Computer Health 101: A Checklist for College Students
BY MIKKIE MILLS
Nothing will cramp your academic style quite like computer problems. A sick laptop makes it tough, if not impossible, to access online course information, email your professor, or write that term paper. Fortunately, keeping your computer healthy isn’t rocket science. You can prevent potential problems by taking a few important steps.
Maintain Your Hardware and Software
A few ounces of maintenance can help you avoid tons of heartache. Focus on a few key areas.
Keep a clean machine. Use a damp, lint-free cloth to clean your keyboard and accessible parts of your mouse. For a few bucks, you can pick up a can of compressed air that will blow debris from between the keys and out of ports.
Take time to install the latest operating system. Operating system updates improve both efficiency and security. Whether you use Mac or Windows, you can adjust your settings to automatically notify you when updates are available.
Opt for virus and spyware protection. Specially designed software can detect and eliminate threats to your computer. Norton and McAfee offer two of the most popular, self-updating products. Mac users are protected when they install OS updates.
Back up your data somewhere else. Computers get stolen. They crash. Back up your data to an external hard drive, USB drive, or cloud account so you don’t lose it all if the worst happens.
Be A Smart User
As a student, you no doubt spend a lot of time online: doing coursework and research, communicating with the profs, shopping, banking, and staying in touch with friends and family. Be a smart, security-conscious user!
Practice email protection. Change your password regularly, using a random password generator. Don’t click on links or open attachments from a stranger. Even if the message comes from someone you know, it’s a good idea to double check legitimacy with the sender.
Know the threats. Malware—short for “malicious software”—is a program installed on your computer without your consent—computer viruses, spyware, worms, and Trojan horses. It can be uploaded physically, via USB, or remotely, via a malicious website. Phishing attacks—emails that look legit but contain malicious links or attachments—and free media downloads are also used to deliver malware. So it’s best to avoid piracy sites and vet unfamiliar websites using Google’s Safe Browsing Check.
Be Safely Social. Phony Facebook friend requests provide an easy way to transmit malware and viruses, so be wary of strangers asking to link up. Sharing is fun, but check your privacy settings so only people you actually know can see your posts. Avoid TMI (Too Much Information) Syndrome. Any post that checks you in or out is an open invitation to all kinds of trouble. It’s all right to post your birthday, but leave off the year to foil identity thieves. Share your vacation pictures after you get back.
Be Privacy Minded
Confidential information should be just that—confidential. Keep it that way by:
- Refusing to send personal information in an email message. Phishing scam emails often ask for passwords, account numbers, and/or social security numbers.
- Resisting the urge to store payment information on retail websites. Cyber thieves love to hack into these sites to snatch personal information and/or charge purchases to your account. Type in the information, every single time.
- Limiting what you do on public Wi-Fi. Unsecured public Wi-Fi offers criminals an excellent opportunity to slip in some malware they can use to collect logins, passwords, account numbers, etc. Stick to trusted public Wi-Fi networks, and do your banking at home.
It’s fairly easy to maintain your computer and defend it from outside threats. Since your computer plays an important role in your college life—allowing you to study, conduct business, and stay in touch—keeping it healthy makes all kinds of sense!
Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She has a passion for advanced learning, reading, and health and fitness. She is also a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on education, learning, health, fitness and yoga. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing the little ones around or can be found at the local climbing gym or doing yoga.