Many of you will be opening bright, shiny PCs for Christmas. In your haste of getting them hooked up, you may have overlooked some essentials. Here are some tips in getting a new PC to work correctly and safely:
-Buy and use a surge suppressor. I don't mean a $6 power strip, but a power strip with surge-suppressing ability built in. You will need to spend about $20 and up for a good one, but it can save you money long-term. Most look like a regular power strip: you plug your computer, monitor and printer into it. If and when lightning strikes near your home or if the power company sends a spike down the line, this device commits suicide basically and saves the rest of the devices down the line.
-If you have a high-end system, you may consider spending $80 and up on an "uninterruptible power supply," which also acts as a surge strip. It also provides a few minutes of power once the lights go off; a few also will power down your system automatically for you. (Many cannot handle the power surges of a laser printer starting up, so read the manual before you plug a laser printer into one.)
-Find a nice, safe place to store your system's CDs and diskettes away from the kids and where you can find them again.
-Create a "system restore point" before you do anything major on the PC and every month or so. Both Windows Me and XP can "roll back the clock" and try to restore your system to where it was in the past if you make a mistake, the kids delete some files or you lose some data. Hit START, then PROGRAMS, then ACCESSORIES, then SYSTEM TOOLS, then SYSTEM RESTORE. (Won't work on older versions of Windows.)
-While you are in the System Tools folder, run Scan Disk in the thorough setting (overnight, will take a while) to make sure your hard disk is healthy. After that is over, same folder, run Disk Defragmenter and get in the habit of doing that frequently as well.
-Have high-speed Internet access (cable modem, DSL, etc.)? Install a firewall, either a commercial software package like Norton Internet Security 2002, a free one such as Zone Lab's BlackIce (www.zonelabs.com) or a hardware firewall built in to a router. Firewalls help keep people on the Internet from accessing your PC.
-Have kids? I would strongly consider a software package that will help screen out porn. Although no substitute for good parental attention, a product like NetNanny (www.netnanny.com) can do a lot to ease your mind. It's $39 well-spent if you have kids. (Even if they are not looking for porn, some of these sites use tactics now to stick it right in your face, not to mention the spam e-mails.
WEEKLY WEB WONDER: For a live view of the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree, head to http://www.wnbc.com/christmas/