Tips & Tricks: best practices to avoid computer mistakes

Here is my list of hardware and software tips & tricks which might help you avoid making very common mistakes with your computer. They are universal, meaning that I ALWAYS see people making these mistakes. Very few people make any effort to improve their PC skills/experience; perhaps this computer best practices list might help!


1. Get enough RAM (memory). You will not have an efficient system with less than 1GB of RAM. I see a majority of users struggle with 256MB or 512MB of memory.

2. Consider a Mac. PCs are fine if you know how to maintain them. Most people don’t, and as such, they brag about buying a new PC every 2 years. Macs are easier to use and also last longer.

3. Get a 2-button scrolling laser mouse. Toss that old roller-ball, non-scrolling thing away.

4. Buy quality hardware. Learn about the better ones: anything Apple, Hitachi & Seagate hard drives, Crucial & Kingston memory, Linksys routers, Samsung monitors.

5. Get Hi-Speed Cable Modem Service from your cable company. DSL is slower and less reliable. My Comcast line is rated at 8mb, but I get 25mb downstream and 4mb upstream. It’s much faster than even a T1 line.

6. Backup your files. Buy an external hard drive and have your data backed up every night. And research a secure way of doing an off-site backup in case of fire, flood, theft, etc. Remember, hard drives are built with a MHBF rating: mean hours before failure.

7. Buy a good UPS/Battery backup, but don’t rely on getting any money from companies like APC. It’s their job not to come out of pocket when disaster strikes.


1. Keep your software CDs including the operating system in a safe place. Very few people keep them; if they do, they are scratched and unusable.

2. Use common sense with security: use strong passwords with your computer and your router. Remember, neither have a password initially.

3. Use a good malware program. Most users I see use an old version with outdated virus definitions. And they have lots of viruses, worms, trojan horses, etc. PC people: don’t use any program with the name Norton in it; rather, buy Symantec Client Security. It’s a good anti-virus program that won’t slow down your PC that much. Mac people, use Norton AntiVirus version 10, and you won’t pass on any viruses to your PC friends.

4. Try the Firefox web browser. I see people struggle using Internet Exploder everyday.

5. Get to know your computer’s operating system! Play with it. Get used to it. Ask questions. Search Google. Go to computer forums. Get better at using your computer.

6. Document your important information, including settings for your email server, your usernames and passwords, etc.

7. Make your life easy: get a free GMail email account.

8. Stop opening and quitting your most-used applications like your web browser and your email program. Keep ’em open!

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