Family PC Essentials

Your home computer takes on enhanced importance as your family's digital assets grow larger and more essential to daily life. Investing in a new PC provides an opportunity to set up your digital "family helper" with the right software and accessories to make it an all-around assistant for every member of the family. Choose your essentials with care to ensure that you cover the important bases without wasting your money on items that either don't improve your computing experience or actually hamper your productivity.

Built-In Assets

When you purchase a desktop or notebook computer, it's tempting to pick up cables and accessories for your powerful new system. Boban Jose, CEO and founder of search website Privatelee, recommends saving your money and making use of the value in your computer's standard equipment. As he points out, "families tend to think you need to spend money on new cables to wire up a PC. The free cables that come with your PC work just as well as the most expensive ones." He also advises checking out the value inherent in the software provided free by the maker of your computer's operating system, including applications to manage a family blog and connect through email.

Backup Essentials

Your PC's hard drive can hold many times the amount of information that a computer storage device could manage even three to five years ago. In fact, your system includes more memory than computers from the late 20th century had drive space. Despite its capacity and speed, however, your PC needs the security of thorough, frequent backups to preserve your irreplaceable digital camera and smartphone photos, camcorder movies, family finance records, recipes and email. As Jose observes, "Most of your family's memories are sitting in a folder on your PC's hard drive, but hard drives don't last forever. Make sure you back up your system so when your PC's HD dies, you don't lose all of your digital assets." An external DVD drive provides one way of backing up crucial files.

Identity Protection

Family PCs become repositories of information about every aspect of family life. Jose warns about the dangers of leaving your data unprotected. "Identity theft is a very real problem. If you store sensitive information such as bank statements, copies of your passport, driver's license, etc. on your PC, leaving it unencrypted is equivalent to leaving your door unlocked every single day." He suggests opting for a program that "lets you create encrypted drives to store your sensitive documents and access it only when needed." You can find reputable, noteworthy alternatives that provide strong protection and are free of charge. Jose also recommends using parental control software that "protects your children from dangerous websites and allows you to monitor their online activities," and bookmarking "a family and kid friendly search engine that allows children to search online and learn new things while blocking results from websites that are not suitable for their age."

Malware Measures

Along with a cable lock to protect a notebook computer from the risks of theft when you take it on a family vacation, Jose strongly recommends guarding your system against online threats that can attack or steal your data. He points out that you can find full-featured alternatives at no cost. "Running a good anti-virus/anti-malware and firewall is absolutely critical," he says, "but that doesn't mean you have to pay for it." While you're beefing up your security provisions, he cautions against the false promises you see in ads for dubious safety software and preventive products. "Remove any software that claims to speed up your computer or fix issues if it's not from a trusted source. It is likely to be malware and to cause more problems than it solves."

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