Part 1 – Keeping your system and software applications patched and up to date! Software companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Mozilla, and others will frequently issue security patches to their software. So, uhh, What exactly is a patch, Abe? “A patch is a piece of software designed to fix problems with (or update) a computer program…. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, and improving the usability of performance.” (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patch_(computing) ). In non-geek speak, this means that every program that is created for your computer was made by a human being and, as you know, humans are inherently imperfect. (Yes, even the geeky ones). So, even though they do their darnest to make sure the software they create for your computer is safe and secure, they do make mistakes. Fortunately, most software companies will issue out these patches to fix their mistakes. Unfortunately, if you don’t apply those patches, you could end up paying for those mistakes in the form of identity theft, virus infections, or worse — data loss. This is yet another reason why you want to try to install software only from reputable sources that you trust will keep their software patched! So, ever since Microsoft came out with Windows 98, they have provided us with an awesome patching service for their Operating System called Windows Update. Windows Update scans your operating system and updates it with the latest security patches and service packs. There are two types of updates: “Recommended” and “Critical”. You should obviously not hesitate to install the “Critical” updates. You can find the website at: http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ Note: If you are using Windows 7, Click the START button, Click All Programs, and then click Windows Update. There is also a more new version of Windows Update called Microsoft Update available. This one will not only update Windows, but it will also update a wide array of other Microsoft applications as well. For example, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Security Essentials can be updated using Microsoft Update. You can find that website at: http://update.microsoft.com/ All of these updates can be scheduled to install automatically or simply download and notify you when they are ready to be installed. Most businesses will choose the latter of the two options due to some updates needing to reboot at odd times during the day. Now that you know the secret to patching, there is really no excuse not to stay patched!! As for other non-Microsoft applications, they generally will either have their own update option (usually found in their ABOUT menu) or you can go to their website, download, and install the latest version or security patch. So, if you’ve gotten this far, I think it is time for me to offer you a cookie. No, no, don’t get offended. This cookie is an awesome treat and the name of this delicious treat is called SECUNIA. Secunia has a free tool called Personal Software Inspector (PSI) that will actually help you in figuring out which portion of your operating system AND other installed software needs to be patched. The holy grail of this program is that it will actually assist and sometimes automatically go out, download, and install those patches and updates for you. Secunia analyzed data from millions of users and determined that the average Windows user needs to patch software every 4 to 5 days to keep everything up-to-date!!!!! That isn’t just Windows/Microsoft Updates mind you, but updating all the various applications on your PC. So there you have it! Part 1 to Maintaining your Computer System. Stay Tune next week, where we will talk about Spyware and AntiVirus Programs!! Same Abe The Computer Guy time — Same Abe The Computer Guy place!