Tools for small schools: Microsoft Security Essentials

Anti-virus – it’s a given that you need it, but the market is swamped with options. So  many computers come pre-installed with heavy versions that take up a lot of space and need to be renewed for lots of money in a few months or a year. Then there’s a variety of open-source versions like Avast or AVG. But it’s the newest kid to the playground that I’ve started using on all my school’s computers: Microsoft Security Essentials

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It’s lightweight. It’s free. It’s a trustworthy name. It updates and scans automatically. Most importantly – it works. I use a combination of MSE and Malwarebytes for the occasional stubborn infection. 

What makes this particularly good for small schools? It works on most versions of Windows, from XP on up  – nice when you have a wide range of operating systems on various ages of machines, like we do. It also doesn’t require registration. That means I can install it on every computer and don’t need to worry about registering or updating licenses the way I did when I used Avast! on all our machines. 

Try it out! And remember, you never need more than one real-time anti-virus program running at the same time – it doesn’t give you extra protection and it slows down your machine. Click here to go download MSE.

What to delete off your new computer

Came home today to the most wonderful kind of mail – my new laptop! Thanks to woot, I’m now the proud owner of a Lenovo Thinkpad. Not the prettiest of computers but it has the specs I wanted and the price was most definitely right. And now I get to go about my favorite part of setting up a new machine – cleaning it out!

Before you get to adding iTunes, Photoshop and games to your new computer, you should take the time to clear out the junk. Yes, your brand-new computer already has a bunch of crap on it. Most computers come with what’s called “bloatware.” These are programs pre-installed by the manufacturer, most of which you really don’t need. Bloatware comes in different packages, but look for ambiguously named programs labeled with the name of the manufacturer. On my new laptop, “Lenovo ThinkVantage.” Yikes. HP is notorious for coming with lots of bloatware, for instance, the “HP Solution Center” that comes with printers. These programs are meant to make it easier for the consumer to access settings and brand-specific help pages. But you’re a smart consumer, and you have half a brain, so you don’t really need any “centers.” Take the time to get to know the Windows Control Panel, and ask your local techie how to target your Google searches to get answers on any software or hardware question you may have. No bloatware needed.

Not sure what to delete? Again, consult with the nearest nerd, but if you’re feeling confident, just Google “bloatware” + make and model of your new computer. Check out a couple of different results and if you’re not sure, err on the side of caution until you can ask someone in the know – you don’t want to accidentally delete important drivers.

Computer manufacturers also sometimes partner with software companies to pre-load your laptop with all kinds of goodies. Sometimes these are convenient – for example, I was excited to see that my Thinkpad came with Google Chrome already installed – that’s my browser of choice and having it ready to go saved me a step. But my computer also came pre-loaded with Norton Antivirus, which takes up way more space than an antivirus needs to. Goodbye, Norton! Hello, Microsoft Security Essentials. Same goes for CD burning utilities, media players, and trial versions of programs you have no intention of buying. If you know of a free, open-source, or cheap alternative, go ahead and get rid of that pre-installed program (Google tip: search for “open source alternative to” + name of the program you’re getting rid of).

With a little time and research you’ll get the hang of what’s OK to delete and what you want to save. The same way you’d strip the wallpaper off a wall before laying down a new coat of paint, you should always remove bloatware before tricking out your new machine.

Next post: what to install on your new computer, and why open-source is great for schools.