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Break in that new PC

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, Security Help, System Tune-Up Help
 
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Everyone loves getting a new PC. Why not? It’s exciting and fun. However, there are a few things you might want to do before you plug it in and start surfing the web. These good practices include backing up data, taking care of online and physical security, and a few other ideas to help make the migration to your new system as seamless as possible.

According to Swedish security company Sophos, 50% of unpatched systems are infected with some sort of malicious code within 12 minutes of being online. Scary, but don’t worry. The techniques described here will help you avoid this nasty statistic, allowing you to surf the web in complete confidence.

1. What do I want from My old PC?
The first thing you want to do to your New PC involves taking a good thorough look at your current PC. Do you want any of the programs or data? Should you back it up or just leave it? Only you can decide what you want to bring over to the new PC. There is a big difference between moving data and programs. In most cases you can simply burn the data to CD. With programs, on the other hand, you must have the original uninstalled program unless you have some 3rd party program that can perform this operation.

A). Moving Data:
You’ll probably want to scrap a lot of the data on your current system, or at least put it on a disk to archive. You may want to transfer a lot of data to the new PC, like your favorite images, documents, music, videos, favorites, etc. The easiest way to perform this migration for the average end-user is to simply burn the data (not programs) to disk. When doing this, you must stay extremely organized and label everything clearly enough that the label will be meaningful even months or years from now.
If you’re giving your old PC away and wiping your hard drive clean, then this is your last chance to get that data.

Once you get everything you want on disk, you should be able to save the disks’ contents onto to the new PC easily. Keep the disks as a complete backup in case of disaster (i.e. dead hard drive). I can’t stress enough how important it is to be organized at this step. Having lists and going over all your folders with a fine-toothed comb can save you anguish down the road. You also want to check your backups to make sure nothing is incomplete or corrupt. Trust me, finding this out after you have formatted the hard drive is not a good feeling.

B). Moving Programs:
You can’t just copy the application file out of your Programs folder and paste onto a disk to be moved to the new PC. When Programs are installed, they get scattered all over your system, files here and there. The program files look nothing like they did before the install. For this reason you need the original uninstalled version of the program, which usually means installing from the original CD/DVD or burning a new uninstalled download to CD/DVD. Get all your programs together with any serial numbers and put them together with the data you saved from Step 1 in a safe place until needed.

If the program was a downloaded from the web, you’ll need that original uninstalled download. You can take all of the downloads you can fit onto a CD and burn them together. When you’re ready to start installing programs on your new system, you will be able to do so quickly and offline. Don’t forget about device drivers! You’re going to need those to properly use any of your old hardware (printers, scanners, cameras, etc.) with the new system.

2. Getting rid of the Promotional Software:
These new PC’s seem to be “packed to the Ram” with ISP promotions, demos, and trial versions of software. Thanks, but I’d rather have hard drive space. If I want software, I know where to get it.
Besides, the pop-up messages asking you to pay for continued use once the trial periods end are annoying. I suggest removing all the software that you aren’t ever going to use.

3. Securing your New System:
Now it’s time to get that new system ready for the Internet. This is a key step in a smart migration; secure your system before you get online.
You should have your antivirus and firewall disk, but what about your spyware protection? Does your PC already have the appropriate service packs installed? All of these security solutions can be installed without being online, protecting your system from the word “GO”.

· Anti-Virus protection is the cornerstone of any good security strategy, and should always be installed, updated, and running to effectively protect you from viral attacks.
· A Firewall is the next thing you should have running, especially if you leave your broadband connection ”ON”. You can use the Windows XP Service Pack 2 firewall, but I would look for something a little more functionality. Check our current internet utilities offerings in the Worldstart software store.
· Spyware protection should be the next course of action, don’t want to start getting pop ups, or some web beacon day two of your online browsing. Again, check the store.
· Your XP or Vista operating system need to have the mopst current service packs installed. There are a lot of vulnerabilities that take advantage of nonpatched systems.

4. Create User Accounts and Secure the Administrator account:
If the Operating System was already installed on your PC when you got it, which it probably was, then you may want to create some user accounts now. If you just boot right into your desktop, then you’re probably using the Administrator Account. Under that setup, anyone who boots up your system will have administrative privileges. Yeah, not good.

Instead, we want to create User Accounts for the PC. Once you create a single account, Windows will hide the default Admin account and log you into the new one. I would suggest creating an account for everyone who plans on using the PC, and set their accounts to Limited User. This will restrict the users form making significant changes to the system. When this is done, you should password protect the Administrator account, which should stop the normal user from augmenting your system.

5. Firewall security:
In addition to the Windows or software firewall, you may want to consider installing a router or hardware firewall. These usually do a superior job compared to their software counterparts, but the two different kinds can work together to offer you superior protection.

~ Chad

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