Category Archives: Computer Basics

Those fundamental skills that are necessary to successfully using a Windows-based computer. Using the mouse, managing windows, using programs, editing text, browsing the web etc.


Regular system maintenence will save you money.

A few simple tasks performed every week in this order will keep your computer in top shape.  It is also important to not invite malicious code into your system.  We call it BUCS – Backup, Update, Cleanup, Scan.


You’ve heard it before. Hard drive crashed, no current backup. It could spell disaster for you or your company. There are lots of good programs available, some free, to help you effectively insure your data. I prefer backing up to CD, it’s easy, they’re cheap, and you can take them offsite for complete backup protection. 

If you have data that you work with on a daily basis (an accounting program or a database) I recommend backing up to your hard drive every day, then backup the backups once a week to CD.  There’s a great program called Karen’s Replicator which will automate this process for you. Just tell it what you want backed up, to where, and when.  Then, every day (or every night if you schedule it that way) it will make a backup to a specified folder on your hard drive (preferably external).  And … don’t forget to backup your Outlook (or other email program) files!


In the old days, I would apply patches and updates only if I needed them. Well, you need them now. Microsoft releases important security fixes regularly. You can get the Microsoft updates from any Internet Explorer browser window. Just click on Tools/Windows Update. This will take you to the Microsoft Update web site. Click on “Scan for Updates”. When it’s done you should see a link to “Download Critical Updates”.  Do it!  This is what protects you from things like the “Conficker Worm” that have been getting so much press. Better yet, keep your system set to Automatic Updates.

Then there’s antivirus updates. Just because you have installed antivirus software, it doesn’t mean you are protected – it must be kept up to date. Virus definition updates occur as attacks are recognized. An old definition file is no block to a new virus. Whatever antivirus program you have, open it up and check the menu options till you find “Update” and run it. Most antivirus programs also have a way to automatically update themselves whenever you’re online. Other nasties out there are Ad-ware and Spy-ware, I recommend Windows Defender to protect yourself from these. Defender is a free download from Microsoft for Windows XP.  It’s built in to Windows Vista.  I also recommend running CCleaner and/or Windows Live Onecare once in a while just for a second opinion.  Get the latest updates, be safe.


Get rid of the excess files on your system. But don’t just go into the file system and delete files you don’t recognize. Use Disk Cleanup already on the system (Start / Programs / Accessories / System Tools / Disk Cleanup). Go through your email folders and delete old messages. Archive the old stuff if you want to save it, but get it out of your way.
Uninstall any programs you are sure you don’t use (Start / Control Panel / Add and Remove Programs.)


Everything. Schedule scans for a time when you can be away from the computer. Run Scandisk (My Computer/right-click and choose Properties, Tools, Error-checking – on XP), Virus Scan, Spybot, Defrag (My Computer/right-click and choose Properties, Tools, Defragment Drive – on XP).
My middle name is “Reboot”. If you are having a problem with a program, just reboot (Start / Shutdown *xp=Turn off / Restart) and take a quick stretch. Both you and the computer resources will benefit.

10 Rules for Email Netiquette

My bet is that you didn’t have email when you went to school and learned other types of communication etiquette. Email has become our primary method of communicating these days. Some of the tips below address how to avoid looking like spam. You want your recipient to read the email, not throw it in the junk mail folder. Other tips are common courtesy and not overloading your readers.

  1. Always enter an informative subject, this will distinguish your emails from spam. not just ‘Hello’, but ‘Hello from Stu and Marsha in Illinois’email-subject
  2. Always ’sign’ your emails – this also identifies your emails better than the ‘from’ address because ‘from’ can be ’spoofed’ by spammers and viruses.
  3. Limit emails to one topic. If you ask several questions, for example, you are less likely to get answers to all of them. If you have 2 questions to ask, send 2 emails. Each email with an appropriate subject.
  4. Always copy or refer to the original email when responding. It is very aggravating for someone to receive an email that just says, “Yes”.
  5. Don’t use all caps. That is considered SHOUTING.
  6. Don’t forward ‘forwarded’ emails. If it’s important enough to send along, Copy and paste the original message into a new email.
  7. Attachments: Never attach large files. Large would be anything over 200k. Learn to use ‘Zip’ software to compress files. Don’t attach any files without a detailed description of the attached file in the body of your message. People should never open an attachment without being sure of what it is. Make it easy for them.
  8. Never put a lot of email addresses in the To: or the CC: field. Use BCC – these don’t show up on the recipient’s email.
  9. Spam is a fact of life, learn to deal with it. Learn how to control the settings of your Junk Mail folder. If that lets too much spam thru, contact your email service provider to see if they have a spam filter that can prevent junk mail from getting to your inbox at all.
  10. Always reply to friends’ emails you receive. That is the only way they know that you actually got it. Our email system today is so overloaded, you just never know if it will get delivered and read. It’s a courtesy to inform the writer that you did actually get their email.