Tip & How-To about Computers & Internet
From my experience working with customers and their computers, I've noticed that a lot of people don't really understand what's involved in computer maintenance, so it tends to be neglected. This can (and has) result in a computer that runs poorly, overheats, and could be destroyed. If done properly, proper computer maintenance should cost no more than $20 per year, but can save you hundreds if not thousands in repair costs.
I have a personal computer maintenance schedule that I'm going to suggest. This schedule may be different for different people, but it depends on your own computer use and your environment. Feel free to make additions, omissions, or changes where necessary, I won't be offended :). I will break it down into different sections based on time elapsed.
Daily maintenance happens every time you use your computer, and it's fairly straightforward. It consists of merely keeping a mental note of problem areas (slowness during boot or web browsing, etc) so that you can better understand your computer and learn how it acts. It also consists of minor cleaning. If you spill something near/on your computer, clean it up. You can follow the cleaning guidelines linked further down.
You'll need: External drive equal to or larger than your internal hard drive.
This is a little more intense maintenance, but still not difficult. Set yourself once a week to do this. The good thing about the weekly maintenance is that it can all be automated, so you don't need to be there. It's best to set it during a time when you won't be accessing your computer. First, open your antivirus (if you don't have one, you need one. I suggest avg free or Microsoft Security Essentials for windows PC's. There are plenty of options available for Mac and Linux as well, but I can't make a suggestion as I don't use one) and set it to automatically update (might be done by default). Set it to update at a time when you won't be home. For example, I'm not home from 8-5 monday through thursday, so I set my antivirus to update Wednesdays at 9:00am. Next, schedule a scan. The scan can take upwards of three hours, so leave yourself plenty of time. However, make sure to do your scan AFTER your updates would have been downloaded. I give my computer one hour to download the updates, so my scan starts at 10am. I'm planning for it to stop at around 1:30pm (just to be safe).
Now you can close out of your antivirus and open your windows updates. Set them to start automatically when you believe your antivirus scan will end, so at 1:30pm. They will usually take 1-2 hours to complete. After this time, your computer will need to restart. The timer is typically set for about half an hour after you finish your updates, so at 4:00pm my computer restarts, and when I get home at 5 I have a freshly cleaned, newly updated computer with no downtime, up and ready to go.
As for the external drive we're going to do some backups. I use a 2TB drive (available for about 80 dollars at Wal-Mart). It's enormous, so it's large enough for anything I need, as well as my backups. I store my music, documents, etc there so that I have more space on my internal drive.
Unfortunately, windows does not have a backup client that's as extensive as Time Machine for MacOSX. So there's two ways to do backups.
The first way is to simply copy over all the documents, pictures, videos, etc. to a directory on your external drive. That will ensure that all of your stuff stays safe in case something happens. Also, follow these instructions to back up your security key to your external. You only need to do this once, but it could save you tons of money and time.
The second way is to use a program like clonezilla to clone your drive to an image on your external drive. This will take longer, and will be more difficult, but you will be able to restore all your programs, etc. from the image. I would suggest doing this every six months, but it's not as crucial because all your programs can be reinstalled. Your data cannot. You can find a tip to do this here.
Backups are easy to dismiss as unimportant, but when something happens (and it will), you'll wish you had done it. I recently lost about 150GB of data because I didn't back up my security keys, and I had it encrypted, so it's lost forever. Don't make the same mistakes I did.
You'll need: Microfiber cloths, rubbing alcohol/screen cleaner, electronics cleaner
Once per month, either at the beginning, end, or somewhere in the middle, you'll have to do a bit more manually involved cleaning. The first thing you should do is to clean out the vents using a duster. You can pick up a duster at Home Depot, Office Depot, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, or pretty much any store that has an electronics department. It will look like a little can with a nozzle, and will say something like Electronics Duster (my can that I have here says "Compucessory Power Duster". They usually contain some form of liquid butane (it will read CAUTION: FLAMMIBLE...obviously be careful) or liquid nitrogen, anything that evaporates at room temperature. Attach the straw nozzle that comes with the duster. Then, hold it upright and aim it at the openings in the computer. Spray out the openings with 1-2 second bursts. This is best done with the computer off, as you'll be blowing right into the fan and could damage it if it were spinning. Be careful not to hold the can upside down or at any extreme angle, as it will spray liquid out that could burn you or damage sensitive electronics. Also, as a more personal note, don't breathe in any of the dust, it's gross.
Also every month you should clean off your monitor and keyboard. To clean the monitor you can use rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth. Do not use windex, as it can damage LCD screens. Also, do not use too much alcohol. IE Don't douse the cloth, just dab it on a little bit so that there's a slight bit of moisture. You can also use one of the swiffer dry dusters, or pick up some screen cleaning wipes at the electronics store while getting your dusting spray.
If you have a desktop, you can follow this video/steps located on eHow to get a very good visual for how to clean the keyboard. For laptops, spraying them out with the compressed air duster, wiping them with a microfiber cloth, and shaking out the grime is pretty much the best you can do. If you've spilled a sticky liquid on them, you may need to remove the keys. Pry off the ones you need to remove (try not to remove the bigger ones, they're a pain to re-attach) using a butter knife or screwdriver, then wipe down the area with some electronics cleaner, spraying it on a cloth first, then wiping the area. To reattach the keys, you can put them where they need to be, trying to line them up as best as possible, then press down with minor force and they should snap in place.
If you're following the instructions your computer should be running a lot better, but after six months there tends to be a big buildup of "junk" running. This cleaning is focused on software cleaning.
Open up the control panel and visit your installed program lists (Add/Remove Programs on windows XP, Programs and Features on Vista and 7). Take a look at the programs in there. Do you really need all of them? Try to be liberal with the programs you uninstall. If you haven't used it in a long time, think about what you used it for and if you really think it'll be necessary again. If you need to, visit the website where you got the program (or keep the cd's) and download the installer, then put it on a CD or external drive. That way you can always reinstall the program if you need to without having to worry about finding it again.
Next, install a program called ccleaner (located here). You can run this program to free up some more space on your harddrive. It won't delete anything important, so feel free to remove everything it suggests. Also, have it compress things as it finds necessary. You will see a huge difference in harddrive space. When I run the program every six months, I get about 3-4GB of harddrive space back.
Finally, once that's finished, start the defrag process and let it run overnight. With windows vista/7, you can type "defrag" in the little box in the start menu and it should show up there. Windows XP users can find it by right-clicking on My Computer and finding it in there (I believe on the hardware or advanced tabs). If you're interested, analyze the drive first. It will show you how much of the drive is fragmented. Then, start the defrag process. Depending on the size of your drive, this can take a very long time and it's not recommended to use your computer while it's happening. Set it to run overnight, then go to sleep. You may notice a dramatic increase in program speed, boot speed, etc. by doing this.
Follow these instructions and you'll have a computer that lasts longer than you may think. Good Luck!!!
EDIT: The Big Cleanup is located here.
Posted by Scott... on
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