Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Basic internet safety is about protecting your computer from viruses and malware. Once that is in place, it's safe to browse the internet.

If you leave your desktop to go on the internet, is it safer to do that with all of the programs closed?

In other words, can the website I access somehow "jump" into my computer or my files if they are opened at the same time as my browser? Or at the same time as the site my browser has taken me to? Or does that matter at all? I ask this because there are times when I'm typing a document when I need a fact that I can only get online. Should I close out of my document first and then reopen it once I have my answer?

In this excerpt from Answercast #15, I examine what dangers might be coming to your computer from the internet and give recommendations on how to study the issue further.

Should I close documents?

The short answer is no, this typically isn't a problem at all.

I leave browsers and documents and programs running all the time, regardless of what I'm doing, online or not, and it's not an issue.

Malware is the issue

The only time it's an issue, (and it really has nothing to do with leaving things open or not) is if you happen to download malware.

As I typically put it, "If you invite malware on to your machine by..."

  • Visiting malicious sites that install bad stuff
  • Opening attachments in email that you aren't expecting or aren't totally sure about
  • That kind of thing...

Basically, all the things that involve staying safe on the internet are things that you want to be doing anyway.

Stay safe on the internet

Once you are protected from malware, then leaving things open while you're doing other things - not a problem.

I'll put it this way: I leave my machines on 24/7. They're on all day long.

When I go to bed, I don't bother to close most things out. I just leave them running overnight.

In your scenario, who knows what kinds of things could be happening... but the short answer is, "Nothing." The programs just sort of sit there waiting for me to come back in the morning.

So, don't worry about it.

Definitely review my article "Internet Safety: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?" for the basics. Once you've got the basics down, the scenario that you're outlining really isn't a problem at all.

Article C5304 - May 7, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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