I’m selling life insurance today. So, I don’t blame you if you throw down the newspaper and run.

But that would be a mistake. This is life insurance for your computer. It comes at a cost in both money and time, but I promise you it’s a bargain.

My insurance policy consists of a few key preventive measures that can stave off future computer ills:

Buy a surge protector: At the very least, install and use a good surge protector. If you can afford it, a UPS—uninterruptable power supply—is even better. I don’t usually mention brands, but I’ve been very pleased with the APS brand surge protectors, which seem to be available at almost every consumer electronics or computer store.

Ensure your computer doesn’t need to go on life support

With surge protectors, look for a UL (Underwriter Laboratory) rating of 1449. Depending on how the surge protector is described on the package, buy one that offers a surge current protection of 54,000 amperes or more. You may see a rating in joules; I recommend 800 joules or higher.

u Install anti-virus software: This is such an obvious bit of preventive medicine that I considered leaving it off my list. Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean everyone uses a good anti-virus program. I like Norton Anti-Virus when it comes to commercial programs and Grisoft AVG among free ones. Whatever you use, make sure you keep it updated.

Practise self-control: No, that isn’t some fancy new gadget, it’s a state of mind. Avoid cluttering up the innards of your computer with every free program you find on the Internet. Many contain spyware or adware that slow down your computer. Some are even nastier.

Before downloading and installing a free program, do a Web search and read user reviews. In most cases, if aprogram has bugs, you will see that mentioned.

Get over power problems: Many computers, especially inexpensive ones or older models, have power supplies that are just adequate for the equipment installed. Adding accessory cards and other devices that get their power from your computer can burn out the power supply.

So check the manual or the manufacturer’s website to see how much power the machine draws. Then check the size of the power supply. If the machine’s power consumption is anywhere close to the size of the power supply, avoid adding new devices or consider replacing the power supply.

Fight adware and spyware: Another obvious, but important, tool. Consider installing Windows Defender, SpyBot Search and Destroy or the free version of Adaware. Just Google on each to find their home sites.

Once you’ve installed them—just as is true with anti-virus programs—keep them up to date. The leading cause of a slow computer is adware and spyware.

That’s it for today. I hope you bought my computer insurance. I wish I could offer you a free calendar as a thank you. But I can promise you something even better: I won’t telephone you tonight to see if you’ve considered my sales pitch.

©2007/Cox News Service

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