Computer Tips from a Nerd
I’ll admit it; I’m a nerd. A proud one. I grew up with a computer—I can’t remember a time where there wasn’t a PC in my house. Since most people in generations prior did not have this privilege, the rest of the nerds in my generation are quite familiar with fixing the computers of our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and pretty much anyone who was not brought up with with computers.
When someone comes to me with computer issues they need help with, it is often that their computer “runs very slow” or won’t let them open certain programs like their virus scanner or web browser. This is usually caused by unwanted files— such as malware, viruses, or bloat-ware. Most of this junk was installed as the result of the user clicking something they didn’t mean to click, or okaying unnecessary software installations.
Since viruses and computer ailments can happen to anyone, regardless of their level of computer expertise, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years that might save you some headaches (not to mention money) down the road:
- If you go to a web page and pop-ups open up, they are either ads or worse. Don’t click them, close them, and ignore them. If you did not intend for that specific window to open, you probably don’t need it.
- If you get an e-mail with just a link in it, delete it. Don’t open it, don’t load images, just delete it. If it is from a friend, they probably got a similar e-mail and clicked the link, causing these e-mails to be sent to you. If you aren’t expecting a link from them, don’t click it. If you really can’t help yourself, check to see where it goes before clicking by hovering over the link and look for text in the bottom left corner of your browser. Chances are the link will go to a different location than stated in the visible URL. A tactic that is also commonly used to bait people into clicking nefarious links is to make the link appear if it is about them. For example: “Oh my gosh! Did you see this picture of you: <link>”.
- If you get a call from a stranger telling you to do something on your computer, hang up on them. Tech support centers generally do not preform outbound calls unless of course they are returning a call (the Point2 Customer Care team does this all the time).
- If you get a call or e-mail saying that someone is in some other country without their passport or money, or they need to be bailed out of jail, it is most definitely a scam. Verify their story. Don’t give strangers money. The phrase “Nigerian Prince” hasn’t entered our cultural lexicon without reason :)
- If you won or inherited money from some fund or some unknown relative, it is highly unlikely that you would be notified via e-mail, especially from some Yahoo! (or AOL or non-branded) e-mail address. Delete those e-mails. You are probably not a princess, you probably can’t save someone by wiring money, and people with money don’t need your money to gain access to theirs.
- Don’t buy drugs over the internet. Sorry, call me old fashioned but I prefer to visit my doctor and get my meds from my friendly local pharmacist. Even if you were lucky enough to receive medication in the mail after sending money to a spammer, do you really think it’s safe to ingest whatever they sent you? Also I’m sure there are probably some laws about pharmaceutical transactions anyway ;)
- Don’t download anything you didn’t mean to download. Newer versions of Windows will ask if you trust the software provider before installing, so before installing new software, ask yourself the same question: Do you trust this software provider, or know what it is installing? It won’t hurt to search for some reviews about the manufacturer or the product before you pay for or install it.
- When in doubt, run a search. If you aren’t sure if the e-mail you received is a scam, do some research. Paste some lines of text into Google, or try looking it up Snopes.com– one of the best resources on the net.
Some of these may seem like common sense, but I know people who are pretty decent with computers who have a lot of unnecessary junk installed—even I get fooled once in a while. Try to keep your computer neat and clean. If you are comfortable doing it, look at the programs installed on your computer and uninstall anything you don’t need any more or things you’ve never used.
Set your virus scanner to run regularly to avoid having a bigger virus issue later. Read the screen before clicking the “Okay” button—Make sure you know what is about to happen when you blindly click that “Okay” button. You can even leave the window open while you run a search about the message if needed.
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