Thanks...it's nice to hear that my outline hit the nail on the head.
Here's an expanded version, along with a wee bit of a caveat. Since
my experience is entirely from the perspective of someone sitting here
in the U.S., there may be a few (presumably minor) differences with
various links, software releases, and so on where you are.
That said, the list is below. Let me know if there's anything else
you need on this...and best of luck!
Category I -- Steps to take that don't need direct input from the computer owner:
--Virus and malware scan:
You may already have a preferred tool for this, but if not, the possibilities are:
1. Use a scan that is more than likely available on the PC, since
most systems come with antivirus software these days (usually, Norton
antivirus, which I personally despise).
2. Install software of your own, such as PestPatrol (only with
client's permission, of course):
3. Use a remote scanning capability, such as Panda ActiveScan:
There are both short scans and scans that seem to take
forever...presumably you'll want the former, and save the latter for a
more detailed system debugging, if such is called for.
--Check current security situation:
--what defensive programs are in use -- the XP "Security Center"
from the Control Panel will show basic antivirus and firewall
information. Firewalls can also be part of hardware, such as routers,
but checking that probably adds a level of complexity above and beyond
a routine 'tune up'.
--what internet security settings are used -- Windows Explorer has
a host of configurations, including a pop-up blocker. Other browsers
have similar options that should be checked, and you should be
prepared to offer recommendations.
--what email security settings are in use -- these will vary from
one email program to the next, but there generally should be some sort
of screening in place to try and filter out spam, viruses, and the
like. Most programs also have a whitelist of known friendly
addresses. Many users aren't aware of this option, so you have an
opportunity to suggest this to your client.
--Print out a list of all programs that run at start up.
Ummm!...actually, printing out the list is more trouble than it's
worth, but do at least view the list, by typing in 'msconfig' at the
'Run' prompt, and clicking on the 'Startup' tab. Some programs
obviously belong on the list, and some may just as obviously be bad
actors that need to be eliminated. Most others tend to have obscure
names, but Googling a file name usually brings up a quick hit that
tells you what the file is all about.
--Print out "System Information". From the 'All Programs' list, click
Accessories---> System Tools-----> System Information, and print out
the System Summary. This makes a good jumping off point for
discussing possible system upgrades with your client.
--Run the "Analyze" option under the disk defragmenter, also available
under the System Tools list. Don't actually defrag yet...just use the
Analyze option to see if defragging is called for.
--Determine status of automatic windows updates and system restore
points. Right-click on My Computer and click on Properties to open up
a box with System Restore and Automatic Update tabs. Check each of
these to see the status of these two valuable tools.
Category II -- Changes to make only after client approves:
--review start-up list with owner for unnecessary items and delete as needed
--review malware scan with user, delete baddies, and scold the client
as needed. Spyware removal is sometimes easy, sometimes
next-to-impossible...you'll have to be clear with clients up front
about how much they can expect from you in the context of a routine
Clients may also need an education in proper browsing and email usage
to protect themselves. A fairly in-depth primer can be found here:
though you may have others you prefer.
--recommend changes to internet and email security settings, including
anti pop-ups, whitelisting certain items known to be friendly, etc.
This will be very individualized depending on what you happen to find
during the course of your digging around, so I don't know that there
are any general rules of thumb to offer here.
--empty cache, cookie, history and temp files *only after* owner
understands the implications (e.g. stored passwords will have to be
newly entered, etc). This -- along with defragging -- is probably the
best traditional tune-up step that one can take, but it does have
certain repercussions that need to be explained to a client. XP has a
Disk Clean-up utility (again, under the Accessories list) that you
might want to play around with, as I believe it handles these sorts of
tasks. However, I don't use it myself, so I can't offer any
particular recommendation about it.
--install, with owner approval, latest free Microsoft antispyware beta
program ... currently called Windows Defender:
It's very good! I've used this for the past few months on all my
computers. It appears to be very effective, unobtrusive, and an all
around excellent tool (and believe me, I don't compliment Microsoft
all that often!). There are certain options that are offered when one
first signs on to Windows Defender (such as, eg, Do You Want to Send
Information Back to Microsoft?). I don't remember all the choices
that one is asked to make, but you'll have to be familiar with these
before suggesting this tool, so your client can make an informed
Of course, you could simply recommend the program instead, and let the
owner install it if they choose.
--If called for, show client how to run disk defragmenter before
he/she goes to bed...let it run overnight.
--recommend use of auto-update feature for windows security updates,
if not already used; activate it, if it is wanted...again -- and if
memory serves -- I think there are options here as to just how
automated the updates will be. Be forewarned, that some of the
auto-update options will actually download new security software
without any user interaction, and then reboot the computer -- losing
any unsaved information!!! It's a terrific tool, but use it
--explain system restore to user, and make sure this tool is on (I
could have sworn there was a function to schedule restore points, but
I didn't see it when I looked around).
--Review System Information with user, recommend, as needed, memory upgrades, etc.
I trust this fits the bill, but again, if there's anything else you
need on this, just let me know, and I'm at your service.
Best of luck with your ventures.