Security issues have bugged Windows XP users since its creation. Hackers, viruses, spyware, trojans, worms, and the countless other nasties can cause untold damage to your Windows XP PC, anything from slowing your performance to deleting your data files to corrupting your operating system. Thankfully there are some simple (and free!) solutions.
A firewall prevents hackers and viruses from accessing your computer through the internet. Without it, people and programs could gain access to personal information such as your credit card numbers, passwords, and social security number. However, Windows XP comes with a built in firewall software, part of their Security Center. The service is included with all Windows XP systems.
Antivirus software gets a lot of publicity, as well it should. Having a program to shield your computer from these types of software is extremely important, especially in today’s computing world where nearly every program and file we need or want can be downloaded. With the popularity of programs such as Limewire and Kazaa for downloading music (despite their illegality and piracy), there are infinite ways for viruses to slip into your computer. Their impacts on your computer’s function may be mild or severe, and all need to be removed. Several companies produce antivirus software at a wide range of prices and capabilities, but some of the most effective and quietest programs are free. We recommend staying away from pay-for antivirus products like Norton and McAfee since the price paid for them isn’t worth the hassle and annoyance of continual pop messages warning, asking, and alerting you to all sorts of “problems” that only cause fear and worriment. AVG Free and Clamwin are two products that are as effective as their pay-for cousins, but are free, small, and quiet programs. After setup, these programs will update themselves and scan your computer with only the smallest hint that they are busy protecting you.
An increasingly heinous threat to Windows XP users is spyware. Spyware often comes bundled with the different programs and files that are downloaded for free or for a nominal fee. They run in the background and monitor your internet activity, transmitting it to third parties for advertising. Given the sorts of information we share over the internet and the information we trust our computers to keep for us, removing files that can share that is of extreme importance. Two products work well together to combat this problem. Microsoft produces a free program, Windows Defender, that scans your computer for spyware according to their database. Spybot, a freeware program, does a thorough scan for spyware programs and files on your computer, and can be a handy tool for adjusting settings on your computer.
These four programs, properly functioning and configured, will keep your Windows XP PC safe. If you have any questions on how to install, configure, or use these programs, please feel free to contact us.
Still not sure if these programs or others like them are necessary? Check out this new posting from MSNBC for information on how dangerous the internet can be.