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Tips to give you a head start that will not only save your data, but also your time and money on Windows XP or Vista PC/Laptop.

This goes beyond just installing anti-virus, anti-spy-wares and taking backups to boost the level of reliability of a PC or Laptop. You don’t have to panic and call for support every time, if you maintain your PC or Laptop with the following tips.

1. Install an anti-virus if you haven’t got one. Yes we all know their importance but we forget. Make sure that you regularly scan your PC. There are some that can go past the memory resident shields, so scan at regular intervals. And please never forget to up date their virus definitions from their sites whenever they are available. Even if you have no connection to Internet for a PC/Laptop, you can download it in a cybercafe or from your office PC/Laptop and then update your PC/Laptop. You can get a free one for your personal use from any of the ones listed below.

i. Avast Anti-virus

ii. AVG Free Anti-virus

iii. Clamwin Anti-virus

2. Install Spy bot protection. Spy bots are pieces of codes that sneak in through bugs and loop holes in programs you have installed or even from just visiting some sites. They exploit bugs in software’s security features and leave traces of codes in your PC/Laptop that can be exploited later on. They can be used for anything ranging from collecting your confidential information to being a part of an attack on websites. Protection from them is equally important. Use a secure browser like Firefox or Opera. They have a number of features that give you protection and are considered more safe. Use them for your daily Internet activities. As with Anti-virus protection, you have to keep your Anti-spy-ware definitions updated at regular intervals. Some good free ones are listed here.

i. Spy Bot Search & Destroy

ii. AVG Anti-spyware Free Edition

iii. Spyware Terminator

3. Make a backup folder on another partition of your disk for taking backups. Make sure when you buy a new PC/Laptop, you have an additional one installed. Keep in mind to periodically keep your files backed up. Not only will it help you in finding information easier in case of data corruption, you will save time and money by already having a backup ready, in case you have to reinstall your Windows.

4. Organize your PC/Laptop from the start and keep it that way for optimal performance. Don’t just go on installing software for the fun of it or trying it out. If you really need it only then install it. If you don’t know whether its going to be useful or not, then search about it on the Internet, find about its features from its documentation. Even if you have to install it, try it for a few days, if you find yourself using it frequently keep it, otherwise just remove it.

5. Make sure you have a password protecting the administrative account. Create a separate user and limit its rights by making it a Limited User. Do all your regular work from this user. Don’t use the administrative account for anything but doing important maintenance tasks or installing new software. Keep your Administrative account locked. Not only will it protect your Windows from getting corrupted, it will prevent many Spy bots from infecting your PC/Laptop though not all will be stopped. You still need an anti-spy-bot software. If you have more users using the same PC/Laptop, create a separate account for each one of them and give them limited rights too. Make sure they have an individual backup folder to backup their important files.

6. Keep a backup of your registry by setting up a restore point. Make this a habit. Set restore points whenever you make major changes to your Windows like installing software or at regular intervals. Not only will this help you in recovery of your Windows in-case of software malfunction, but you might be able to recover and restore your PC/Laptop to an original state before the files where corrupted by a spy-ware.

7. Many programs that you install or are installed have a memory resident program that load on in the memory when you switch on your PC/Laptop or when you quit them them they still stay active. While its a feature for quick access, but it can slow your booting time and even the working of your PC/Laptop. Look around the clock in the task bar, if you have too many programs loading, cut a few you don’t use frequently. If you start a program and quit it make sure its not still residing in the bar near your clock. Like when you quit messengers they instead of exiting place themselves in the task bar near the clock. Alter their functioning or exit them from the task bar.

8. Keep your Icons on the desktop to a minimum. Keep a few that you use regularly and don’t make a shortcut for everything on the desktop. Files that you downloaded should be in their respective organized folders. Not only it will help in presenting a better view to the wonderful desktop wallpaper you have put on, but it will speed up loading of Windows.

Keep these tips in mind and make them a habit. Not only will you save time, but there would be less frequent visits from your service engg. that will save you some money. And if you do call a service engg. in case of an emergency, he might just be amazed at how well organized your PC/Laptop is and how quickly he was able to finish his work.

PS. Keep watching this site for many more articles and tips to follow to help you in your PC/Laptop support. Personally I have given up using Windows about two years back. I have kept just one, for reviews and software testing purposes only.  No, I don’t use a Mac or DOS, I use Linux, the wonderful open source operating system that’s way ahead in security features and reliability. It has some amazing features and I will be covering Linux in the coming articles too.