Ten Steps to Securing Your New PC
I just bought a new computer, and I want to make sure I've got all the security bases covered before I go any further. My last computer was ruined by viruses, and I don't want that to happen again. What steps to you recommend to make sure it's as secure as possible?
Security Checklist for a New PC
You've just set up a brand-new PC and you're ready to go online. But before you do, there are several steps you must take to protect it against all the bad guys out there on the Internet: hackers, crackers, spammers, phishers, and other evil-doers in the dark corners of cyberspace. Here's a checklist to help you batten down the hatches:
ANTIVIRUS: Most PCs come with antivirus software trial packages ready to be installed. In fact, you will probably be prompted to install one immediately after your system is set up. Even if the default antivirus package is not the one you want to use long-term, install it anyway before you go Web surfing. You can always uninstall it after downloading your preferred antivirus. Just be sure to disconnect from the Internet before uninstalling antivirus, and don't reconnect until the new protection is installed.
If you want to ditch your paid anti-virus or internet security suite, there are plenty of free options available. And for most people, they will do the job just fine. See my articles Is It Time to Uninstall Norton and McAfee? and Free Anti-Virus Programs for a more detailed look at the issue of replacing commercial anti-virus suites with free alternatives.
UPDATES: Your operating system was installed on a new PC long before you brought it home. A number of security updates have probably been issued since then. Even a brand-new PC should have its operating system updated immediately to protect it against the most recently discovered vulnerabilities. The same goes for any browser or other application software you have on your machine. If Windows or an installed app says you need to download and install security patches, allow it to do so.
ROUTER: Install a router, even if you use only one PC on your "network." A router is one of the best protections you can have against invaders, and it handles security without tapping your PC's processing power. If you have high-speed Internet service (DSL, cable, or fiber) you probably already have a router that was installed by your Internet service provider (ISP).
FIREWALL: Make sure your network is protected by a firewall before connecting to the Internet. A firewall will protect you from unauthorized attempts to access your computer. See Do I Really Need a Firewall to learn more about both hardware and software-based firewalls.
SERVICES: Turn off unnecessary Windows services that may leave a crack in your security. As an added bonus, disabling unnecessary services will speed up your PC's performance. See my related article Speed Up Windows 7 for even more performance tips.
BROWSER: Internet Explorer, the default browser on Windows PCs, is the preferred target of hackers. Security experts differ about which browser offers the most secure web browsing solution, but my opinion is that you can reduce your exposure by switching to Firefox, Chrome, or another alternative browser. The continuous game of "security leap-frog" that's happening amongst the Big Three browser developers is actually a good thing. See my analysis of why Chrome is rapidly gaining market share in Is Chrome the Best Browser?
BLOAT: Uninstall software that you don't need. Every idle program on a new PC is a door that could admit a hacker or malware. PC Decrapifer is a handy, free tool that removes many pre-installed software packages that comes with new PCs.
ACCOUNTS: Create user accounts with appropriate privileges for each person who will use the new PC, and create strong user login passwords for each account. There should be only one administrator account.
SHARING: Windows file and printer sharing should be disabled if you don't plan to use it. From the Windows 7 start menu, click Control Panel / Network and Sharing / Change advanced sharing settings. From here you can enable or disable the sharing options.
EXTENSIONS: Unhide default file extensions. This default "feature" of Windows conceals the extension of a file in Windows Explorer, so that a Word document's name is displayed without the "doc" extension, for instance. The problem is that a malware file may conceal the fact that it is really an "exe" file that can execute a keylogger, virus, or Trojan on your machine. To unhide file extensions, Type "folder options" into Windows Search box and click on that item. Click the "View" tab, then UNcheck the box "hide extensions of known file types".
Got any other security tips you'd like to share? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 Feb 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Ten Steps to Securing Your New PC (Posted: 16 Feb 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved