Many of us have older (3 or more years old) Windows XP computers that we're not ready to replace yet, for whatever reason. Here are some steps you can take to keep that machine running a little longer while you decide which new 17", Intel i7 core, 4GB laptop you're going to replace it with.
0. Make a copy of your My Documents folder and put it in a safe place. The copy can be to a flash drive, an external hard drive, CD-ROM, data DVD, or a networked drive.
1. Update your anti-virus software and do a complete scan of the C: drive. There are several good anti-virus programs that you can pay for--Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky, etc.--and also a few good ones that are free. You only need one; if more than one anti-virus program is running at the same time, they are likely to fight each other. Choose one and keep it up-to-date. Schedule an update every week--every day if it's your only computer and it's mission-critical--and a full scan once a week or once a month. AVG is a free anti-virus program that can be obtained at http://free.avg.com/us-en/download-avg-anti-virus-free
2. Do a Disk Cleanup and Disk Defrag. These two programs are at Start > Accessories > System Tools.
3. Download, install, and run CCleaner. This free program finds and cleans up problems in the Registry and deletes unneeded temp files.
4. Download, install, and run MalwareBytes. Keep it up-to-date and run a scan about once a month.
5. Download, install, and run SpyBot Search & Destroy. Keep it up-to-date.
6. Download, install, and run Spyware Blaster, and keep it up-to-date.
7. If you're using Internet Explorer, make sure it's up-to-date. In IE, go to Tools > Windows Update
8. Make sure Adobe Flash is up-to-date:
9. Make sure Adobe Reader is up-to-date.
10. If you're using Firefox (I highly recommend it over IE), make sure you have the latest version. In Firefox, select Help > Check For Updates.
11. If your computer is a laptop that you use on public networks--libraries, McDonalds, Borders, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, airports, etc.--make sure the Windows Firewall is turned on. (At home, your router probably has a hardware firewall, but it doesn't hurt to have the Windows Firewall on all the time.) For extra security, download and install Zone Alarm. Be aware that if you use Zone Alarm on a home network with more than one computer, you may need to tweak some of the settings, especially if you have computers that are running different operating systems.