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Keep Your Computer Healthy

By John P. Anchan


As winter flu season approaches, many of us head to doctors offices, eager to be inoculated against the insidious viruses that threaten our physical health. How many of us, however, remember to visit a tech specialist to inoculate our computers against the insidious pests that threaten to infect them year round? Too busy for an office visit? Education World makes house calls! Included: Eight categories of software your computer shouldn't live without.


Many educators -- and non-educators alike -- wonder about the minimum software applications their computers need to stay in top working order. To answer their questions, I downloaded and tested -- on multiple laptops and desktops -- an assortment of basic software programs, arriving finally at what I regard as the minimum requirements for a "safe and clean" cyberlife.

Note: Although I do cite brand names, I am not recommending any particular brands. These happen to be brands I tested and found reliable; however, I do not intend to promote one brand over another. I am simply recommending categories of software and providing at least one high quality example for each category. Many of the programs mentioned are free.


About the Author

John P. Anchan is an assistant professor of Education at the University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. A member of the Education World Tech Team, Anchan maintains "an ongoing interest in keeping track of evolving software packages."


To keep your machine in tip-top shape, I recommend buying or downloading nine categories of software applications. Those categories are: 1. Immunity; 2. Emergency; 3. Protection; 4. Privacy; 5. Security; 6. Peace; 7. Surveillance; 8. Convenience; 9. Speed.

If possible, begin with a 'clean' machine; one on which the existing operating system (OS) is the original (not upgraded, as upgrades mount on unnecessary remnants from previous version) OS. Then install the following program categories, which I've listed below in order of importance:

  1. Immunity: Inoculate your computer against damaging viruses by installing an antivirus program such as Norton Anti-Virus or Panda Software.
  2. Emergency: Symantec's GoBack is system recovery software can revert the whole system to a previous state if it is hit by a virus, software problems, accidental deletes, and so on. I also use Norton Ghost, which creates an image of your systems hard drive for massive backups of system failures. This backs up the whole system with the OS updates, patches, settings, and complete image of your system rather than the MS Backup that backs up only your documents.
  3. Protection: Protect your network resources from interlopers with an Internet Security Firewall. Download the free ZoneAlarm Basic or purchase Norton's Firewall/Internet Security.
  4. Security: Prevent others from accessing folders or files you want to keep secure by using the highest bit encryption software. Anyone who steals your laptop or hard drive is out of luck! You will be too, of course, if you forget your password.
  5. Peace: (a) Get rid of spam in your e-mail with SPAMfighter. The software works like a charm.
  6. Surveillance: Ensure that nobody is tracking your moves on the Internet with Ad-Aware. This free tool scans your memory, registry, and hard drive for spyware and allows you remove it.
  7. Convenience: Search the Internet and even browse offline using the multi-search engine application Copernic Agent. Its search on steroids -- and the basic version is free.
  8. Speed: Manage the files on your hard drive with PowerDesk. The program remembers which Window you last opened, provides built-in multiple Windows to click-and-drag files, and more. The basic version is free.

Now that your computer has a clean bill of health, you might feel better, too. A healthy machine makes for a sane owner! Remember: There are only two kinds of people -- those who have lost information and those who will! Don't be a statistic.


Article by John P. Anchan
Education World®
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Links Updated 10/15/2012