I spent the last several days reformatting and updating two PCs. One was a Compaq desktop from 2001 and the other a Toshiba laptop from 2005. Both were outdated and took a long time to update and protect, but I managed and I learned a few things along the way.
I've been using PCs since I was 10. I know a few things, but I'm no pro. I can use the Windows programs, keep things organized and secure, more importantly I have learned to fear the Windows Blue Screen of Death. I've managed to once annihilate a Windows 95 computer by a simple delete and reboot. That requires skills. Besides attacks from precocious children, a Windows computer needs to be aware of attacks from the outside, usually by way of the internet and those dastardly pop ups. There are a few barriers that you can utilize to stop these attacks which steal your information, slows down your computers speed and pretty much annoys you.
1) Keep your Windows updated. Go on Internet Explorer, click Tools, scroll to Windows Update and it will open up a new page. Check for updates and install all. It's really simple and all you need to do is reboot your computer after it asks. You can also set up Auto Update which will automatically install any updates at a specific time and day. You just acknowledge the pop up on your task bar and reboot if necessary. Also, don't forget to check out the manufacturer's site for further updates. There's usually a support or downloads link on the front page that will have specific updates for your computer model.
2) Install a firewall. A firewall is a barrier between your computer and the internet. It creates a set of rules--which you can edit--for what can go through the access point, it blocks most malware programs. Make sure to only install one because two firewalls always conflict with one another. Usually you pay $40-$60 for a firewall and anti-virus program, but you can get several good ones online. I use Comodo Pro which is absolutely free and does the job. It also has an anti-virus program which brings me to point three.
3) Install an anti-virus scanning program. Sometimes malware is stealthy enough to slip past your firewall restrictions and installs itself on your computer. An anti-virus program scans your computer to determine if viruses are present and allows you to quarantine and delete them. The Comodo Pro program has one built in, but I also use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, it's completely free, but you can buy the full version for the auto update, customer support and other features. I check for updates to their database and run these programs once a week.
4) Get a pop-up blocker! Viruses and malware sometimes use pop ups to get you to install programs by clicking on them. If you're on the trashy side of the internet you'll get plenty of pop ups which are annoying anyway. If you use the Firefox browser, you can get the Adblock Plus add-on which provides compilations of blacklisted pop ups and you can always expand upon them.
There are other things you can do to keep your computer happy, but like I said, I'm no pro! I hope this helps someone. If you have any other tips, please feel free to share!
http://cnet.com -- A great site to get downloads from because they're all tested for viruses beforehand and often have reviews! Feel free to browse the site.