Tips:  Protect You & Your Tech

[Last update: 02/09/17 - Updated links and added Nav bar
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Order is important when cleaning your system!
Do you clean the garbage in your kitchen that you're gonna throw away? Do you stack the dishes in the cupboard BEFORE washing them? No, of course not! Yet this is exactly what people do with their computers. They anti-virus check thousands of files that they were gonna throw out ANYways and worse, they reorganize the viruses neatly BEFORE getting rid of them!

Doing things in the RIGHT order can save you HOURS of time trying to keep your system clean and running fast!

So try these steps in this order:

RUN CLEAR JUNK™ - (I wrote it, its FREE!) First, you want to get rid of the garbage in your system,Clear Junk Interface so you're not needlessly virus-scanning thousands of junk files. There are many places in Windows where junk files collect and pile up unnecessarily. Programs are SUPPOSED to clean up after themselves, but don't. Other utilities, like DISK CLEANUP, don't clean these areas up becuase they are hard to clean when other programs are running. Viruses and spyware know no one else clears out these areas, so they can hide without fear of being deleted.

This is where Clear Junk™ comes in. I wrote Clear Junk™ to flush out these areas no one else does! Clear Junk™ will go into all these junk areas and clean out as much as it can, saving your Anti-Virus and Defrag programs from having to deal with so much junk, time after time, so YOU save TIME!

So, click on Clear Junk™. I leave everything checked, so all accounts in the system are cleared AND Windows AND even the Recycle Bin. (DON'T WORRY, Clear Junk™ only clears 'temporary' file areas that all programs know not to leave vital data in - all YOUR files are safe - its the viruses that AREN'T!)
TO GET CLEAR JUNK™: You can find Clear Junk™ on the FREE APPS page here at Missing Pieces. (yes, its trully FREE, not a trial version or any junk like that, its FREE :-)

Click on the 'Get Clear Junk™ Free' button and Clear Junk™ will be installed. (if your system doesn't have .NET support installed, that will install first, then Clear Junk™)
Clear Junk™ will enable you to quickly clear junk out of your system. Because its NOT an anti-virus program, it doesn't have to 'think' a lot about each file it finds. They're just temporary junk files, so it justs gets rid of them. :-)

RUN DISK CLEANUP - If you don't have Clear Junk™, at least run Disk Cleanup. It doesn't clear all the things Clear Junk™ does, but it gets rid of SOME at least.

Double-click on 'My Computer' or if you only see 'My Documents', double-click on that and look for 'My Computer' in the left hand column. Now you should see all the drives in your system. Look for 'C:' and right-click on that. This brings up a menu and click on 'Properties' near the bottom. Now click on the 'Disk Cleanup' button.
CAVEAT: XP 'Disk Cleanup' Speedup Fix! Some may have cringed when I mentioned 'Disk Cleanup', becuase it is notoriously slooooow! AND IT IS! But ONLY becuase of one ridiculous option Microsoft never got rid of... 'Compress Old Files'! Back when hard drives were small, relative to Windows itself, this option would save lots of disk space by crushing down old unneeded files from old versions of Windows into a smaller space. But now Windows is so big it takes forever for 'Disk Cleanup' to figure out which ones are OLD! AND, disk drives have gotten even BIGGER, relatively, so it just doesn't really save any real percentage of space to bother with.

BUT, 'Disk Cleanup' always tries to figure it out ANYways. Wasting time! BUT, they FINALLY published a fix that will TURN OFF 'COMPRESS OLD FILES'! NOW 'Disk Cleanup' is FAST and useful! Just click here for the fix. And click the 'Run' button that appears. (or if you only get a 'Save' option, save it to like your desktop and run it from there) Follow the prompts and it will remove the 'Compress Old Files' option.
You can check everything _EXCEPT_ 'Compress Old Files' in the 'Disk Cleanup' list. (unless there is somethine your REALLY wanna keep, but it shouldn't be in any of these areas) Especially include the 'Recycle Bin', since everyone seems to forget to clear that out once in a while. AND include 'Temporary Internet Files', since MANY viruses hide in the Internet Cache and flushing them OUT kills them right there! Then click the 'OK' button and it will get rid of hundreds and thousands of files that you DON'T want to bother anti-virus-ing or defrag-ing, since you don't need them!

RUN YOUR ANTI-VIRUS/SPYWARE TOOLS - Now that you have many LESS files to clean, run your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. (see below if you need these tools or if yours are outdated) If you have enough memory, (512MB for XP, 3GB for Vista or Win7) you can probably run all of them at once. Otherwise do one at a time. I run AVG, Ad-Aware & Spybot all at once on my XP systems with at least 512MB of memory. Always update your programs BEFORE running their scans. Why not have the most up to date stuff? Look for 'Update' buttons in most software.

This step will clean what files are left on your system, after you purged it. But it will go faster than if you hadn't cleaned it out in the 1st step.

DEFRAG YOUR HARD DRIVE - Now that you've gotten rid of the junk files (thrown out the garbage) and gotten rid of viruses (cleaned the dishes), NOW you can stack the dishes in the cabinets! To do this in Windows, once again right-click on 'My Computer' and then click on 'Properties' in the list.

But now, click on the 'Tools' tab. And then click on the 'Defragment Now...' button. Click on your 'C:' drive and click the 'Defragment' button. This will reorganize your hard drive to put files back together so you can get to them faster.

Its kind of like having an encyclopedia (back when we had BOOKS! ;-) but with no shelf space big enough to put the whole encyclopedia together. So a few volumes are in the living room, some in the kitchen and others in the kids rooms. "Where's the M volume?" You may have to run all over the house to find it. Files on your PC get 'fragmented' the same way, all over your hard drive. So Windows runs slow, trying to find everything. 'Defragmenting' your drive, tries to 'restack the books' in the house, so the whole encyclopedia is together in one place, so you can use it faster.

Defragmenting can take a while, so I usually do it and go to bed! In the morning, my system is unbelivably fresh and perky compared to before I threw out the garbage; cleaned the dishes; and stacked them in the cabinets! Hopefully yours is too.

Use your Antivirus program and keep it updated
If your PC came with a free orWe don't need no stinking anti-virus software free trial of an antivirus program, use it! If you have a router, it has a built in firewall, but that is NOT a replacement for an antivirus program. In fact, almost all antivirus programs come with a firewall too. So you might turn off the firewall program if you are short on memory, depending on the router to do its job, but you still need the antivirus itself.

BUT! Some Anti-Viruses are more trouble than they are worth!
If your free antivirus expires or requires you to pay for a subscription, its just not worth it! These and the following, all are problematic and should be avoided:
[NEVER have more than one Anti-virus running down in your 'System Tray'! They will fight with each other, treating each other like a virus and SLOW your system to a crawl!]
Norton/McAfee - AVOID THESE LIKE THE PLAGUE! They are the most bloated Anti-viruses as they are the most popular. They take so much memory, they will slow your system's performance like a virus would! They are also the most HACKED antivirus solutions due to their popularity! When I uninstall either and install another brand, they ALWAYS find many things that both of these bloatwares miss. So I don't find them a good solution. Uninstall either even if its FREE!

Then, last year, Norton tried to get into the Indian market. To do that a company has to GIVE THEM THEIR SOURCE CODE! NO ONE does this! ANYWHERE! So most stay out of the Indian market. But Norton did and their code was STOLEN from a poorly secured Indian server. So EVERY virus maker out there knows how Norton works! So its a useless product until they somehow rewrite all their code from scratch to be totally different.

The newest wrinkle in Norton is OVERPAYING! NEVER DO AUTO-RENEW! I recently had a customer who bought a TRIPLE Norton license, even though they only had 1 machine. Bad enough, but they clicked on auto-renew as Norton recommends. At renewal time, Norton not only SILENTLY auto-renewed, it popped up a box telling them it was time to buy again! So they bought again and installed a new copy... which DIDN'T warn them they already had an ongoing license! AND this NEW triple license was set to autorenew TOO! So now they had paid for _6_ licenses of Norton for ONE machine. AND THIS JUST WENT ON, because Norton seemed to be smart enough to never bill more than once in the same month! By the time I got to their machine, they had spent $610 in 5 years on Norton licenses!! $210 in the last year ALONE! They are currently TRYING to get their money back.

NEVER... BUY... NORTON! I can't emphasize this enough.

Windows Defender - THE worst; just not very effective; slows other products if run at the same time; even Microsoft says to install something MORE!
CA - their antivirus is pieced together from multiple products they bought, there are just as good free options.
AOL - yeeees, still around, their antivirus is so slow and finds fewer viruses than just about any other. AND it adds to the AOL memory bloat that slows a system too.
CAVEAT: Trying to uninstall Norton or McAfee? Both are notoriously TERRIBLE at uninstalling themselves from the Start Menu or from 'Add/Remove Programs' in the Control Panel. So much so that you may NOT be able to successfully install ANOTHER anti-virus program! (great for THEM, huh?)

But both have POWERFUL and WORKING uninstall tools that FULLY remove their products, hidden on their websites! So try either of these if you have problems:
Norton products: Download Norton Uninstall Tool - save and run it, nothing to install, self explanatory
McAfee products: Download McAfee Uninstall Tool - save and run it, nothing to install, self explanatory
(to be fair, even AVG can have its problems uninstalling, so there's a removal tool for them too: Download AVG Remover Tool)
Ad-Aware - Lastly, Ad-Aware. You'll actually see this on BOTH the good and bad lists! Long time customers will have Ad-Aware on their systems that I installed for them...

IF YOU UPGRADED TO THE NEWEST VERSION, YOU MAY WANT TO UNINSTALL IT WITH MY BLESSING!

Why? Because they have ruined a great product and turned it into BRAGWARE! (yes, a term I coined ;-) It now seems to feel they have the right to pop up a bubble above your system tray about every 1/2 hour, telling you 'you are STILL protected by Ad-Aware' ... Yeah? So?? I assumed so withOUT you telling me every 1/2 hour! And there seems to be no way to turn it off! So I found a way... UNINSTALLING AD-AWARE!

I now only use Ad-Aware, STILL A GREAT TOOL, as a temporary tool that I install, run and then UNinstall from a customer's system. It still finds things others don't, but at the cost of BRAGGING about it? Too much to keep. {sigh}

Cable/Satellite subscribers can get anti-virus for 'free', but
I was still using my Comcast McAfee after I switched to Verizon DSL! But then they switched to Norton. Now ANOTHER new suite that INCLUDES Norton. Every year it seems to change as someone offers them a better price. You can usually get it by loggin into your email account, like Comcast here: Comcast.net (not .com, that's for bill paying) If you don't have an email account yet, call them and they'll turn it on for you. Look along the top edge of the page for 'Security' and follow it from there. You'll setup a Comcast/McAfee account and download both products. Its a little involved, but its free. Or call me for a little help. ;-)

But AGAIN, I don't recommend either product, especially when there are free alternatives that work BETTER and slow you LESS...

Use a FREE Antivirus - My pick: free AVG
I've tried many of them, they are attacked by viruses far less than Norton/McAfee just becuase of shear numbers of the big two. Some are a pain though or are really just trying to sell 'real' versions of themselves.
But of the few I like...
Kaspersky - probably the best, but very technical both in its overly talkative nature AND its interface and also NOT FREE
Avast/Webroot - Both good choices for a non-technical consumer, BUT both recently not finding nearly as much as AVG _and_ both having trouble with this 'free' phrase! (re-registering each month is NOT free!)
AVG - I like the FREE AVG the most! (PC _or_ Mac!) Its totally free, not a trial version. (though like all of them, it will ASK occasionally) Its always being updated with new virus definitions and detects updates automatically. And its not TOO much of a memory hog, so it runs on low end systems VERY well.
CAVEAT: If you already have an old version of AVG on your system, you may see a window pop up telling you you have to upgrade to the new version. And if you follow the link, you will find a paid version. Look for the link the link for the FREE version, but they hide it a bit.
The free version is where it always was, but its become such a maze to get to it, that I just take you right to the download: Free version of AVG. Just click on the 'Online Installer' link, or if you know whether you have a 32 bit or 64 bit version of Windows, you can pick the full install directly. The 'Online Installer' just puts an extra step in to figure it out for you.
AVG for Android! - Yes! The same protection for your phone with AVG for Android! I love it. It scans any new software I install. It told me when I left a setting ON that would have allowed rogue software to install. (I meant to turn it on BRIEFLY but forgot!) It recently stopped a virus I got from a supposedly legit install from Google's Playstore. (yes, Apple has the same problem :-) It flagged two items actually, as the thing tried to spread throughout my phone. LESSON LEARNED: BEWARE of apps that profess to give you tips and tricks (hmmm, familiar? ow! ;-) on how to do things via referencing web articles! They point instead to VIRUSES!
NOTE: WHEN INSTALLING ANY ANTI-VIRUS, DON'T take the 'Express' install. Otherwise you'll get things you DON'T want like other browsers or tools you didn't ask for. AND if you see any of the following:
Toolbar checkbox
Set your default search checkbox
Set your homepage checkbox
UNselect them ALL! You don't need ANOTHER toolbar/search provider on your computer! Pain in the neck things! They don't really help much.
Spyware and Adware are bigger problems than Viruses - My pick: free Spybot 1.6.2
Unless you go to a 'bad' website, very few people ACTUALLY run into viruses. Far more likely, in normal websurfing, is the problem of spyware and adware infecting your system and slowing it down. Normal websites sell the rights to load up your system with all sorts of junk, watching your surfing and buying habits or trying to popup in front of you to sell you something!
To combat this, you need anti-spyware/adware software. But unlike anti-virus software, it doesn't need to be running all the time, down in the system tray in the bottom right of your screen. Anti-spyware just needs to be run once a month, or when you fear you may have run into something bad, to keep things clean.
And unlike anti-virus software, where you can only install one at a time (they don't like each other ;-) you can use more than one product to provide a better total solution. In fact, I use these two as a great 1-2 punch and run them both at the same time every couple of weeks:
Malwarebytes - Pretty good and non-intrusive, but I find it on a lot of systems that still have spyware on them, so these others are still better...
Spybot - Best in the business, Spybot 1.6.2 picks up the things others don't AND does a great job blocking access to unwanted sites that would load things onto you, JUST by visiting them! Run this once a month and you've got the best chance to avoid the affects of spyware.
Run Spybot
Click Search for Updates and follow the prompts
Click Immunize to add any new blocked sites
Click Search & Destroy and then Check for Problems to look for bad guys!
After, click Fix Selected Problems and you're all done!
I always UNcheck the 'TeaTimer' app in the install though. TeaTimer is kind of the Windows Vista, always nagging you with questions about whether to stop things as you are going. More annoying than helpful.
WARNING: After SO many years stuck at version 1.6.2, unlike every other product, there is FINALLY a NEW version of SpyBot... version 2.0! BUT its is SO _TOTALLY_ different from 1.6.2 I have to do some studying BEFORE I can recommend it. Unfortunately, my first impression is of ANOTHER ruined product. It is SO horrifically techy and cumbersome, I had trouble figuring out WHERE THE 'RUN' COMMAND WAS! It looks like a product handed over to a Unix/Linux team, where they LOVE hundreds of options to EVERY possible thing in the world, where EVERYthing is of #1 importance, with NO sorting, NO prioritization, NO _path_ to anywhere! It just shoves tons of clickable things in front of you and hopes you have good eyes. TOTALLY UNLIKE the SIMPLICITY of 1.6.2.
So stick to 1.6.2 for now. I've lodged my complaints with them, hopefully others have too and changes will come.
Ad-Aware - WAS the best in the business, until they too, ruined their product as I spoke of earlier above. But unlike Spybot, they didn't leave old versions around to be used. So I only install Ad-Aware when I work on someone's system, run it and then UNinstall it. Its too bad too, because they still are one of the best ways to find and remove spyware! They are ALWAYS updating their spyware/adware definitions. Its really too bad companies get like this when new teams seem to take over and don't realize what MADE their product great in the first place.
Remember - both Ad-Aware and Spybot are FREE! Like AVG! Yes, there are paid versions and you are encouraged to pay for a version if you like it, but you don't HAVE to. The free versions are fine.
Getting rid of toolbars, Toolbars, TOOLBARS! - My pick: free ADW Cleaner
Toolbars are the BANE of the browser world! Everywhere, there are ads, banners and suggestions about HUNDREDS of toolbars for your browser that will Make Your Life Better! {warbling Future Voice} And not only from neferious sources like viruses and spammers, but from legitimate companies, even Anti-Virus software!! Ok, trying to help you, but still preying on the power that toolbars get from being between your browser and your computer! They interface between the internet and local worlds, and so can do so much 'good' and yet SO much damage!

I had a customer recently that had SO many toolbars, it took up MORE screen real estate than the browser window ITSELF! Yeah, you can make each one disappear, BUT its STILL in your browser, doing what it does and SLOWING down your internet experience! And yes, its in ALL browsers. Yes, you can go into each browser you use and 'Manage Add-Ons' and get rid of many of them. But you shouldn't HAVE to.

And I recently had another customer, with toolbars that WOULDN'T come out! No matter what the current versions of my tools did (see above), nor what I did by hand, I could NOT remove a new batch of damned toolbars! Some were NOT even visible, but there were signs they were there, using up memory and slowing the system/internet and spying on the user! So I needed a new tool!

The one I found, and its FREE, was ADW Cleaner! Don't mind the French in the page, look for the green download icon/drive and click on that. Save it to your desktop, a folder, whereever and just click on 'the bug' icon and run it! It doesn't need to install, it just runs! Click on 'Scan'; after that finishes, click on 'Clean' and you're done. You can even click on 'Uninstall' and it deletes ITSELF! lol

NOTE: ADW Cleaner IS a tad drastic. It deletes just about ALL toolbars. Even things like Yahoo and Comcast. (I'm not fond of either though) You CAN go thru the tabs before hitting 'Clean' and deselect anything you want to keep, but you might let something bad back in. I find it safer/easier to just reinstall the ones I want, after. Its a LAST RESORT tool, but no problems so far that I've seen running it on many systems/OSes, so I find I'm using it more and more as a FRONT LINE tool! :-)
Blocking Pop-Ups!
The one toolbar I _do_ use and always install on systems is the Google Toolbar. Its the best tool for blocking popups in your Internet Explorer or FireFox browser. (sorry, none for Opera) All the other toolbars, like the Yahoo or AOL, just don't do the job. And toolbars that you never heard of? They almost ALWAYS are PUTTING spyware on your system, not REMOVING it!
Keep your system updated!
The old wisdom used to be, "Don't do Windows Updates, they'll screw up your system!" But now-a-days, updates are NECESSARY! There are too many holes that are plugged by updates these days to avoid doing them. And Microsoft has been pretty good about keeping them flawless.

But many systems CAN'T seem to do updates! There seems to be so many ways Automatic and regular updates get broken, there is a cottage industry for solutions. Unfortunately, most of them are like old wives tales, urban myths and snake oil! They DON'T fix updating!

The most reliable (though a tad complicated) set of instructions I've found, which I've used many times, is from PC Hell. (gotta love the name! ;-) You can try it a section at a time and see if the easier steps get you going again. Or try the whole thing! If it looks too complicated, it kinda is, give me a call and I can do it for you.