Now a days everyone is on the internet for something. Yes, this includes EMAIL. It is amazing how many people do not realize that email is the internet just as much as web browsing is. Then there is the internet file sharing. Thanks to the demise of Naptsters free service many other file sharing products started appearing, even thought point to point or "peer to peer" sharing has been around for a long time. Such names as Kazaa or other Gnutella programs like Bearshare are available to those that want to download the free software. Note however these are not all the same. Because they are providing you with something for free, you end up getting stuff you do not require nor did you ever want on your system. This would be the additional software that is installed at the time either because you chose to do a "typical" installation. Note I always suggest using "advanced" or "custom" if available. You don't have to be an advanced user to use this, simply clicking on the ENTER key will install the default settings unless you chose something else. What does happen however is the fact you get to see what is going on and where it will be placed. This could come in handy later on if you decide you don't want the program anymore. As for File sharing programs.. WinMX from what I have seen so far, is the only free file sharing program that does not take advantage of the user and place spyware on your computer.
What you will usually find after an installation of this file sharing software is the fact that an icon has now been placed on the system tray. This means the program has probably been set up with the options to "start this service when windows starts", which is NOT what you want. This will have to be the first thing you change. Note: this will also be the case for messenger programs such as MSN messenger, Yahoo messenger and of course ICQ. You will need to start the program and go in to the OPTIONS/PREFERENCES (the actual name may vary from program to program). It is usually found under TOOLS or EDIT section of the program top when running. De-select the checkbox if there is one for "start program with windows start up" and then press OK to accept the changes. In some cases you will have to restart your computer to be sure.
Also remember when you are using such programs that they will continue to run as long as you are connected to the internet and your computer is on unless you DISCONNECT from the service. Note in many cases simply closing the X on the top right of the window will only place the program in to a system tray icon and it is still running. Once at the system tray icon you can always RIGHT click on the icon and choose other options such as changing your online status to exiting from the program completely.
If you are using Norton Antivirus (or systemworks) which I highly recommend, then there are a few things you will want to periodically check on. You should always make sure you are getting the latest virus definitions and you should probably be scheduling a full system virus scan at least once a week. I suggest doing this as you sleep. Pick a good time of the day (or night) and set it to scan once a week. Note Norton by default sets this time to Fridays at 8pm, probably because they figure the computer will be on at that hour. Thing is, with the advent of the high speed internet where you can be online all the time, it is best to leave your computer on and online all the time.
Yes, there are some that say when you are not using your computer, to turn it off, but think about your computer and it's chances of getting a virus are that much more likely if you simply turn it on and go and download your email and start surfing the net. The antivirus hasn't had a chance to get updated yet. Note also that in some case the computer will have to be restarted for the completion of the antivirus definitions to be up to date. With 2002 antivirus by symantec, it automatically detects your internet connection and SHOULD keep the virus definitions up to date. I say SHOULD because this isn't always the case and that is why it is a good idea to periodically check the virus definitions date from the STATUS area of the program. If all else fails, simply click on LIVE UPDATE and do a full live update. What you will notice here is that there may be other updates available besides virus definitions. These are files that would get downloaded during a full system check and only if you have it scheduled to do so.
Basically if your antivirus definitions are up to date then if a virus does try to infiltrate your system, your antivirus should detect it in time. I say "should" because there are some viruses out there that now place a sort of "seed" on your computer and then wait for another script file to start the run sequence. This is the latest brand of viruses and for this reason, you are not safe even if you never use email. This means you can be surfing the net and from the website you visit, the script within the site can have code in it that starts other files on your computer. For this reason it is best to be aware of all files coming and going on to your computer. How can you do this? Well, first of all be aware of what programs you have running all the time. This goes back to the system tray icons. As well, be sure you know what happens when you use a program such as a file sharing program. A few simple steps that can be taught to you can help you save hundreds of dollars in repairs and very possibly the loss of important data on your computer.
For the price of a CD Burner now a days, I also recommend getting one of these as you can periodically save large files and folders to a cd (such as MY DOCUMENTS folder) completely.