There should be an image here!Every time I go home for the holidays, my father always asks me to fix his computer because it’s been running unbelievably slow to the point that it’s unusable. I’m sure there are a lot of people that have had similar problems, especially if the computer is connected to the Internet.

I’ve been using a 2007 HP Slimline for three years now, and it runs very smoothly and I’ve never done any reformatting; nor have I had to do a system restore. In this article, I want to share some tips on how to keep your computer safe while you browse the Internet.

First of all, do not use Internet Explorer. IE has many security loopholes that can be exploited. If you want some suggestions on browsers, use either Firefox or Chrome. Chrome is very fast, lightweight, and it’s published by Google. The downfall with Chrome is that it doesn’t give its user many options. Then there is Firefox. Firefox can be a bit bloated, but it allows users tons of options.

If you are using Firefox, here are some tips. If a Web site you’ll be viewing is script heavy, Flash movie heavy, or has tons of popup ads, simply go to the options / content and uncheck “JavaScript.” Doing so will eliminate at least 90% of the scripts on that page. This means the Web sites cannot execute malicious popups, active X objects, or secretly install junk onto your computer. Of course, if the actual content of your interests requires JavaScript, then it will also not be shown, so it’s a double-edged sword.

Second, you want to equip a nice firewall so that you can be in control of which programs can access the Web and which cannot. I use a free program called ZoneAlarm. This program notifies you when a program attempts to access the internet. You can then choose either allow or deny. So if something that you are not familiar with like trojan.exe is accessing the Internet, you can simply click deny. Also, it’s a great way to diagnose computer problems if you can actually see the weird applications trying to connect to the Internet in the background.

Two additional free programs you should get are Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware. Both programs do similar things, but having both gives you better protection. Search & Destroy, in my personal experience, does a better job in finding malware, but it uses so much CPU and RAM. Ad-Aware is much more lightweight when it runs, but it is not as comprehensive. That’s why I have both.

Hopefully my tips will be useful and protect you while browsing the Internet. If you have additional suggestions or tips please feel free to comment.

Jie Liu is a 26-year-old computer lover from Georgia.

[Photo above by krossbow / CC BY-ND 2.0]