Part 1: How healthy is my Computer

In addition to regular news items, there seems to be a lot of coverage on computer virus attacks, spyware, and other items that make your computer ‘sick’ and not too healthy.

Symptoms of these different items vary, but here’s a partial list of things you might notice that could indicate you have some piece of software installed on your computer that you don’t really want there.

  1. Computer seems to operate slower then it has in the past – A few days or weeks ago, you remember your computer booting up in some short amount of time, now it seems like you should go get a cup of coffee while you wait for it to boot. Or, when running some familiar application, actions that used to get instaneous response now show a noticeable lag before an action happens, such as typing in text in a word processor
  2. When accessing the web through a web browser, popups appear and your browser keeps trying to change page automatically – There are a lot of ads that popup on sites nowadays, but it seems like you are seeing twice as many as you remember. And your start up page in your browser keeps changing everytime you start it up
  3. You are not typing or moving your mouse or using any other kind of device that sends data to your computer, yet you keep hearing the hard drive being accessed or you notice the hard drive light is on all the time – For example, you’ve just received some e-mail from someone and you’ve opened it up and are reading it. For this activity, you will probably head some kind of spinning sound or look for a light on the front of your computer that comes on while you open up the e-mail. However, after the e-mail is opened up and you are not moving the mouse around or typing in anything, you still hear that same sound and it continues for several seconds
  4. Files that you are sure you had stored in a specific folder, like My Documents, seem to disappear or they have mistakes in them that you don’t remember. Or, data seems to be missing
  5. When you try to save a file, you are constantly getting a message that there isn’t any room on your hard drive, even after you’ve deleted a lot of files.

While these symptoms may not indicate that anything is wrong on your computer, there are some things you can do to prevent most problems and to try and detect and correct other problems. However, if you are uncomfortable with installing new software and deleting certain files, you may want to get some help from a computer saavy friend. This guide is meant to give you some ideas and recommendations on how to keep your computer healthier and is not necessarily a replacement for having a computer expert look at your computer for problems.

Ok, with the disclaimer out of the way, assuming you are still here, the following guides will describe how to check for problems and how to prevent problems from happening in the first place. These are items aimed toward owners of PC’s, since that’s what I’m most familiar with and because that seems to be the platform which has a lot of problems with virus, spyware, trojans, etc.