5 Computer Essentials You Need to Know

Most people don't take a course to introduce themselves to computers, and even if they did, most courses wouldn't talk about these things. This is a starting point for looking into five very important subjects. Spend some time after reading this article to research more in-depth about these topics – you'll be glad you did.

1. Passwords – Hackers have all day and night to try to figure out your passwords. Most people, out of laziness, choose passwords that include birthdays, names of kids, and other simple words like "love, red, happy" or other common words. Passwords based on these criteria are easy to guess, and the reward might be access to your financial accounts online.

Many online companies have started to allow odd characters into the password to make it harder to guess. When the password does "make sense" then that's a good start to building a secure password. Varying the capitalization in a password is another way to make it more secure. Don't capitalize first characters, but capitalize a random character instead.

Use combinations of characters that don't make any sense and you'll be much safer. An unsafe password might look like, "Mike2010babyDavid" a safe password might look like, "t7iZnorxMeF7biI65" – both are 17 characters, but the latter is impossible to guess.

Unless a password like that means something to you, you will never remember it. Create a Microsoft word file that is password protected and save all your passwords in that file. Don't call it "passwords.doc" either! Call it something not related to anything – March99.doc. Keep it in a place that isn't easy to find on your computer – and just remember that it's there. Every time you need to use a password – open the file with the password you do remember all the time, and do a copy / paste selection from the Word doc to your password field online. This way you're not typing it into your computer – which is easy for malevolent software to grab and send by undercover email to someone across the globe.

Remember, as safe as you think you are with your passwords, they are not really safe. Never remember them and type them in unless you can remember odd 17 digit character combinations you create spontaneously. Change all of your passwords frequently from a computer with full virus, spyware, and malware protection.

2. Never Lose Another Word You Write – There is nothing more frustrating than losing an email or even a paragraph of well thought out text you just wrote. After it happens a few times you'll want to throw your computer across the room! Before you go to that extreme look into "keyloggers".

Keyloggers can be naughty or nice. If you install it, it can be a lifesaver. You can have an immediate backup of every single thing you type on your computer – and can recall it at an instant. Even if the power dies, most keyloggers have already recorded all your keystrokes before the computer lost power.

Get a keylogger program from a reputable place that scans all their files like Download (.com) or Tucows (.com), and scan it yourself after it downloads. Your antivirus will call it a virus most likely, but you can request the program be ignored as safe after you install it.

3. Email Links – When you get an official looking email from a company you work with – have money deposited with, spend money with, or know for any reason don't ever click a link they give in their email. The entire email can be forged and take you to a site intent on doing you harm.

Instead, close that browser, and open a new one. Type the URL into the browser address bar yourself. This way you'll be almost 100% sure you're really going to that company's official site. Research there to see if you need to do something with them – regarding the subject of that email. If the email is a fake – report it to them.

4. Daily Backups – If you're creating data every day, you should be backing up that data every day. Nobody makes throw-away data, so why not back it up? The easiest way if you're a casual computer user is to just remember what files you created or changed and back them up onto a DVD. You need not close the DVD so it can't be written to again, just leave it open and continue to backup one folder of files per day until it's full. Sometimes I use an external USB drive to backup data and sometimes I use more than one method to make sure I have good copies of crucial information.

5. Anti-Virus (AV) Program – Norton is the defacto standard AV program that most businesses use, and people that can afford it. They have a full range of tools to protect you from a virus, spyware, malware, and the rest of it. It costs less than $ 100 and is money well-spent.

In addition to Norton you should check Microsoft if you're running Windows software, they offer a "malicious software scanning tool" that's free to use and cleans your computer of some especially nasty programs.

Losing data or being taken advantage of can be avoided most times by staying one-step ahead of those trying to ruin your day. Get proficient in these five areas as quickly as you can to gain peace of mind some will never know.