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10 Tips for Running Security Suites

Attempting to install and run a full-featured security suite can be a complex and daunting proposition, especially if the task involves replacing one vendor's product with another company's package. We asked several security companies to contribute advice on properly installing and maintaining security software.

  1. Trash your old security software: You should run just one antivirus engine at a time. Completely uninstall one antivirus product and reboot your PC before installing another one. Also, turn Windows' firewall off when using another company's firewall; some products will offer to turn it off for you.
  2. Check your hard drive's health: It's wise to run Windows' Chkdsk utility several times before installation to rule out or repair problems with your system's hard drive. Go to Start, Run and type chkdsk in the dialog box. Click OK.
  3. Freshen up Windows: Run Windows Update to make sure that your system is completely up-to-date before you install security software, which you should also be certain to update.
  4. Make an ID card: In case you need to call tech support, make a record of the install date, the serial number, and the support phone number of your security suite. You will need this information, and some tech support calls are charged by the minute.
  5. Run an extra antispyware app, if you wish: You can run a separate antispyware utility alongside your security suite, but you should be careful to coordinate the two products' schedules to ensure that you have only one application's scanner and update engine running at a time.
  6. Stay networked: PCs connected to a network, particularly via VPN, may have custom network settings. If after installing a security suite your system hangs during the reboot, disconnect from the network. When you've rebooted successfully, reconnect to the network and let the security suite configure your firewall's settings. (Most products have a wizard to do this.)
  7. Handle printing and file sharing: Your firewall should have predefined profiles that enable you to conduct file and print sharing; if it doesn't, you will have to create manual rules in your firewall that permit outbound TCP traffic to port 1023 and inbound traffic to port 139.
  8. Document your woes: If a product gives you any indication of a problem--such as an error message or a malware warning--write down the exact wording of the entire message. Even better, take a screen shot of the information.
  9. Send away your bad stuff: If you encounter suspicious files or e-mail messages, don't open and investigate them yourself. Send them to your security provider, making sure to follow the proper procedure. Most vendors have adopted an automated method for users to submit suspicious files.
  10. Keep your subscription current: We can't overemphasize this point. Security products are only as effective as their latest update, and updates are typically not provided after your annual subscription expires. Once your year of coverage is up, don't forget to renew or replace your security software.

Narasu Rebbapragada

Senior Associate Editor Narasu Rebbapragada covers security topics for PC World; Tom Mainelli is a senior editor.
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