Undertaking regular preventive maintenance on the software that runs and protects your computer will safeguard it from potential threats and help to keep it running smoothly.
Update Your Software and Operating System
Perhaps the most important step you can take to keep your computer secure is to check regularly for software updates and undertake routine system maintenance. PC users should visit Microsoft's "Windows Update" site regularly to determine if operating system and software updates are available. Some operating systems, such as Windows 2000 and XP, automatically notify users that updates are available and download and install the latest updates. Security patches for older operating systems usually need to be downloaded manually. Operating system updates for Macintosh operating systems are available on Apple's support site.
To learn more about system and software maintenance, read "Securing Your Computer."
Uninstall Unused Software
Unused software applications installed on your computer take up hard drive space and drain your system's resources. Consider checking once a month to determine whether the software installed on your machine is being used and uninstall any programs no longer in use.
To uninstall a program in Windows 2000 and XP, click on the Start button and then select the Control Panel icon. In the Control Panel window, click on the Add or Remove Programs icon. In the Add or Remove Programs window, scroll through the list of programs installed on your computer and remove any programs you no longer use by highlighting the unused program and clicking on the "Remove" button below it. If you are unsure whether or not you should delete a program, leave it and ask a computer professional for advice.
Install Antivirus, Antispam and Firewall Protection
Protect your computer and the information stored within it from harmful e-mail attachments, viruses, spam and malicious users by using antivirus protection, firewall protection, and antispam protection. These programs protect your computer from unwanted intruders that have the potential to damage or destroy your computer system and files. For more information about the type of protection the software provides, read "Securing Your Computer."
Safeguard Your Computer Against Spyware
As professionals who use the Internet to research and gather information, psychologists should guard against spyware, or stealth programs that invade computers unnoticed and collect personal information about the user. Spyware can monitor your Internet usage and search habits and record keystrokes, passwords, credit card numbers, chat logs and other confidential and private information.
To learn what spyware is, how to remove it, and how to guard against it, read "Beware of Spyware: Is Your Computer Being Monitored?"