Easy Computer Basics, Windows 10 Edition (2016)
Chapter 16. Protecting Your Computer
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a bit of a cliché, but it’s also true—especially when it comes to your computer system. Spending a few minutes a week on preventive maintenance can save you from costly computer problems in the future.
To ease the task of protecting and maintaining your system, Windows includes several utilities to help you keep your computer running smoothly—and recover your data in case of some sort of malfunction.
Windows Action Center
Using the Windows Action Center
The Windows 10 Action Center is the quick way to find out what’s happening on your computer system and take immediate actions of various sorts. You can use the Action Center to turn on or off your PC’s wireless functionality, access various configuration options, and switch to Tablet mode.
Click the Notifications icon on the taskbar to display the Action Center.
The top section of the Action Center displays new system notifications, new email messages, and similar notices.
The bottom section displays Quick Actions; click a tile to initiate a given action.
Click All Settings to display the Settings window.
Note: Control Panel
Another useful utility is the Windows Control Panel, which runs on the desktop and offers control of many system settings. To open the Control Panel, right-click the Start button and scroll until you can click Control Panel.
Defending Against Malware with Windows Defender
Computer viruses and spyware (collectively known as malicious software, or malware) install themselves on your computer, typically without your knowledge, and then either damage critical system files or surreptitiously send personal information to some devious third party. You can protect your system from viruses and spyware by using an anti-malware program, such as Windows Defender, which is built into Windows 10.
Windows Defender runs in the background, monitoring your computer against malware threats. To open Windows Defender, click the Start button to open the Start menu, click All Apps, scroll to and click to open the Windows System folder, and then click Windows Defender.
Defender automatically scans your system on its own schedule, but you can perform a manual scan at any time by clicking the Scan Now button.
Tip: Other Anti-malware Utilities
Your computer manufacturer might substitute or supplement Windows Defender with other antivirus utilities, such as AVG AntiVirus (www.avg.com), Kaspersky Anti-Virus (www.kaspersky.com), McAfee AntiVirus Plus (www.mcafee.com), and Norton AntiVirus (www.symantec.com). Other anti-spyware utilities include Ad-Aware (www.lavasoftusa.com) and Spybot Search & Destroy (www.safer-networking.org).
Caution: How to Catch a Virus
Computer viruses and spyware are most commonly transmitted via infected computer files. You can receive virus-infected files via email or instant messaging, by downloading files from unsecure websites, or by clicking links in Facebook or Twitter that link to malware-infested sites.
Deleting Unnecessary Files
Even with today’s humongous hard disks, you can still end up with too many useless files taking up too much hard disk space. Fortunately, Windows includes a utility that identifies and deletes unused files. The Disk Cleanup tool is what you should use when you need to free up extra hard disk space for more frequently used files.
Click File Explorer on the taskbar to open File Explorer, navigate to the This PC section, right-click the drive you want to clean up (usually the C: drive), and click Properties.
When the Properties dialog box opens, select the General tab (displayed by default), and click the Disk Cleanup button.
Disk Cleanup automatically analyzes the contents of your hard disk drive. When it’s finished analyzing, it presents its results in the Disk Cleanup dialog box. Select which types of files you want to delete.
Click OK to begin deleting the selected files.
Tip: Which Files to Delete?
You can safely choose to delete all these files except the setup log files and hibernation files, which are needed by the Windows operating system.
Deleting Unused Programs
Another way to free up valuable hard disk space is to delete those programs you never use. This is accomplished from the Settings tool.
Click the Start button and then click Settings to open the Settings window.
Click System to open the System page.
Click to select the Apps & Features tab.
Click the program you want to delete and then click Uninstall.
Tip: New PC Bloatware
Most brand-new PCs come with unwanted programs and trial versions installed at the factory. Many users choose to delete these “bloatware” programs when they first run their PCs.
Backing Up Your Files
The data stored on your computer’s hard disk is valuable, and perhaps irreplaceable. That’s why you want to keep a backup copy of all these valuable files, either on an external hard disk connected to your PC or online to your OneDrive account.
Click the Start button and then click Settings to open the Settings window.
Click Update & Security to open the Update & Security page.
Tip: External Hard Drives
To create a local backup, purchase and install an external hard disk drive. These drives provide lots of storage space for a relatively low cost, and they connect to your PC via USB.
Click to select the Backup tab.
Click + Add a Drive to select the drive or device where you want to store your backup copies.
File History is automatically activated. To turn off this automatic backup, click the Automatically Back Up My Files option to the Off position.
To select which folders are backed up, and how often, click More Options.
Restoring Your Computer After a Crash
If your computer system ever crashes or freezes, your best course of action is to run the System Restore utility. This utility can automatically restore your system to the state it was in before the crash occurred—and save you the trouble of reinstalling any damaged software programs. It’s a great safety net for when things go wrong!
Right-click the Start button and click System to display the System window.
Click System Protection in the navigation pane to display the System Properties dialog box.
Make sure that the System Protection tab is selected, and then click the System Restore button.
Tip: Restoring Your System
Be sure to close all programs before you use System Restore because Windows will need to be restarted when it’s done. The full process might take half an hour or more.
Caution: System Files Only—No Documents
System Restore will help you recover any damaged programs and system files, but it won’t help you recover any documents or data files. This is why you need to use the File History utility to back up all your data on a regular basis—and restore that backed-up data in the case of an emergency.
When the System Restore window appears, click Next.
Select a restore point from the list.
Click the Finish button to begin the restore process.
Tip: Refreshing System Files
Windows 10 lets you “refresh” your system with the current versions of important system files, in case those files become damaged or deleted. Click Update & Security from the Settings window. On the next screen, select the Recovery tab, go to the Reset This PC section, and click Get Started. When prompted, click the Keep My Files option.
Tip: Resetting Your System
In the event of a catastrophic system problem, you can reset your system to its factory-fresh condition by wiping clean the hard disk and reinstalling Windows from scratch. Click Update & Security from the Settings window. On the next screen, select the Recovery tab, go to the Reset This PC section, and click Get Started. When prompted, select the Remove Everything option. Note, however, that this option deletes all the programs and files on your computer—use it only in the case of an emergency.