D and Virtual Memory. Please check back every now and then for something new and update your rating if you see fit. This Instructable will never be "closed" so express your interest and input!
One more thing: If you have a really old computer, and therefore a very small hard drive, do everything that does not involve installing a program first, and then try the programs if your machine is still sluggish.
Just a note: for the steps about Removing Spyware, Adware, Malware, Live internet Protection, Ram Booster, and a Registry Cleaner; this is the program that I use that is free and seems to work great for me. I would suggest using these, but feel free to research into another program and let me know if you found a better one!
Please excuse if there are any steps under construction. If you have any suggestions that would help me, please leave a comment! I am working to get them published in the near future.
Several Easy Steps to Boost Your Computer's Speed
Step 18: How Often You Should Use These Steps
Step 1: I would check for updates about every day, or set it to notify you whenever there is one. Constantly update your OS!
Step 2: This is a one time setting, check on it every once in a while to make sure nothing has been changed.
Step 3: This is a one time setting, check on it every once in a while to make sure nothing has been changed. Always have it running!
Step 4: This is a one time thing, check on it every once in a while to make sure nothing has been changed.
Step 5: Check on it whenever you feel necessary.
Step 6: Check on it whenever you install a new program, or once a month to make sure nothing has changed
Step 7: I would run this every day for slow computers, and about every 3 days for fast computers.
Step 8: One time download, use it for your internet browser. Be sure to keep it up to date and adjust your security settings!
Step 9: Run once a week to keep up to date and protected. Have the live protection constantly running.
Step 10: Run once a week to keep up to date and protected.
Step 11: Run once a week to keep up to date and protected.
Step 12: Run once a week to keep up to date and protected.
Step 13: Run once a week to keep up to date and protected.
Step 14: Run once every few weeks to keep up to date and protected.
Step 19: Wrap Up
Because of this Instructable, your computer will now be DRAMATICALLY safer! Thanks for reading, please rate and comment, and enjoy your much more secure computer!
If you have any suggestions for new topics, feel free to leave a comment and I'll research it!
A repeat from my introduction, but please, check back every now and then for something new and update your rating if you see fit. This Instructable will never be "closed" so express your interest and input! Also, if you feel that I need to give more information, or that my information is wrong on any of these steps, also let me know. I am trying to make this Instructable the best it can be!
Thanks, and click here for my other great instructables: lukethebook333's Instructables
If you want to get a notification each time I add a step or edit this instructable, feel free to subscribe to me!
Step 20: UNDER CONSTRUCTION: More Details...
Zone Alarm Free Firewall
AVG Anti-Virus Free
Mcaffe Site Advisor:
PC Health Optimizer Free Edition
HouseCall (32-bit version)
Avira AntiVir Personal Antivirus
UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Email
Notes from Symantec:
You may think an email is harmless - until you open it and it's not. Scan emails before you open them, and take extra caution when launching executable (.exe) files attached to an email. Like don't do it. Never open attachments in email from unknown senders and never reply to spam.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Passwords
Notes from Symantec:
Take your passwords to the gym. The stronger your passwords, the more likely they'll fend off devious intruders who are looking for weaklings they can bully. Passwords should have at least eight characters and should combine alphanumeric and special characters ($, *, &, etc.). You should also change your passwords every 45-60 days.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Physical Security
Notes from Symantec:
Physical security counts. True, most PC security threats are virtual, but problems can also begin in the real world. If your computer is open to snoopers, try a screen-locking feature, or just shut your system down. If you've got a laptop, lock it down with a cable. And whatever you do, don't leave your passwords written down where someone can easily read them. There are a number of routine things users can do to bolster security. These include: using the screen-locking feature when away from the computer, shutting the computer off when done for the day, locking laptops with a cable, not leaving passwords written down, and being extra mindful of physical security of PDAs and handheld devices, which are popular targets for thieves.