Top 10 computer mistakes beginners make

Updated: 12/31/2022 by Computer Hope

Below are the top 10 mistakes we find beginner computer users making and how you can avoid falling into the same mistakes.

Not backing up important files

Computer backup

One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is not backing up important information. Today, there are so many different methods of backing up your information that there is no longer any excuse for not backing up your information. Make sure to back up all important information before it is too late.

Clicking Next or Ok without reading

Everyone has become more impatient thanks to the instant gratification we enjoy daily on the Internet. However, because of this impatience, it's not uncommon for new users to click Ok or Next without reading (ohnosecond) and making sure nothing extra is checked. Make sure you read every prompt before agreeing, or you may be agreeing to install new browser toolbars, a program you didn't intend to install, or other crapware.

Not saving work

While working on a document, either offline or online, ensure that the program automatically saves your work. If a program does not automatically save your work, you need to make sure you are saving your work every 10-15 minutes. If the computer loses power, loses Internet connection, or the program crashes, everything that hasn't been saved is lost.

Turning off the computer improperly

With more users learning on Smartphones and Tablets before learning the computer, not all new users are familiar with the proper method to shut down (turn off) a computer. When you are done with a computer and want to turn it off, make sure to save any work, close open programs, and shut down the computer properly.

E-mail attachment

Opening e-mail attachments

A common method of getting infected with a computer virus or malware is opening e-mail attachments. Be extremely cautious and doubtful of all e-mail attachments you receive, including any e-mail attachments from friends, family, and co-workers. One of the most common tactics malicious users use to send viruses is from people you know to gain a false sense of trust.

Falling for phishing, spam, chain mail, or bad ads


As computers become more secure and users get more tech-savvy, many malicious individuals have started attacking people using phishing tactics. Make sure you know how phishing works and how you can make sure you do not become a victim of identity theft.


Almost all spam today is distributed by infected computers or malicious users. Replying to these spam messages will not unsubscribe you from any list and usually is never looked at or received. Sometimes, a spammer may even use your reply as verification that an e-mail works and send you more spam or share your e-mail address with spammers. If you get spam, delete it from your inbox.


If the e-mail has an unsubscribe link and is from a reputable company, these links unsubscribe you from an e-mail list. For help with stopping spam, see: How to stop spam.

Chain mail

You should also never forward your friends and family chain mail. If you find an e-mail hard to believe, make sure it is true before you forward the myth or rumor to anyone else.

Bad ads

Most pages on the Internet (including Computer Hope) are supported with advertisements. These ads are often banner ads at the top, bottom, and sometimes throughout the page. Some ads can be misleading or may even be malware. If you click an ad, make sure you're aware you're visiting a paid link, and it may not be something the website supports or is the best search result. When performing a search on a search engine (e.g., Google), be aware that the first few links may be ads (marked with "ad" next to the link).

These ads are often not the best search results and should be ignored. For example, you may search for a company's support phone number, and another fake company creates ads to show at the top of those results. However, that company could be a malicious company pretending to be another company, so they can remotely connect to your computer and steal personal information.

Downloading and installing bad software

Today, the most common way a computer gets infected with viruses, malware, and crapware is by downloading and installing bad software on the computer. Always be cautious of free software and who is providing you with the free software. To subsidize costs, many developers include other bundled programs or toolbars, and if you are not careful, you may install them during the installation. As mentioned earlier, always read what the program does during installation.

Unfortunately, reading is also always enough, and sites offering free things like cursors, fonts, wallpaper, emotions, and other small downloads may be bundled with other bad software. When downloading anything, keep the below suggestions in mind.

Laptop downloading from the Internet.

Where are you getting the download?

There are malicious people who download valid copies of a popular download, modify the file with malicious software, and then upload the file with the same name. Ensure you download from the developer's web page or a reputable company.

Don't install a download manager

Many sites suggest or require you to install an installer or a download manager before allowing you to download a program you may be interested in downloading. These tools can cause your computer more problems and may even have malware or spyware. Avoid any site claiming anything must be installed before you can continue to download.

Avoid advertisements on download pages

To help make money and pay for the bandwidth costs of supplying free software, the final download page may have ads. Watch out for anything that looks like advertisements on the download page. Many advertisers try to trick viewers into clicking an ad with phrases like Download Now, Start Download, or Continue, and that ad may open a separate download.

Cancel or deny any automatic download

Some sites may give the appearance that something needs to be installed or updated before being able to see the site or video. Never accept or install anything from any site unless you know what is downloading.

Not keeping the operating system and software up-to-date

The evolution of computers and the software that computers use is constantly evolving. After a program is released, bugs and security threats will be discovered by other users. Installing the latest updates for a program makes sure everything runs smoothly, and if security fixes are found, fix those problems so your data is kept secure.

Keep a computer on a surge protector or UPS

If you plug your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone into a wall outlet, consider using a surge protector. A surge protector helps protect your computer during an electrical storm and ensures that nothing is damaged if a surge travels over your power lines.

APC Battery Backup

Also, if you are using a desktop computer, we highly recommend using a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) on your computer. Although a UPS is more expensive, it protects the computer from a surge, brown out, and keeps the computer running if the power is lost.

Buying incompatible hardware or peripherals

Computers are becoming more diversified with Chromebooks, hybrid computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Although all these devices are considered computers, not all hardware is compatible with every type of computer. Also, this is true with an Apple computer vs. a PC, and computers running Windows or Linux, which are different operating systems.

Before purchasing hardware or upgrading older hardware, make sure it's compatible with your computer, operating system, and meets the system requirements.