Do you ever carry out any maintenance on your computer?
Here are 5 reasons why you should:
1. The operating system, such as Windows and many applications will leave rubbish on your hard disk filling it up and slowing down your computer
2. The operating system and all applications require regular updates to correct problems and to ensure the security of your computer and data
3. Log files need checking for errors and cleaning out
4. Security scans need to be run and checked regularly for infections
5. Fans and vents need cleaning to avoid overheating
And these are only 5 of many things that need doing to ensure your computer is running at it’s best. Regular maintenance can improve the performance of your computer as well as help to extend its useful life.
OK, before we get started, I need to say one very important thing: BACKUP!
Yes, before you carry out any of the maintenance tasks mentioned in this post ensure you have a full backup of all of your data as there is always the slim possibility that something could go wrong!
I have a regular maintenance regime that I call “Preventative Maintenance” or PM and it contains a number of steps (currently about 20) that I work through on all computers.
Before I do anything, I create a Windows Restore Point so that in the event of something going wrong I can revert back to where I started!
Then I start by updating important software on the PC including Windows, applications and sometimes hardware drivers.
Once all the updates are completed I check logs such as those in Windows Event Viewer for errors and most importantly for “patterns” or recurring errors which are pointing to potential problems or even hardware failure.
I also check that the backups are running OK and occasionally test the restore.
One important step is to check the Windows registry and make sure all is well with this as it is the center of everything to do with Windows, such as configuration settings and options. (Note: this is high level stuff, or “black arts” as I like to call it!)
Now I start on the cleanup by removing all the rubbish left on the hard disk including emptying the recycle bin, removing temporary files, cleaning out browser caches and temporary files and removing old log files. This can often free up a lot of disk space.
Once this is done I can run the security scans such as a malware scan and an anti-virus scan.
If required I will run a defrag on the hard disk and in many cases a chkdsk (this is a program for correcting errors on the hard disk).
Finally, I will check the hardware and cabling and clean everything if required.
So you can see it is a fairly comprehensive process which can uncover potential problems before they occur as well as in many cases improve performance and fix instability in Windows and applications.
A PC that really needs cleaning
I use a number of tools to complete a PM. Most of them are easy enough to use but using them effectively or making sense of the results and acting on them are where knowledge and experience come in. You will also be pleased to know that these tools are generally free for personal use, although not usually for commercial (i.e. if your computer is used in a business). Make sure you are familiar with the licenses and usage rules if you are going to install them.
I mention these first as they are supplied with Windows and are completely free for everyone to use.
Event Viewer – Windows records various events in these logs under a number of headings of which two are important to us: Application and System. I am generally looking for patterns in here rather than individual errors.
Windows Update – although this is likely to be set to automatic for Security and Critical updates there are often other important updates that must be installed manually.
Disk defragment – I use a third party program rather than the windows one (see below)
chkdsk – this is a program that checks the disk for errors and tries to correct any it finds. It can only run on an “unmounted” disk so cannot be run on the C: drive with Windows running.
CCleaner – this is a great tool, free for personal use that will clean out all the temporary files and other rubbish as well as help with checking the registry. In all the years I have been using it it has never caused me a problem although I always use it’s option to create a backup of the changes to the registry before committing to them!
Defraggler – this is the tool I use in place of the Windows defragment program. Much easier and friendlier I think and again, free for personal use.
Virus-scanner – I use AVG but you can use your preferred scanner.
Malewarebytes anti-malware scanner – commonly called Malwarebytes this is a great program for finding and removing all sorts of nasties that are missed by other anti-virus programs. This program has saved me so many times! Free for personal use.
Ninite – this is a great tool for automating the update of many programs including Java and Acrobat Reader.
These are the main tools I use, there are others that I may utilise in certain circumstances that I won’t go into here.
How often should you carry out maintenance on your computers?
Well, as usual, that depends on a number of factors but mostly, how much does your PC get used?
For instance if the PC is in an office and is used all day 5 days a week then monthly or maybe bi-monthly maintenance should be carried out.
If your computer is at home and only gets used for a bit of email, some browsing and maybe some letter writing or bookkeeping then maybe quarterly would be adequate.
It is really up to you. I suggest that if you feel your computer is running slow, or maybe you suspect is has been infected then complete maintenance on it straight away.
There are a number of tools available that do a lot of the above tasks automatically. Personally I am not a great fan of these, they are often complex and run in the background and are not always completely clear as to what they are doing! Call me old fashioned but I like to keep control of these sorts of tasks.
Finally a word on Macs
Macs generally do not require so much maintenance as a Windows PC. Apart from anything else all Macs regularly run “scripts” that do some of the tasks mentioned above. However it is a good idea to check for software updates regularly, just click on the Apple logo top left of the screen and select Software Update. I recommend installing any security updates at least. On the subject of Automated Tools, I would not recommend installing MacKeeper on any Mac computer!