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5 ways to keep your PC secure

5 ways to keep your PC secure
© Vladimir Yudin | Dreamstime

When our PCs work normally, we sometimes take them for granted. We recklessly fill up our hard drives with data, download files, install applications and browse the web as we please.

But of course, with all the malware, viruses, and phishing threats lurking in every corner, if you don't take basic security precautions, your computer's functionality will ultimately not last. All it takes is one installation of a malicious application to ruin your PC and worse, have all your information stolen.

To keep your PC healthy and secure, here are five basic tips you should be doing all the time:

1. Set up Windows Defender the right way

If you're running Windows 8 or 10, you may have noticed that your system already has built-in antivirus and malware protection software called Windows Defender. It's actually a decent program for guarding your PC against virus and malware threats.

When you start Windows, Windows Defender automatically runs in the background, scanning for malware in real time. It checks for potential threats when files are downloaded, moved from external storage and before they are opened.

Here's how to check if Windows Defender is protecting your system in real-time: Start button >> Settings >> Update & Security >> Windows Defender >> make sure Real-Time Protection is turned on.

Windows Defender also scans your PC when it's idle but if you want to set your own schedule, try these steps:

  1. Search for "Schedule Tasks" then launch the best match
  2. In the left pane expand the Task Scheduler Library >> Microsoft >>Windows folder then look for the Windows Defender folder. Double-click on it.
  3. On the center pane, double-click "Windows Defender Scheduled Scan."
  4. On the new pop-up window, select the "Triggers" tab and click on "New..."
  5. From here, you can set your task frequency (we recommend daily) and the start times. Click OK when done.

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is introducing key features to Windows Defender. One is Controlled folder access. This feature is designed to stop malicious apps and malware from modifying your folders and files.

Click here to learn more about the latest Windows 10 security changes.

Note: Windows Defender is not available for Windows 7 machines. If you're looking to protect an older Windows 7 machine, you can download the comparable Microsoft Security Essentials.

2. Get all the Windows updates

If you want to keep your computer safe and get the latest features, which you do, it's important to install the updates as soon as they come out. The latest virus and malware definitions for Windows Defender are also included in the updates so you'll want to apply those as soon as you can.

Fortunately, you don't have to mark your calendar; you can set the updates to install automatically.

Even if you know the updates are automatic, there's still one very important step you need to do each month to make sure you're safe. I'll cover what that is further down.

On most Windows computers, updates are set to "automatic" by default, but it never hurts to double-check that you have the right settings in place.

For Windows 10, click Start (Windows logo), choose "Settings," select "Update & Security," then on the "Windows Update" section, click on "Advanced Options." (Note: the "Windows Update" section is also handy for showing you updates that are currently being downloaded or applied.) Under "Advanced Options," just make sure the drop down box is set to "Automatic."

In Windows 8 and 7, launch your PC's Control Panel, click System and Security and then under Windows Update click "Turn automatic updating on." Choose "Install updates automatically" in the drop-down menu.

You can choose when the updates will install. Updating usually restarts the computer, so try to pick a time you won't be using it, like during the middle of the day for your home computer or late at night for an office computer.

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