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5 Common Computer Mistakes to Avoid

Want to keep your computer (and everything on it) safe? Find out what not to do.

By
Eric Escobar
May 18, 2012
Episode #002

Over many years of fixing computers for clients and family members, I have seen all kinds of the ways that people manage to wreck their computers. So today we are going to go over 5 of the easiest ways to destroy your precious computer and how to avoid these common mistakes.

5 Common Computer Mistakes to Avoid

People and computers are similar in that they can both get infected if not taken care of properly.

Meet our pal Jenkins. Jenkins here, eats junk food every day, drinks only soda, never showers, and never visits a dentist or doctor. If he continues in this vein, how long do you think he will remain in good health? Probably not too long. The same is true for your computer. If you don’t do—or avoid doing—certain things, your computer it will not last very long!

So besides not taking care of his body, Jenkins has also destroyed his computer in these 5 ways:

Mistake #1: Clicking on Advertisements

A free iPod! A $500 gift card! A new computer! How could Jenkins resist not clicking on any of these ads? Well truth be told, advertisements that seem too good to be true generally are too good to be true. These ads will often link to websites that can install software on your computer without your knowledge. After a while, this software will start slowing down your computer and it sometimes may even contain viruses or malware!

This isn’t the case for all ads, of course. Clicking on the ads of reputable companies won’t damage your computer and might provide you with some useful products or information. It’s the really awesome-sounding ones that might. So the next time you’re tempted to click on an ad that promises an easy way to lose 20 pounds in 2 days, think twice!

Mistake #2: Visiting Dark Corners of the Internet

The next bad thing Jenkins did was visit websites located in the darker corners of the Internet. That may sound kind of odd, but there are places on the Internet where websites will run programs without your knowing, and they will ask you to download all sorts of malevolent software. The best advice I have for this problem is to use websites you know can be trusted; and if you must venture out into the wild west of the Internet, I suggest using Google to see whether you can find any reviews for a specific website. Just try typing the website in question into the Google search box, followed by some of the following words: “security,” “reviews,” and “problems.” If there is a problem with the website, you will see some startling results appear very quickly!

Mistake #3: Opening Email from Someone You Don’t Know

Spam is one of the most annoying things in the world, and it was yet another seemingly harmless thing that brought down Jenkins’ computer. Opening email from someone you don’t know can have very harmful consequences. Many spam emails will just try to advertise some bogus product, but others are a more dastardly. Some spam messages can download and run viruses that infect your computer and then send the same virus to everyone in your contacts.  I can’t imagine you being very popular after infecting all of your friends and relatives!

Watch out for very generic subject lines in an email

Watch out for very generic subject lines on an email, such as “Hey, I thought you might like this!” or “Check out these awesome pictures!” Spammy subject lines will often play on a person’s curiosity to trick them into opening the message. It is best to just delete spam mail right on the spot. And never, EVER click on a link in an email. Copy and paste right into your browser instead.

Mistake #4: Using Weak Passwords

Your account is only as strong as your password. Jenkins made a huge mistake when he decided to use the same password for his Gmail, eBay, iTunes, and PayPal accounts. That decision was made even worse by the fact that the password was “1234.” These types of passwords are simply not secure and can easily be guessed by any evildoer wanting access to your information. My advice is to use a strong password of 8 or more characters and change it up a little bit for every different account you have online. Having a weak password while surfing the net can leave you high and dry when someone has access to all of your files!

Mistake #5: Not Using an Antivirus

Okay, so the last 4 topics I covered are simple ways Jenkins messed up and are easy ways to avoid 90% of the problems you will encounter on a day-to-day basis. But no matter how careful you or Jenkins try to be, chances are something will still try to infect your computers. The remedy here is to make sure you have an updated antivirus! The key word here is “updated.” It does you no good to have an antivirus that hasn’t been updated for a year; that’s like trying to catch a fish with a net full of holes.

Don’t go out and buy the most expensive software available, because there are plenty of great free options out there, such as Microsoft Security Essentials for PC and Sophos for Macs. For the most part, these programs require minimal upkeep and will generally keep themselves updated.  I suggest using one antivirus software only, and doing a scan once a week to keep your computer clean.

Questions? Feel free to send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com or head over to theTech Talker Facebook page and post your question there.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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