Computers

How To Best Maintain Your Computer

When your computer is brand new, it runs quickly. Everything is lightning fast. Then, over time, it begins to slow down. Read on the best way to maintain your computer. Why? Because it’s getting filled up with the accumulated rubbish of old broken files, flawed links, and so on.

Here’s what you have to do on a regular basis to keep your computer running smoothly:

  1. Remove temporary internet files (twice a week)
  2. Disk cleanup (every two weeks)
  3. Remove other files (once a month)
  4. Remove Restore Points (whenever you do maintenance)
  5. Clean up the Registry (as necessary)
  6. Defragment of the hard drive (once a month)
  7. Scan for malware infections (once a Week)

Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? But rest assured that maintaining your computer is quite easy… provided you know what you are doing and approach the task in a logical manner.

We have put the recommended intervals at which you should do these maintenance tasks in brackets. But there is no reason why you should not do them more often, other than the fact that doing all seven tasks does take up an hour or so. But it’s time well spent.

Personally, I remove temporary internet files every day or so. You’ll find out why in another minute. I do all the other tasks once every two weeks.

It’s important that you do the seven maintenance tasks in the order in which I am showing them here. Here we go:

Remove temporary internet files

This is a must-do… often… because nearly everything you see on the internet is first downloaded to your computer before it is displayed in your browser.

These files are usually downloaded to C: Documents and Settings User Local Settings Temporary Internet Files. User is the name of the person who is currently logged on to the computer.

The problem with temporary internet files is that they can contain malicious software. Thus, to be on the safe side, the folders need to be cleaned out regularly. This should be done every week at an absolute minimum. I do it every day or so. It only takes a minute.

The actual procedure will vary slightly depending on the browser you are using. Open your browser and then:

If you are using Internet Explorer, go to Tools > Internet Options. Click the General tab if it’s not open. Then, under Browsing History, click Delete. That’s it!

If you are using Firefox, go to Tools > Options. Click the Privacy tab. Then click clear your recent history, which you’ll find about have way down the screen.

If you are using Chrome, go to the menu option which is at the top right-hand corner. Select Tools > Clear browsing data. In the dialog that appears, select the Clear browsing history checkbox. Use the menu at the top to select the amount of data you want to delete. Select ‘beginning of time’ to clear your entire browsing history. Click Clear browsing data.

Simple isn’t it. Deleting temporary internet files where you use other browsers is done in a very similar way.

Each user on your computer, if there is more than one user, has his or her own folder of temporary internet files. So each user has to delete his or her temporary internet files.

Also Read: How to Bypass BIOS Password on PC

Disk cleanup

Doing a disk cleanup means freeing up space on your hard disk by searching the disk for files that can be deleted safely. You can do this quickly and simply with the Disk Cleanup tool which is part of your Microsoft operating system.

You should use disk cleanup at least every two weeks. The more often you run this program, the faster it will perform the cleanup task. Again, it’s a simple task:

Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools> Click Disk Cleanup. Then select the drive you want to clean up from the drop-down box that appears and click OK.

In the Disk Cleanup window that opens, select the Disk Cleanup tab. You can tick the checkboxes next to the types of files you want to remove. Most of these will be checked already and I usually just accept these. Click OK.

That’s it… another piece of cake.

Remove other files

There are lots of other files you can remove to free up space in your computer.

Uninstalls… when you install Windows updates, you can uninstall these updates later. But hardly anybody uses this feature, so all the uninstall files are kept on the computer. These can take up a lot of space. You can get rid of them by simply deleting them manually.

You’ll find uninstall files in separate folders in the C: WINDOWS folder. You’ll find these folders by clicking Start > My Computer > Local Disk (C: ) > WINDOWS. Look down the list of folders.

The uninstall folders start and end with a $ symbol. Select each of these folders in turn (EXCEPT for $hf_mig$) and delete them manually by just pressing the Delete key.

NB: Make sure you do not delete $hf_mig$.

Other files and folders: you can also delete the contents of the following folders:

  • C: WINDOWSSoftwareDistributionDownload
  • C: WINDOWSTemp
  • C: Documents and SettingsUsertemp [User refers to a particular name]
  • C: Documents and SettingsUserLocal Settingstemp [User refers to a particular name]

Note that you won’t be able to delete some files because they are in use. Just ignore these.

You can also empty the Recycle Bin, though it will probably be emptied when you do Disk Cleanup. You’ll find the Recycle Bin in My Computer at the bottom on the left. Right-click on it and then click Empty Recycle Bin. Then click Yes.

Also Read: Most Common Types of Websites Analysed

Remove Restore Points

Sometimes when you install new hardware or software, your computer will stop working properly. This can be due to a conflict that arises between the new and old files or programs.

System Restore is a very handy utility that enables you to return your computer to a previous state should this happen, i.e. it allows you to take a ‘jump back in time to a ‘restore’ point.

When you use System Restore, the computer reverts to its previous operational state. This means that the new files or programs are eliminated.

Restore points are created automatically every day, as well as just before significant system events, such as the installation of a program or device driver. These restore points accumulate within your hard disk… which is a good thing because it enables you to choose a restore point that can be quite far back in time.

The system restores utility is constantly monitoring your computer, which slows your computer down. You can of course avoid this by turning off System Restore but I would not advise this.

But the main problem with this utility is that the restore points use up a lot of memory. However, Windows allows you to delete all the accumulated restore points except for the latest.

The procedure is very simple. You simply go to Disk Cleanup and choose More Options. Here’s what you do step-by-step:

Click Start > My Computer. Right-click on the disk in which you want to free up space. A drop-down list will appear. Click on Properties. The Local Disk Properties box will appear. Click on the General tab and then click Disk Cleanup. The program will start calculating how much space will be saved.

Just wait for a few minutes. When the Disk Cleanup box appears, click the More Options tab. Look for the System Restore section at the bottom of the box. Click Clean up. Click Yes. Click OK. Click Yes again, and then click OK.

A lot of clicks but still pretty simple… just follow the steps.

You should delete old restore points before defragmenting your disk (see step 6 below)

Clean up the Registry

The registry is a massive database within your computer that stores nearly everything about it, including all essential settings and programs that enable it to operate smoothly. Over time, however, the registry accumulates redundant files or entries that tend to clog it and affect its smooth running.

When this happens your computer will still work but at a slower pace. But if the redundant files keep on accumulating without being cleaned out, the chances are that your computer will stop working altogether.

Unfortunately, Windows does not have a method of tidying up the registry and deleting redundant and broken entries. Instead, you have to use a third-party utility to clean up your registry.

There are plenty of these available on the internet. But beware. Many of these include malware such as tracker apps when you download them.

I use JV16 Power Tools, which is very comprehensive and contains far more tools than you need. The full version cost US$30 and comes with an unrestricted 60-day trial. However, there is a free version, Freeware Registry Cleaner PowerTools Lite 2013, which you can download from http://www.jv16powertools.com/download/. It contains all you need and the instructions are easy to follow.

Also Read: Top 3 Free Adware Removal Tools For Windows 10

Defragment of the Hard Drive

We human beings think of a document, a photo, a piece of music, or any other file as something whole and entire. But in fact, a single file consists of tiny bits of information scattered all over the drive. In other words, a file is lots of small fragments that are kept in different places on a hard drive.

These different places are called spaces. Each space is very small can only contain a small part of a file, ie a fragment. Windows, of course, knows exactly where each fragment is and what is the right order for reading the spaces. That’s why you see or hear a file as a whole when you open it.

Your computer works fastest when all the fragments of a file are clustered close together on your disk. But this is not always so because the system used by Windows is very space-efficient and doesn’t allow a single bit of hard drive space to be wasted.

Each space on your hard drive has its own address and these addresses run in sequence. The fragments of a new file are saved in the first empty spaces available in the sequence. When you delete a file, the spaces taken up on the disk are emptied. But, when you save a new file, the system first uses up the spaces that became free when you deleted the old file.

Fragmentation of the files occurs when clusters of free disk space get reused over and over again as you delete old files and save new ones. The newly saved files become spread out all over your hard disk. The only downside of putting file fragments all over the drive is that the drive read head needs to do a lot of work to access all fragments of the file. As a result, fragmented files can take quite a while to open. Over time, fragmented files can slow your computer up severely.

Defragmenting (defragging) is a simple process in which the individual fragments of single files are brought together in order to speed up file access. Defragging also assembles free space into a single block so that there is less fragmentation when new files are saved in the future. For these reasons, you should defragment your hard drive on a regular basis.

Windows contains a utility for defragmenting your hard disk. You should use it at least once a month. Or you can do it every two weeks and there is no harm in running the program more frequently.

However, before defragmenting your hard drive you should perform all the other maintenance tasks which I have outlined above. Some technicians recommend that you should run the Defragmenter in Safe Mode but I don’t think that’s necessary.

To find the Defragmenter, click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools. Then select Disk Defragmenter from the list of tools. A new window will open. Select the C: partition.

The image will show you the state of your hard disk. Fragmented files will show up as red. If there are more than a very few red blocks you need to defragment. You can of course click analyze and the program will tell you (after a bit of a wait) whether you need to defragment the drive or not. I tend to ignore this and defragment when I can see that there are some red blocks. It does no harm, though it does tie up your computer for a while.

You should also defragment other partitions on a regular basis. However do NOT defrag a USB memory stick… this will reduce its lifetime.

Malware Scan

Completely and correctly scanning your computer for malware like viruses, Trojan horses, rootkits, spyware, adware, worms, etc is extremely important for keeping your computer free of malware.

Scanning for malware is really easy. Here’s what you do:

  • Download and run the free Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool which you can get from the Microsoft website.

This free malware removal tool from Microsoft won’t find everything, but it will check for ‘specific, prevalent malicious software’ which is a good start.

Note: You may already have the Malicious Software Removal Tool installed. If so, make sure you update it using Windows Update so it can scan for the latest malware.

  • Update your anti-virus and any anti-malware software installed on your computer.

Before running a virus scan or malware scan, you need to make sure the virus definitions are up to date. These regular updates tell your anti-virus software how to find and remove the latest viruses from your PC.

Vital: Don’t have a virus scan program installed? Download one now! There are several free anti-virus programs available so there’s no excuse for not running one. Go to this website to see a review of the 13 best free anti-virus programs available: https://www.sundylinks.com/2022/01/top-free-antivirus-for-pc-in-2022.html.

Run a complete virus scan on your entire computer. If you have a dedicated malware scanner that does more than look for viruses, run a full scan using that program too.

Note: Don’t simply run the default system scan which may not include many important parts of your computer. Check that you’re scanning every part of every single hard drive and other connected storage devices on your computer.

Vital: Make sure any virus scan includes the master boot record, boot sector, and any applications currently running in memory. These are particularly sensitive areas of your computer that can harbor the most dangerous malware.

Also Read: How To Keep Your Child Safe Online

Getting outside help

Doing routine maintenance work yourself on your computer seems daunting at first. But once you have done it for the first time it’s a doddle. Just work your way through the steps outlined above.

If you are not sure of your skills, you can always get a technician to visit and run the maintenance tasks for you. But this is likely to prove expensive, at least €80 and probably well in excess of €100.

Alternatively, you could lug your computer down to your local computer shop to have it cleaned out. This may be slightly cheaper than paying for a visit from a technician but it will still be expensive, and you don’t have the chance to learn how to do it yourself by watching a technician at work.

A better alternative, if you really do not want to have a stab at it yourself, is to go for online maintenance. This should cost no more than €25 per session or no more than €125 a year for a contract that would include not only regular online maintenance but also the repair of all faults that arise from viruses, spyware, and all sorts of malware and other programs.

There are two ways you can approach online maintenance. One is to allow the online technician to assess your computer from a remote location and run the utilities while you sit back and watch the screen as the cursor moves and various windows open.

Also Read: How to Change Network Profile in Windows 11

A better option would be for you to perform the maintenance tasks yourself under the direction and guidance of the technician. This way you would learn a lot more and build up your confidence.

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