We asked, and you responded. Judging from the uptake on the FHM Facebook page, there's a whole army of you out there who own PCs that just aren't what they used to be. We spoke to internet security expert Richard Clooke - and gave him your questions - concerning sub-par PCs...
1. You work for an anti-virus company, but aren’t anti-virus companies the guys that make up viruses so that you have to buy their software?
No, cybercriminals are responsible for around 35,000 new pieces of malware every day – which keeps not only software engineers, but security experts across the world busy enough without needing to create more viruses to compound the problem.
2. What’s the main reason a PC starts to slow down?
PCs might slow down for a number of reasons, including failure to run regular updates and a general build-up of clutter from installing and uninstalling applications. Temporary files left behind after general web browsing and running programs can lead to processes running in the background – all of which saps the power of your PC. Just like a car, PCs need regular care and attention to keep them running sweet.
3. What’s the most common no-no you see with PC users?
I’m constantly astonished by how many people think they’re invincible when it comes to online threats. We’re all posting personal details online, using credit cards regularly and happy to do our banking online – so internet security is now a necessity. It’s not just your computer that’s at risk, it’s your personal details and your MONEY that the bad guys are after.
4. Is my love of downloading movies killing my computer?
If you’re downloading your films from a dodgy site, it’s a definite possibility. Using illegitimate file-sharing sites offers easy access for cybercriminals – there’s a good chance something nasty will find its way on to your computer without your knowing – and these can compromise your security and have an impact on the performance of your PC.
5. What about the bongo? Is it the bongo?
The bongo can be pretty dodgy. If you’re streaming video direct to your PC and clicking on pop-ups that offer a variety of ‘delights’, then of course there’s more risk of getting scammed or allowing some malware to get on your PC. Watch out for random pop-ups that might seem legitimate – such as updating your media player or warning you about a virus – and also those that are a little more obvious – such as saucy dating links, video chat and subscriber-only content. Basically if you’re on a site that’s asking for your credit card details to verify your age, don’t do it!
6. Why does my laptop take longer to boot up than it does to boil, and eat, an egg?
That may be a sign that your PC is infected with a virus or simply that temporary files have built up over time from day-to-day use. One easy way to check – and to improve your start-up time – is to run a full scan for viruses with something like PC Tools Internet Security, and to run a ‘performance check’ with PC Tools Performance Toolkit.
7. So what can I do right now, that’ll only take ten minutes, to make my computer run better?
For less than the cost of a night on the beers, download a program that will run an ‘MOT’ on your PC and make a variety of changes to improve the performance. PC Tools Performance Toolkit will scan your registry and defrag your hard disk, optimise your PC’s startup processes and remove unnecessary files that you no longer need. It updates automatically and runs silently in the background, so once it’s installed you can get back to the bar and leave it to do its thing.
8. What about a full audit? Give me a check list of things to go through when I’ve got a couple of hours spare…
There are a number of things you can do regardless of which version of Windows you're running:
For performance and speed:
- Clear out all temporary internet files and cookies via your browsers – this can usually be found under ‘Internet Options’ within your browser
- Run Disk Cleanup (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools) which will allow you to remove temporary files, downloaded programs and all sorts of other junk from your hard drive
- Defrag your hard disk(s) (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter)
- Disable any programmes you don’t need that automatically start up when your computer is switched on – these can slow down your system. You may be able to do this from the Start Menu (Start, Programs, Startup), or by going to the Settings option within the actual program
- Uninstall software that you never use – this tidies up your hard disk and frees up space
- Download the latest updates to your operating system – these are essential to maintain a basic level of security
- Make sure you have comprehensive internet security software installed
- Check for the latest updates and run a full system scan
9. There’s this bastard pop-up that I can’t get rid of. How do I kill it?
This is pretty common. Open your internet browser and right-click somewhere around the toolbars. This will bring up the toolbar menu. You may find the culprit is listed here – in which case, un-tick it and then check in Add/Remove Programs to see whether it’s an application you can uninstall. To avoid pop-ups in the future, set your browser or internet security (if you have it) to block all pop-ups – you can set this so that you’re notified of all pop-ups that are blocked, so you can make the decision on whether it should appear. There’s also often an option to disable specific pop ups that you don’t want to see anymore. Say bye-bye to pop ups!
10. FHM reader Tom Every time I start my computer, this stupid box pops up that says ‘Google Desktop could not start'. I don’t even know what Google Desktop is. How do I make it go away?
First step is to go to Start, Programs, Startup, and delete the application from this list. This won’t completely remove the program, but it will stop it from launching every time your PC boots. Then, if you’re running a Windows-based system, go to the Add/Remove Programs (In Control Panel) and click uninstall to completely remove it. Here you can also uninstall other applications you’d prefer not to run.
11. FHM reader Mike Is there a better time of day to download stuff?
This will depend greatly on the type of internet access you’re paying for, but generally, the best time the rest of the world is asleep, so very late at night and early in the morning can be better. Avoid lunchtimes in the office (everyone else is online) and Sundays as all the kids are at home and these are peak times for internet traffic.
12. FHM reader Lucy Sometimes, right, my computer just decides the sound’s not going to work and I have to restart it. It doesn’t seem fair. Help.
It could be that your sound card is on its way out, or that you need to update or reinstall your drivers. Check in Control Panel, Device Manager and check that the sound drivers are installed and working properly. Then go to the website of your PC manufacturer and find the model you’re using within the support section of the site. Most companies have online FAQs and trouble-shooters which can help, or you can speak to the customer services department if you are still covered under their guarantee policy.
Richard Clooke is an internet security expert for PC Tools (www.pctools.com)