For most of us, summer is officially over and it’s now the Fall season. A lot of us spend more time on summer activities than doing Computer-related tasks. So now is a great time to do some maintenance to get our PC’s working in top condition.
Below are some maintenance tips that anyone can do to get your PC performing at its best. Whether you’re a casual PC user, or the most technical or geek user, these tips will help improve your PC’s overall performance and health.
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Before doing anything major on my PC, I always make a habit of creating a restore point. That way, if I make any undesirable changes, I have a Restore point to fall back on to undo the changes. So before we begin, let’s make a restore point.
Create a Restore Point First
To create a restore point in Windows, go to Start->Control Panel->System->Click on System Protection on the left side of the Window. In the System Properties Window, make sure you are on the System Protection Tab at the top of the Window. Towards the bottom of the Window, you’ll see a button that says “Create”. Click on the button. In the box that opens, type a description of the restore point you wish to create then click the “Create” button. The options path may vary slightly if you are on Windows XP.
Now that we have created a System Restore Point, let’s start doing some maintenance.
1) Do a Full/Deep System Scan with your PC’s Security Software (Anti-virus, Anti-Malware, etc.).
A lot of us perform quick scans on our PC’s routinely, but it’s always a good idea to run a Full/Deep Scan of your computer at least once per week to make sure your PC is free of any viruses or malware. An uninfected machine is a happy machine.
2) Update your Hardware and System Drivers.
Making sure your drivers are up-to-date helps insure your PC is running at its best. Drivers are critical components that instruct your hardware how to operate. Having the most up-to-date drivers can improve stability, reliability, and add enhancements to your Hardware. Make sure to routinely visit your Hardware manufacturer’s website to ensure you have the latest and most up-to-date drivers available. Also make sure you have the latest updates from Microsoft Update. Microsoft Updates can include security and stability fixes as well as performance fixes.
There are also third-party software or tools that can automatically detect and download the latest drivers for you. Be cautious when using these programs as some can misidentify hardware and/or not download the most up-to-date driver available for your hardware.
3) Defragment your Hard Disks
Over time, fragmentation can occur on your Hard Disks slowing down your computer’s performance and making your Hard Disk’s work harder. Defragmenting your Hard Disks rearranges fragmented data so your Hard Disks can run faster and more efficiently.
In Windows, you can schedule Disk Defragmenter to run on a schedule or you can do it manually. To use Disk Defragmentor in Windows perform the following steps:
Click the Start button->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Defragmenter. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. Click Defragment Now. Note that the Defragmentation process can take some time, especially on larger Hard Disk Drives, however you can still use your computer during the defragmentation process.
There are also many good third-party programs for defragmenting your hard drives. Some include boot-time defrag and Registry defrag amongst other features.
Important – If you own a Solid-State Disk Drive (SSD) DO NOT run a defragmentation program on the drive. SSD’s operate differently than mechanical Hard Disks thus need different methods of optimization. See your SSD manufacturer on how to maintain your SSD.
4) Get rid of Junk Files and Unnecessary programs
Junk files and unnecessary programs can cause PC slowdown and take up Hard Disk Space. By routinely removing them you’ll be surprised at how much this improves your computer’s efficiency. In Windows, we can use the Disk Cleanup Utility to remove some of these files such as temporary files that are no longer needed, clean out the recycle bin, and other junk files.
To use the Disk Cleanup utility in Windows click the Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup, and then, in the list of results, click Disk Cleanup. In the Drives list, click the hard disk drive that you want to clean up, and then click OK. In the Disk Cleanup dialog box, on the Disk Cleanup tab, select the check boxes for the file types that you want to delete, and then click OK. In the message that appears, click Delete files.
You can use the Add/Remove Programs in Windows to uninstall any unnecessary programs that you no longer use or need. Click on Start->Control Panel->Add/Remove Programs (Programs and Features in Windows 7).
There are also third-party programs that can do even more intense cleaning and removal of junk files that you can use such as CCleaner (free). Note you can also clean your Registry of invalid entries to improve performance. There is a debate over this as some do not recommend touching the registry. If you feel you need to clean the registry, make sure to backup the registry prior to doing so.
5) Remove Unnecessary Startup Programs
A lot of programs can set themselves to startup with Windows. While some of these programs can be useful at startup, others aren’t as necessary and can slow startup speed and take up memory running in the background. There are several ways to determine what programs are starting up with Windows.
Most programs add an icon to the windows notification tray showing that they are running. You can check there first to determine what is running on your machine at startup. Make sure you click “Show Hidden Icons” so you don’t miss anything.
Microsoft offers a useful tool that is called AutoRuns for Windows. AutoRuns for Windows, is a free tool that you can download from the Microsoft website and shows you all of the programs and processes that run when you start Windows. You can stop a program from running automatically when Windows starts by opening the AutoRuns for Windows program, and then by clearing the check box next to the name of the program you want to stop.
If you prefer, you can also use the System Configuration Utility in Windows to manage your startup items. To use the System Configuration Utility, click the Start button->Control Panel->System and Security->Administrative Tools, and then double-clicking System Configuration. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
Now that we’ve covered some Operating system tune-up tips, let’s focus on physically cleaning the PC. Physically cleaning your PC can improve performance as well as making your PC’s components last longer.
Important – Always turn your computer off and disconnect it from the power source before you begin any physical cleaning of the PC.
1) Clean the outside of the case
Use a soft-dry cloth to remove any accumulated dust and debris on the outside of your case. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to get those hard to reach places such as the openings around your case.
2) Clean the Inside of the Case
Dust and debris can accumulate inside your computer’s case such as your vents and fans as well as other Hardware components. Dust and debris clogging your vents and fans can cause problems with airflow and your computer’s ability to stay cool.
To clean the inside of your computer’s case, open the case according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect your vents, fans and other components for dust and debris. Try not to touch components and cords as much as possible. Use a cotton swab or some tweezers to remove access dust, dirt, and debris.
Use a can of compressed air all around your components, inside your power supply box and into the fan, as well as the bottom of your case. Do so in a way that the dust is blown out and away from the components and the case. Use special care when cleaning your fans as overspinning them can cause damage to the fan. You can use your finger or a cotton swab to immobilize the fan while using compressed air in short bursts to clean off access dust and debris.
Finally, blow air into the optical drives, floppy disk, and in and out (I/O) ports but do so gently. Wipe the inside of the cover with a lightly moistened cloth, and dry it before replacing it.
These are just a few tips you can use to help make sure your PC is performing its best inside and out and is happy and healthy for the new season.