What your computer needs to survive


Q: I read an article that said you would eventually lose your pictures if stored on a flash drive. Is this true and if so does it also apply to text. — Carol and Jim Rogers

A: Flash drives are sort of odd in that they have a limited number of read/write cycles. Copying information to it and retrieving it over and over will eventually spell its doom. However — and truthfully I forget the number — it’s a big number. But the catch is, like hard disks or any other ways to store data, they can go bad for no reason you can figure. They are fine for short term storage. It’s best to keep one copy on the hard disk and then back up the disk. If you’re really eager to preserve them, I’d back up to an online site like Mozy or Carbonite rather than to an external hard disk.

Send technology questions to Bill Husted at tecbud@bellsouth.net.

When your new computer comes out of the box it’s woefully unprepared for the cruel world. It’s vulnerable to a long list of computer killers that include voltage fluctuations, hackers and viruses.

Today we’ll look at the bare minimum of what you must do to give your computer a fighting chance to survive in a hostile environment.


UPS: That’s an uninterruptable power supply. It makes sure your computer can feast on a clean supply of electrical power. It’s a simple device. A battery inside the UPS is constantly charged. When the power goes out the UPS kicks in, providing the computer with power from that battery. If you selected a powerful enough UPS you’ll have plenty of time to shut the computer down when the power goes out. That’s a good thing since using the normal shutdown sequence prevents a potential scrambling of data. But that’s just one benefit. During any day the voltage delivered through normal household circuits can vary wildly. The UPS filters that power and calms these voltage surges.

A back-up device: Any hard disk will eventually fail. So it’s important to have a program that backs up the data you create. You’ll either need an external hard disk or one of the excellent online storage services. I favor the online services such as Carbonite or Mozy. But either way – external hard disk or online – it’s critical that you back up your data and store it.

Emergency kit: Assemble the manuals for your computer and all its accessories, the installation copy of Windows and some Ethernet cables and put it in a safe place. That way if your computer takes a dirt nap you’ll have tools that will help you deal with the problem.


Bug killers: You must use a program, or programs, that watch for and eliminate viruses, adware/spyware and other menaces that can be lumped together under the term malware. There are do-it-all programs such as Norton 360 or Windows Security Essentials that provide all that in a single package. Or you can use separate programs for viruses and spyware.

Gate keeper: A computer firewall helps protect your computer from unwanted intruders. Windows comes with a free firewall that’s perfectly adequate. Use it. If you don’t know how, type the word – firewall – into the search section for Windows help. Some programs used for viruses and malware include their own firewalls. If you use that firewall then make sure to turn off the Windows firewall.

Emergency software

There are a couple of programs that come in handy when your computer acts up and you can keep copies of them to use when trouble strikes. For times when your regular protection software lets you down, run the free version of Malwarebytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free/). I also recommend a free program called CCleaner (it also comes in a for-pay version so make sure you select the free one). It is the only program I recommend for finding and eliminating problems that can crop up in the Windows Registry.