This small how-to is about running a working and secure Microsoft windows environment. The content is entirely based on my own experience and views and might contain flaws. Use it at your own risk.
The software choices besides Microsoft windows are free software. There are many paid alternatives and some might be better than their free counterparts. Also some of the software mentioned here is only free for private persons not companies.
I have been using the software products mentioned here and have not found any problems with these.
The subjects covered are:
Better safe than sorry
I am not going into the installation procedure, will leave that up to your windows manual and the instructions on the installations screens.
An important note however is that you should remove your internet connection BEFORE starting the installation. This is because otherwise your computer might get a virus or other malicious software before you have time to install protection. This has happened to me.
You should make a copy of a firewall and anti virus program on a CD or another partition on your computer so you can install these before connecting to the internet. Obtaining firewall and anti virus software is explained later in this section.
It is very important to install updates from Microsoft on a regular basis. This is because updates protect you against flaws in the Microsoft Windows operating system that can be abused by viruses or other malicious programs.
To install these you start Internet explorer and click Windows Update in the tools menu. You should install all critical updates and most of the other updates. Basically if you are in doubt if you need an update, install it. Better safe than sorry.
On some windows systems it is possible to get windows to check for updates automatically. You can configure this in the control panel.
Note on Windows XP. Some people are experiencing problems with the Windows XP service Pack 2 so I would recommend not installing this. This is only relevant for windows XP. I have not heard about problems with other windows service packs so these should be installed.
It is a good idea to defragment your hard disks on a regular basis. Defragmenting your hard disk will make program start and run faster.
To defragment your hard disk you click start -> programs -> accessories -> system tools -> disk defragmenter. Then you will get a list of all your drives and you should defragment all hard disks. The procedure for this is a little dependent on your windows version but should be easy to figure out.
If you are using Microsoft Office or any or the Microsoft programs word, excel, power point, access these needs to be updated on a regular basis also.
You do this by going to http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/officeupdate/default.aspx and clicking the "Check for Updates" link. Then your computer will be scanned and if any available updates exist you should install these by following the instructions on the screen.
A firewall is a piece of software that protects your computer against unwanted internet connections. Basically you need to have this to avoid malicious software to get into your computer at all.
Download here - http://www.zonelabs.com
Zonealarm is a firewall from Zonelabs. Zonealarm is available in both a free and a commercial version.
Zonealarm will ask you some questions about if various software is allowed internet access. If in doubt answer NO. Then if something does not work which you need you can always answer yes next time.
After installing Zonealarm it will update itself whenever needed.
Anti virus programs is examining files on your computer for virus. This can be incoming email, browser pages, files you receive on CD's or anything else that comes into your computer.
Download here - http://www.free-av.com/
AntiVir is available both in a free and a commercial version.
AntiVir needs to be manually updated on a regular basis. This is easily done by right clicking on the AntiVir icon in the task bar and clicking "start internet update". After clicking that you click start in the new window and yes to installing any updates.
Anti Malicious Tools
This section is about software tools that can remove annoying or dangerous things from your computer.
Download here - http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/
Adaware is an easy to use scanning and removing tool. When started you first click the check for updates and install any available updates. Then you run a system scan and remove any objects the program has found.
Download here - http://www.spybot.info
SpyBot is an easy to use scanning and removing tool. When started you first check for updates and install any available updates. Then you run a system scan and remove any objects the program has found.
SpyBot can also run resident in your computers memory. Here it can monitor changes to the registration database that you can approve or deny. Also it can do some monitoring when browsing the web with Internet Explorer.
Download here - http://toolbar.google.com
The Google Toolbar is an add-on to Internet Explorer. If you do not use Internet explorer there is no point in installing Google Toolbar. Its main function for me is its ability to block popup windows. This means that if a site makes a popup window this is never shown. Normally popup windows is just annoying advertising however in some cases you might want to view the popup window and therefore you can toggle popup windows on/off by clicking the Google Toolbar.
This section is about various other software which many people uses on their computer.
Download here - http://winzip.com/
Winzip is a program for compressing and uncompressing groups of files so they take up less space on your hard drive.
I think that the newer versions of Winzip are not free anymore but I am not sure. Some versions of windows might come with build-in Winzip features.
Download here - http://skype.com/
Skype is a program that allows you to use your computer as a phone. You can call other Skype users for free or call regular phones for a fee. Of course you need some kind of speakers and microphone for this to work.
Skype is currently not supporting all windows versions.
Skype is free.
Download here - http://www.ceruleanstudios.com/
Trillian is a program for internet chat. It supports the following chat types: msn, yahoo, icq, irc, AIM all in one program.
For me Trillian is a must since instead of installing 5 different chat programs I can run it all from one program.
Trillian is available in both a free and a commercial version and can check for updates automatically.
Download here - http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html
Acrobat reader is used to read pdf files. Since pdf files is more and more common it is a must to have a pdf file reader.
Acrobat reader is free and can check for updates automatically.
Mozilla / Firefox
Download here - http://www.mozilla.org/
Mozilla / Firefox is an alternative to Internet Explorer for browsing the internet. It has a build-in popup blocker and tabbed browsing. Tabbed browsing means that you can have several internet surfing session open in the same window. This is a feature I can't live without.
Mozilla looks a lot like Internet Explorer and therefore should be easy to learn to use.
Mozilla is free.
Mozilla is my preferred program for accessing the web.
Download here - http://channels.netscape.com/ns/browsers/default.jsp
Netscape Navigator is another alternative to Internet Explorer for browsing the internet. It has a build-in popup blocker and tabbed browsing.
You can choose to install Netscape spell checker and email program also when installing the browser.
Netscape is free.
Backing up your important files is something many people do not do. However when you get a hardware or software failure you will be very happy you have done this.
It is also a common misunderstanding that backup has to be expensive. If your computer has a USB port you can buy a small USB hard drive and use for backup. A CD or DVD burner or normal diskettes will also do. Even backing up from one hard disk to another hard disk in the same computer will be better than nothing; however if the whole computer breaks down this will not help you.
You make a single folder on your desktop where you save all your documents and important files. This folder you can then backup to your backup media. Unless you have very big files or a lot of pictures you will be able to put this entire folder into your backup media. For normal diskettes you might need to use several diskettes.
You can use Winzip to compress the files directly into your backup media. This will save some space if your files are too big to fit into the backup media.
You will be very happy that you did not lose any important files when one day you experience that your hard disk does not work because of hardware or software failure. Most people have to try this once before they take backup seriously :)
This is a checklist I suggest you perform on a weekly basis.
By following this myself I have never been infected with virus or other malicious software programs.
Better safe than sorry