|If your computer is showing any signs of an infection you should not complete the steps listed below in this guide.|
This is a guide and tutorial for helping end-users properly and safely secure their computers. Each section will detail a key program for adding to the security of your computer.
|The programs mentioned on this page are for Windows XP through Windows 7. If there is a high enough demand a page can be created for Legacy Windows versions. If you would like to see this started please post on our forums.|
Keeping Windows up-to-date is your best bet in keeping your computer safe and secure. The second Tuesday of every month is known as Patch Tuesday. This is the day that Microsoft releases monthly hotfixes and service packs for software installed on your computer. Be sure you have the latest service pack, hotfix rollup, and/or updates installed on your computer. These patches resolve known issues and other bugs that would put your computer at risk.
It is recommended to use Microsoft Update to get updates for both Windows and other Microsoft software such as Office. You can install Microsoft Update on Windows XP and lower by clicking the Microsoft Update link in the Windows Update page. On Vista and higher click Change Settings and apply a check to the Use Microsoft Update box and click OK.
There are several methods you can use to keep Windows up-to-date.
- Automatic Updates - This is the recommended method for keeping your computer up-to-date. This is a type of "set it and forget it" method. You can easily configure Automatic Updates to run on your computer at any given day and time.
- Automatic Updates will display a small globe icon in your system tray near the clock that will resemble the Automatic Updates icon seen to the right. It will notify you of all the activities occurring as your system is updated. This icon will only appear as it downloads updates and also when you have updates or a reboot pending due to updating your system.
- To access Automatic Updates click Start and select Control Panel. Inside the Control Panel is the Automatic Updates icon which you can also see to your right. Double click the icon and configure the settings as you desire or like our example pictured in the image below the Automatic Updates icon image.
- Recommended settings for Automatic Updates are:
- Automatic (Recommended)
- Every day at 5:00 PM
- Windows Update - This can generally be accessed by clicking Start -> (All) Programs -> Windows Update. In Windows Operating Systems prior to Vista your Internet Explorer web browser will open up and automatically direct you to the Windows Update page on Microsoft's web site. You may be prompted to install an ActiveX component for Windows Updates. On Vista and higher it will open the Windows Update component in your Control Panel.
- Windows XP and lower: Next you will need to choose either Express or Custom. Express will download and install all of the High-Priority updates needed for Windows as a totally automated process. Using the Custom section of Windows Update allows you to select the updates that you want, including Optional updates that will also benefit your system.
- Windows Vista and higher: After clicking Check for Updates and click View Available Updates. This allows you to review the updates before you install them. Depending on your version you may wish to exclude and hide the Language Packs. Select all the updates including the Optional updates and proceed to update your Windows install.
- You should not install any drivers from Windows Update, always get them from the manufacturer.
- WSUS Offline Update - For those on a high speed connection and having multiple computers in their homes, this is a wonderful application. WSUS Offline Update downloads updates for Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2003/2007. It then creates an ISO for a CD/DVD that you can use to update computers without an Internet connection. This is a great tool for technicians and can also be easy to use for most users too. If you are in need of a CD/DVD burning software then check out our Freeware section. We recommend using ImgBurn for burning ISOs.
If Automatic Updates or Windows Update is not working for you and you are on Windows Vista or higher you can use Microsoft Fix It's Reset Windows Update. If you're on Windows XP or lower then you can also run Dial-a-fix.
Securing Your Computer
This section covers the programs that are recommended to users quite frequently. These programs have been selected and tested to be the best freeware available.
Avast Home Edition - A lightweight, easy to use and highly customizable anti-virus. Avast is very easy to configure to automatically update. You can have it notify you or silently update. Avast has several forms of protection, including Instant Messaging, Internet Mail, Network Shield, Outlook/Exchange, P2P Shield, Standard Shield, and a Web Shield.
Microsoft Security Essentials - A free consumer anti-malware solution for your computer. MSE provides protection from both viruses and spyware. MSE replaces Windows Live OneCare and the free Windows Defender, which only protected users from adware and spyware. If you use this anti-virus solution you do not need to worry about installing Windows Defender to protect you from malware, as MSE covers malware protection.
Outpost Security Suite Free - Provides antivirus and firewall protection from both inbound and outbound attacks and is also much easier on the user when gaming or using fullscreen applications. If you already have one of the above anti-virus solutions Outpost will automatically detect this and disable/not install their anti-virus.
Microsoft Security Essentials - A free consumer anti-malware solution for your computer. MSE provides protection from both viruses and spyware. MSE replaces Windows Live OneCare and the free Windows Defender, which only protected users from adware and spyware. If you install this application, you should not run another anti-virus program with it because MSE is an anti-virus and anti-malware solution.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware - A free (and also offers a Pro) anti-malware application for scanning and removing malware. One of the top rated and top recommended anti-malware solutions.
Microsoft Security Essentials is recommended for end-users because of the Real-Time Protection. Not only is it fast, it's very user friendly and has an excellent protection for your system.
Securing Your Browser
Securing your browser is a great asset in protecting your computer. By properly securing your browser, you can stop all kinds of malware from getting in. This section will cover ways to add extra protection to the top three popular browsers.
There are two very safe and user friendly browsers that you can choose from.
- Firefox is an open source web browser that is highly customizable. You can customize it with helpful Add-Ons and even Themes to change the appearance of Firefox.
- Opera is another fast, easy to use web browser that has many common features integrated. Things such as a email client, torrent downloader and much more. Downloading the Classic installer is recommended.
SpywareBlaster adds a large list of malicious websites to Internet Explorer's Restricted Sites list. It also restricts malicious ActiveX components and ad/tracking cookies. The Firefox protection also blocks ad/tracking cookies.
Spybot S&D Immunize - Adds a large list of malicious websites to Internet Explorer's Restricted Sites list just as SpywareBlaster does. This can be found by clicking the Immunize button on the left side of Spybot S&D.
SDHelper - Spybot S&D adds a Browser Helper Object into Internet Explorer that helps protect users from known malicious websites. This is found in the same place as Spybot S&D's Immunize feature.
You can also use SpywareBlaster and Spybot S&D's Immunization to help protect Internet Explorer.
Be sure to enhance Internet Explorer's security with the Web of Trust addon.
Firefox gets protection from SpywareBlaster and Spybot S&D, which blocks third party cookies related to ads and tracking. Though cookies are not a threat, many users value their privacy and security.
You can also use SpywareBlaster and Spybot S&D's Immunization to help protect Internet Explorer.
Be sure to enhance Firefox's security with the Web of Trust addon.
Opera has a Permanent Opera immunity feature in Spybot S&D. To access this feature, click Immunize in Spybot S&D and click the checkmark in the box titled Permanent Opera immunity.
Be sure to enhance Opera's security with the Web of Trust bookmarklet.
Securing Your Internet
In this age of the Internet, adware, spyware and phishing attacks are on the rise. Thankfully you can add a layer of protection to your home network or computer by using OpenDNS. DNS stands for Domain Name System.
Many routers support adding OpenDNS in an easy to configure manner as well as several open-source firmwares. One such firmware is the Tomato firmware which is most commonly used on the WRT54GL router.
OpenDNS can help to filter out bad websites that contain adware and phishing attempts. It makes use of PhishTank which is a community based anti-phishing service. PhishTank is used by Opera, WOT, Yahoo Mail and by PhishTank SiteChecker
OpenDNS is very easy to set up. Simply follow this guide to set up your router or computer (if you're not behind a router) to use OpenDNS. While an account with OpenDNS is not required, it is recommended. Best of all it's free. Having an account allows you to filter out all types of websites.
Using OpenDNS is highly recommended to prevent infections from adware, block phishing and filter out other unwanted parts of the Internet.