The one exception to this rule is when your computer locks up and your hard drive is not running (hard drive light is not blinking). If you think it is locked up and you do not see activity go ahead and power down. Note that on some machines you will need to hold the button down for 15 or so seconds to tell it to shut down.
2. Purchase a quality UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for your computer. This will keep your computer from crashing during power outages, and will protect your computer from low and high voltage. A UPS is a battery unit. I also recommend buying one with voltage stabilization. There are a little more expensive but can be well worth it.
An UPS is much better than a surge protector and will save your computer from almost any power type of disaster.
3. Backup early and often. External drives are cheap and many come with backup software. Your computer drives will eventualy fail and you will be glad your precious data has been preserved.
4. Run Scandisk and Defragment at least once a month. This will keep your hard drive healthy and prevent crashes. You can find these by right-clicking the drive letter and then selecting tools.
5. Don't unplug peripherals from the computer when it is powered up. Unplugging with the power on can short out the connector socket or the motherboard. Some devices like USBs devices are made to be "hot pluggable".
6. Keep at least 100 MBs of your C: drive free for Windows to use. If you use Windows Me or Windows XP then you should have 200 MBs of free space on your C: drive.
7. Run at least 512 meg of memory. If you do not have enough memory Windows will start dumping data to your hard drive and will just get really, really, slow.
8. Do not let a lot of programs load up when you start your computer. They use valuable memory and Windows Resources (Windows internal workspace).
All programs in your Windows System Tray (in the lower right of your screen) are running on your computer. Close them if you don't need them or run them and configure them not to load when you boot up.
Other programs running in the background can be found by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete at the same time.
9. Use a virus checker and keep it current. Everyone should use a virus checker. The best type of protection is continuous monitoring from a dedicated anti-virus program like Norton Antivirus, Trend Micro, or McAfee. Always keep in mind that no program is 100% so be vigilant and cautious. Another handy tool is a free online virus checker Housecall provided by Trend Micro.
10. Use a Good Spyware program. Spyware is defined as any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. These applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet or as a tool bar for your browser. Not all virus protection programs come with spyware protection. For more information check out Spywarebot.
11. If you have a high speed Internet connection you need a firewall program. A firewall program keeps those who want to hijack your computer from gaining access to your system. You really do not want someone else running your computer. I suggest you purchase and run a Personal Firewall program. Your firewall should boot up with your computer to protect it from invasion. A free personal firewall program is available from Tiny Software.
12. Keep track of the software disks you receive with your computer and new peripherals. These disks contain valuable software drivers and programs for Windows and are needed when Windows must be reloaded. Keep these disks and your Windows software disks in a safe, dry, place -- you never know when you will need them.