My first lesson is going to be about keeping your computer up-to-date. This includes the latest patches for your copy of Windows, the latest device drivers and the latest versions of programs that you use. Please note that if, for any reason, following anything in this guide screws your computer up, I'm not replacing anything for you. I'm willing to help you fix any problems that arise as long as you're polite about it. (I'll just tell you to fuck off if you bother me with "OMFG YOU STUPID FUCKING IDIOT TRYING TO UPDATE
It's important to always keep your computer up-to-date. This includes the latest patches for Windows (or Linux, but if you can use Linux, you probably don't need to read this) as well as the latest device drivers for your hardware. The latest versions of all your programs are always a good thing to have, as well.
One of the things you should be doing most often is visitng the Windows Update site. (http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com) You should always check for the latest updates. (The critical ones. The regular ones aren't that important and should be installed on an as-needed basis.) Make sure that you have the latest service pack! Service packs are extremely important. The latest service pack for Windows XP (Service Pack 2, not released beyond beta form yet) will include tons of little security updates as well as an updated built-in firewall.
I'd recommend that you check for new Windows updates at least once a week. If you're forgetful, you can set Windows to automatically update for you. Press Start, go to the Control Panel and then open the System panel. (If Control Panel isn't viewing like any other folder for you, just press "Use classic folders" or something. I'm not sure what it is anymore.) In that panel, click the tab marked Automatic Updates and make sure that the box marked "Keep my computer up to date" is checked on. You can set the options to what you think is best. Personally, I recommend having it notify you before downloading any updates that way your bandwidth isn't being used up when you need it for something important. If you choose the last option, I'd recommend having them install when nobody is using the computer so that you don't disturb anyone.
However, if you think that you'll be able to remember how to update, just leave Automatic Updating disabled as it will mostly be a nuisance.
It's important to always keep your drivers up-to-date as well. Drivers are one of the core components involved in using your hardware. Windows ships with a set of "generic" device drivers that work with most hardware, but most of the time, you'll want to (or even need to) use manufacturer-supplied drivers. What drivers do is similar to what language translators do. When your computer is trying to send data. (For example, to display a picture on your screen) the device driver "translates" that data in to a form that the hardware can understand so that it can process it. (System -> Driver -> Hardware) Sometimes it's the opposite. For example, a mouse. You move the mouse and it sends a signal that there is movement, in which direction and at what speed. The driver tells the system this, and the system moves the cursor appropriately.
Examples of things that you'll want manufacturer device drivers for:
- Video cards
- Sound cards
- Keyboards (If they're one of the ones with extra buttons)
- Modems (If you're not using windows 2000/XP)
- Game pads and joysticks
If what you're using is a peripheral, (Keyboards, mice, joysticks, computer monitors...) you can usually figure out what manufacturer it is and what model it is by looking at the back or the bottom of the peripheral, or by looking at the manual for it. (You did keep the manual, right? Always store those in a box somewhere.)
If what you're using is internal, (Sound cards, video cards, modems...) you can see who made it and what model it is by going to the Control Panel, going to System, to the Hardware tab and then clicking on Device Manager. From there, you can look for your hardware. (For example, my video card is under "Display adapters" and is marked "RADEON 9000 SERIES". If I were to search Google for "RADEON 9000", I would discover that it was manufactured by ATi Technologies.) If it's listed as just a generic device, you should refer to your hardware manual.
Once you know what hardware you want to update, you'll need to search for the manufacturer's website. It can usually be found on Google by searching for either the manufacturer's name, or the model of your hardware. (Example: Google Search: "ati" and Google Search: "radeon 9000" both return results that link to ATi's website.) Once you find the manufacturer's website, you should look around for a "Downloads" section or a "Drivers" section and try to find drivers that are compatible with your hardware. These are usually easy to find, but if you have trouble, you can use Google. How handy. For example, searching Google for radeon 9000 driver site:http://www.ati.com returned a result for ATi's Drivers page, where I can find the latest version of the Catalyst drivers for my video card.
Once you've located drivers for your hardware and downloaded them, it's just a matter of installing them and rebooting your computer. If you got the correct drivers, everything should function fine. Otberwise, you'll have to uninstall them and try again.
As always, you'll want to update all of your programs to the latest version. Especially if that program accesses the Internet, because the latest version may have fixed exploits that could be abused by outsiders to access your system. (mIRC is an example, there are tons of program exploits that keep getting fixed with each version as they are discovered and abused by virus authors and by crackers.)
If I made any mistake in this lesson at all, make sure you leave a comment and let me know so that I can fix it.