To Click or Not to Click?

To click or not to Click?

I often run into the same question with many clients, “Is it ok to click on this?”  It can relate to installing an application, program, a link in an email, or a popup of some program already installed on their computer.

Each time I ask them the details of the situation and give them my opinion.  However, I have realized that I am sure these people don’t want to be at my or another technical persons mercy for constant advice to make wise and safe decisions when computing.  This is my attempt to offer a logical process which anyone can follow when at their computer to better assist them with making a wise decision on each click. My goal is to help others.

General Principles

1. Read.
First off, for the most part, it’s all in English.  I know this sounds silly, but I think a large portion of new computer users assume that any message that pops up must be some technobabble that is completely impossible to understand.  Not true.  90% of the situations I resolve by simply telling the user to read the message to me.  Like clockwork, the user often times says something along the lines of “Oh, ok so I do want to do this” or “Well, I don’t want that.”   Either way it is important to break past the paradigm that these messages are in some mystical language.

2. Nothing is Free in Life.
I can guarantee you there is not some foreign person responsible for the funds left behind of some deceased person, you have never heard of, and who has nothing better to do with their money than to send it to your bank account.

Free Games, Free Screen Savers, Free anything..   is very rare on the Internet.  Now granted, that “free” might be only the cost of having ads displayed on the page, or an occasional popup.  But never the less, someone is getting paid for something you do one way or another.  Try to find out how this person or company that is offering you something for free is making money from you, and then decide if you are willing to pay that cost.

Tool bars are bad.  Now I know this is not ALWAYS the case, it is just a good philosophy to follow.  They slow down your browser, they often create unnecessary ads, and even sometimes farm your private information.  They are also one of those so called “free” things in life.

3.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Java, Flash Player, and all of the other lovely plugins that we have to use to get those websites working are great.  However, their little piggy backing buddies, not so much.  Read (See Item 1.) the fine print before downloading and installing.  Make sure all of those “Free Extras” that come with them are unchecked.  No one wants extra junk on their computer.

4. Update?
In the modern world of software, most software likes to update itself.   It will usually prompt you if it’s ok.  If it is software you use, then go for it.  NOTE: be careful of “Updates” Evil cousin “Upgrade”.  Upgrade can cause you to get extra features you may have to pay for.  It is important when an upgrade message visits you to read all of the terms in which it wants.

5. Too much protection is a bad thing.
Many people are under the reasonable assumption that multiple layers of protection make them safer.  Not true with computers.  If you have two different anti-viruses running on one machine they will often cause conflicts or worse yet even disable full functionality of each other.  At the very least it will slow down your computer substantially.   Pick one and stick with it, keep it updated.  That is the best you can do.

 

Now for a “General rule of thumb guide”.
Before clicking ask yourself these questions.

Q. Do I even know what it is?
A.  If not, Google it first.
Q. Do I need or really want it?
A. Is it a link to pictures of your newborn niece or nephew in that email? Or is it the funny joke of the day from whateverwebsite.com?
Q. Is it from a company I trust or have done business with?
A. Usually the practices of a company in real life are the same practices followed by them on the Internet.  IE: Google = Safe, Macy’s = Safe, Company you have done local business with = Safe, shady company on the other side of the World = Not safe, blogger from unknown location = Not safe.  I am sure you get the point.  If you trust them in the real world, then it’s probably safe to trust them online.

I hope the tips and information in this article help you.  For those that know this stuff already, perhaps passing it on to someone who might not know may help them.  Have a great Day.

Jay Snedden
Somerset PC Repair

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