Computers are like cars, air conditioners and other devices. They need regular maintenance to keep them in good condition. Some servicing jobs can be tricky and are best left to experts, but you don’t need to be a computer expert to carry out these few simple regular tasks which will ensure that your computer runs well and minimizes your risk of a costly crash or major problem.
Make a computer maintenance schedule for your home or office computer and set a reminder in your calendar to make sure it gets done. In many cases, you can set up an automated maintenance schedule so that your computer will mostly look after itself.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll give you more details on how to do each of these six easy jobs using free tools.
- Keep your virus checker up to date. (You do have a virus checker, don’t you?) You don’t need to update it obsessively, but you should do it at least once a week. Viruses can spread very fast, and if your virus checker is a few months out of date, you’re not protected against any of the more recent ones. And, of course, remember to run it!
- Defragment your disks. The easiest way to think about this is to imagine your disk as a filing cabinet with lots of tiny drawers. If there isn’t enough space in one drawer for a document, individual pages may be stored in different drawers. Then, when you need that document, you have to go through all the drawers, find all the pages, and assemble the document in the right order before you can use it. That’s a slow process. The fuller your disk, the more likely it is that your documents are going to be fragmented.
Defragmenting (or defragging) your disk organizes all those scattered pages back into the right order. This saves you disk space and makes it faster to retrieve and save documents.
- Get rid of programs you’re not using. We’ve all got programs that were useful once, or that we tried out and didn’t like, and that we’ll never use again. But if you’re not actually using them, they’re cluttering up your disk (and making it more likely that your other files will be fragmented – see above). They may also be running in the background, checking for updates, slowing down your start-up sequence, and wasting memory and processor time. Uninstall them and keep your computer lean and mean.
- Get rid of temporary files. Lots of programs generate temporary files. Browsers are the main culprit here, but other programs do it too. They can eat up gigabytes of space for no reason, and that’ll slow your computer right down. Get rid of them to save space, reduce fragmentation, and improve performance.
And don’t forget all the temporary files you created too – do you really need fifteen slightly different versions of that brochure you were working on, or your to-do list from March 2011? And what about all those things you downloaded on a whim? Get rid of anything you don’t need. If you’re not sure, take a backup first, and then start deleting. (And don’t forget to empty the recycle bin afterwards!)
- Clean it! Many hardware problems are caused by overheating, and the main cause of that is simply dust buildup. Keeping your computer dust-free will extend its life significantly.
- Make a regular backup. We can’t stress how important this is. If your computer died, or was lost or stolen, how would you cope if you lost all the data on it? Not just business documents, emails and software, but family pictures, music, creative work, household accounts, and so on? Take a regular backup – at least once a month – and ensure that if the worst were to happen, you can recover your data quickly and easily.
Look after your computer, and you’ll find it runs better and lasts longer.