Security Wizard Safe Practices


Security doesn't end when you install an antivirus program. Many users wait until they have critical problems or slow computers and then seek an expensive solution.

Safe practices are free and can go a long way to improving your security from viruses and other malware threats.

First Aid
  • Before you do anything check now to make sure that your PC is not currently infected with a virus or other malware infection. Click here to find out how.
  • Make sure that your computer is up-to-date with all the latest Windows, Office and other software updates and patches. Click here to find out how.
  • Verify that you have Windows Update set to automatically download and install any future patches from Microsoft. Click here to find out how.
  • This page assumes an awareness of popular security software, such as an antivirus and firewall (even if just the built-in Windows firewall). If you need advice on them you can refer to our Security Wizard or Editor's List.
The Most Important Security Advice of all

The task of protecting your PC from infection is similar to crossing a busy road unharmed.

There are two, very different ways of crossing that road:

The first way is to be very careful about where you cross and to be watchful and aware of the dangers. In other words, make sure you don't get hit.

The other approach is to protect yourself with something like an army tank and cross anywhere, anytime. If you get hit, you rely on the tank to protect you.

Now no sensible person would adopt the latter approach to crossing a road, yet when it comes to computer security that's exactly what many folks do.

If you want real computer security, you need to adopt safe computing practices rather than rely totally on security products to protect you. No security product or combination of products can or ever will, provide perfect PC security just like no car can provide you with perfect road safety. With both cars and PCs you need to be careful in your own behavior.

Like the rules of road safety we teach our kids, the rules for safe computing are simple and well known.

Top Safe Practices for Everyone:

1. Be very careful where you surf. To help you stay away from bad sites install a website rating browser plug-in like WOT and make sure you only visit websites rated "Green" by the plug-in (review).

2. Never click on email attachments from unknown sources however tempting and attractive such attachments may seem.

3. Only download files from trusted sources. These include:

  • Files hosted on reputable download sites such as,,,,, and other similar sites.
  • Files mentioned in the editorial sections of major computer websites and publications such as PC World, CNet, Lifehacker and of course, Gizmo's Freeware.
  • Open source software hosted on, and similar large open source sites.
  • Files available for download from Microsoft, Google, HP, Dell and other reputable vendors.

4. Never install programs obtained from P2P networks including BitTorrent, eMule, LimeWire and others as many of these files are infected with malicious programs. Some of these malicious programs are so powerful they are capable of overwhelming all your security defenses.

5. Never install programs that friends give you on removable media unless you have verified that they are clean by submitting them to free web based file scanning services such as Jotti or Virus Total.

6. Never accept free toolbars, media players or other unsolicited software offered to you by a website.

7. If you are not using the latest Internet Explorer then we recommend you upgrade or better still, switch to an alternate browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Opera or Google Chrome. All these have a track record for better security than Internet Explorer and are arguably superior browsers as well (review).

Optional Advice (Highly Recommended):

8. Seriously consider using a Windows limited user account (LUA) rather than a normal account with full administrator privileges. LUA will block the majority of malware including, among others, all kernel mode rootkits. More details here.

9. Disable AutoRun with a group policy or with the free Panda USB Vaccine.

10. You should seriously consider creating a fresh installation of Windows and then back up your PC using a drive imaging program. Then if in the future your PC ever becomes infected you can use the drive image to restore it to a pristine, infection free condition. If you are using the Business or Ultimate versions of Vista or any version of Windows 7, you already have drive imaging capabilities built into Windows. See here for details. If you're using other versions of Vista/Windows 7 you can find a number of free drive imaging programs here.

The Bottom Line:

By following these simple rules the chances of your PC becoming infected will be dramatically reduced. Combine these practices with the security software suggested in our Security Wizard and you are well on the way to safe, secure, infection-free computing.

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