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PC Maintenance Checklist!

The Internet is a rough place. Like the real world, it's full of danger and trouble. You don't leave your front door unlocked at night, you don't tell your alarm code to everybody and you should NOT think for one minute that your PC will just "take care of itself" once you plug it in to the Internet.

Think about it like an expensive car. It does not matter if you paid $50,000 for the car, if YOU don't change the oil and put air in the tires, it will be an old, beat up jalopy in a year. The same is true with your PC.

We will try to give you a starting point with this checklist - but you must know that the Internet landscape is like sand shifting under your feet. Protecting yourself is a state of mind more than it is a certain procedure. It will need to change and grow over time.

In general -

  • Keep your Operating System patched up with all updates,
  • Keep your AntiVirus Software up to date and with active Virus Definitions,
  • Keep a firewall enabled and configured correctly and
  • Make sure all of the applications on your PC are patched up with all of their own possible updates.

Doing that is ONLY a start - you don't even have a chance if you fail to do those four things. You may still end up having trouble, but the chance of trouble is SO MUCH higher is these things are not kept up.

Before we get started - You must BEWARE of "your friend the computer person" or some other "so-called expert" who tells you something like "You should never install all of those Windows Updates." That [poor] advice ruffles feathers among technicians the world over. I have heard some pretty absurd arguments, most of them in some form of "you don't even use that program on your PC, so you don't need to worry about it." Please stop and think about that statement for a minute. I don't care what you know or what you don't know about PC's - use your own powers of reasoning to think about how absurd that argument is. If you have a program installed on your PC, that has a security hole in it, that you never use, does that mean an attacker won't use the program's security hole just because you are not using that program? Ridiculous. Microsoft spends millions of dollars a year detecting and curing defects in your copy of their Operating System and also in many of the programs they sell. Unpatched (and virus un-protected) systems are the NUMBER ONE WAY that bad stuff spreads around the Internet. Don't let somebody bad get a hold of your PC and use it for evil. Skipping Windows Updates and Office Updates is simply horrible advice, and you should graciously decline it - then go right ahead install the updates. Certainly, it is possible that a bad update can hurt your PC because an unforeseen bug - but you have to take that risk, since it's much, much smaller than the risk of not patching the system! There is a right way and a wrong way to apply patches to servers, and we do it the right way - but as to PC's, it's probably best to take the risk of possible PC failure over the risk of possible PC infection. This way YOU can do these updates and save yourself money and time. These instructions here are for all of your PC's - not for your servers, if you have any servers.

Here is a checklist that will work for most PC's that are running Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003 and newer operating systems. We will focus on the Microsoft parts first.

Using Windows Update to catch your system up to date


1. Open up Internet Explorer, and click "Tools", then "Windows Update"

2. Click "Custom"

3. Look closely at the area below the tool bars and above the main content screen. If there is a yellow bar across the top that says "This site might require..." Click it and select "Install"

3a. Look closely at the area below the tool bars and above the main content screen. If there is a yellow bar across the top that says "This site might require..." Click it and select "Install"

3b. Look closely at the area below the tool bars and above the main content screen. If there is a yellow bar across the top that says "This site might require..." Click it and select "Install"

4. If everything worked out after the "detour" to install the software, you will have a "Custom" button again. Click "Custom"

6. If there are updates, they will show up in three categories on the left, named "High Priority", "Software, Optional" and "Hardware, Optional." Start with "High Priority" - click it, then use the mouse to put a check mark in each update that is offered on the right hand side of the screen (sometimes they are already checked.) Then, in the middle of the page click "Review and Install Updates" and answer all the prompts until it says the updates are completed. You may be asked to reboot. 
7. You will need to go back to step 1 and repeat this process over and over again until you have 0, 0 and 0 High Priority, Software and Hardware updates pending. This is because there are often "updates to the updates" that will not pop into the list until the first ones are installed.

Next - Scan your PC online to see if you have already been infected

The people that try to infect your PC work very hard to do it. In order to remove the trash, you will need to try many different tools from trusted sources, because the bad guys may have figured out how to hide from one certain removal tool. DO NOT BE FOOLED - there are people out there who claim that they are "SpyWare Removal" or "Adware Removal" tools when they are actually SpyWare! Stick with known companies and tools. Here are sites that we trust - they all work differently, and they change often, so that the bad guys cannot figure out how to break them. Go to each of these, in order. Install them, then run a full scan and check the results. You may need to try repeatedly, until it shows installed and it completes a full scan. This is especially true with multiple infections, because they may need to remove only one threat per reboot. Be patient - catching an infection takes seconds, and removing one can take hours. That's just the way it is.  
8. (Microsoft)
11. (Microsoft)
Next - do some housekeeping on the PC's hard drive  

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