Seven Common Computing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Category: Reference

Sorry if this sounds unsympathetic, but most computer problems are caused by users. There are a few basic steps you can take to avoid malware infections, data loss, and performance issues. Too often, people try to save time or money by cutting corners, and they end up paying the price. Check out my list of common computing mistakes, and how to fix (or even better, avoid) them. Read on...

Seven Computing Mistakes to Avoid

Here are seven of the most common computing mistakes, and some tips on corrective action you can take today.

SECURITY: Failure to use anti-malware and firewall protection is like leaving your door open and your wallet on the table. Viruses, spyware, trojans, keyloggers, rootkits and other malware are ubiquitous, and they can enter a computer through many different channels. The damage that malware can do ranges from minor annoyance to data loss to identity theft. The latter can take years to remedy and cost thousands of dollars.

It's been shown that a computer left unprotected can be infected within minutes after going online! Protecting yourself against malware should be a high priority. There really is no excuse for not using an effective anti-malware program. I have reviewed many of them here, and all are available in free versions.

Seven Computing Mistakes

PASSWORDS: Is your online banking password "123456" or "abc123"? Do you use the same password for ALL of your online accounts? Weak or predictable passwords make it easy for hackers to plunder your bank account or hack your email. Here are some tips to help you create and manage strong, hacker-proof passwords...

OPERATING SYSTEM: Keeping Windows up to date is also a critical security chore, and one that too many users skip. Hackers discover new vulnerabilities in the world's most popular operating system every month, and Microsoft issues critical security updates of Windows and other MS applications as fast they're fixed. Obtaining this free protection is as easy as enabling Automatic Updates in Windows; just set it and forget it.

SOFTWARE: Application software also needs to be kept up to date and secure. Many malware packages target vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Java, and other popular applications. Automatic updates are available for many applications, and they should be enabled so you can easily receive security updates. Manual checks for updates should be performed at least monthly if automatic updates are not available.

DOWNLOADS: When downloading and installing new software, you're often presented with an endless series of 'Next' or 'OK' buttons. You might be tempted to mindlessly click through them, just to get it over with. But that can lead to some nasty surprises. Here are some things to be aware of when downloading, and a nifty tool that makes the process simpler and safer...

WIRELESS: If you use any wireless devices at home (smartphone, tablet, e-reader, laptop) you need to make sure your wireless router is secured. Failure to do so can give unauthorized persons access to your files, or the ability to use your Internet connection for illegal purposes. You may even be legally liable if you don't lock down your router. If you use public wifi on a mobile device, there's another set of things you need to watch for.

BACKUPS: Backing up your data is probably the most neglected computing safety chore. And a backup can bail you out of so many problems, whether it be be hardware failure, a software glitch, a virus, or human error. The backup tools built into Windows 7 and 8 will do an adequate job of backing up just your data or your entire hard drive. But there are better (even free) backup utilities and online storage services for your backups. Don't forget about the important stuff on your smartphone and tablet -- they need to be backed up too. And what about your online accounts -- Facebook, Twitter, and email? If you don't have a comprehensive plan to safely backup all your data, you need to start on that today.

The biggest mistake most users make is assuming that the worst will never happen to them. Paying attention to these essential tasks can prevent a myriad of computing problems. Follow the links above and learn how to protect yourself from viruses, identity theft, data loss and sluggish performance. Have you made any of these mistakes? Can you think of other common computing mistakes?

Your thoughts are welcome on this topic! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Seven Common Computing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)"

Posted by:

19 Jan 2016

As reported by Kim Komando, "old" versions of LastPass have a flaw that could leave you open to phishing attacks.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2016

Bob, I am very grateful to you and your backup reminders. I realized recently I hadn't checked my backup system in a while, so I did. It wasn't creating backups automatically because there was an error message. Two days later, I had a crash from which I recovered easily with the backup I created that day.


Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
19 Jan 2016

User error. ... Driver error. ... Pilot error. ... Ugh.

My favorite (at least, today) is "Texter error."


Posted by:

Nick Iacovelli
19 Jan 2016

I just wish more people use super anti and malware byte. Every time I use it a person pc i get 3000+ malware

Posted by:

Monte Crooks
19 Jan 2016

Thank you, Bob, again and again and ag........... and so on. You not only provide all of U.S. knowledge (which is NOT POWER in and of itself), you also provide the way and means of applying it (which is ALL POWERFUL)!

Posted by:

20 Jan 2016

Yep - It's that time of the year - And yes, I have been a good student of yours and do all the things you recommend.

What I love about your suggestions, usually there are several programs we can select from, giving each of us a choice!!! You also, let us know when a program or download website or whatever goes BAD. This is just as important and methods to protect your computer.

It isn't easy trying to educate people to learn to protect their computers. Most don't care how this or that works, they simply want their computer to work! Protection saves them time and energy - But, too many don't care. They will say, I can easily take it to Geek Squad or whoever, pay my money and have a working computer again.

I have always thought that I would much rather have a working computer 24/7, by protecting it from the start. Repair my own computer, saving lots of money. Well, that's my thinking. :)

Posted by:

Dave Fox
20 Jan 2016

Bob, great article as always. Let me tell you about a horror story. After watching the games on Sunday, I forgot to turn my PC off, and went to bed. When I woke up Monday morning, and tried to use this computer, I found out Microsoft Update had downloaded a massive windows upgrade, and installed it, and it trashed my entire system to the point where I had to reinstall Win 8, Win 10, and then this New win upgrade. I lost everything, all of these nice little apps I have been getting thanks to you, now I'm trying to find all the apps and get them reinstalled. Needless to say it's been a lousy 24 hours thanks to Microsoft. I'm really having 2nd thoughts about this Automatic Update. I woke up to a nightmare.

Posted by:

21 Jan 2016

I have never allowed Automatic Updates on any significant program Dave Fox's experience describes why. "Notify and let me choose"is so much safer and better, well worth the few seconds extra time it costs.

In fact frankly |I've never understood why you don't recommend it.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016

Thanks again for a great review. Because of you I have been pretty diligent. I use Avast and Malwarbites and update only via Patch my PC and download via Ninite. It is only for audio and video but I highly recommend Videohelp for programs. It provides total info and warnings.
Now after reading the password part I decided to leave Lastpass for PasswordBox partly for my tablet. Well that was shooting at a moving target as Intel bought MacAfee and after installing on tablet and PC I had to then install True Key. A notice came up about it only being good for one year and l'm trying to figure out how to access it on the tablet and have yet to try the PC. MacAfee scares me although Intel impresses. Any sugesstion?

Posted by:

22 Jan 2016

Just saw rich's comment just proceeding me. Since Win 10 started nagging the only way I can get updates is to set the updater to automatically download and install.

Posted by:

24 Jan 2016

It's funny that your article came out at this time. I just got through a clean up job on my sister's laptop.

I've come to the conclusion that there are people who should not never, never, never, ever have a computer! I spent a day cleaning up 5,817 bits of malware, installed all Windows updates which she kept putting off "because they take too long", and uninstalled junkware.

For backups, I use a manual method using FastCopy to send my wanted data to an external drive. My most important data gets backed up diligently on a weekly basis with a Diff setting to backup the most recent data.

The program is great and it's free.

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