Software installation is usually pretty straightforward these days, but I am happy to help with it.
Backups are essential if you want to prevent loss of your data. Just a few months ago
I lost the second hard drive on my business computer. It simply failed to spin up, and all
the data on it was gone. It was dead. And with it went thousands of pictures and other
files absolutely essential to our business. I was very fortunate to have contracted with
an excellent backup service -- Crash Plan -- that does continuous backups of my entire
hard drive for a very reasonable price. After I installed a new drive, different brand
this time, I was able to restore every single missing file from the Crash Plan cloud.
My data stored in the Crash Plan cloud is encrypted and password protected, so nobody
else can access it. Crash Plan has many other great features. I have used them for
many years now and been very happy with them.
As a bonus, they provide protection against ransomware -- see below.
There is another very good backup package that I have personal experience with, called Acronis.
You can make a cloned copy of your hard drive to another identical or larger external hard
drive, and do backups to the external drive, so that if your internal drive ever stops
working, all you have to do is replace the internal bad drive with the external good one,
and you are back in business immediately. Acronis also has a cloud backup option and
lots of good features. I have used Acronis in the past to backup my own hard drive, and
to move a friend's hard drive data to a new drive with twice the capacity of his old one.
Acronis also provides ransomware protection -- see below.
These days viruses are rampant, especially ransomware. Just one innocent click on the wrong
email, or download of the wrong "free" app from the internet, can ruin your day. And many days after.
There are many good anti-virus programs out there, but I will mention a few with which I have
very successful personal experience.
One of the best protections from viruses is the periodic updates Microsoft sends out for their operating systems. You should always install these updates, or let them be installed as soon as they are available.
Microsoft will continue to provide security updates for Windows 7 and later versions, 8.0, 8.1, and 10, but not for earlier versions such as XP and Vista, so if you are running one of those older versions, it behooves you to upgrade at least to Windows 7 now.
Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet
You may feel relief not to get any more of those annoying updates that cause your computer to reboot in the middle of the night, but that relief will be short lived if some enterprising virus maker has found a way to get past the outdated defences of your old XP operating system, because Microsoft has not sent an update to stop it.
Windows has very good anti-virus software built-in and included in Windows for free -- in Windows 7 it is called Microsoft Security Essentials, and you can download it and install it for free from Microsoft. At work one day I picked up a virus somehow. The anti-virus software installed on my computer by the company failed to detect it, as did several other anti-virus programs I downloaded and ran in an ever more desperate attempt to get rid of it. Finally I downloaded Microsoft Security Essentials, and it found it and got rid of it right away. Needless to say, I am a grateful fan of Microsoft Security Essentials and its follow-on Windows Defender.
Microsoft Security Essentials
In Windows 8.0 and later it is called Windows Defender, and it comes already installed in those operating systems. If you install some third party anti-virus program, then Windows Defender will not be active, so you might want to consider letting Windows Defender be your anti-virus software, and forget about buying some highly advertised anti-virus program that may just give you a false sense of security and slow down your computer.
I also highly recommend installing Malwarebytes premium for continuous protection against malware. Malware is not the same as a virus, so you really need both anti-virus and anti-malware protection. I have found that MalwareBytes is a very good addition to Windows Defender, and will not cause Windows Defender to stop working. The two together seem to provide excellent protection from viruses, and especially ransomware.
Ransomware is the latest danger out there, and can be devastating to your computer
if it gets past your defenses. A ransomware infection will encrypt all your files,
thereby crippling your computer and rendering your data inaccessible, and will present
you with a message that you can have the key to decrypt your data by paying a ransom to
some unknown entity, like $500. It is never a sure thing they will actually give you the
decryption key, or that it will work, though, so prevention is far superior to paying a ransom.
Crash Plan, Acronis, and Malwarebytes provide protection against ransomware.