Keep Your Computer Healthy and Fast – Without Spending a Dime!

Has your computer been working slower than usual? If you answered yes, chances are, your computer has a bad case of spywaritis.

Spyware is a program that sits unnoticed on your hard drive, collecting names of websites you go to, products you buy, news you read, and other very personal information. Marketing and advertising companies pay a lot of money for this information. And companies that collect this information download these spyware programs into your hard drive without your permission – or even knowledge, jeopardising your security and your privacy.

Your computer security can be breached without your knowledge. When you go to some websites, the web pages automatically download spyware programs into your computer. Sometimes, you might see a pop-up that asks you to download a certain program, such as a language pack. Whenever you see such popups, never click Yes unless you are absolutely sure the program is safe.

But even if you don’t see a popup, you can’t be sure that the website carries no spyware. Many websites download harmful programs into your computer automatically as soon as you open them, without any warning at all. Once spyware programs are downloaded into your computer, they keep working in the background, opening automatically whenever you turn on your computer, taking up speed and memory and slowing your computer down.

Another bug that might be plaguing your computer is a computer virus. Computer viruses have been in the news for years: these smart, hard to detect programs wreak havoc on the most heavily protected websites and computers. The worst part about a virus is that you might get it from a person you know and trust: some viruses are written in a way that they use the computer they’ve infected to spread further. This means that even an act like opening an e-card from your sister might breach your computer security and infect your computer with a harmful virus program.

The effect of computer viruses that make the news is very dramatic, but not all computer viruses are so obvious. You might not even know your computer is infected with a virus: it might destroy only some of your programs, or it might use your programs to send thousands of spam emails, or it might infect other computers on your network.

There are other problems that might slow your computer down. But you can fix all these problems using simple – and best of all FREE – computer maintenance programs.

There are two basic types of free computer maintenance programs. Some computer maintenance programs are what’s called “open source,” “shareware” or “freeware”: their creators offer them to the public for free out of the desire to promote computer security. Other free computer maintenance programs are offered by established companies who also sell expensive professional packages: these companies offer “light” versions of their computer maintenance programs as a form of advertising, in hopes that some users of their free programs will purchase professional versions with more features. However, these “light” programs with limited features are more than enough to keep your home computer safe, secure, and healthy.

To protect your computer from spyware and computer viruses, use these simple steps once a week (or more, if you use your computer all the time), and you’ll see the speed pick up!

Clean Your Computer

Whenever you’re using your computer, your programs create temporary files. The internet is responsible for the majority of temporary files: your computer stores all the websites and graphics that you see in its temporary file folders. Depending on your settings, you might have thousands of temporary files on your computer, which clog your memory and slow you down.

These temp files are easy enough to get rid of. First, you’ll clean out your internet browser, then you’ll clean out your hard drive. But first, you need to create a new folder for your computer maintenance programs. This will make it easier for you to run computer maintenance every week.

Step 1. Click My Documents on your desktop.
Step 2. Click the right button on your mouse anywhere in the white space of the My Documents window.
Step 3. In the menu that pops up, click New.
Step 4. In the New menu, click Folder. This will create a new folder in your My Documents.
Step 5. You will see that the words New Folder are highlighted. This means you can type in the name of your folder. Type in My Programs or anything else you might want to name it.
Step 6. Double-click on the new My Programs folder to open it. Leave it open: you will need it soon.

Now, you can move on to cleaning your Internet Explorer:

Step 1. Open your Internet Explorer browser window.
Step 2. Click the Tools button at the top of the window.
Step 3. Click Internet Option. A window will pop up.
Step 4. Make sure the General tab is highlighted. If it’s not, click on it to bring it to the front of the window.
Step 5. In the second section of the General Tab entitled Temporary Internet files, click Delete Files.
Step 6. Once all temporary files have been deleted, click OK at the bottom of the popup screen.

Now, you’ll clean out your hard drive.

Step 1. Click the Start button in the bottom left of the screen.
Step 2. Click Programs.
Step 3. In the menu that opens up, click Accessories. If you don’t see Accessories, look for the downward arrow at the bottom of the menu. Click on the arrow: a full menu will open, and you will find Accessories there.
Step 4. In the Accessories menu, click System Tools.
Step 5. In the System Tools menu, click Disk Cleaner with the *right* button of your mouse.
Step 6. In the menu that pops up, click Send To.
Step 7. In the Send To menu, click Desktop (create shortcut).
Step 8. On the desktop, click the new Disk Cleaner shortcut and drag it into your new My Programs folder.
Step 9. In My Programs, click Disk Cleaner with the left button of your mouse to open the program. This process might take a few minutes.
Step 10. Follow the simple instructions to use the program.

Next time you want to clean your hard drive, you’ll be able to skip Steps 1 through 8. Simply go to the My Programs folder and open the program there.

Get Rid of Spyware

There are many computer programs you can use to get rid of spyware that steals your information and tracks your internet use, priced anywhere from $20 to $200. Fortunately, there are also several high-quality programs that you can use absolutely free. Some of these maintenance programs are open source. Others are offered for free to home users by the manufacturers of more expensive business-grade spyware protection. As we discussed above, these free versions of computer maintenance programs have most features of the business versions and are all you need to improve your computer security and defend it from spyware.

You can research free anti-spyware programs and choose the one you like. In this article, you will be working with the free versions of AdAware maintenance program created by Lavasoft, and with Spybot Search and Destroy.

First, you will clean out spyware and computer viruses using AdAware.

Step 1. Go to the official website of Lavasoft at http://www.lavasoft.com/software/adaware/.
Step 2. Follow simple instructions to download the free version of AdAware. Remember the pathway where the program will be stored on your hard drive.
Step 3. Follow the pathway to the Lavalife folder and double-click AdAware.
Step 4. In the folder that opens, double-click the file called Ad-aware.exe. This will install the program. This might take a few minutes.
Step 5. As the program installs, it will automatically put a shortcut on your desktop. If the program doesn’t do that, it will ask you whether you want the shortcut. Answer Yes.
Step 6. When the installation is done, drag the shortcut into your My Programs folder.
Step 7. Double-click the AdAware shortcut in your My Programs file.
Step 8. Click Check For Updates in the bottom right part of the menu and follow instructions to download updates. This might take a few minutes. (You must be signed on to the internet to complete this step.)
Step 9. Once the updates have been downloaded, click Start at the bottom right of the screen.
Step 10. Check Perform Smart System-Scan, then click Next. AdAware will start looking for spybots. This might take a few minutes.
Step 11. When AdAware is done, you will hear a sound alarm (if your sound is turned on) and will see either a green checkmark or a red flashing spider. The flashing spider means your computer is infected!
Step 12. Press Next or Finish. This will bring you to the initial window.
Step 13. Click the red cross button at the top right corner of the AdAware screen to close the program.

Next time you are running AdAware, you will be able to skip Step 1 through 6.

Now, you’ll run another spyware removal program, Spybot Search and Destroy, for extra protection. There are many different kinds of spyware, and running two different programs will help you get rid of all of them.

Step 1. Go to http://www.safer-networking.org/en/mirrors/index.html.
Step 2. Follow simple instructions to download the free version of Spybot Search and Destroy. Remember the pathway where the program will be stored on your hard drive.
Step 3. Follow the pathway to the Spybot folder and double-click Spybot Search and Destroy.
Step 4. In the folder that opens, double-click the file called SpybotSD.exe. This will install the program. This might take a few minutes.
Step 5. As the program installs, it will automatically put a shortcut on your desktop. If the program doesn’t do that, it will ask you whether you want the shortcut. Answer Yes.
Step 6. When the installation is done, drag the shortcut into your My Programs folder.
Step 7. Double-click the Spybot Search and Destroy shortcut in your My Programs file.
Step 8. In the window that opens, click Search for Updates and follow instructions to download updates. This might take a few minutes. (To complete this step, you must be signed on to the internet.)
Step 9. Once the updates are downloaded, click the Immunize button on the left of the window. This will download the latest list of spyware programs that might be infecting your computer.
Step 10. Once the program is updated and immunized, click Search and Destroy in the top left corner of the window.
Step 11. In the window that opens on the right, click Check for Problems. The program will start searching for spyware. This might take a few minutes.
Step 12. When the program is done, it will give you the list of programs it considers a threat. There should be a check mark next to each program. If some of the programs are not checked, read their names carefully. If you don’t recognize the names and don’t know what the program does, check it manually.
Step 13. Click Fix Selected Problems at the bottom of the window.
Step 14. When all checkmarks turn green, the program is done. You can click the red square at the top right corner of the window to close the program.

Next time you are running Spybot, you will be able to skip Step 1 through 6.

Get Rid of Computer Viruses

Though spyware programs break through your computer security, slowing down your computer and invading your privacy, computer viruses pose an even bigger threat: they can actually destroy your hard drive, disrupt programs, and send out spam and virus emails to all your friends without your knowledge.

Chances are, your computer came with a virus protection program, such as Norton AntiVirus. It’s a good idea to create a shortcut to this program in your My Programs folder and run the program every week along with other computer maintenance programs.

It’s also a good idea to download additional protection for computer viruses that are too sneaky for Norton. In this article, you’ll be working with AVG Free, a powerful free anti-virus program from Grisoft.

When AVG searches for viruses on your computer, it will take up most of your computer’s power and will peek into every file and folder on your hard drive. It’s very important that before you run AVG, you turn off all the unnecessary programs running on your computer and don’t use the computer until AVG is done.

Step 1. Go to the official Grisoft website at http://free.grisoft.com/doc/2/lng/us/tpl/v5.
Step 2. Follow simple instructions to download the free version of AVG Free. Remember the pathway where the program will be stored on your hard drive.
Step 3. Follow the pathway to the Grisoft folder and double-click AVG Free.
Step 4. In the folder that opens, double-click the file called setup.exe and follow the instructions to install the program. This might take a few minutes.
Step 5. As the program installs, it will automatically put a shortcut on your desktop. If the program doesn’t do that, it will ask you whether you want the shortcut. Answer Yes.
Step 6. When the installation is done, drag the shortcut into your My Programs folder.
Step 7. Double-click the AVG Free shortcut in your My Programs file.
Step 8. In the window that opens, click Check For Updates and follow instructions to download updates. This might take a few minutes. (To complete this step, you must be signed on to the internet.)
Step 9. When the updates are downloaded, click Scan Computer. The program will start searching for viruses. This might take a few minutes.
Step 10. When the program is done, it will show a list of viruses that it has found and moved to the Virus Vault. Click Virus Vault on the left of the screen.
Step 11. You’ll see the list of viruses in the Virus Vault. There should be a check mark next to each program. If some of the programs are not checked, read their names carefully. If you don’t recognize the names and don’t know what the program does, check it manually.
Step 12. Find the drawing of a sheet of paper and an eraser at the top of the window. When you hover your cursor over the drawing, it should say Wipe Objects. Click the button. This will delete the viruses from your hard drive.
Step 13. Click the red square at the top right corner of the window to close the program.

Next time you are running AVG Free, you will be able to skip Step 1 through 6.

Defragment Your Hard Drive

Now your computer is healthy and free from spyware and computer viruses. But you must do one more thing to make sure your computer runs fast and smooth: you must defragment your hard drive. This might sound daunting, but it’s actually quite an easy procedure.

As you create, delete, and move files on your computer, and browse the internet, your computer might split some files into fragments and store them in different parts of your hard drive. This slows your computer down because it takes your programs longer to find all the necessary fragments of each file. When you defragment your computer, fragmented files join together, creating more usable space and helping your computer run faster.

Like AVG, defragmentation takes up most of your computer’s power and needs access to every file and folder on your hard drive. It’s very important that before you start this process, you turn off all the unnecessary programs running on your computer and don’t use the computer until defragmentation is done.

Step 1. Click the Start button in the bottom left of the screen.
Step 2. Click Programs.
Step 3. In the menu that opens up, click Accessories. If you don’t see Accessories, look for the downward arrow at the bottom of the menu. Click on the arrow: a full menu will open, and you will find Accessories there.
Step 4. In the Accessories menu, click System Tools.
Step 5. In the System Tools menu, click Disk Defragmenter with the right button of your mouse.
Step 6. In the menu that pops up, click Send To.
Step 7. In the Send To menu, click Desktop (create shortcut).
Step 8. On the desktop, click the new Disk Defragmenter shortcut and drag it into your new My Programs folder.
Step 9. In My Programs, click Disk Defragmenter with the left button of your mouse to open the program. This process might take a few minutes.
Step 10. Click Defragment on the bottom of the Disk Defragmenter window. This might take a few minutes. You will be able to watch as the program moves fragmented files.
Step 11. When defragmentation is done, click the red square at the top right corner of the window to close the program.

Next time you want to clean your hard drive, you’ll be able to skip Steps 1 through 8. Simply go to the My Programs folder and open the program there.

Now your computer cleanup is complete. Restart your computer.

It’s a good idea to follow these steps at least once a week. Keep in mind that computer cleanup takes a while. Schedule your maintenance for a time when you don’t have to use the computer. If you follow these steps regularly, you’ll see how fast your computer can be!

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