Here are some healthy habits for keeping your system running right.
Keep Windows up to date by installing all critical updates. Windows users will find update options under Control Panel>System & Security>Windows Update.
Check start-up processes. Launch Msconfig from the Start menu's Run dialog and click the Startup tab. Look up unfamiliar entries on a site like AnswersThatWork.com to find out what they are and if you can safely disable them.
Keep all security programs up to date. This includes antivirus, firewall, and antispyware programs. If possible, set them to update automatically.
Back up regularly. See our most recent Utility Guide (www.pcmag.com/utilityguide) for various methods and programs for backing up your files.
Surf safely. Set Internet Explorer's Security and Privacy levels to at least Medium, disable third-party cookies, and never click on a button or pop-up dialog without reading it carefully. Never allow a download that you didn't specifically request.
Be wary of attachments. Viruses often arrive in e-mail messages with spoofed return addresses, so open only expected attachments from sources you trust.
Don't swallow the spam. Tricky social engineering makes clicking on the links in some spam almost irresistible. Check sites like Hoaxbusters (http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org) as well as those of major AV vendors for lists of Internet scams.
Set up your IM properly. Allow connections only from users on your buddy list. Disable file sharing, file transfer, and other advanced (but dangerous) features.
Check for vulnerabilities via assessment sites. One of our favorites for this is Gibson Research (www.grc.com), home of ShieldsUP! and many other vulnerability assessment tools.
Keep an eye on those icons. Antivirus, firewall, and other types of security software place status icons in the system tray. Glance at them every day to make sure they're active and not flashing any alerts.
Source: PC Magazine, 8/3/2004, Vol. 23 Issue 13, p82, 2p
Ensure the your Virus Software is set to scan--Although there are fewer viruses targeted at Macs, they still happen. Use Avast or another virus scanner regularly.
Avoid installing necessary software--This can clog your hard drive and add time to your start-up. Try not to just click through the choices when you install software.
Careful with surfing the shady side of the Internet-- Evaluate what you are downloading as a virus can really slow down your computer.
Scan your hard drive for errors-- Use Disk Utility