Top 10 Simple Things Every Computer User Should Know How to Do
No matter how tech savvy you are, there are certain things every one of us has to deal with when using a computer—and we don’t always deal with them in the most efficient ways. Here are 10 things that everyone can (and should) learn to keep their computer fast, safe, and easy to use.
Here at Lifehacker, we take a lot of the simpler stuff for granted: how to avoid viruses, use keyboard shortcuts, or even keep your data backed up. Even if you’ve mastered all of these tricks (and there’s a good chance you haven’t), you may want to send this along to some of your less computer-savvy friends.
10. Set Up a Simple Backup System
We all know we should back up our computers, but it’s always one of those things that you’ll set up “one day”. Setting up a backup only takes minutes, though, so you can do it right now and forget about it until you need it—and when you do need it, you’ll be glad you set it up. If you’re just backing up to an external drive, you can just use the simple tools built in to your computer, like Windows Backup or Apple’s Time Machine. However, that’ll only keep you safe if your computer fails. If you lose your home in a fire, get all your gear stolen, or experience any other kind of disaster (God forbid), you’ll have lost all those important documents, family photos, and other files forever. So, we recommend using a service like CrashPlan to back up your computer online. That way, it can back up no matter where you are, and that data will be safe no matter what happens to your hardware.
9. Do Everything Faster with Shortcuts
The great thing about computers is that they can do a lot of things much faster than a human. Say you’re looking for a specific word on a web page. Instead of scanning it yourself, all you need to do is press Ctrl+F and type the word you’re looking for. There are mountains of shortcut like this, from pressing Ctrl+S to instantly save the file you’re working on, Ctrl+P to print it out, or Ctrl+T to open a new tab in your web browser. It may seem like more trouble than its worth at first, but after you use a shortcut one or two times, you’ll wonder why you ever did anything with the mouse. Check out our list of six shortcuts everyone should know, as well as our shortcut of the day series for even more tricks.
8. Protect Yourself From Viruses
Windows users have long known the pain of viruses and other malware, but the good news is it’s pretty easy to avoid. First, we recommend learning the difference between viruses, trojans, and other kinds of attacks, as well as the myths surrounding them. Then, install some good, free antivirus software to protect yourself (Avast is our current favorite, but Bitdefender is a slightly less nerdy, equally secure option). You can even get antivirus for your Android phone, if you so choose. But in the end, the best way to avoid viruses is to use common sense: don’t open links that look suspicious, don’t install programs from untrusted sources, and if a window pops up saying your computer’s infected, make sure it’s actually your antivirus software saying that and not a fake web page.
7. Set Up Your Network (and Fix Wi-Fi Problems)
Understanding routers, modems, and the other things that make up your network can seem daunting, but there are a few basics that can fix most problems that come your way. Does your router constantly need resetting? Make sure it isn’t overheating or clogged with traffic. Is your Wi-Fi speed and range less than ideal? Use one of these tricks to give it a boost. If you experience more serious problems, you can probably fix them yourself too. Check out our complete guide to knowing your network for more info—it’s got everything you need to know, from buying a router to setting up your network and more.
6. Keep Your PC Free of Crap
1. Keep Your Personal Information Safe and Secure
Unfortunately, the internet isn’t always a safe place, which means everyone needs to make sure they’re keeping their personal information safe. Make sure you use strong passwords, remove personal information from photos and other files, and never use open public Wi-Fi networks without protection. Keeping your personal information safe is easier than it sounds, and if you aren’t sure what to do, check out our checklist for staying safe online. You’d be surprised how unsafe you were being before.