How to secure your PC

By Rishabh Bakshi

The objective of this article is to help you secure your computer in an uncomplicated and inexpensive manner. There are just six easy steps to make your computer highly secure and resistant to viruses, trojans and intrusions. None of these steps involve any deep knowledge of the computer or any major expense. In fact, you may not need to spend even a single dime! Let's proceed:

Six Easy Steps
1. Install an anti-virus software
2. Install a firewall
3. Automate Windows Update
4. Install adware and spyware detection and removal program
5. Stop using Internet Explorer
6. Stop using Outlook Express

Now let's look into each step in more detail:

Rishabh Bakshi

Install an anti-virus software.

Resources and Links

Viruses can destroy the data on your hard drive. To find and remove viruses on your computer, you would need to install an anti-virus software. However, installing an anti-virus software is only half the story. Keeping the virus signatures regularly updated is critical. You can get an anti-virus software fairly cheaply, but nothing's cheaper than free! The AVG Antivirus software by Grisoft is free to use and they also provide the anti-virus signature updates for free. Usually this is the first program you install before implementing any of the steps listed below.

Software Firewalls

Kerio (free)
ZoneAlarm (free)

Anti-virus Software

Grisoft AVG (free)
Trend Micro


Firefox (free, open source)
Mozilla (free, open source)
Opera (ad-supported)

Email Clients

Eudora (free)
Mozilla (free, open source)
Pegasus (free)
Thunderbird (free, open source)


Ad-aware (free)
Spybot (free)

Get Firefox!

2. Install a firewall.

 If you connect to the Internet, you absolutely must have a firewall. A firewall prevents crackers and trojan programs from compromising and infecting your computer. There are a number of ways to put a firewall on your computer:

a. Buy a hardware firewall
b. Use the built-in firewall in your operating system
c. Install a software firewall

Hardware firewalls offer excellent protection while keeping the changes made to your computer to a minimum. They also offer the best network performance since their operation does not place any load on your computer. However they are an option only if you have broadband plus they cost money -- ranging from about $40 up to hundreds of dollars. Note that they are a great option if you want to go wireless with your laptop.

The second option is free -- you can use your operating system's built-in firewall. You will need to have Windows XP or Linux as your OS though. Windows 98, ME and 2000 don't have this feature.

Third-party firewalls can offer additional security that the hardware or OS built-in firewalls cannot provide. ZoneAlarm, for example, not only provides security against incoming attacks but it also allows you to allow or disallow internet access for every program on your computer. Some of the best software firewalls can be downloaded for free too. Check out the resources section in this article for more information.  The is however a negative side to using the third-party firewalls. They take up memory and CPU time thereby potentially making the computer run slower.

Automate Windows Update.

Setup your computer to automatically download and install all the ciritical bug-fixes that Microsoft publishes from time to time.

Go to the Control Panel and double-click on "Automatic Updates". Make sure the checkbox for "Keep my computer up-to-date" is checked. Then select "Automatically download the updates, and install them on the schedule that I specify". You will also need to select when this will happen. Typically you would select "Everyday" and a time of day when the computer is most likely to be running but not in heavy use.

Install adware and spyware detection and removal program.

Call it adware or spyware, it is the software on your computer that tracks your online behavior, show popup advertising or sometimes even get  passwords to any websites that you visit. It is installed on your computer with or without your consent by online ad engines, malicious websites or some program that you might have downloaded.  It is also important to note that all adware and spyware is not detected by anti-virus software.

To detect and remove the adware and spyware from your computer, you can install Ad-Aware, Spybot or similar software. And like the anti-virus software, it is important to keep it updated by downloading the latest updates to the software before running the scan on your computer.

Stop using Internet Explorer.

There are so many known and not-yet-known vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer browser that even if you keep up with all the latest updates it's still not enough to prevent nasty trojans, adware and spyware from creeping into your computer.

There are alternative browsers out there which offer not only a more secure and enjoyable browsing experience but also some very useful features that are missing in the Internet Explorer.

Mozilla is an open source program that can be downloaded and used for free. It is a complete browser and email application suite. Firefox is its browser-only cousin that's faster and leaner, and has some cutting-edge features that it's more mainstream cousin doesn't support yet. Opera is a closed-source product and can be downloaded and used for free in the ad-supported version or you can purchase it for a nominal price to get rid of the ads.

Stop using Outlook Express.

Outlook Express is a very feature-rich email client. Sadly it also shares some of the vulnerabilities of Internet Explorer. The best way to be adequately protected is to use an alternative email client. There are a number of free and equally if not more capable products to choose from. Open source products include Mozilla and Thunderbird, whereas closed-source but free products include Pegasus and Eudora.

July 7, 2004

© Copyright 2004, Rishabh Bakshi. All rights reserved.
No material in part or in full from this article may be reproduced without prior written permission.
The software names and links are provided for reference only and the author does in no way endorse or advertise the listed software and links for their ability or suitability for any task.