Backup important data
A computer or its hard disk drive can fail at any time and without warning. When it does all your personal documents, letters, pictures, music, video, etc. is lost and in many situations cannot be recovered or costs a lot of money to be recovered. Make sure you have backups of all your important data so it is not lost when the computer fails.
Protect the computer
Make sure to protect your computer from electrical surges, brownouts, and black outs. At the very least, every computer user should have a decentsurge protector on their computer and phone line if they use a modem. Surge protectors can help protect your computer during an electrical storm and could save you hundreds of dollars in repair, if it were to get damaged. It is also a good idea to have the computer running on a UPS, which can help prevent damage to a computer during a brownout or blackout.
Keep computer and its programs updated
There is no such thing as a perfect software program or hardware drivers. After the developer has released their program they may discover errors and release updates to fix these problems. In the case of major software programs and operating systems, there can be several hundred updates and service packs released during its life time. Making sure your computer and its programs are up-to-date can help prevent problems.
In addition to updating a program, programs that use other programs or plugins may also need updates, for example, it is very important to make sure all the plugins for your Internet browser are also up-to-date.
Keep the computer safe and be familiar with viruses, spyware, phishing and spam
Every computer connected to the Internet or other network need to be protected. If you're using Microsoft Windows, we recommend having some form of anti-virus program installed and running on the computer. It's also a good idea to have a malware detection program running on the computer to pickup any spyware or malware that an anti-virus may not have detected. Finally, every computer user should also be fully aware of other security risks such as chain mails, phishing, and spam while on the Internet.
Read, understand, and watch for tricks
One of the most common mistakes new computer users make is agreeing to dialog text boxes, agreements, or other prompts without reading the dialog text box or understanding it. Before clicking any Ok or Install button, make sure you understand what you are doing. If you do not understand the prompt, click the Cancel button or close the box.
Also, while installing any program watch for any check boxes. Often free programs, plugins, and updates have check boxes that ask if it's ok to install additional programs onto the computer. For example, when installing the Adobe Flash plugin there is often a check box to install an additional anti-virus, firewall, toolbar, or other program. If left checked (often checked by default), these additional programs will be installed and may cause problems or frustration because it is not something you wanted.
Clean the computer clean
Keeping the computer physically clean can help keep the computer running smoothly, help prevent issues such as over heating, and help protect you from getting sick. While cleaning the computer, it's also a good idea to clean the data on the computer. Microsoft Windows users can run ScanDisk to check the hard drive for errors and Defrag to keep the data on the hard drive organized. It's also a good idea to go through the installed programs and uninstall anything you no longer use.
Be familiar with free alternatives
Be familiar with and know about free alternatives to popular commercial programs. For example, almost every computer user needs a word processorprogram installed on their computer. Instead of purchasing Microsoft Office, which is several hundred dollars use a free alternative such as Open Office that is just as capable.
Take full advantage of all the mouse buttons and wheels
Many new computer users only use the left mouse button. Use the mouse to its full potential by also using the right mouse button to access the context menu. For example, if you highlight text and then right-click that text it will bring up a menu that will allow you to copy, cut, and perform many other options that text, the same thing applies to files.
Although most users already use the mouse wheel to scroll up and down on a web page, this wheel can also often be used as a third-button by pressing down on the mouse. Some computer mice also allow the wheel to be pushed right-and-left on to perform additional features such as moving forward and back on a web page.
Finally, many computer mice also have side buttons also known as thumb buttons that can be programmed to do any number of features, including going back on a web page or opening a magnifier.
Use included help files and the Internet
Every program includes some type of online help that can often be accessed by pressing the F1 function key while in the program or through the file help menu. If the included help does not answer your questions, searching the Internet or using online help services such as Computer Hope can answer those questions.
Become familiar with and use shortcut keys
Every computer user should become familiar with and use keyboard shortcuts. Knowing these shortcuts can drastically increase your productivity on the computer and make your overall computer experience much more enjoyable.