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Computer maintenance
This is for windows XP with the up to date version of internet explorer other versions will be slightly different. I am sure those of you who are more computer literate than I am will have other ideas and I should stress that this is the most basic essentials for keeping your computer running ok and protecting your information.

First, get rid of all the stuff you have stored up from visiting websites, close Internet Explorer, right click on the Internet Explorer icon on your desktop, click on properties, on the general tab delete then delete all.

Cleanup your hard drive, on the desktop double click on my computer on each hard drive right click properties, on the general tab click on disc cleanup, tick all of the boxes that come up and click on OK.

Check your drive for errors, you wont be able to use your computer while this is going on. Double click on my computer, right click on the hard drive you want to check on the tools tab click on check now and tick the boxes that come up then restart your computer.

Having too much stuff on your desktop can slow things down, so if you have any folders there where you have lots of stuff stored you can move them somewhere else and create shortcuts to them on the desktop. If you only have one hard drive put the folders on that drive, if you have an extra drive that doesn't have your computer operating system on it this is an even better place to put them.

Over a period of time the information on your hard drive or hard drives becomes fragmented, this can also slow your computer down. To defragment your hard drives, double click on my computer, right click on the hard drive you want to defragment, on the tools tab click on defragment now,
 in the box that comes up make sure the hard drive you want to defragment is highlighted and click on defragment.

Getting rid of the viruses, you may have a virus checker either it came with your computer, you bought it at some time or it comes free with your internet service provider, it is important to keep it up to date and run it regularly. There are also various free ones for home use, if yours has expired so it doesn't update or it doesn't seem to work properly a very good free one is AVG. Before you install it is important to uninstall any other virus checker you have installed on your computer, computers don't seem to like running more than one virus checker. You can download it from the totally free one is on the left.

I should add to this that a lot of anti virus software that looks free is essentially a scam that gets you to download something that tells you that your computer is infected and that you have to pay for something to repair it, some of the companies that do this are very big names indeed.

Hacking and firewalls, one very good method of protecting yourself from internet hacking, if you have a broadband connection, is to have a modem router with it's own firewall incorporated.

Computers and the hard drives that store your information, don't last forever so it is important to backup the information that you have stored on your computer, most people do this by storing it on cds or dvds, there are also other ways like copying it to another computer or keeping it on the internet.

Finally be very wary of email attachments and links in emails, other people's memory sticks and disks, you can always check these with your virus checker before opening them and remember that you can get a virus just by visiting a website, and never download anything you are not sure about.