With many things in life, the best way to solve a problem is not to have one in the first place—the same can be said of computers. Just as you want to be sure to perform regular oil changes and check the tires on your car, there are some basic tasks you can engage in regularly to extend the life of your computer and head off problems before they emerge:
Make and maintain regular backups
This is less about extending the life of the computer and more about preserving your essential data if something does go awry. The best backup schemes are the ones you don’t have to think about. Cloud backup programs are a good solution, often making regular, automatic backups throughout the day to capture any changes.
Bust the dust
As we’ve discussed in our previous post on how heat affects your computer, the buildup of dust and other debris inside your machine can increase the operating temperature and cause other wear and tear. It’s a good idea to dust out your computer annually, or if you are in a particularly dusty environment, every couple of months. Be sure the machine is powered off, cool and unplugged from any power sources and use canned air to blow out the fans and case.
Keeping up to date
A lot of users have a dubious relationship with updates. We’ve all heard horror stories from people who tell us “All I did was update Windows” before their computer stopped working, but despite these worst-case scenarios, it is important to keep your system up to date. Security definitions, bug fixes and software patches all come through updates—in the grand scheme you’ll likely save yourself more pain than you create by hitting the update button.
Cut down on the clutter
As people use their computers and install more software there tends to be something of a snowball effect that takes place. More and more processes or programs will launch upon startup, resulting in slower operating speed. On Windows 10 it’s easy to periodically check your startup list; just hit control, alt, delete, select the “Task Manager” and hit the “Startup” tab. There you’ll find a list of all the programs that turn on when your computer does and you can easily disable anything that is not essential—basically anything except for antivirus and backup programs.
Every computer should have a good, up-to-date antivirus for real time protection, but it doesn’t hurt to have a second utility to occasionally scan with to see if any malware, adware or unwanted software has snuck through. We recommend Malwarebytes as a good periodic scanning utility, but there are other effective tools out there. Just be sure you research these kinds of utilities by checking online reviews from multiple sources.
To de-frag or not to de-frag?
In the past, de-fragmenting a hard drive was seen as an essential task to keep your computer running properly. Is this still necessary? Chances are, your operating system is already doing this for you automatically, unless you have a solid state hard drive—in which case you actually want to avoid de-fragging because it wears on the drive without providing much benefit. As such, Windows 8.1 and 10 will automatically detect when a solid state drive is installed and disable automatic de-fragging. In short, you don’t really need to worry about de-fragging these days.
Check your hard drive for errors
Things like hard shutdowns or program crashes can lead to errors in your computer’s file system. Checking your hard drive for errors periodically can prevent problems with blue screening or boot errors. You can find a guide to scanning your dive here.
The full setup
Is your computer sitting on the edge of a table where it could fall off? Are there thing that could fall on it and damage or dirty it, such as a houseplants or items from a nearby bookshelf? It’s also a good idea to check and make sure your surge protector is still doing its job.
A little regular attention to these things before there is a problem can help to save you major headaches down the road. Of course, if you aren’t comfortable taking these steps on your own, you can always schedule a regular preventative maintenance check-up with the techs at Mankato Computer Technology.