Let me preface this by saying I am not a professional, nor do I do this for a living. However, after having lived with a computer my whole life, having at least two computers in the home, and probably hundreds if not thousands of experiences to make repairs or troubleshoot issues with computers, I have learned some good things for computer maintenance that have kept my computers strong amidst a multitude of heavy jobs I’ve put them through.
With that in mind, let’s talk computer maintenance. I’ll keep this pretty simple, because I plan to keep it this post directed towards methods you can use that are free, all done in a day, and are thorough but simple.
There are three layers of maintenance in a computer, just like a car. The software is kind of like the body of the car including the interior, dashboard, etc. The hardware/drivers, etc. are like the engine, battery, etc. And finally, the body and other more physical aspects of the computer and so forth are like the frame, exhaust pipe, etc. of a car. Each layer has its own methods for inspection, maintenance, repair, and general cleaning.
1st Level: Software
A few cleaning skills for computers may not be new to you. For example, you can remove many programs that you don’t use anymore by going to the Control Panel via your Start button, and then choosing Add/Remove Programs. However, more than anything, this just frees up space and does little more. Using the Add/Remove Programs, take note of the other various programs that have multiple versions installed. For example, Java will install updates without removing the old versions. This will help things run more smoothly.
To be a little more brief, I’ll go through some various things in a list:
Disk Defragmentor: After you are done cleaning up your computer, go to the Start button, Accessories, System Tools, and then Disk Defragmentor. Defragment your computer to shorten the time it takes for your computer to find files.
Adjust Cache Settings: Without going into too much detail, many programs such as Adobe programs or Internet browsers store cache for quick retrieval of information the next time their programs are opened. You can usually change the preferences in these programs so that the cache is limited to a smaller size.
Clean up your Registry: The registry is also a place your computer goes to seek out necessary files to run programs. As you delete, move, or adjust programs, registry changes happen, but not always cleanly. Download CCleaner here and use the registry repair tool to clean it up. While you’re at it, use their other tools to clean up other excess files, cookies, etc.
Check for Viruses, Adware, Malware, etc.: If you browse the internet at least an hour a day, you are likely infected with some form of virus, adware, spyware, malware, etc. whether you like it or not. Download a free virus cleaner such as McAfee’s free scanner. Also, Lavasoft’s Ad-aware is very thorough in clearing out all of the other junk that comes with downloads.
2nd Level: Hardware/Drives:
The Hardware and Drives (not talking about the C: Drive) of a computer are what make it function as a computer. Your monitor uses a video cards and drives, your audio comes from a sound card, and additionally you have many other controllers, devices, interfaces, and so on and so forth. Usually we don’t do much about these because it’s a scary new realm for most that we leave to the super tech savvy. However, this is a grave mistake.
Driver Updates: Your computer may be older, but usually you can keep up with some of the newer computers just by performing regular updates. You can see your current versions by going to the Start button, Accessories, System Tools, and System Information. From the System Information window, you can see things like your RAM, your Processor (the brain behind it all), Video card type, and so forth. Though some things to be improved need generally replaced, like RAM, you can still perform updates that will help a lot.
For example, I have a Dell Laptop. By going to Dell.com’s Support page, I can find new driver updates to these various components, easily install them, and restart my computer to find significant performance improvements.
BIOS Update: Among your hardware and device upgrades you can upgrade what is called your BIOS. Your BIOS is essential to your computer as the first thing that loads when your computer starts and is ultimately responsible for bringing up your Operating System (such as Windows), and initializing your video card, sound card, and so on and so forth. With a simple download and install from your computer manufacturer’s website such as dell.com, you can significantly improve performance.
Remove underused Drivers and Hardware: Computer manufactures love loading up computers with a multitude of features, many of which you never even realize you have. You can remove some drives that you would never use and reinstall them later. This is mostly true with laptops. For example, if you have a built in microphone or camera, but never use either, you can uninstall them by going to the Control Panel again and choosing Device Manager. The drivers can be restored by downloading them again from your manufacturers website. You can even go to the extent like I have of removing tools such as Hibernation mode. It saves me 10 gigabytes of storage space and it’s one less thing for my computer to think about.
3rd Level: Computer Body
It may seem like a simple thing, but keeping your computer clean in general is actually really good for it. In particular, dust can build up inside your computer that will actually lead to overheating. Open up your computer by popping off the side (Desktop) or removing the bottom (Laptop). I screws need removing, use a piece of paper to draw a diagram of your computer and where the screws were so you don’t forget. Clean up the dust if there be any. Don’t use water, and make sure everything is powered off when you do this.
In many ways, like a car, you should be able to keep a computer functioning strongly for a long time after initial purchase. Just as a car with 130k miles can run like new if cared for, a computer can as well. The only problem you will likely run into down the road is the advent of new technologies that you may want but your computer has no way of using/accepting.
You can also do much of your maintenance for no cost and in very little time. If you desire to upgrade your computer more significantly, you can do more with a price such as updating your Operating System (Windows offers discounts for upgrades vs. buying in store), purchasing anti-virus software such as Norton Anti-virus, purchasing registry cleaning software such as Registry Mechanic, and more. Further, you can usually increase RAM easily buy purchasing 4 or 8 GB RAM at a computer store, pull out the old RAM, and simply insert the new RAM (it’s best to use the same manufacturer to prevent compatibility issues).
Be nice to your computer and it will serve you well for a good long time!