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Guidry: Five essentials to protect your new computer

Published: Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Congratulations on your new computer. Before you get started, here are five essentials you’ll need.

A better security suite: Most computers come with antivirus, but it’s usually either a limited-time trial or a freebie basic version. Worse, some computer vendors encourage you to rely solely on the built-in security offered by Microsoft and Apple.

Your choice in security software will determine whether your computer remains functional or becomes overrun by viruses. Given the rampant and destructive nature of today’s threats, you need a commercial security suite. Modern security suites include not only antivirus, but also social media monitoring and web browser integration.

A backup strategy: What better time to decide your backup strategy than when you first set up your computer? If you configure backups now, you’ll be prepared when you copy your data to the new system.

Increasingly, we’re storing data online. Some sites offer the ability to download data to an archive on your local hard drive. You can include those files when you back up the rest of your computer. The various versions of Windows each has its own backup methods. Macs have the built-in Time Machine, which allows easy backup to an external hard drive or Time Capsule. Choose at least two backup devices, so if one fails, you still have another. You should also maintain offsite backups. Test all backups to make sure you can recover files from them.

Recovery plans: Those reminders to make recovery disks? Make them now. While you’re at it, it’s not a bad idea to take an image of the entire system once you’ve configured it. An image is different from a backup. Backups are copies of your data files. Images are snapshots of your computer its current state, most useful for recovery from system problems.

You’ll typically need a third-party program to create images, although newer computers may offer the capability. Remember to make another image if you install or change anything important. Images plus backups protect your computer’s configuration as well as your data.

An alternate Web browser: Windows users get Internet Explorer by default, and Mac users get Safari. But there are other browsers out there, and it’s a wise idea to separate social media from your banking and email. Alternate web browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Safari and Opera. They possess similar features and may offer additional security options.

The latest software updates: With this new computer, vow not to skip software updates. You need them or your computer will not be as resilient to viruses and other Internet threats. In fact, your computer probably needs updates straight out of the box, thanks to the lag time between building the computer and shipping it to you. Run these system and program updates before you copy any important data.

Once you’ve taken care of the basics, your new computer is ready for action. Don’t forget to re-evaluate these essentials on a regular basis to maintain your computer’s peak performance.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and IT specialist. Her Tech Tips blog www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips offers computer help and social media advice. She can be reached at info@guidryconsulting.com or via Twitter @trionaguidry.

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