–          Maintain an up to date antivirus program.  There are many available, and some of the free ones are pretty good.  We currently recommend AVG free edition.  You need to have one, but one alone.  Two antivirus programs will fight each other.

–          Keep other programs on your computer to clean up the spyware, etc. that your antivirus misses.  We currently use Malware Bytes, Super Anti Spyware, Spybot, and CCleaner.

–          Defragment regularly.  This is found in the start menu under accessories, system tools.  In addition to the built in Windows defag, you can use a free program called Defragger, which can be found at www.defraggler.com

–          Install Windows Updates when prompted to do so.  In Windows XP, look in Internet Explorer under tools, windows update.  In Vista and Windows 7, look in Control Panel for Windows Update.

–          It is also a good idea to download updates for Adobe Reader, Flash Player, and Java when prompted.

–          Watch out for fake antivirus programs.

A couple more things to consider if your computer is running slow:

–          How much RAM memory do you have?  If you right click on “My Computer” and click “Properties” it will show you a number of either MB or GB.  If the number is less than 1 GB (which is the same as 1024 MB), an upgrade will probably help you.  Cost depends on the type of memory in the computer, but it’s usually pretty inexpensive.

–          How many things are running in the background?  Look at the string of icons by the clock at the bottom right corner of your screen.  These programs are all running in the background whether you’re using them or not.  The more programs that are running, the slower your computer will be.  Microsoft includes a utility that can be accessed from start/run and typing “msconfig” that can be used to clean this up.  You would uncheck items on the startup tab that you don’t want to run in the background.  Be careful though, things like antivirus, scanner software, printer software, and more actually may need to run for certain programs/devices to work correctly.

–          Just like a car, sometimes your computer just needs a tune up by a qualified professional.  Many things you can do yourself when it comes to maintaining your computer, however, sometimes a professional can do a little more, as they know what to look for and will see things you may not.