I am not a tech blogger. But I am technically proficient and get asked for help on a fairly regular basis. I was recently asked to help a friend who has ads beginning to appear on her computer. I wrote her an email describing three free programs that I think everyone should have and how to use them. It seemed useful enough that I decided to post it to my blog. Perhaps it will help you.

Dear <friend>,

First, install antivirus software on your computer. You don’t need to pay for it unless you want extra bells and whistles (e.g. you can schedule a scan instead of always having to initiate it manually). I never pay for them because they work all the time in the background and and I don’t need the extra stuff. There are several good programs out there. I have been using AVG Antivirus and it seems good to me. Follow this link to download and install AVG Antivirus. AVG.com After you install the free version, it should ask if you want to run a complete scan. Do it. If it doesn’t ask you, do it anyway. It should be fairly obvious how to do it. It may takes some time. After that, AVG will keep protecting you. Occasionally scanning your whole computer is a good idea, in case something sneaks in somehow.

Second, install a program called Malwarebytes. Follow this link to download and install the program: https://www.malwarebytes.org/antimalware/. Again, the free one is fine unless you want the automated features (e.g. automatic upgrades instead of you having to click a couple of times when it tells you it needs an upgrade). Once installed, run the most thorough scan you can. It may take some time. After that, Malwarebytes will keep an eye on things.
The third program I am going to tell you about is simply to keep your computer running better. It’s called CCleaner. Like the others, there is a free version and a paid version. You only need the free version. https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download. This program will do several things for you… and do them simply and well. When you install it, it may ask you if you want to add a CCleaner option to your trash can menu (or something like that). I suggest you do it because it makes it easy to find and use. Once it’s installed, you can right-click on the trash can to bring up a contextual menu and CCleaner will be right there. There are two options: 1) Open CCleaner and 2) Run CCleaner. I don’t ever use “Run CCleaner” because that is the automatic junk cleaning routine and I’m a control freak about what goes on in my computer. It may be the perfect thing for you. If you choose “Open CCleaner,” you will see several options. This is what they do and how to use them:
  • Cleaner – this will clean out all your junk files which can use up hard drive space and really slow down your computer if you start to get a lot of them (things like pictures on web sites can get saved on your computer without you knowing it in a place called the ‘cache.’ That’s why web sites often seem to open so much faster after the first time you visit them… because much of the web site is already on your hard drive. You can run this as is or you can customize what you want deleted and what you don’t. I typically uncheck the ‘cookies’ box because cookie files are what web sites use to store your data about you. So if you like web sites remembering you, don’t delete the cookies. That being said, many cookie files are ad and click tracking files to track what you’ve clicked on. (Ever notice that your FB ads change based on what you’ve been shopping for?)
  • Registry – Registry files are basically cross-reference files that your computer uses. Over time computers can build up a ton of extra registry files that it doesn’t need. This, of course, can slow down your computer. You can safely use this module without any worry of causing harm to your computer. Just click ‘analyze’ and let it run. The first time you do it, it may take some time and find an awful lot of files. When it is done, click ‘fix selected issues.” Fix all the issues. It will as you if you want to save a registry backup. You probably should, just in case. But I’ve never had to use one. Make a folder called Registry Backups somewhere on your hard drive and put the backups in there each time you run the registry module on CCleaner. (every few months at random is fine… or whenever you feel like your computer is starting to act up a bit).
  • You can use “tools” and the other things, but I’m not going to explain how because you should learn yourself or you shouldn’t mess with them. They are not complicated, but some options could cause problems (for instance, if you disable or delete a startup program that you need).

I hope this helps somebody. And if you are reading this and have commentary or better suggestions, by all means post ’em! I am proficient but no expert and am always willing to learn.