Workstation Basics

Posted by: on Apr 1, 2012 | No Comments

I wrote this about fifteen years and many of these simple and essential measures still apply. I’ve updated this piece for 2012. Take these steps to ensure that you computing experience is productive and painless.

Make Backups

Set-up your system to back up work files and applications on a regular basis. The various media available to make backups is increasingly inexpensive. Ideally, backups will be locked away and extra copies will be stored off site. It is particularly important to back-up your applications if you purchased equipment that came with applications pre-installed without any disks or CDs sent to you. Most systems will prompt you to back up these system and application files. There are also numerous online options available for backing up files.

Protect Your Hardware


Invest in locks for securing your computer and monitor to an immovable object. Make sure your equipment is behind locked doors. Write your company name, Federal ID number, or social security number on equipment: This deters theft. As more hardware walks along with you, thefts are now increasingly muggings. Remember: Few people if any are mugged for their copy of “Moby Dick” that they’re reading on public transit or in a coffee house.


At the least, connect your computers to surge protectors. For best protection, invest in an Uninterrupted Power Source (UPS). A UPS will cost $150 or more. A UPS will significantly increase the life of your hard drive. You should buy one that has a sine wave or modified sine wave output. You need to purchase one that exceeds the power requirements of your equipment. Most UPSs are measured in VAs  (volts x amperes) while equipment is generally measured in wattage. This site gives you an online tool to calculate your energy usage and convert it into VA to purchase the correct UPS. Remember: Batteries have a lifespan and they run at a lower capacity over time. So it is prudent to purchase a UPS with a capacity that exceeds your power needs by about 50%.


Keep your hard drive and floppies away from magnets, water, dust, and heat sources. And as more equipment is portable, remember to handle with care. It’s disturbingly easy to drop smartphones and tablets.

Register and Save Software and Its Documentation

Buy It: Purchase software. This keeps you eligible for free or discounted upgrades in the future. Make sure you have the proper number of licenses for applications.

File It: File all information, including licenses, identification numbers, and instruction manuals. The following are essential utilities.

  • Disk repair
  • Anti-Virus
  • Defragmenters
  • Conflict resolver
  • Firewall
  • Anti-SpyWare

Do You Need to Protect Your Files?

If you still have one, consider locking your floppy drive to prevent unauthorized people from logging into your computer. On many systems, you can use a bootable floppy to bypass a password to get to a computer’s hard drive. At a minimum, add a password to your login. And don’t make your password “password”.

Use encryption software if you want to lock specific, sensitive files. Password protection that comes with most applications is relatively easy to break into.

Add passwords to your network log-in and screensaver. You should not use obvious passwords (e.g., your name) and you should not write down passwords in obvious places (e.g., a post-it on your computer monitor). Whenever possible use alpha-numeric combinations to create passwords at least 5 characters long. Do not tell people your passwords.

If you are on the Internet, you need to take explicit steps to protect your files from attack and or from becoming part of an attack on another computer. Minimally you will need a firewall to filter what comes into and out of your computer. In email, scan all attachments before opening. And install anti-SpyWare to keep unwanted programs off of your computer.

If you have moved to the Cloud, you’ve in many ways simplified your life and in another way created an easier opportunity for someone to break into your files. When you can, authorize specific devices to access your online information. It makes accessing your information more complicated, but then that’s a good thing, right?