I like most people wait until it's too late for almost everything. I do not go to the dentist till my tooth hurts, I do not go to the mechanic until my truck makes strange noises and I do not update my antivirus until I just had to remove something from my computer!
Well it holds true on all fronts that if you keep your teeth, truck and computer they can go much longer with pain, breaking or causing potentially devastating damage to your data! So, here is the largest tip I can offer anyone that owns a computer. Make sure you have antivirus software, anti spyware software, anti rootkit software and a firewall.
Antivirus software should be an end all solution but unfortunately this is rarely the case. There are tons of choices when it comes to antivirus software. It's all pretty much the same depending on how much you want to spend. The free solutions are great but can be slower to update, the paid for solutions are usually updated very quickly.
Anti spyware and adware software keeps software geared to monitoring your activity off your computer. This is good because usually this is bundled with adware which will bombard you with popups and advertisements. Consider downloading Spybot Search and Destroy as your anti spyware solution.
Rootkits can be very dangerous. A root kit is intended to grant software or another party administrative (root in the * nix world) rights to your operating system. The two most common uses for rootkits are to hide a program from being detected by standard security software and to drop new virus' on a computer (trojan.) There are several ways to detect rootkits but once they are on your system they can be incredibly difficult to remove. Try searching for RootkitRevealer from Microsoft or AVG AntiRootkit to inspect your system.
Lastly you need a firewall. Firewalls control access to your computer over a network connection. They can operate at several different levels. You can have a firewall block specific programs like instant messaging or you can have a firewall block access from specific ports or IP addresses. These can be helpful in detecting programs that are trying to gain access to your network without your permission. Windows actually has a decent firewall built in, but I recommend looking into a third party solution.
Update regularly, if you are protected from every single possible security flaw and virus today, tomorrow you will already be exposed to thousands of new threats. Make sure you stay on top of the updates so your system continues to run smoothly for years to come.
Source by Josh Sommers