1. Use Google Chrome as your primary web browser. It is very fast and very secure and has the ability to block virtually all advertisements on the internet. It will keep itself up to date without any interaction from you.
2. Always install all Critical and most Optional updates for Windows from Windows Update. Simply click the Start button, and then All Programs, and find the item called Windows Update. When given the option choose Custom updates and install almost everything they offer. I recommend NOT installing Windows Search 4.0 and anything related to Bing, they are unnecessary updates.
3. Keep Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader up to date. They are three programs that are frequently left out of date on the average computer and can be used to infect you. Always update these programs immediately.
4. Remove all versions of Java. Java has become a very unreliable and insecure program that is constantly being used to infect people. My best advice is to completely remove Java. If you are trying to use a website that requires Java you need to decide if it is worth the security risks.
5. Stay away from all file sharing programs. It is very difficult to find truly free movies and music on the Internet. Somehow and somewhere somebody is getting paid for you to download that free stuff. Places like Limewire and Bearshare are full of people sharing infected files with each other either by being victims themselves or to purposefully infect people who download their files.
6. Run as few programs as necessary in the background. Use the built-in tool “msconfig” to turn off programs you know you do not need running all the time. It has a tab called Startup that lists all the programs that start automatically with Windows. If you don’t know if you need a program you can turn it off and reboot your computer to see what happens. You can always turn it back on again. Feel free to experiment.
7. Keep your computer clean on the inside. Not everybody thinks about cleaning the inside of their computer, but like anything that is air cooled they suck in dust and hair all day long and they can easily become clogged and cause permanent heat damage to your components.
For Desktops: remove the side cover and make sure that all fans and heatsinks are clean and clear of clogs, as well as vacuum any excess dust that has collected. Be very gentle and careful.
For Laptops: Use a vacuum on the under-side of the computer where the fan intake vent is located and use an air compressor or a can of air to blow into the exhaust vent on the side edge. Dust likes to build up on the inside of the vent and restrict airflow so you are blowing it out the way it came in, through the fan.
8. Always turn your computer off or put it to sleep when not in use. When your computer is turned on its fragile moving parts are constantly in motion and are wearing out as well as sucking in dust and dirt and costing you money on your power bill. They also exhaust quite a bit of heat and can heat up a room quite easily. Modern computers are fast enough that they do not take very long to turn back on again. Your computer will thank you in the long run.
9. Stay away from “Speed Up My PC” and “Fix My Registry” programs. There are no magic programs to add to your computer to make them run faster. You can usually only make your computer run faster by removing things from it, not adding things to it. Those sorts of programs only exist to separate you from your money using shady business practices and making false promises.