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Wayland Computer offers this section to provide users with Step-by-Step instructions to perform routine maintenance on there own computer.   Use of this section is at your own risk and should only be used after backing up your data and system settings.

Go directly to Weekly Maintenance

Go directly to Monthly Maintenance

Go directly to Yearly Maintenance

If you are like most of us, all you want is a computer that turns on, surfs the net, reads email, writes the occasional letter and turns off.  You should not have to put up with errors, crashes, viruses, pop-ups and the constant calls to some support tech located in India. 

Unfortunately, a computer is just like your automobile in that you have to perform routine maintenance.  If you never change your oil, rotate your tires or bring your car in for service, it will eventually start giving you trouble.  Although you computer does not have oil to change, there are several maintenance steps you should use to keep your computer running smoothly and reduce the number of day-to-day headaches.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Surge Protection

For general reliability, all computers should be plugged into a good surge protected outlet or better still a UPS.  A UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) is a battery powered outlet that is capable of running your computer in the event of a power failure.  This can greatly reduce the risk of data loss or files corruption if the power goes out as well as offering some protection against lightning strikes and power surges.  If you are using a telephone line for your internet service, you should also have a surge protector for that as well.  In general all computer related items should have surge protection.  This includes: Printers, Computer Screens, Cable/DSL Modems, Routers, Hubs and scanners.  Surge protected outlets can be purchased for as little as $10 and UPS systems can run between $40 and $200 depending on size.

Keep It Running Cool

Overheating due to clogged vents is the number one killer of computers, especially laptops.  Using a vacuum cleaner, gently vacuum all vents and openings on all your computer equipment including screen, printer and accessories.  Better still, if you feel comfortable with removing the cover to your computer, you can remove all dust from inside the computer as well.  For laptops, a vacuum cleaner is usually not enough to dislodge trapped dust.  Use compressed or canned air to blow out the vents.  Avoid forcing the fans to spin at high speed with compressed air because this can cause damage.  I highly recommend using a cooling pad under any laptop to keep it running cool.

Back Up Your Data

I can stress enough the importance of backing up your data.  A virus, power outage or a hard drive failure could wipe out everything in a flash.  Years of photos, music, email and data gone.  There are dozens of ways to backup you data ranging anywhere from simply copying files to a CD to automatic backup systems.  There are even online services that can backup your computer automatically for a small yearly fee.  Regardless of the method, backing up your computer is critical.  Don't wait until it is too late.

Complete Recovery or Reinstall

Ok, I know that no one wants hear this, but sometimes a complete reinstall of Windows is the only way to return a computer to full working condition.  I usually perform a fresh install of Windows on all my computers every 2 or 3 years.  Some people do this every year and may be the only way to totally clean out all viruses, spyware, adware, malware and other problems that may have accumulated.  It is a big job and requires that you have your original Windows and Software CD's as well as good backups of all your data.  If you plan ahead it will be a lot easier, but still can take many hours to perform.

 

Yearly Maintenance (click each for instructions)

  1. Remove Dust From Vents (inside and Out)
  2. Check for loose connections
  3. Backup Data
  4. Vacuum Dust
  5. Check for loose connections
  6. Major Disk Clean
  7. Check disk for errors
  8. Run Virus Scan
  9. Remove any programs that you do not use
  10. Check For all updates
  11. Complete Temp File Removal
  12. Clear Prefetch Folder
  13. Clear Cookies
  14. Clear History
  15. Clear Recycle Bin
  16. Run Defrag

 

Monthly Maintenance (click each for instructions)

  1. Backup Data
  2. Quick Vacuum of External Vents
  3. Run Disk Cleanup
  4. Update Windows
  5. Update Virus Software
  6. Update and run  Spyware removal software (SpyBot, Adaware, SuperAntispyware)
  7. Defrag Disk Drive

 

Weekly Maintenance (click each for instructions)

  1. Backup Data
  2. Run Disk Cleanup
  3. Check Antivirus Software Status
  4. Run Virus Scan
  5. Run Spyware Removal Software (ie. SpyBot, Adaware, SuperAntispyware)

 

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Backup

I can not really give you instructions for performing backups because there are hundreds of ways to do this and many different types of hardware.  For those of you who use your computer for nothing more than writing documents and creating spreadsheets, backing up your data can be as simple as just copying the entire contents of your My Documents folder to a CD, Flash Drive or other external storage device.  For more complex backups, I would recommend using a complete backup package like NTbackup, Retrospect or Cobian Backup.  Some versions of Windows do include a backup routine. Check under programs-accessories-system tools to see if you have one.  The bottom line is to have more than one backup of your data.  At the very least you should have a monthly and yearly backup.  If your data changes often, then you may need daily and weekly backups.  If you don't want to be bothered with this, there are many online backup services that you can use, for a fee of course.  For about $60 per year www.carbonite.com will automatically backup an unlimited amount of data over the internet.

Vacuum Dust and Clean Vents

Overheating is one of the most common problems with all computers, especially laptops.  Over time dust collects and blocks the cooling vents and internal heat sinks.  This can lead to system crashes, premature hard drive failures as well as other problems.  If you don't feel comfortable with opening up your computer to clean, at the very least you should run a vacuum over all the outside vents.  Using a can of compressed air will also help remove some of the dust.

Check For Loose Connections

Over time some external and internal cables may become loose due to constant vibration.  Open up the case and check each connection to make sure that they have not worked their way out.  The older large flat ribbon cables that connect to your hard drives and CD/DVD drives are the most prone to coming loose.  Check all external connections such as power, USB, Mouse and Keyboard connectors as well.  Some cards within the computer may also work their way out of the slots and may require a slight push to reseat.

Check Disk For Errors

Microsoft has a built-in utility to scan your hard drive for errors and tries to correct them.  As drive errors start to accumulate it can cause slow performance and missing files.  Sometime these errors will even prevent the computer from booting at all.  To scan you drive for errors click on MY COMPUTER > RIGHT CLICK ON YOUR C: DRIVE > SELECT PROPERTIES > SELECT THE TOOLS TAB > SELECT "CHECK NOW" under error Checking > CHECK BOTH BOXES > CLICK ON START.  If you are checking your C: drive, it will now ask you if you want to run this the next time the computer restarts.  Select yes and reboot your computer.  Depending on the size of your hard drive, this could take several hours to complete.  You should perform this routine on each hard drive that you have installed.

Clear Recycle Bin

The Recycle Bin is where Windows stores everything that you have deleted and it needs to emptied every once and awhile.  If you run Disk Cleanup, you have the option to clean this out at the same time.  You can also empty the Recycle Bin manually by Right Clicking on the Recycle Bin and selecting Empty Recycle Bin.

Clearing Internet History

You computer keeps track of everywhere that you have visited on the Internet and starts to accumulate over time.  Depending on your Internet Explorer settings, it could be set to save anywhere from 0 to 999 days of internet activity.  To clear or change this setting start Internet Explorer and Click on the TOOLS Tab > Select INTERNET OPTIONS > Select the GENERAL Tab.  Down near the bottom of this window you will see the History Section,  You can choose to change the number of days saved as well as clear the history or even set it to clear the history every time you exit Internet Explorer.

Clear Internet Cookies

Cookies are small tidbits of information that are placed on your computer by various websites to perform all kinds of jobs.  Sometimes a user name is placed here so that it is available the next time you return to that site.  Or a place mark to show you what you have looked at on your last visit.  If you surf the net a lot this information can really build up and you may want to clean these out.  Start Internet Explorer and Click on the TOOLS Tab > Select INTERNET OPTIONS > Select the GENERAL Tab.  Near the middle of this window you will see the Temporary Internet Files Section,  Here you can choose to delete all cookies.

Clear Temporary Internet Files

If you spend a lot of time on the Internet, temporary internet files can grow in size and you may want to clear these out.  Start Internet Explorer and Click on the TOOLS Tab > Select INTERNET OPTIONS > Select the GENERAL Tab.  Near the middle of this window you will see the Temporary Internet Files Section,  Here you can choose to delete these files.

Clear Prefetch Folder

The Prefetch is a folder that Windows uses to track where your programs are so that it can open them more quickly.  If this folder gets too big and you have installed and uninstalled many programs or defragged your drive, it is probably filled with a bunch of bad entries.  This folder is located in your C:\Windows directory and you can delete the contents of this folder manually or as I prefer, use a little Free utility like CCleaner or ATF Cleaner, which will do this for you.  You can find download ATF cleaner from  www.download.com .

Check Antivirus Status

It extremely important to check the status of your antivirus software to make sure it is still enabled, up-to-date and has not expired.  Some viruses target these programs and attempt to disable them, so you have to check this periodically.  Double click on the icon that represents your software brand (yellow Norton icon, red or black McAfee icon).  A status window will pop up.  Check the status to make sure every indicator shows ok.  If the definitions file is older than 1 week perform a manual update.  I would click on update anyway, just to double check, because some updates do not get installed automatically.  Make note of the expiration date as well.  If you have not performed a complete scan in a while, you may want to do this now.  Note that it can take an hour or longer depending on how much data you have.

Defrag Hard Drive

After you have performed all other maintenance, it is time to defragment your hard drive.  Over time, your hard drive becomes fragmented which means that the data that is stored on you drive is spread out to different locations and takes Windows longer to find what it needs.  It would be similar to taking the contents of a single folder in your file cabinet and spreading the documents to other unrelated folders and then taking one document and cutting it in pieces and placing those pieces in different folders as well.  You kept an index of where you put the pieces as does the computer, but it would still take you for ever to find that document. Defragging your hard drive puts all those pieces back together so that you hard drive does not have to work as hard to find what it needs.  To start Defrag, click on START-PROGRAMS-ACCESSORIES-SYSTEM TOOLS-DISK DEFRAGMENTER.  If you have more than one hard drive, run this program for each drive.  NOTE: This routine can take several hours to run and is best if run last after you have performed all other maintenance.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup is a small program included with Windows that will help you clean up some of your computers temporary files and delete the contents of your recycle bin.  Click on START-PROGRAMS-ACCESSORIES-SYSTEM TOOLS-DISK CLEANUP to start this routine.  Note: If you have multiple user accounts on your computer, you will need to perform Disk Cleanup logging into each account.  There are some other great Free cleanup tools such as ATF Cleaner and CCleaner that you can download from www.download.com that will simplify the process for your as well as remove even more junk and temporary files.

Antispyware software

Even if you already have a good program to detect and remove spyware, I would suggest installing versions of either Malwarebytes, SpyBot, Adaware or SuperAntispyware.  You can download these for FREE from www.download.com.  Many users will download and install two or more of these utilities because one program may pick up problems that another may miss.  As with the antivirus software products, you need to update these products on a regular basis.  Double click on the icon for the product you have installed.  Check for updates and then run a scan by clicking on "Check for Problems" (SpyBot).  You can also download a free pop-up blocker from Google and others that will integrate with Internet Explorer. 

Remove Programs that you no longer use

Click on START-ALL PROGRAMS and look down through the list for programs that you never use.  Select the program and look for an uninstall option.  If there is no uninstall available, then click on START-CONTROL PANEL-ADD OR REMOVE PROGRAMS for Windows XP or PROGRAMS AND FEATURES for Windows 7.  Select the program you wish to remove.  If you are not absolutely sure about a program, leave it.  Restart your computer after each program is uninstalled before going onto the next.  Note: Do not simply delete program icons to remove them, they must be uninstalled.

Install updates for Windows and other Applications

You should check Microsoft for updates for both windows as well as office and other software products that you have installed.   If you have turned on Automatic updates for windows, you will usually receive the most critical Windows updates automatically.  You will still need to update Office manually to get those updates.  However, there may be many other updates available to you that you may want.  Go to www.windowsupdate.microsoft.com  for Windows updates and www.office.microsoft.com for office updates.  Most all software companies will provide free updates to their product to fix known problems and bugs as well as patches to potential security holes.  It is also very important to download the latest updates for utilities that you use everyday such as Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash and Java.  For most part, every program has a "Check for Updates" selection under the File or Help menus.

 

 

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Last modified: 10/01/10.