5 Obvious Free Computer Safety Tips

The best computer safety tips aren’t just free—they also save you money over the long term by keeping you and your computer out of trouble. So whether you want to save money or you just want to avoid spending it, try these 5 most obvious computer tips:

1—Use Your Anti-Virus And Firewall

Almost all new computers today come with free anti-virus and firewall software. Often it’s only free for 60 or 90 days and then you have to start paying for it, but you should use that free trial period to get your money’s worth.

After the trial ends, you can switch to free firewall and anti-virus software. For a free firewall, use the firewall built into Windows. It’ll protect your computer from everything a more expensive firewall will protect you from. Its only downside is that it isn’t as configurable as a paid firewall.

For free anti-virus, I suggest AVG. It may not be as good as the top-tier paid anti-virus products, but it’s close. If you avoid risky behaviors such as downloading strange programs, AVG should do everything you need for free.

2—Make Backups

Your computer will die one day. It could be today or it could be years from now, but whenever it happens, you shouldn’t be surprised. Many times computers die suddenly and there’s no chance of recovering any data.

That means you must make good backups every time you do something important on your computer. When I started using computers, backups were hard and time consuming. Today backups are easy and practically instant.

The best computer backup is one that’s stored separately from your computer. That way whatever destroys your computer, such as a house fire, has less chance of destroying your backup. A great way to keep your backup away from your computer is by making your backup over the Internet.

Two online computer backup storage services, Dropbox and Moxy, both offer free online backups. They do severely limit the size of the files you can backup on the free plan, but if you use both services, you get twice the free backup space. You can also increase the amount of backup space you get by paying a modest monthly charge.

Both Dropbox and Moxy automatically backup your files whenever they change—for example, they backup a document every time you hit “Save”. That means your backups always include your most recent data, which is the best type of backup to have.

3—Install Updates Immediately

Do you ever dither when Windows asks you to reboot your computer after an update? Don’t. When Microsoft releases a patch to Windows, they’re also telling the world that there’s something wrong with Windows, and the key to that fault is in that patch—as soon as hackers read the patch, they can start creating viruses which exploit that fault in Windows to break into your computer.

Once you install the patch, you’re safe. But every minute you wait to install the patch leaves you vulnerable in a world that knows exactly how to use your vulnerability.

This same advice to update immediately also applies to other software which updates itself. Whenever possible, apply updates immediately so hackers can’t use known problems to break into your computer.

4—Use A Surge Protector

An electrical surge, most often the result of a nearby lightning strike, destroys more computers every year than any other natural event. I find this statistic sad because protecting your computer from electrical surges is so easy: buy a $5 or $10 surge protector from your nearby supermarket or office supply store.

Nothing on this list of computer safety tips could be easier than that. Just buy the surge protector and plug your computer into it and you’ll be safe from every electrical surge except a direct lightning strike on your computer, which is about as likely as you being struck by lightning while inside your house. (Very rare but not impossible.)

5—Go On A Secret Vacation

Don’t tell people online that you’re going on vacation—that is, unless you want to be robbed. If you post about going on vacation to your public Twitter account, any thief can search for “vacation” on Twitter’s main page, find your name, search Google for your address, and break into your house when you’re away.

I advise you not to post about upcoming or current vacations even on somewhat secure sites such as Facebook or Google+. Facebook and Google accounts get hacked everyday and even though hackers rarely engage in physical crime, you have no idea what they’ll do with your information.

Be careful even if you know somebody will be staying home from your vacation—such as your elderly parent or a house sitter. Unless you mention that in every tweet or post, a thief mike get the wrong idea, break into your house, and get into a violent confrontation with your loved one.

It’s safer for you to simply tell everyone about your vacation when it’s over.