Computer Maintenance Checklist

Maintaining Your Computer

Your computer, whether it’s a laptop or a desktop, will run smoothly and give you years of use if you maintain it properly. Just like a car needs its oil changed periodically, a computer needs its “trash” taken out in more ways than one. Over time, files get written to your disk (eg. internet files, temporary files, programs). For this reason it’s important that you establish a maintenance routine and make sure it gets done at least once a month.

Old, Unused Programs…

The first item on your maintenance checklist should be a review of all the programs that are loaded onto the computer. You may see tool bars, media players you don’t use or an outdated program. Remove any item on the list that you no longer use or is unwanted. You can even prioritize a list by based on use. This will help you find the most seldom used programs on your machine.

Delete Files on Your Internet Browsers…

Next you’ll want to get rid of the all the cookies and temporary files that are also taking up space. Cookies are little packages of tracking software that sites use to identify your computer. You will probably want to keep some cookies because they let you access sites you go to often without having to enter your membership information every time. You’ll be surprised at the hundreds of cookies listed and even more surprised that you only recognize a few of the names. This is because every ad that pops up on your computer sets a cookie, as do advertising banners on sites that you visit. You can collect thousands of these cookies over a period of weeks! Cleaning them out selectively or just clearing the whole lot of them will help your computer run faster.

Your internet browser cache may also slow down your computer. Ironically, it also speeds things up when you access a page that you’ve been to before. If you visit Joe’s Trucking page you computer will store (cache) a copy of that page so that when you access it again it will load quickly. Unfortunately, your cache also uses up memory and can slow down your computer as it grows. It is always a good idea to clear your cache every few weeks before it starts to slow down your computer.

Clean your registry…

(Back up your registry before deleting entries!!!)

Deleting items from your registry is not recommended unless you know what you are doing. Deleting the wrong entry can cause problems for your computer or a program. However, there are programs that scan the registry and bring up a list of invalid registry entries which make it easy(and relatively safe) for the inexperienced user to clean up. A registry full of broken links and out of date files can actually crash your computer. Considering that you add more than a thousand entries to your computer’s registry during one day of web surfing, cleaning it on a monthly basis is almost essential.

Prevent Malware and Viruses…

If you don’t have an antivirus program running on your computer there are several good ones you can buy or download for free. This program will help keep your computer free of viruses and Trojan horse programs that can destroy it so it’s important to update it and scan your hard drive regularly.

You’ll also need a malware program to protect your computer. Malware is software that is programmed to harm your computer and compromise your privacy. You can pick it up through an attachment in an email or even from downloading legitimate programs on the internet. Many antivirus programs contain malware protection but having a specialized program to detect and eliminate malware is the best protection you can have. As with your anti-virus software, be sure to keep it updated and scan your computer regularly.

Update Windows…

It doesn’t matter which version of windows you are running; keeping the operating system up to date is a must when talking about computer maintenance and security. Microsoft puts out updates on a regular basis to ensure all users are protected from viruses and malware, in addition to some improved features. It is recommended that you turn “Automatic Windows updates” on, so this can be done for you at a time you prefer, as it is easy to forget to update Windows.

Defragment your hard drive…

Now that everything else is in order, it’s time to defragmenting your hard drive. Defragging rearranges your files in such a way that improves the efficiency of your drive. Drives become disorderly as you create and delete data such as Word documents or when you download or remove programs. The process will speed up your computer but it’s quite lengthy and many people prefer to let their computer defrag overnight. If you have a Microsoft operating system you have a built-in defragger but most professionals think it leaves a lot to be desired. There are several free and shareware defragging programs that you might want to investigate. Depending on what you do with your computer defragging may not need to be done very often. For the basic user, defragging every 3-6 may be all you need.

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