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The 10 Golden Rules Of Windows Administration

I'm cleaning up a Windows laptop for a friend, and boy, is it infected. These being the results of running Windows Defender, LavaSoft AdAware, MacAfee Virus Scan and Spysot Search & Destroyer. Luckily, no worms.

  • 8 trojans
  • 144 adwares
  • 71 spywares
  • 39 viruses

So, I couldn't help but come up with the 10 Golden Rules of administering, or just flat out running a Windows box.

  1. Keep your virus definitions up to date.
  2. Keep your spyware definitions up to date.
  3. Keep your adware definitions up to date.
  4. Keep other malware definitions up to date.
  5. Do not install 3rd party software from untrusted sites.
  6. Do not open email attachments from people you don't know.
  7. Stay away from warez, porn, and other shady sites.
  8. Do not use Internet Explorer.
  9. Configure and enable Windows Firewall.
  10. Enable the guest account for everyone other than yourself.

All-in-all, just use your head. Think logically and critically. When using the Windows operating system, you have to be on your toes 24/7, and you have to be protected out the gate before ever getting online. When online, in one form or another, be skeptical of everything. Windows is such an insecure operating system, you can't afford to make any mistakes, or you get eaten alive, as is the case with this poor owner and their laptop. When systems get this bad, it's time for one of two things:

  1. Take a training course in administering/running your system.
  2. Run a secure operating system, such as Mac OS X or Linux.

My tolerance for people who can't effectively keep their Windows system clean is becoming nonexistent. I'm getting to the point now, where if you foul up your Windows box, and you want me to fix it, I'll just wipe the hard drive clean, and install Ubuntu. I'm not there yet, but getting close.

{ 15 } Comments

  1. kvz | September 15, 2007 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I was getting close to that point to.. And now I'm there 😉 I had to reinstall Windows my mother's laptop every couple of months. Recently I just erased everything and installed Ubuntu. I just added 4 giant icons to the desktop: Internet, Mail, Word, MSN. Done. Works like a charm and she even says it's faster 🙂

  2. kahping | September 15, 2007 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Did you time the normal mode boot up? I once had to deal with a customer's PC that was also seriously infected. It was so bad Windows wasn't ready even after 30 minutes! Yes, it was still busy loading stuff

    In the end I just reset the machine and used safe mode. It's much more tolerable but still some malware runs even in "safe mode"

  3. Lee | September 15, 2007 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    # 8 should be #1,imho, and #9 should be #2, except that it should be a third-party firewall, not windows'. Ideally, #3 would be to make them buy a dansguardian- and clamav-based Linux gateway.

  4. Mike | September 15, 2007 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    We did a Ubuntu start over for my mother in law. Put the big icons so she could get to her Yahoo mail and Firefox. She didn't even notice the difference except it ran faster and didn't freeze up all the time.

    My wife and I are installing Ubuntu on all of our old pc's at home.

    I only use windows at work and it drives me nuts that I have to run all the virus, adware and spyware programs each week.

  5. Alex | September 15, 2007 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I recently helped a friend with an adware-infected notebook. He used IE, and an ad bar kept coming up on the left side, even after a spybot scan. I guess I should have tried AdAware, but the whole system was so damn slow (most likely due to malware) that I didn't want to work with it anymore. I think I convinced him to use Firefox. After struggling for hours yesterday to get Windows to use my graphics card (GeForce 7600GT, which is a popular card) properly, I think my standard response to screwed up Windows will now be to install Ubuntu.

  6. Jonas | September 15, 2007 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    You forgot one point...whenever possible, make sure regular user accounts do not have administrative privileges. Last time I forgot to do that, the friend in question uninstalled the anti-virus software because she felt the computer to be too slow...

    I've reached the point that you haven't yet. I've told my friends that I help them out with a fouled-up windows box once. After that, one of four things will happen:

    1. They will learn how to take care of the computer themselves so it doesn't happen again.
    2. They have to find someone else to fix it.
    3. I charge for fixing it for them.
    4. I fix it for free by installing Linux.

    Since most people are, in my experience, afraid of penguins, fixing things, and paying for things (not necessarily in that order) they have at least become more careful.

  7. erik | September 15, 2007 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    If you had done the "Take a training course in administering/running your system." you would have realized how bad your list actually was. I'm serious, that was bad.

  8. Aaron | September 15, 2007 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    @erik- Wow, that was a very enlitening comment. Thank you.

  9. OliverW | September 15, 2007 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    One addition to the list:
    11. Make backups

    Often overlooked but definately important 🙂

  10. Anonymous | September 15, 2007 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    6a: Do not open email attachments from people you *do* know, unless you know for certain that they practice safe computing.

    I will never forget the day I infected myself because I *thought* my friend was computer savvy enough to not send a trojan around.

  11. Philippe | September 15, 2007 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Number ONE rule should be:

    Always use a restricted account for day to day computing. Use the administrator accounts only for administrative tasks.

    Actually, make it #1 and #2. It works.

  12. Duda Nogueira | September 15, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    You just said everything! Congrats!

    When friends ask me to reinstall or clean up a windows box, i say:

    - $50 per hour for windows stuff
    - A coffee and conversation for installing GNU/Linux.

    And after explaining all the benefits, no more windows 🙂

    See ya!

  13. Bas Grolleman | September 15, 2007 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I think it's 2-3 years ago that I told everyone I didn't do windows anymore. Best choice I ever made.

    Ofcourse I had good reason, earning my cash as a Linux engineer I don't see windows very often, so I find it quite pointless for me to give "expert" advise on the matter.

    There is one import thing when giving someone Linux though, spend a few evenings teaching them the basics/answer questions and make them use the same UI as your using, so you can answer most questions.

  14. Jason Richmond | September 27, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Not that your list isn't a good _starting point_, but seeing as how you are such a Windows hater, how would you know anything about any "Golden Rules Of Windows Administration?!"

  15. Aaron | September 27, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    @Jason Richmond- Because it's Windows administration that turned me into such a hater. I don't understand how anyone can enjoy using an operating system that takes that much time and effort to keep maintained. No thanks.

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