Tips for Your Home PC
Number one, you must have a virus protection product installed onto your system. By not having anti-virus installed, you leave your computer open to all sorts of nasty things that can cause harm. What sort of harm? Anything from making your computer run slowly to stealing your personal information. There are many free and paid versions of anti-virus software available and, of course, some are better than others. Most antivirus programs nowadays come with a built in anti-spyware and anti-malware protection. Did you know that if you run Windows 10, you already have an antivirus program installed? It's called Windows Defender and is a good choice for a "set it and forget it" antivirus program. If you have Windows 7, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials, which is a rebranded version of Defender. One thing to keep in mind, you never want to have more than one anti-virus software product installed on a computer at a time. This can cause all sorts of conflicts.
Updates from Microsoft for the Windows operating system are a must, right up there with virus protection. These updates include various fixes that can make your computer more secure and run more efficiently.
If you have a broadband connection to the Internet, install a router with a built in firewall. This does two things for you. It allows multiple computers to be connected to the one Internet connection and the firewall protects you from attacks from the Internet. On top of that, Windows (starting with XP Service Pack 2) has it's own firewall built into it. Of course, there are a both free and paid third party firewall solutions but the Windows version does a pretty good job on its own. You never want to run a computer with your firewall disabled with exception of very rare circumstances.
A good idea is to regularly do some "spring cleaning" on your computer. This can include removing unwanted/unneeded programs and files and running the built-in Disk Cleanup program. There is also other third-party software that can do a thorough job of cleaning up your computer (See "Useful Links".)
When it comes to Email, a good rule of thumb is to not open any from an unfamiliar source no matter how tempting (i.e. the African prince looking to give away money). You especially do not want to click on any links or download any attachments. This can cause a virus or spyware to be installed onto your computer. Also, sometimes legitimate contacts can unwittingly send you a virus or spyware. If you get something that you deem suspicious from them, the best thing to do is notify them that they may have a problem and should scan their computer and change their Email password.
Another thing to look out for is sometimes, as a form of advertising, a legitimate piece of software that you want to install or update can include some other software that you do not want (Adobe products are famous for this). Many times this extra software are trials of a certain product or Internet toolbars... they're not necessarily dangerous but they can slow things down, take up hard drive space or just clutter things up. A good rule of thumb is to read the fine print to make sure that you aren't installing something that you do not want and, in many cases (if available) do a "custom" install which will allow you to pick and choose what is to be installed and where it will be installed.