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PC Tech Tips - Vol. 4.1


Medicine for Viruses

Computer viruses are computer programs that can scramble or destroy your data; consistently make themselves larger and larger, eventually filling the hard drive; hide access to your system setup utilities; make the mouse or keyboard create strange characters; and other more destructive functions.


Top secret projects require protection from being copied. Some programmers within companies who have top secret projects are hired to create programs that destroy themselves or destroy computers when secret data is copied. Some programs scramble themselves into secret code.

Imagine a disgruntled employee or a computer student who has a mean streak in him/her. They have been known to create programs that are destructive. This is the basis of what, today, we call a computer virus.

How do I get them?

Viruses can hide themselves in other files, hide in the first "hidden" section on a disk or be made to look like just another file. They are transferred from computer to computer either by copying and/or by using an infected file. It can be transferred by diskette, across a network, or by downloading a file from the Web and using it.

Using a virus checker

These days, most computer users have anti-virus programs on their systems. It scans for viruses on their hard drive every time the computer is turned on. However, most users do not realize two very important things:

  1. The virus list must be updated monthly or, at least quarterly. McAfee's Virus-scan added 99 viruses to their list from November to December of last year!
  2. Most anti-virus programs , by default, scan only program files. The hidden section (boot) and data files are ignored unless a special setting is changed. Therefore, viruses which infect data and document files are not detected. The most rampant viruses today infect MS Word templates and documents rather than the program itself.

Most virus checking programs are excellent at detecting viruses. However, not all viruses are curable. If your anti-virus program manufacturer has no cure, you may try another product or, there may be a work-around for getting by the virus until a cure is found. Depending upon the type of virus, a cure may be to backup your data, format the hard drive and carefully reload the system.

Where Do You Plug In?

Buying a computer is what I would call an investment. This investment costs both time and money, both of which we have precious little these days. In previous articles, we mentioned protecting your investment by backing up data, performing regular maintenance and the placement of the equipment (away from heat and dust, and think ergonomics). One concern, rarely mentioned in articles or tips books, is electrical power.

Located in the appendix of the owner's manual of every electrical device is a chart with wattage, volts and loads. Now, these numbers and letters may mean nothing to us, but we should pay attention to where we plug in our computers and expensive electronic equipment. These numbers could come into play if we are not careful.

Electrical power, supplied to us by our faithful electric company varies depending upon the type of building we are in. For obvious reasons, modern commercial buildings are supplied with much more power than, say, a house or apartment building. However, both places are subject to surges, spikes and brownouts (highs and lows of power). Older buildings, especially, and poor wiring were not designed for today's electrical demands. Homes have the most unstable power and the equipment in them is the most vulnerable.

Special consideration should be given to electrical circuits in your home. Be sure that you do not plug your computer into the same circuit as your air conditioner, refrigerator or other large appliances as they can cause "uneven" power within the circuit.

Computers are quite sensitive to "uneven" power. I highly recommend adding a battery backup device to your computer for protection. These devices, also known as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), provide your computer with good surge/spike/brownout protection, better than most surge suppressors or protectors. Additionally, they provide backup power - by battery - for at least five minutes in case of a power outage. A warning signal is given and you have five minutes to shut down the computer properly.

Many models are now available for between $150.00 - $500.00. They are rated by voltage amps (VA). Check your computer manual for details. For a single home or office computer, a 200 or 250VA model is sufficient. All other equipment such as telephones, calculators, TVs, stereos, etc. should be protected by a good surge protector with a "let-through" of no more than 300 volts. These protectors cost between $30.00 - $70.00 and provide surge protection without battery backup.

Some companies such as American Power Conversion (APC) provide two-year warranties on their products. APC also provides an equipment protection policy. They insure equipment plugged into their protection device with values between $10,000 to $50,000 - depending upon the product model. Visit the APC website at http:\\www.apcc.com. You can find their products at any computer or office supplies superstore.

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