Owning a computer is much like owning anything else in life…if you want it to work right, you need to keep it in shape. Now, dusting and keeping your computer clean are nice and all, but there is a world of work that you can do quickly and easily with your computer that can add years onto it’s lifespan, and keep it running as quick as the day you bought it. Just like your car needs an oil change every 3 months, your computer needs to be cleaned out. Fortunately, there are a lot of quick and easy tools built right in that will do all of the hard work for you.
Sadly, when I worked as a computer analyst and repairman in college, I saw so many people wasting their money by going out and buying new computers when their old machine would have been perfectly fine with just an evening’s tune up. This is my guide to performing general computer maintenance, and keeping everything running smoothly.
The first thing you should do is go out and purchase a program like Advanced System Optimizer ($29.95) or Norton Systemworks ($49.95). These programs contain a lot of very important tools that you can use time and time again to fix errors in your computer (and trust me, even if it works fine, you have a lot of errors waiting around to mess with you later). I recommend the Advanced System Optimizer because it’s tools are the best, and it’s the cheapest, but this program is not always available everywhere. Once a month, you want to run their diagnostic program (on Advanced System Optimizer, these are called “System and Disc Cleaner” and “Registry Cleaner and Fixer” while on Norton Systemworks it is called “Windoctor”). Run these programs, and follow the instructions that they give. You can just use basic settings.
Next you need to do some optimization. Norton Systemworks offers a disc defragmentor which is pretty good, and if you have that program, I highly suggest using this. If you have Advanced System Optimizer, you get a Registry Optimizer which works wonders on improving load time, but you must use the built in Windows Disc Defragmenter (you can find this by going to the start menu, then programs, accessories, and system tools). What this step does is move the storage of your files to areas where they can be more easily accessed by your computer, making it easier to store large files and programs. Even if you don’t regularly use these bigger files, they can still become fragmented, so it is best to keep up with the work. I’ve noticed that even 10% fragmented, some computers run at half of their normal speed.
Finally, the third step is to remove spyware. Advanced System Optimizer again has the solution built in (albeit, it isn’t particularly good), while if you purchased Norton Systemworks, you’ll have to resort to a different program. In either case, I recommend a program called “Spybot: Search and Destroy” which is available for download free (http://www.spybot.info/). Make sure that you update this program regularly so that it is working with maximum efficiency.
If you keep up with these things at least once every three months, you’re virtually guaranteeing yourself a fast and virtually problem free computer.