Bits & P.C.s: Some things to do

Now that the holidays are over, it’s important to protect and maintain that new computer. Let’s take a look at a few of the things that you can do to care for the beast.

The first thing that you should do is update the anti-virus program that was installed on the machine. The “brand new” computers that I have seen recently had ant-virus programs that were dated back in June. Since new viruses are released daily, and the anti-virus companies update their software just as fast, you should update at least once a week to protect your computer from attack.

The second thing to do is to look at your Internet connection. If you are paying more than $20 a month for dial-up access, you may want to take a look at DSL or cable modem service. Speaking of DSL, SBC has cut its rate to $26.95 per month for home or business; if you are paying a higher rate, give them a call and request the new rate. You may have to agree to stay with their service for a year its to get the rate. Cable service will cost about $30 a month and may require additional services from the company.

Another thing that is a good idea to have is a backup power supply or UPS. This device functions as a surge protector and line conditioner while at the same time giving you five plus minutes of time to shut down the computer in case of a power failure. These devices start at around $30 and get more expensive as the length of time they will power your system increases.

As I’ve mentioned before, if you are running Windows XP you will find that programs will run better and system performance will go up if you increase the amount of system RAM memory to 512 MB or more. A 256 MB stick of memory is $50 while a 512 MB one is $100. There may be rebates available, and some stores offer free installation.

If you have a broadband connection and have a couple of computers, you can easily network them and share your Internet connection as well as files and printers. You will need to purchase a router for $50 and a network card for each computer at $20 each, and a couple of cables. Again, there are usually rebates available that make the network cards $5 each. Many of the newer computers have the network card built-in. If you want to eliminate the wires, you are talking about $200 to network two computers by using a wireless router and network cards. Some of the game consoles can go online with additional hardware.

If your new computer came with a DVD recorder, you should make sure what format the drive supports before buying blank discs. The two major formats are DVD+ (plus) and DVD- (minus), and they are as different as VHS and Beta. The rewritable discs are designated in the same manner but are RW instead of R.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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