By William R. Cunningham of Reggie’s PC Resources

I have been helping people with their computer systems for over 25 years and I have seen several mistakes that people make regarding their computers.  I’d like to share with you the 8 mistakes that I have found that computer owners make.  These mistakes have led to serious consequences in some cases, especially for business owners.

  1. No backups. I could tell you horror stories about people, including business owners, who lost important data because they did not backup their files.  Many people have lost important images, videos, and files after a system catastrophe because they did not have backups of those items.  Having good backups of your files is the number one way to protect those files.In addition to backing up files, some may go further and create images of their critical system’s hard disks.  This will enable you to restore your system fully, i.e., operating system, programs, as well as data files such as images, videos, and MS Word documents.  The important thing is to backup your files.  Do it now!  Call Reggie if you need assistance.
  2. No Recovery media. Sometimes restoring a system to its factory state (As it was when first purchased) is the simplest way to recover from a system catastrophe. However, most people do not take the time to create the recovery media even after the system prompts them to do so.  I have been called upon many times to “fix” a computer only to find that the owner has no operating system media (e.g., CDs), no program installation media, etc.Even if the computer manufacturer does provide recovery CDs, DVDs, or a method for you to create them, I find that people typically ignore this task and are not able to find them when needed to restore the system.  These media can typically be purchased from the manufacturer for a fee if the originals are not available.
  3. No software installation CDs. People typically do not safely store their software installation CDs or downloads nor the product keys that come with them. When it is necessary to re-install (e.g., after a system recovery for example), then they are unable to find the installation media and therefore unable to re-install the software. Sometimes the CDs may be found, but no sign of the product keys.  If the product keys are not available, then the program may have to be purchased again or time and effort need to be spent talking to the manufacturer in an attempt to get the product keys.
  4. No or expired malware protection. Having antivirus and internet security protection is very important these days.  However, I have encountered many people who either do not have this protection or the subscription for their installed protection has expired.  I have found that many people take antivirus programs and the like for granted.  It is not enough to merely install any internet security or malware protection software.  Research (or just contact Reggie) and know which one is good so that you would have optimal protection.
  5. Do not read the screen. You’re working on your system and suddenly, a message pops up in a dialog box with the buttons “Yes” and “No” or perhaps “Ok” and “Cancel.”  At this point many people do not read the message in the dialog box and simply click “Yes” or “Ok” just to get rid of the popup.  Many times, malware is installed on a system or the system is reconfigured as a direct result the previous scenario.  People do not read the messages that may pop up while they are working and simply click “OK” or the like not realizing that a virus was given permission to install or an undesired configuration setting was permitted to change.  Read the screen.  Pay attention to the things you click on.I recall several years ago that a gas station owner client of mine asked me to determine how a computer at his gas station was infected.  I determined that a user gave permission for the infection.   A popup appeared asking the user for permission to install a program.  The user clicked “Yes” and the virus was installed.  That’s how many if not most viruses infect systems.
  6. Unknown Router Username/Password. There have been many times when we were called to help someone with their home or business internet connection.  One of the things that we need to do is to examine the router configuration and status.  However, in most cases people do not know what their router’s username or password is or how to login to it.Knowing the credentials of your router to login to it is very important for troubleshooting and for future configuration changes that may be needed.  It is a good idea to keep the login credentials in a safe place.  It is also recommended that you change the router’s password to something else besides the default.  It is also a good idea to change the WiFi password as well.  The password should be hard for someone to guess but have meaning to you so that you can remember it.  Keep these credentials in a safe place as well.
  7. Shared Username with Administrator Privileges. This is a very common mistake that I’ve encountered.  Many times, this mistake manifests into a computer full of viruses.  People allow their children to use the computer by logging into the parent’s username, which has administrative privileges.  This means that “Little Johnny” can do anything he wants to the computer.  Typically, what happens is “Little Johnny” downloads games to play on the computer and in some cases downloads viruses that install on the computer.Best practices is that each user would have their own user account on the computer and each user would have separate permissions.  That means that “Little Johnny” would not have administrative privileges and therefore would not be able to install programs, thus eliminating the possibility of him downloading and installing a virus.  Of course, good virus protection should also be active on the computer to help thwart virus infestation as well.
  8. Bad Passwords Practices. Most of the times when I needed a person’s password to troubleshoot or evaluate a system, I find the password to be very simple and possibly easy to guess.  People use their initials and birthdates, children’s initial and birthdate or some combination of those.  Best practices is that a password should actually be a passphrase.  It should have meaning to you, but be meaningless to others.  It should not be easy to guess and should not contain real words.  The more critical the system, the more cryptic the password should be to others.  I’ve even seen people write passwords on sticky notes and post around their work area in businesses.  Passwords should not be easily accessible.Another mistake that I see people make is to allow their browser to “remember” their login credentials.  That means that if someone would gain access to your computer, they would be able to use your browser history to find systems that you login to (e.g., Your bank) and then log in to that system since the browser will remember your credentials.  Never allow the browser to remember your password unless it is a totally non-critical system.  My personal practice is to never allow the browser to remember passwords.  Instead, you can use a password management system such as RoboForm (roboform.com).  Some internet security programs also include a password manager.

These are the 8 mistakes that are common among computer users as I’ve seen over the past 25 years.  These, however, are not the only 8 mistakes, but rather common ones.  Other mistakes that people make are listed below.

  • The computer is not configured to lock after inactive for a specified amount of time. Anyone can walk up and use that computer.
  • The computer is not cleaned. Computers need to be cleaned especially on the inside where dust (and spiders) can accumulate.
  • Use wrong power adapter on laptops and other devices. I’ve seen people take the power adapter for one laptop and use it on a completely different make and model laptop just because the power connector fit.  This can damage the laptop or device.
  • Ignore notifications. Sometimes people are so focused on the work that they are doing that they don’t take the time to read the notifications that pop up from time to time.  Sometimes these notifications are important or even critical.  A notification may be that the battery is getting low, a password is about to expire, etc.  Do not ignore notifications.
  • Don’t learn the simple basics of the operating system. I have encountered many people who have no idea what a folder is, how to copy or move a file, where to go get a file that was just downloaded, etc.  Every person that uses a computer should know the bare basics in the same way that everyone who drives a car should know the basics (e.g., the car needs gas, reading the gas meter, oil needs to be changed periodically, etc.).  For the computer user, it would help very much if they were familiar with the basic functions of the operating system so that they could better follow along during a troubleshooting session.  This could also reduce the cost of such tech support sessions because less time would be needed.  There are plenty of videos and information online that you can use to gain a basic understanding of the operating system (e.g., Windows 10) and even the computer itself.