Maintaining Your Computer

Software Updates | Essential Stanford Software | Backups | Defragmentation | VPN

It is the responsibility of every computer user on the School of Medicine network to maintain their computer or “lock it down” against viruses, hackers, malicious software, and any other threats which jeopardize the integrity of our network’s security.

The following procedures have been provided as guidelines to the steps you can follow, but IRT recommends that you have your computing support staff go through a more thorough “lock down” procedure on your computer.

Download and install the latest software updates for your Operating System

  • For Mac OS X: Support Downloads (listed by device)
  • For Windows:  Open Internet Explorer and select “Windows Update” from the tools menu. This will update Microsoft Office software at the same time.

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Download and install “Essential Stanford Software”

Essential Stanford Software (ESS) is a collection of applications that will help you plug into the Stanford University Network (SUNet) and gain access to Stanford's computing services. ESS includes applications to keep your password secure, protect against computer viruses, send and read email, browse the web, and exchange files.

Software is provided for both Macintosh computers and Windows-based PCs:

Anti-Virus, Malware Protection, and Firewall

In order to fully protect Stanford’s data on your computer you should download and install Sophos, anti-virus and anti-malware software (freely available to Stanford users at It is important that you ensure that the software is configured for automated updates.

The built-in Windows Firewall will also reduce the risk of intrusion.

For more about securing your computer, see the information available from IRT Information Security.

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It is important to back up your data on a regular basis. This prevents loss of data in the event of theft or hardware failure. In addition to any local backups you might make, the Stanford Data Security Program requires you to install the automatic backup software CrashPlan on any computer that handles Stanford information. For more about CrashPlan, visit

To learn more about backup options, visit the IRT Information Security backups page, or submit a HelpSU request.

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Hard Disks on some operating systems, such as Windows, become fragmented as files are written, moved, or deleted. Fragmented files use up more room on your disk and can slow down your system, so we recommend that you defragment your disk on a monthly basis. If done on a regular basis, the process does not take more than several hours. Note: if your computer is running Mac OS X, you will not need to defragment your hard drive; the operating system performs a defragmentation on every startup.

There are several methods that can be used to defragment your hard drive. These can be located using Windows Help and Support, and performing a search on defragmentation.

  1. Close all applications, including those that are running in the background, such as internet connections, anti-malware software, etc.
  2. Double click on “My Computer” , and right-click on the hard drive you want to defragment.
  3. Choose “Properties”.

  4. Choose the Tools tab and then click the “Check Now”; button.  This will check your volume for physical errors to your drive.
  5. Select the “Check disk options” you want to access, and click on Start.  This will fix any file system errors, and can locate any bad sectors on your drive.  This process may take several hours.

  6. When your machine has finished, go back to the tools panel.
  7. Click the “Defragment Now” button.
  8. Click the “Defragment” button and let the machine work. The time this takes will depend on how fragmented the disk has become and the size and speed of the disk. It may take several hours to defragment a large highly-fragmented disk.

After you have completed the defragmentation, return your system to its previous state by turning the background software back on.  This can easily be done by restarting your system.

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When accessing Stanford’s systems from home or while travelling, you may be required to use VPN software to successfully connect to the Stanford Computing Resources.  When connecting remotely, you should use VPN software to secure your connection. 

The VPN client encrypts your connection, and is available at Please read the documentation on the Off-campus Access page and the IRT Information Security VPN page.