Everyday Tips from the ComputerMom 

May 2016
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May here already, this year is flying by! Which reminds me that Microsoft is only offering its free upgrade to Windows 10 until July 29th, so your time is running short. Anybody with Windows 8, or a Windows 7 machine younger than 5 years old, should upgrade. However, Windows 10 takes some tweaking to love, and I know Microsoft has been very diligent about reminding people to upgrade - if you find you have been "upgraded" unintentionally and need some help, just give me a call!

Apart from Windows 10, there is nothing I am asked about more frequently than antivirus protection, so this month's issue covers that topic in depth. PC or Mac, you need to consider your best options to stay safe!

Julie Marto 
Antivirus Icons PC Antivirus Recommendations

The internet is getting more dangerous every day. Even if you think you are not at risk, encryption viruses and on-line identity theft are real threats that should concern all of you. For PC users, antivirus protection is your first defense against these threats, which is why I am often asked what AV I recommend. Like anything, AV programs change and evolve, so here are my latest recommendations:
  • The current free anti-virus solution from Microsoft, called Microsoft Security Essentials on Vista and Windows 7, or Windows Defender on Windows 8 and 10, is only a baseline protection. If you are a very minimal internet user and you don't use your computer for any financial transactions it's probably sufficient, but Microsoft has let the program fall way behind other options in detection rates. I recommend finding another option for any but the most careful of users.
  • If you are not a Comcast subscriber, you need to choose an antivirus. For pay options I recommend Kaspersky, ESET NOD, or Norton. If you have multiple computers, you can save money by purchasing multiple user licenses. 
  • If you prefer to use a free antivirus I recommend Avast Free, however when I install it I customize it by only installing the options I want, and setting it to "gaming mode" so it's not as intrusive.
  • Free AV programs I don't recommend are AVG and Avira - they both install too much junk and are more like viruses themselves!
  • Pay AV programs I don't recommend include McAfee, the subscription McAfee that Verizon sells, and Webroot Antivirus - I don't think these offer any more protection than the free AV from Microsoft!
Mac Antivirus Recommendations

You Mac users have it easy - it's still much less common for virus writers to penetrate Apple's closed environment. Although there certainly are Mac viruses out there, if you are a Mac user, I stand by my recommendation that you not install any antivirus software at all. My experience with AV programs on Macs has been that they cause more problems than they solve - they create a huge performance drain with very little benefit. 

In general, Apple blocks the installation of any viruses it finds that attack its systems. However, in order to get that protection you must keep your Mac updated and have one of the latest versions of OSX. The current version is El Capitan, 10.11.4. To check your version click on the Apple menu and choose "About this Mac". If you are not at least on 10.9.5 you need to upgrade to the latest version of OSX. If you need help upgrading your Mac OSX, I can do it for you as a drop-off service, as the upgrade takes some time to complete. If your Mac is too old to upgrade, it's time for a new Mac!

What I do find on Macs quite often is spyware - things like  toolbars and popups and other unwanted programs that are installed with free downloaded software . More and more of this type of junk is slipping past the Mac's built in defenses, but most of it can be avoided with a little care. Most importantly, don't download software from any source other than the Apple store. If you must have something that doesn't come from Apple, always read the screen very carefully and decline any unwanted options.
Additional Considerations

If you are still using the antivirus that "came with your computer" you most likely no longer have an active subscription. Most computers come with a trial subscription good for just a few months.  A n antivirus is only as effective as the updates it gets - if you let your subscription lapse you are no longer protected from the latest threats

Although it might seem like more is better,  you can only have one antivirus program running at a time . If you are replacing your existing AV program, even one with a lapsed subscription, make sure you  uninstall it  prior to installing your new one. The only exception is Windows Defender on Windows 8 and 10, as it will recede into the background if you install another AV, and start to work again if you have no antivirus installed.

Keep in mind, nothing can protect you better than common sense. Be mindful about what you click on and where you surf.  Don't download programs from unknown sources.  Think of an antivirus as a flu shot - it can only protect you from known threats, and if you purposely go hang out with a lot of sick people you are going to catch something you don't want no matter how protected you think you are.  And, i f you fear you might have become infected with something, shut down your computer right away and call me - a virus can't damage a computer that's not turned on!