Using and maintaining your computer
The Middlebury Software Suite
Middlebury offers some basic software for free to all students. You can install this software at any time. You are not required to have or use this software. However, many classes will expect you to have an advanced word processor / office suite such as Microsoft Office or OpenOffice. Similarly, we don't mind if don't use our antivirus software, but we do expect you to have some updated and effective antivirus protection on your computer, particularly if you use Windows.
- Microsoft Office 2003/2004 is available for both Windows and Mac OSX. To install it, ask for an Office install CD at the circulation desk in the Main Library. If you need help with the installation, stop in at the Helpdesk and we can guide you through the process.
- Symantec Antivirus (corporate edition) can be installed on any computer that is going to spend significant time on campus. To install it:
- On Windows XP / Vista, open Internet Explorer and go to the address go/sav. Follow the links to go through the install process. If you are using Windows Vista, take care to click on the special "Vista" link. Please note that this supports 32-bit Windows only, not 64-bit.
- On a Mac, open Firefox or Safari and go to the address go/sav. Click on the link for the Mac install page and download then open the DMG install file.
Maintaining your computer
Here are some tips to keep your computer secure, safe, clean, and fast. I'd recommend doing them around once a month for best results. In (parentheses) I indicate why each tip is useful.
- (Security) Update your antivirus program. Most AV programs "hide" as a small icon next to the clock on the taskbar. Double-click this icon to open the program window and look for an option to update it. If you don't do this, you may be vulnerable to any new viruses that come through the internets.
- (Security) Update Windows. Many virus infections could be prevented if the users kept Windows properly updated. To do this, open Internet Explorer and click on Tools -> Windows Update. Or better yet, set Windows to do this automatically.
- (Speed) Run a disk cleanup utility. Windows has a simple disk cleaner pre-installed; you can also install CCleaner, which is a great, free, fast cleaning utility. Such cleaning programs will sweep out "temp" files, empty your trash, and so forth.
- (Speed) Defragment your disk. You can use Windows' preinstalled disk defragment utility, or install Defraggler, which is a great, free, fast defragmenter. This "reorganizes" the way files are stored on your hard drive so they're easier to access, which lets programs start up more quickly.
- (Security) Regularly check for system updates. Mac conveniently funnels most of its system updates through one tool, which you can reach by clicking on the Apple menu -> Software Update.
- (Speed) Shut down your computer often. Some people prefer to always use "Stand-by" because the computer starts up quickly afterwards. This is convenient, but it can leave your computer sleep-deprived and irritable. Shut down your computer fully at least a couple times a week.
- (Long life) Don't move or jostle your computer while it's on. The hard disk is like a mini record player, constantly spinning. When it's jostled, the head can jab into the disk surface, causing scratches and bringing your hard disk one step closer to dying or breaking. Turn your computer off or put it to sleep before moving it around.
General safety advice
Help protect yourself, your computer, and our network.
- Protect your identity and personal information.
- Change your password often; keep it private.
- Use secure web sites when providing credit card or bank numbers.
- Protect your image.
- Be aware that what you post on a website or Facebook may be searchable and public.
- Protect your own files.
- Back up your important files.
- Use your personal file server folder for your papers, assignments, and research.
- Protect your computer.
- Register your computer on the campus network.
- Use anti-virus software. (This protects us, too.)
- Avoid opening attached files from people or organizations you don't know.
- Respect the rights of others; don't risk a lawsuit!
- Don't use your computer, email or the Web to harass others.
- Don't share music and videos you haven't legitimately acquired.
Virus and malware street smarts
Viruses are rampant on the internet. Middlebury students, faculty, and staff computers often get infected even when they are being relatively cautious - sometimes, with severe consequences. Here are some tips to minimize the chance that you'll get viruses.
- Ensure that your antivirus software is active and up-to-date. For PCs, the antivirus icon should always be visible in the lower-right side of the screen near the clock. Double-click this icon to open up options to run a scan, update the virus database, and so on. Many antivirus programs will conveniently turn grey if they aren't working correctly.
- Install all security updates on your computer as soon as your computer asks you to. Better yet, set your computer up to install them automatically.
- If you think your computer is infected, act immediately. At least run a scan to check for infections. Don't ignore the problem and keep using the computer.
- Be wary of using public computers and public wireless connections. For example, never make financial transactions using unsecured internet connections or public computers.
- If the SPAM mails you receive have an "Unsubscribe" link, do not click it. Trustworthy companies are required by law to provide such a link in order to allow you to opt out of newsletters and so forth; unscrupulous SPAM senders can trick you into clicking the link, which effectively confirms for them that yours is a valid e-mail address. You'll likely get more SPAM after clicking such a link.
- Be careful with e-mail attachments. E-mail attachments from someone you don't know, or forwarded to you in a chain e-mail, or attachments that are an unfamiliar or confusing file type, should be treated as suspicious. If you think an attachment might be important, download it to your Desktop and use your antivirus software to scan it for viruses before opening it.
- Never respond to emails asking for your personal information. No valid source will ask you for personal information by email.
Your Windows computer is infected, you need to use it, and you can't get help right now. Fortunately there are some quick steps that you can take to try to exorcise the virus(es).
- Restart the computer in Safe Mode. While restarting the computer, press F8 once every second to load the Windows "emergency startup" menu. Select Safe Mode with Networking and press to load a bare-bones version of Windows. When Windows has started up, you can use programs and access the internet as normal - but non-essential programs (including any viruses) will not start up, meaning that you can do more diagnostics here.
- Scan your system with MalwareBytes. Malwarebytes is a free virus/spyware cleaning program. Download it from the Malwarebytes website, install it (ideally while inside Windows' Safe Mode), and run a full system scan. MB often finds and removes viruses that other virus scanners miss, but it is not perfect.