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Author Topic: Resources for a Healthy Computer  (Read 11443 times)

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Offline VekseidTopic starter

Resources for a Healthy Computer
« on: December 08, 2008, 12:43:23 PM »
Note: I have been maintaining a list for Windows here. - as a wiki, it will get much more continuous attention than this thread. Feel free to link to the wiki from places. : )

So I was trying to find a piece of software just now and got overrun by spamdexed links. Never fun.

I'm going to be adding to this list and may break it up into multiple parts. Alternately I may move it to the wiki so others can edit it and keep it updated, but I want to make sure people aren't overwhelmed with choices regarding a specific need. And also filter out things as they suffer from bit rot (oh Spybot, how far have you fallen from grace?).

But there are a lot of awesome, free tools out there that most people don't know about.

No matter what you run, I would suggest going through your programs every once in awhile (Add / Remove Programs in XP, Programs and Features in Vista/7, Debian has Aptitude, etc) and making sure that what you have installed is what you want to be there. For example, you probably want to keep Adobe Flash updated (see below), but Adobe Shockwave is probably unnecessary (and even more important to keep updated).

Google what you don't understand, and maybe talk to a friend who knows computers to help you clean your machines up. Avoid the Geek Squad like the plague.

Do not accept being redirected to ads. If this is happening, something is wrong - find help.

Adding Software or Plugins to this list: I want to keep this list short and sweet. If you see a piece of software that you think should go here, make a post and harass me with it : ) I'm keeping this topic locked so I can organize things.

Security for All Systems (Windows, Mac)
Critical Issues

Make sure your Flash player is updated to the latest version regularly (see here for current version), do so. You can check your current flash version here.

Adobe Flash has three separate versions. Internet Explorer and Chrome each have their own, unique versions, separate from the shared installation that Firefox, Opera and Safari share. If you use IE and/or Chrome, along with other browsers, you will need to update all versions.

Flash operates independently of the browser. This means it is capable, under Windows and Mac, to place a overlays over various prompts where you are asked to do something, making something very official looking while it is secretly asking if it may trash your computer, please. You are not immune to this issue just because you use a Macintosh.

Clear out your old Java versions. These may also be significant means by which a malicious program can infect your machine. You may grab the latest Java version here. Yes, every update is a separate, annoying install. Newer versions are finally overwriting older versions, however.

The same caveats that apply with Flash apply to Java. That is, it works outside of the browser, and having a Macintosh is no defense.

Flashblock: Blocks Flash for Opera and Firefox. For Chrome, type about:flags into the address bar and enable 'Click to Play'. Restart, Wrench Menu > Options > Under the hood > Content setting > Plug-ins and select 'Click to play' from the right hand side. You can use the Exception button to whitelist specific domains. Safari has Click to Flash for Mac only.

Security Programs and Utilities for Windows Only
How is Adobe's PDF Reader like a swiss cheese factory? If you don't need Adobe's bells and whistles, kill it with fire and download Sumatra PDF or Foxit's free reader instead.

Antivirus and Antispyware Programs

Two free antivirus/antimalware solutions dominate the competition at this point:

Microsoft Security Essentials is, in a twist of irony, now the better of available antimalware/antivirus products, replacing Windows Defender and Windows Live Onecare. It is free (in general) and quite effective. As of version 2 it works on all versions of Windows XP, as well as Vista and 7.

Antivir by Avira is the best of the free ones for personal use, using the retroactive tests by AV Comparitives as a guideline. Updates can frequently be painfully slow, but it's a solid product. It does nag you to purchase stuff, however.

If you are in the market to actually purchase something, I recommend going to Antivirus Comparatives to compare them. Particularly, look at their retrospective and performance tests. You'll see MSE and Antivir do rather well, so focus on the ones that provide better results than them (obviously, if you're going to be paying for it). F-Secure and Eset are probably the two with the most solid reputation that you may not have heard of.

Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware - Currently the 'main' anti-malware program. You might need to rename the executable and run it from the command line from safe mode, meaning you need to download and run both the install program and database update from elsewhere onto eg a flash drive.

SUPERAntiSpyware - Another antispyware program that comes with good recommendations.

Hijackthis is useful to have other members analyze your system, if there is a need. It sometimes picks up on newer software that others miss.



Security and Privacy Utilities

Crap Cleaner err, CCleaner. I had forgotten about this one. Don't pay for registry cleaner programs.

Password Safe - Handy utility for managing hundreds of passwords for Windows.

KeePass Password Safe - Another Windows Password Keeping Utility



Advanced Security Programs

Just a place where I'm putting links for people with more technical experience. These should only be used by people very familiar with computers.

ComboFix - LSPFix - Killbox

The MVPS Hosts file - blocks ads and infested domains like mad. Since many sites use some of the sites this blocks for ad revenue, you may not want to use this, or at least be mindful of supporting communities, sites and software that you make heavy use of.

Chat and Instant Messaging Programs (Windows, Mac)
Log Converter - Converts chat logs between various clients. AIM/ICQ/MSN/Yahoo/Miranda/Digsby/Pidgin/Miranda/Trillian

Chat Programs
mIRC - The 'standard' IRC Client. Many Elliquiy members are deeply familiar with it.

Miranda IM - Windows Only Open Source Multi-IM Client.
+ Extremely lightweight. I have a dozen or so plugins running, with several hundred contacts and a hundred megabytes of chat history, takes up ~16 megs of RAM and no CPU time.
+ A lot of features are available as plugins.
+ A decade of consistent releases. Mature code base.
+ Plugin support has been very stable for the past several years. For the most part, you upgrade and forget.
* There is a donation nag whenever you do an upgrade. I don't feel this is worth complaining about - Miranda is the most lightweight Windows Multi-IM client there is.
- Plugins are required or unavailable for some otherwise basic features. Don't expect voice/video support for proprietary protocols.

Adium - MacOS Only Open Source Multi-IM Client.
+ I haven't used this, but figured since I'm touting Miranda which is Windows Only >_>

Pidgin - Multi-platform Open Source Multi-IM Client
+ Love for everyone
+ Most feature complete of all free multi-IM clients.
+ Lightweight, but bit heavier than Miranda and Trillian (takes up 32 megs for most people, it seems, regardless of load).

I can no longer recommend Digsby. It's taking up 20% of my CPU and half a gig of RAM for a chat load that Miranda barely asks 20 megs for. It's slow, unresponsive, is missing features that Miranda and Pidgin have had for years, and have just about had enough of it. To say nothing of its various underhanded attempts at making money, which I would happily put up with if it did not suck.

Multimedia Utilities - Video/Sound Editing, Recording, and Playback (Windows)
Multimedia Utilities

Audacity - High quality open source sound editing utility. I've taught octogenarians how to use it.

Virtualdub - Open source video editing and mixing utility.

Camstudio  - Open source screen recorder.

Combined Community Codec Pack - A simple codec pack intended to make it easy to decode and play a majority of videos.

Performance Utilities (Windows)
Performance Utilities

Doctor TCP - Advanced users only. Can be used to improve network performance in some cases, in other times to troubleshoot issues caused by weird software which messes with these settings for whatever reason.

Defraggler - Made by the same people as CCleaner. More powerful disk defragmentation utility than the version included in Windows. Don't use this if you have an SSD (Solid State Disk) drive.

Office Productivity - Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentation (Windows, Mac)
Office Productivity

AbiWord - A popular word processor.

Notepad++ - A powerful Windows based text editor.

LibreOffice - A full open source office suite. Successor to OpenOffice when the dev team bailed after Oracle's takeover. Calc is a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel, Writer is a word processor like Microsoft Word, Impress is a presentation builder like Powerpoint, Draw is a graphics program, and Base is a database manager like Access.

Web Browsers (Windows, Mac)
Browsers and Browser Collections

Opera - a lightweight, relatively fast browser that tends to lead the speed game. Because it's not very well known, it tends to avoid some of the security issues that Firefox and IE have.

Mozilla Firefox Collection - For web developers who need to test on multiple firefox versions.

Internet Explorer Collection - As above, for web developers who need to test multiple IE versions.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2016, 06:14:49 AM by Vekseid »

Offline VekseidTopic starter

Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2009, 02:46:12 PM »
Since this is becoming a more common issue among members, I'm going to be making this thread more visible (in the alert rotation), and splitting this topic on occasion to allow members to present their issues and advice. It might be worthwhile to have a technical issues forum, but the forum list is already kinda large : /

Offline zoarster

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Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2010, 12:37:08 AM »
A great antivirus program, if you're somewhat familiar with how your system should work, is Comodo. It's a free antivirus/firewall combination, and it will do some advanced analytics to determine whether a program is malware or not. It also has a new sandbox feature that will let you play with programs in a relatively safe environment before allowing them to run in the "real" Windows.

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Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2010, 11:57:46 AM »
Veks, I have to thank you for posting this! I switched over to MSE due to your recommendation. I left Avast installed just to see what would happen. Last night, I got hit with a couple of Trojans. They shut down MSE immediately & started jacking with my system. Avast? They let it continue "working" and it didn't do squat. I shut down, went into safe mode, scanned with Malwarebytes (already had that) and MSE. Eight hours later, my computer is nice and healthy again. Thank you sooooo much!! You are awesome! I bow to your awesomeness and owe you a bounty of gratitude. (Which I shall forward along, in the form of cold hard cash, as soon as I have it to spare.) ;D

*hugs Veks*

Offline DngrMse

Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2010, 07:22:59 PM »
On Line Anonymity

And how to protect it, part 1

A simple google search, "site:elliquiy.com photobucket.com/albums", will reveal every photobucket user's name that has a post with a link to a photobucket image on elliquiy.com.  Photobucket is one of the least secure, though easiest to use, image hosts on the internet.  It's very popular, but it has a number of vulnerabilities.  There are a number of communities out there that live to find ways to exploit these vulnerabilities, and software to help them do just that.  There are, thankfully, ways to protect yourself from brute-force attempts to reveal images stored on Photobucket that you might not wish to share with the world.  Many of these vulnerabilities are present on other image hosting sites as well. 

Following, are some effective ways to protect your privacy, and anonymity when using Photobucket, and other image hosting sites:


  • No public folders.  None.  Zero.  Everything should be set to private.  Even one public sub-sub-sub folder will reveal your entire sub-folder tree, including the names of every sub folder you have, private, or not.

    Don't use your first or last name, in whole, or in part, in your user name, folder, sub-folder names, or images.

    Sub-folder names should be padded with random alphanumeric characters.  Instead of naming a folder "private", (which brute force software will try to find), name it something like "r5y*PRIVATE*9uv".  You, the account owner, can still see it, but brute force attempts to discover that name will fail.

    Do not link images from folders you wish to keep from the rest of the word.  Make a folder, (again, keep it private...you can still link images from it), specifically for use on forums, such as elliquy, and copy the images you wish to link to that folder. 

    Guest passwords for your account should be changed regularly, they should not be easily guessed words, (password, guest, friend, comein, first-name, welcome, etc). 

    Photobucket has a feature that allows it to randomly rename uploaded images.  Use it.  They generally can't be brute-force discovered.

    Do NOT link found images from another's Photobucket account.  If you like, or want that image, copy it to your own bucket, and link it from there.

    Do not use the same user name on different services.  "FireFly" on FB, MS, IM, will result in hackers checking to see if the same name is used on Photobucket.

    Do not accept friend requests on other services from people you don't know.  That's an easy way to farm for additional names to check on Photobucket.

    If you wish to share a special image with someone, make a specific sub-folder for it, then delete the sub-folder after a day or two.

    Do not use the same password among multiple services, and do not reuse temporary passwords.

Offline Tick

Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2011, 01:54:53 AM »
Dunno if I am suppose to reply here or in the forum so I will reply here and I assume someone can delete it if I wasn't suppose to.

I am a bit of a virus magnet, even when I honestly do nothing I shouldn't be. Even my gaming computer which i intentionally go no where i am not sure about caught virus somehow before.

I was using MSE on my laptop per my father's recommendation since he is a programmer. But it never found anything, or at least nothing showed up when I looked, and i don't believe i never caught anything whatsoever.

My laptop is... Well dead because of an os issue and I was talking with a few people about what antivirus I would out on it when I managed to get it up and running again(no clue when this will be, I have no clue what to do).

Would you recommend MSE over paid for software like Trend Micro?

Cost is not a problem in this respect. But remember I am bad with complex or even medocre computer situations so if a antivirus is better but takes more complex setup or use, I will probably mess up. So please take that into consideration when you recommend whatever you do.

Thank you very much.

Offline VekseidTopic starter

Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2011, 05:26:23 PM »
MSE version 1 focused on malware protection rather than virus protection, while version 2 (just released) adds more powerful heuristic features for virus detection. In addition to working on 64 bit xp, which is nice. I've been meaning to make a new version of this thread with updated information, but have had a lot of divided attention lately.

I use AV Comparatives to scout antivirus software. Particularly their retrospective test, but their performance test can also be important in determining software that might slow your system to a crawl and thus not really be worth it (Norton was notorious for sledging up a machine, though it's gotten better).

You'll notice that some vendors don't participate in some tests. Like Trend Micro bowing out of the retrospective tests. My general instinct is that they failed, hard.

I used to recommend ESET as the main paid antivirus provider, though as you can see recently they've been slipping a bit. G DATA is the most effective on the retrospective tests now, though they are rather slow, apparently.


Offline InariShiftskin

Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2011, 07:02:37 PM »
One really handy program I've found, especially for monitoring internal temperatures, is AIDA64 Extreme.

Offline Malthas

Re: Resources for a Healthy Computer
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2012, 12:07:06 PM »
No one mentioned Spyware Blaster?  I've found it a nice little program to have and it helps protect against Malware and the like.   

BTW Vek, what are your views on Kaspersky