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8 things every computer owner should know

Posted January 16, 2018 2:50 p.m. EST

DAYTON, Ohio -- Here are some of my most important tech tips and tricks I've gathered over the years:

-- Don't fall for phone or computer scams: There are endless scams and scammers out there, and falling victim usually costs you a few hundred dollars. But it could cost you even more if your identity is compromised. Just remember, if the situation doesn't seem right, it probably isn't.

If you get a phone call out of the blue saying something is wrong with your computer or internet, or if your computer says to call someone, just ignore it and find a local reputable computer professional to get advice. Don't trust anyone to remotely fix your computer unless you know you're talking to someone from a local reputable company

-- Get extra protection: Antivirus is a must-have for most computer users and is built into Windows 10, but most antiviruses don't stop adware and other junk. These might not be true viruses, but can certainly also cause problems.

So, I suggest having additional protection. My favorite program for this is MalwareBytes Antimalware. It's free to download (www.malwarebytes.com) and run manual scans, but it's a good idea to buy the premium edition to have active protection all the time.

-- Use content filtering if you have children around: The internet has tons of useful information, while at the same time has tons of worthless information and inappropriate content. Children can stumble upon this even when they aren't looking for it, so it's a big idea to be proactive.

Though content filtering can't block all inappropriate content, it can certainly help. I suggest using OpenDNS (www.opendns.com) filtering along with adult supervision.

-- Don't buy really cheap computers: You can find new computers as cheap as $250 to $300, but you get what you pay for. These cheaper computers have very low performing processors and other components, so they'll be slower and won't last as long.

I recommend spending at least $500 on a new computer. If that won't work for your budget, consider a good refurbished PC. You should be able to find one in the $300 to $400 range, which may perform better than a cheap new computer.

-- Back up any files you wouldn't want to lose: Backing up files and documents is one of the biggest things computer users ignore. So, if you haven't already, set up some type of backup.

I suggest a cloud or online backup, so your files are safe from theft, fire, and other disasters in your home or office. If you aren't comfortable with online backup, at least set up a backup to an external hard drive.

-- Try new things with your computers and gadgets: There's much more to computers and other tech gadgets than email, social media and checking accounts. Try something new! Maybe video chat with family and friends using Skype or FaceTime. Perhaps play with apps like SnapChat to send funny photos or videos. Or try a new game. Maybe even place a pickup order for your groceries at Kroger or Meijer, or get food delivered with DoorDash.

-- Save money with LibreOffice: The most purchased software package we see is Microsoft Office, for Word, Excel, Outlook, etc. However, most users can get away with using an open source office software package called LibreOffice (www.libreoffice.org).

It's basically like an old version of Microsoft Office. It's not affiliated with Microsoft at all, but it's compatible with the Microsoft document formats. It doesn't include an Outlook equivalent, but if need be, you can use another open source program for email: Mozilla Thunderbird (www.mozilla.org/thunderbird/).

-- Don't forgo a professional check-up: Even if you aren't having issues, I suggest getting a professional checkup and tune-up of your computer done every year. They can check to ensure you have adequate protection, maybe speed up your computer, and spot issues before they become a real problem.

Eric Geier is the owner of On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer repair and IT services at homes and businesses in the Dayton area. Email: egeier(at)onspottechs.com. This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News.

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service