A Practical Guide to Protecting Your Computer

By Cathy Margolin, Reviews Editor


With all the unheard of things happening, you are more at risk with your electronic resources than ever.  The security people are forecasting more viruses, more Trojan Horses and other electronic mayhem. And the source may just be the kid next door with too much time on his hands wanting to wreck more mayhem in this uncertain time.

Develop a Strategy

Develop a Strategy

In order to protect your computer in these uncertain times, you need to develop a strategy for your  computer. That means another four letter word- PLAN .  First off ask yourself these questions:

What is computer used for? E-mail, Writing, Work, Genealogy ?

What is most important if I lost it? What could I not recreate?



If your computer is important,  you should backup! And regularly!

There are two  Types of Information: Data files and Systems files/ Programs.

Data files change much more often and should be backed up accordingly.  I use C drive for my programs and D drive for all my data, making it much easier to backup my data since it is segregated and visible.

 Since hard drive are so cheap these days (40 gig for $99) , they have become the backup of choice for home systems.  One way to do this is removable Mobile Docks. This is a removable unit that fits in an open drive bay, an IDE hard drive fits in it and  it can be easily  removed from the front of your computer.  The Mobile Drive I use is and costs about $24 for the entire unit and $12 for extra inserts for extra removable hard drives.  I then use Laplink to backup all my drives from my original first hard disk to my removable second hard drive.  

Weekly I then use my CD-RW drive to backup any Data that has changed during the week (so I have versions in case of a virus or Human error- grin).

Also do not forget to backup your Email files and address book..


        1. AOL users:

        In the AOL folder, everything is in the folder called "Organize" – back up entire directory backs up the favorite places, email and the address book

        In the AOL folder, "Download" folder is usually where the Downloaded files go.

        You may want to try Powertools Pro (keyword BPS ) to create an exportable/printable address book. (cost is about $25). PowerTools software creates an Access database, which can then be exported to other email programs..

        2. Outlook Users:

        It is usually called outlook.pst   - look in the C:\Windows folder for it.  It has mail, address book, calendar, etc.

        3.  Outlook Express (using Windows 98)

        The file called inbox.dbx, etc. is usually found at

        C:\Windows\Application Data\Identities\ weird name(?)\Microsoft\Outlook Express\ and files like inbox.dbx, etc.

        4. Netscape Users:

        Anything under: C:\Program Files\Netscape\users\YourScreenName

        Bookmark.htm is your bookmark (favorites file)

        \Mail\inbox is your inbox

        \Mail\sent is the mail you have sent

        5. Internet Explorer Users

        C:\Windows\Favorites is where all your Favorite places are stored.

        6. Eudora

        In the Eudora folder (usually).

         Back up each of these files in another drive, a backup hard drive, a removable drive, or even on a CD-ROM. Having to re-create your Address book or Favorite places is not a fun thing to do, so Back up these files up often!


Defragmentation of your hard drive is  optimizing how date is stored on your hard disk and preventing lost clusters. I recommend doing this at least weekly. My favorite program for this is Vopt by Golden Bow Software ( )



UPS is Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) which gracefully lets your computer shut down when a power outage & protects from power spikes/surges .  Get a UPS with software to do this. Also be aware that it will take either a Serial port (not modem or mouse) or a USB port- which do you have open to dedicate to this use?

If you don’t want UPS, at least put Surge protectors on all computer/TV, etc. including the  modem line.


Virus Checking

Pick a virus checker and keep it up to date for software and the most current virus definitions. Don’t forget to include the Recycle bin in your virus checking, since the latest viruses now put things there. Update the virus checker WEEKLY!


Personal Firewall

Check who can get into your computer at Steve Gibson’s site:

“Just so you know, WinXP's built-in firewall does not attempt to manage or restrict outbound connections at all. It appears  to be a useful firewall for hiding the machine from the Internet (it has "stealth mode" unsolicited packet handling), but you will still need to use a good third-party personal firewall if you wish to manage and control outbound connections from your  system.” “Crucial as it is to protect yourself from malicious hackers outside, those bad guys represent only half of the threat. The  internet has proven to be an extremely fertile  transportation medium for all manner of nasty Trojan horse programs, rapidly proliferating viruses, and privacy invading           commercial spyware. As a result, it is no longer true that all of the potential problems reside outside the computer.  Your Internet connection flows both  ways . . . so must your security. Steve Gibson

 Steve Gibson recommends the Zone Alarm (   -they have a free downloadable version that is excellent) as a personal firewall for even dial up and cable/DSL users to protect your computer from intrusions and software that “phones home”.

Physical Firewall

 Use a physical Firewall such as the Linksys Cable /DSL Router (see for more discussion)  to help share your Internet connection with your other computers. Also make certain to use ZoneAlarm in addition to a physical firewall.

 Common Sense

When using your computer use common sense. Recommendations for E-mail:

-Do NOT open ANY .exe files

-Be careful of ANY attachment

-Consider changing to a Non-Outlook e-mail reader (prime target for hacking)


Recommendations for Websites

Be careful where you put your Credit Card or personal info. Many web sites  MUST have an E-mail account, but you know they will sell your name for spam, so I use a Hotmail ( e-mail account for sites like that. Thay way my normal e-mail box is not trashed with spam. 


When on a website that wants your credit card, make certain that the Lock is LOCKED before enter credit card. This is usually in the lower left hand corner of the browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape).  Also do not send credit card info via E-mail.


Remember, if you would not do it outside the Internet, you probably should not do it via the Internet (i.e.. Give out checking account, social security number, etc.).  There was a website that asked you for your social security number to tell you where you were born. Not a good idea!

 So use Common Sense and BE  SAFE!!!