Even extreme technophobes and complete newbies can keep their computers running at maximum speed and efficiency. Most of the tools you need are built into your machine or easily downloadable from the Internet. Conquer your fears and doubts by reading your owner’s manual and exploring your maintenance software. Then, establish a regular schedule for computer maintenance and follow few simple suggestions.
Keep It Cool, Clean And Current
Try to set-up and work on your computer in cool, relatively dust-free environments because dust and heat are kryptonite to your generally super-powered PC. Alyson Munroe explains, “Whether it’s a desktop or laptop/notebook computer, dust and lint can clog the cooling vents. This can cause your computer’s brain—the central processing unit (CPU)—to heat up. And heat is the biggest cause of component failure in computers. Regular cleaning could save you costly maintenance fees down the road.” If your laptop is your constant companion and you carry it into all kinds of hostile environments, you must clean and care for it at least once each week.
Routine cleaning is not difficult, but it does require some care and caution. A regular contributor at Cnet.com, IT guru Ed Rhee emphasizes three basics: “First, clean and disinfect your keyboard and mouse. Studies have shown that keyboards have more bacteria than toilet seats. Second, carefully clean your computer LCD display.” All IT sophisticates stress that you must use a gentle cleaner and a soft cloth to prevent scratching the screen or contaminating your hard drive with overspray or spills. Third, Rhee recommends, “Clean the inside of your computer. Over time, dust buildup inside your computer could undermine its cooling efficiency, resulting in shorter life spans for your computer’s components.” Do not use a brush. Use canned compressed air, available at office supply stores.
Keeping your hard drive uncluttered and up-to-date assures your PC always runs at out-of-the-box speed. Writing for SmallBusinessComputing.com, Ronald Pacchiano observes, “Most small business owners don’t know much about basic computer maintenance and as a result, their PCs slow down or crash. The real issue is neglect: failing to update security patches and antivirus software, overloading the system with trial software or running five toolbars at once in Internet Explorer.” Therefore, he advises you to follow five very simple maintenance tips:
Add Virus And Malware Protection
Find, install and run the very best security software. Although your computer came pre-loaded with the manufacturer’s recommended anti-virus and antispyware programs, they were tragically out-of-date even the first time you booted-up your machine. “Creepy crawlies” proliferate at the rate of several hundred thousand per day, enabling rogues to cripple your system, steal all of your personal data or hijack your hard drive for their own vile purposes. First, update the factory-installed software. Then, supplement with top-of-the-line anti-virus and anti-malware protection. As you install it, set it to run regularly without prompting, and take advantage of automatic update features.
Add Registry Maintenance Software
A few years ago, the experts wrangled bitterly over the wisdom of installing an after-market registry cleaner on your machine. Fueling the controversy, several rogue software marketers created so-called registry cleaners that ate CPUs like flesh-eating viruses devour unwilling victims. Working with major computer makers and law enforcement, reputable registry protection companies got rid of the bad guys, upgraded their products and lowered their prices. Now, the technorati agree you should have a registry cleaner than runs every day.
Delete Unused Files. Move Others To Storage
Most people store way too much stuff in their hard drives, sucking-up valuable memory and compromising their PCs’ performance. Periodically go through your desktop files, purging documents and applications you no longer need and moving other important materials either to a flash drive or to web-based storage, also known as space in “the cloud.” For maximum security and full-time access, cloud storage out-performs flash drives by a considerable margin; however, it also is considerably more expensive. Also consider compressing your images in a gimp download program in order to cut down on storage space.
Automate Your Maintenance Routine
Microsoft’s in-house experts advise, “The Windows operating system provides three great tools to help keep your hard drive humming smoothly. These tools are Disk Cleanup, Disk Defragmenter, and Check Disk. Ideally you should clean the hard disk of temporary files, optimize (defragment) the hard disk, and check the hard disk for errors on a weekly basis. The best solution is to let Windows do all of the work. Windows allows you to set up and automate these tasks.” Use your control panel to find any or all of the applications; then, use the settings menus to set-up regular maintenance during times when you will not be working on your PC.
Accept your limitations
Even people with IT degrees and years of experience dread digging too deep into a PC’s CPU or file registry. “File trees” grow more complicated and vulnerable as you travel along their roots and connections; one false move can trigger a catastrophic meltdown well beyond the reach of regular system restoration tools and software. Therefore, follow “Dirty Harry’s” advice: Even if you feel lucky, you must know your limitations.
If your system crashes…
You may be able to restore your system with the push of just one key. Dell and HP personal computers come with built-in back-up software. Other name-brand computers include system software on CDs, making system recovery relatively simple and risk-free. If, however, you feel any doubt or reluctance about attempting your own system repairs, take your PC to a factory-authorized service center.
Amy Nielson is an avid blogger who writes often for tech blogs. You can follow her on Twitter @NielsonAmy.