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Keeping your computer safe - the technical bit made easy

There are various ways you can keep your computers and your personal details safe.  Some cost money and some are free and some will be more expensive and more efficient than others.  We will talk you through the basics, explain the jargon and the offer some tips on how to research different products.


Installing firewall software or adding a hardware firewall to your system to help prevent outsiders from accessing your system – many broadband routers include basic firewall functionality.  The firewall is essentially a barrier (wall) between your computer and internet to stop unauthorised access into your system.

Installing security software to reduce the risk of computer viruses. Security software is an all-in-one package to protect your PC and files from all forms of malware (short for malicious software designed to disrupt your computer). This software will need to get updates from the internet regularly to ensure that it stays ahead of new threats. Most security software will want to update without you needing to schedule this, some may prompt you before doing this.

If your computer becomes infected with malware it could damage you operating system, delete or move files of send information about your computer without your knowledge.  There are a number of free and commercial security software programs available for both Windows and Apple computers.

Free ones include

Microsoft Security Essentials, AGV, Norton and Sophos.  All  have either free trials or free ‘lite’ versions.

Backing up

As you use a computer more and more you will quickly find that it will become a place to keep a massive amount of information.  At first this might be simply your favourite websites or some email that you want to keep but later you will start to store letters, photographs, music and an ever increasing range of other digital information.

Modern computers are very reliable but mistakes do happen and with all of this information in one place there is a danger that this could get lost.  The good news is that making a copy is really easy and is usually free. Making a copy of the information on your computer is called making a ‘backup’.  Usually backups are never used and are just there in case anything goes wrong.

It almost goes without saying but it is a good idea to store your backup away from your computer. It is normal for people to copy files onto some form of removable device like a CD or a memory stick.

The simplest way to backup is to make a copy of all of your important files onto the memory stick and to place that in a safe place away from the computer.  A memory stick can be purchased for a few pounds from any shop that sells computer things (even places like newsagents and toy shops). If you use your computer for business or would prefer a more sophisticated backup process it is possible to buy backup software.

Don’t feel confident you are covered?

As internet security is such an important issue it is worth doing a little research to ensure you have protection appropriate for your use.  There is a wealth of information on websites about the many different products on the market detailing their different benefits and effectiveness.  Find out as much as you can from an independent source such as Which?, or Get Safe Online who will not be promoting one brand or type over another.

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