Full disk encryption keeps all the data on your hard drive secure from anyone who doesn't know your password. If you have Windows Vista, Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise, or Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise, you already have full disk encryption in the form of Microsoft's BitLocker software. It's easy to enable BitLocker, and when you do your drive will be automatically encrypted, using your Windows user account password.
If you don't have a professional version of Windows, or your computer doesn't have a TPM chip, you can still use full-disk encryption, with TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt is free and open source, and as with BitLocker, we've covered its basics before.
Because the strength of encryption is pretty much entirely dependent on the strength of your password, now would be a good time to talk about good password practices. You've probably heard it before, but a password can be easily cracked if it's too short or simple, or if you use the same one across multiple services. For the rest of your security measures to be effective, make sure you're following these three simple rules:
A free password manager like KeePass can make it a lot easier to follow the above rules. Again, make sure you choose a strong master password.
Use a VPN on unsecured Wi-Fi networks
Unsecured Wi-Fi networkspresent a major threat to your system's security on the road. You don't know who else is sharing the network, potentially intercepting and recording packets wirelessly sent by your computer. Basic HTTPS web security does a good job of protecting data sent across the internet, but you are essentially at the mercy of the receiving site's security protocols. If you're transferring sensitive data, the sensible solution is to always use a virtual private network.