Want to save you some money, make your computer better & more secure.
Those paying a twenty something dollar a month dial-up AOL monthly fee. If you you have a broad-band connection, you may want to change your AOL account from a 'dial-up' to a 'bring-your-own-access' type of account; or maybe to something less then that. You can see the AOL pricing for their offered plans and what they offer in each plan, by going to American Online. Switching your AOL account will allow you to keep doing everything you are doing right now with your existing AOL account, but through your broadband connection & saving a few bucks in the process.
Computers get hacked all the time on the web (even more so when the user is on a broad-band connection). You need to protect your computer with a really good firewall (even though some broadband connection have a basic firewall, you will want to use something better). There is a free firewall for home users that is VERY good. You can download it from ZoneLabs. This will further stealth you on the internet and also perform all sorts of security verifications. The PRO version is a pay-per-download situation, so if you really want to you can purchase the PRO version. Honestly in nearly all home user cases, the FREE version they offer is more then adequate.
To increase security of your Windows PCs, you should use the 'Windows Update' feature to apply all the necessary upgrades, patches & service packs to each computer. (You may require your Windows CD for this.) This will further protect you from hackers, viruses, and will fix bugs in Windows applications. It also will provide you with a more stable computer in the end.
If you have MS Office installed in your computer you should use the 'Windows Update' feature to access the 'Office Update' feature. This will allow you to apply all the necessary upgrades, patches & service packs to your computer for MS Office. (You may require your Windows CD &/or MS Office CDs for this.) This will further protect you from hackers, viruses, and will fix bugs in the MS Office applications. It also will provide you with a more stable computer in the end.
If you do not already have a good anti-virus software, consider buying one. I recommend Norton Anti-Virus. McAfee Anti-Virus is ok, but I find there interface is not very unstable. If you don't want to pay for anti-virus software, try ClamWin. ClamWin is only an virus scanner, so you will need to use other means to remove viruses, if they are detected.
Viruses are not the only thing that can sneak into your computer and reek havoc or steal your info. All anti-virus software (including Norton & McAfee) are not fully scanning for the existence of Trojan Horses. The patches you apply, the anti-virus software & the firewall also help to filter out some of the larger Trojan Horses. However, there are still thousands that have been around for years which never get added to any of these methods of detection. (None the less, implemented for a method of removal), I have found a product that works great to detect all the Trojan horses out there. The program is aptly named 'Anti-Trojan". It can only be purchased online from over seas. You can find their site at Anti-Trojan. I've used there software and it had detected/removed several inactive Trojan horses that the above programs could not detect on my backup CDs or computer's harddrive. The 1 time registration fee for their shareware application is pretty nominal. Once registered, they also provide free upgrades to the next version & free updates, so you can download the newest definitions (to detect & remove new Trojan horses).
Spyware is a huge issue these days. I recommend that you use an good anti-spyware scanner/remover. I like the AdAware product from LavaSoft. Their free personal version is very good & tends to detect/remove the most spyware. Some claim that SpyBot - Search & Destroy is a great spyware remover, but I have found if used incorrectly, you can actually damage you PC. I've opted for AdAware, since it can detect just about as many spyware apps, but the chance of breaking your PC is much much less.
Pop-up ads and advertisement banners are such a pain on web sites. To help reduce the number of apps & pop-ups you see during normal web surfing, you should consider installing a privacy proxy to your PC. There is a great one that I use simply called Privoxy. Once setup, this software will make all browser requests for you and will pre-filter out a lot of the junk ad/pop-up annoyances.
I can tell you more, however I think I may have just flooded you with too much info already. Either way, these are thing you should do if I was you. The payout for all of this is nominal & will make your computing experience a much safer & better one (online & offline).If you like this site or any of its content, please help promote it. Use the social media buttons below to help spread the word. Don't forget to post in the comments section.