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Installing Security Products -- After several years of installing Internet security products on our home network, this is the best way that we have come up with to do it. Frankly, the first time that you do this is a pain in the neck. It's like going to the dentist, it's not fun but it is good for you.

The result is a clean, fast and secure computer system. Thereafter, maintaining the system is much easier. You should do it about once per year. Spend a week or two getting ready a little bit at a time. Set aside a whole day for the actual work. Most of the following steps apply to either a brand new system or to an existing one.

New System Warning! A brand new computer may not have the latest "critical updates" for Microsoft Windows. Before connecting a new Windows XP based computer to the Internet, TURN ON the XP firewall (or install another firewall) for protection from new worms and go to the Windows update web page and download and install any "critical updates". DO NOT set up email accounts or download email until after you install and/or update anti-virus software and virus definitions. Note: These files may be big and take quite a while to download with a dial-up connection. Dial-up users should consider having their computer store download and install these updates before they take delivery of their new system.

Why Do This? Some personal firewall products scan your system during installation looking for applications that can connect to the Internet. It may find dozens or even hundreds of them. Some may be Trojan horses or spyware. Trying to figure out which ones may be uninvited guests one by one is very difficult. So, at the very least, you should scan your system with anti-virus, anti-Trojan and anti-spyware software before installing your personal firewall. However, none of these products is (or will ever be) 100% effective. Even worse, people who should know better write articles and create security checklists for end users that assume or flat out say that anti-virus software takes care of Trojan horses or bots. Not true. Therefore, your best bet is to start with or to create a clean system.

For more detailed instructions, see How to Start Again From Scratch, by Grogan on PC911.

Step #1 -- Think about your choices, make your decisions, create a step-by-step list. Find all of your software installation disks, write down all of your passwords, registration numbers, and so on. If any of your favorite software products include spyware, consider replacing them. Create an update folder in your browser favorites and create software and firmware update links. Print out two copies of your password list and put one in a fireproof safe.

Step #2 -- If you have not done this already, decide how you want to backup your data files and downloaded software. If necessary, buy storage hardware and media (Zip, CD, DVD).

Step #3 -- Update your existing security software and hardware firmware. Select and install new security software and hardware; see our Overview page for a discussion of your Internet security choices and our Best Reviews page for top products. If you download software or firmware, save copies before installing. Run anti-virus, anti-Trojan and anti-spyware software to clean your system.

Step #4 -- Throw out the trash. Empty the waste basket, delete browser cookies, temporary files and history, delete old data files, and so on.

Step #5 -- On a new computer system (not an existing one, see #7), uninstall software that you do not want and never plan to use. Always use the vendor's uninstall utility if there is one. If not, use the Windows add/remove utility. Then use Windows utilities or use third party tools for maintenance chores.

Step #6 -- To the extent possible, find and move or copy all of your data files to one location like "my documents", same thing for archive copies of downloaded software and firmware, browser favorites and so on. Finding, moving and backing up email files can be difficult and may require some research on your part to figure out. Make two copies of your data files. DOUBLE CHECK to make sure that the copies work. Put at least one of the copies in a fireproof safe.

Step #7 -- On an existing system (not a new one, see #5), wipe your hard disk, delete all files and programs, and use security software to overwrite the entire disk. Anything not on your back up copies or software installation disks is now gone including a lot of junk files and any remaining viruses, Trojans, worms or spyware. CAUTION -- This step is irreversible! If you have any doubts, STOP, and go back to Step #1.

Step #8 -- Install Windows. If you have not already upgraded to Windows XP (assuming that your computer meets the minimum requirements), this would be a good time to do it. XP is more secure that previous versions of Windows. Next, go to Windows online update and download and install all "critical updates" and "device drivers". DO NOT SURF. You may have to do this two or three times because some updates must be installed separately and the system must be rebooted before installing the others. This is also a great time to have broadband (DSL or cable) Internet service. If you are using dial-up, order a Windows update CD a few weeks before you start this process. Set up user accounts with passwords. Set up automatic updates. If you use Internet Explorer and/or Outlook Express, configure the security features.

Step #9 -- Restore your data files and downloaded software and firmware files to your hard disk. Restore your favorites to your browser. Now install your software except for security software. Go online to download software updates as needed for each program. DO NOT SURF. Go directly to the download sites using the links in your update folder in your browser favorites. Configure the security features of each product. If you can password protect data files for programs like Quicken, do so. Then run Windows utilities or use third party tools for maintenance chores.

Step #10 -- Install security software using your downloaded files or installation disks. Go online to download updates as needed for each program. DO NOT SURF. Configure the security features of each program. Set up automatic updates if available. Then run Windows utility software or use third party tools for maintenance chores. Now run your anti-virus, anti-Trojan and anti-spyware software. NOTE: If your firewall software scans your hard disk during installation for programs that can connect to the Internet (like Norton or BlackIce), make sure to install the firewall as your very last step. Check the firewall with an online testing service to make sure that you configured it correctly. NOW YOU CAN SURF


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