I've listed a few good practices for computer users. Many of you might have already known and used them. It's not comprehensive, so depending on situations, some will need more security and configurations than the ones listed below. But I hope it's useful for you. I've divided them into security (things that may protect you from attacks, downtime) and convenience (things that will give you ease of use).

Please share your tips and tricks by adding in comments. Thanks and enjoy :-)


Creat Partitions

I have seen many people who couldn't be bothered with creating partitions. All they have is C:\ drive for the operating system and "My Documents" folder or Desktop to save all files!!! They do not seem to appreciate the benefits of creating partitions. Some of them are

  • Reduced risk of losing all their data should the C:\ drive need to be formatted because of a virus, etc.
  • Ease of backing up
  • More organized

I personally prefer to have at least 3 partitions: System (C:\), one for workspace (where I keep all files that I may need delete later once I'm done with them) and another for archive (for backups and the files I want to keep for a long time). If you're looking for a cool partition tool for free, why don't you try GParted? It's compatible with all versions of Vista too.

Create Image

Anyone who has tried formatting and reinstalling operating system because of viruses or system crashes knows how painful and tidious it is to bring the system back to the original state. I myself spent many hours and even days looking for drivers, downloading updates, tweaking configurations, etc. That's before I found Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image. I use the latter and I've never been happier. The latest version Acronis True Image Home 2009 is by far the best and is compatible with Vista and SATA disks.

Set up your computer the way you want. Install all programs that are ESSENTIAL to you. Then create an image of your system and save it in non-system drive (Eg. not in C:\). Restoring the image will take less than 10 min (which is nothing compared to reinstalling from scratch) and you'll surely have a high confidence because you can recover from viruses easily.

Install Antivirus and Get Auto Updates

I know it sounds so common sense, but how many people use their computers without any antivirus on them? I dare say it's a significant percentage. May be they don't consider themselves vulnerable. In fact, people should not take a chance when they are not sure what a virus can do to their systems and what is at stake. If you don't have any antivirus now and you don't want to pay a lot every year, you can try AVG Antivirus for free and get regular updates?

Activate/Install a Firewall

Even if you don't want to purchase a third party firewall such as Norton, you should still make a good use of Windows firewall by activating it. It may not be the best firewall but it's better than not having anything at all. Let me remind you that if you do internet banking and stuffs, then you need a firewall and an antivirus on your system. Otherwise, you're inviting thieves.

Have a Vista Bootloader Repair CD Ready

Although an image created with Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost is the best recovery method, it's a good idea to have a Vista Bootloader Repair CD just to fix Vista Boot menu. You can use either Windows Vista Installation DVD or Vista Bootloader Repair CD created by NeoSmart.


Copy i386 Folder to C:\

Although it's not critical to copy i386 folder from installation CD to C:\ drive, doing so will save you from looking for the installation CD again in the middle of some updates. I don't think you'll regret copying that.

Move My Documents Folder to Share Drive

By default, "My Documents" folder is the first location where many programs will look to save files or load files. Because it's in C:\ by default, you might end up keeping your files in system drive. Therefore, it's a great idea to move "My Documents" folder to another partition (eg. Workspace partition) so that it's easier to backup.

To change the default location of the My Documents folder, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, and then point to My Documents.
  2. Right-click My Documents, and then click Properties.
  3. Click the Target tab.
  4. Click Move, click the folder in which to store your documents, and then click OK twice. If you need to create a new folder, click Make New Folder. Type a name for the folder, and then click OK twice.
  5. In the Move Documents box, click Yes to move your documents to the new location, or click No to leave your documents in the original location.

Install a PDF Converter

Sometimes we want to keep some information (eg. transaction record) as a record but we don't necessarily need to print them or we don't have a printer right now. In situations like this, pdf coverting softwares such as CutePDF are very handy. You can convert or print anything (documents, webpages, pics) to pdf files to save or print it as hard copies later when you need them. Save our environment :-)

Install FireFox and Plugins

If you haven't been using Firefox, it's a great web browser to have. There are many add-ons available for free and some of my favourites are DownThemAll for faster downloading and DownloadHelper to download flash videos from YouTube, etc.

Note: Don't uninstall Internet Explorer. It might create problems in the future.

Install a Virtual CD Drive

Another great software to have is a virtual CD/DVD drive such as Daemon Tools. Thus, you can run CD/DVD image files on the virtual drive without the need to burn it on a CD/DVD. It saves you time, money and space.

Notify Me Before You Update

I understand that my OS needs to be up to date with the latest fixes and patches. But I still want to be in charge of it. I want to know what updates are available and decide what to download and install instead of Windows doing everything without my knowledge. Thus something goes wrong, I would know what changes I've made in the past few days.

You can set Windows to notify you of the latest updates before downloading. The procedure for pre-Vista OS is (it may be slightly different for Vista)
  1. Go to Control Panel
  2. Choose "Security Center"
  3. Click on "Automatic Updates" in "Manage Security Settings For" section
  4. Choose "Notify me but don't automatically download or install them"
  5. Click "Apply" and "Ok"

Now you're in charge of all the updates. If new ones are available, you check it by choosing "Custom" instead of "Express" and decide if you want to update or not.

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