Regular Computer Maintenance

A little while ago I wrote a post titled How To Keep Your Computer Running Smoothly where I explain several tools you should install and use to help keep your computer running. In this post I will provide step-by-step instructions on what I do to keep my computers running without any problems.


Cleaning House

Chances are you probably know a pat rack, you know the person who can’t seem throw anything away. When it comes to computers, most of us are probably pack rats as well. We have a large number of files on our computer that we probably will never need in the future. Use the following steps to reduce the clutter on your hard drive:

  1. Click Start->Run to launch the Run dialog box.
  2. At the command prompt, type set temp. You should now see the location of your temporary directory appear on the screen.
  3. Open Windows Explorer (Windows Key+E) and navigate to the directory show from the previous step.
  4. Press CTRL+A to highlight all of the files and folders and press Delete.
  5. Your temporary directory should know be cleaned up. If you get a message that indicates a files is locked and can’t be removed, then unhighlight that file by holding down the CTRL key and left-clicking the file. You can now try and delete the remaining files.

  6. While you are in Windows Explorer, you might as well take at look at your Documents folder.
  7. If you have many digital photos located in this folder, back them up to a CD/DVD or external hard drive. It is important, however, to have multiple back ups for any files that can’t be replaced. If you do have multiple back ups already, you can safely delete the ones on your local hard drive.
  8. For other files, such as documents, you can back those up as well. If you feel safe with your back ups, you can delete them from your hard drive. If you would rather keep them, then organize them into folders so you can easily find them.
  9. For files you downloaded from the Internet, if you can download them again in the future, then you can delete those as well. No use keeping files you can download again taking up space on your hard drive.
  10. If you have other directories that contain your files, go through and determine if any of them can be backed up and deleted.
  11. Close Windows Explorer and open up your Web browser. Find the option to remove your cached Internet files and delete them. Cleaning your cache is different depending on your browsers. Check out this Clearing Cache Web page for the different browsers.

You computer should be a bit cleaner with regards to the hard drive. Now it’s time to run some tools to perform checks on your hard drive.

Regular Checkup

Once your hard drive is cleaned up, it is now time to run some of the maintenance software to check to ensure your system is clean of spyware and viruses.

  1. Ensure that you have an anti-virus, and anti-spyware software installed on your computer. If you don’t please read How To Keep Your Computer Running Smoothly for various tools of each type.
  2. Execute your anti-spyware software to detect for any spyware that may be residing on your computer. Once you get the report at the end of the scan, take the action recommended by the tool.
  3. After running the anti-spyware tool, next run your anti-virus tool to check for any viruses. Hopefully you don’t have any viruses, but if it does then take the action recommended by the tool.

After you run both of those tools, you should now have a cleaner computer with regards to files, viruses and spyware. The next step is to verify there are no problems with your hard drive and then ensure your files are split across the hard drive.

Checking and Defragging the Hard Drive

Over time you hard drive and some of the system files can become damaged. This is not always true, but if they are it can cause your computer to become unstable.

Your computer may also become slower if the parts of your files are placed next to each other. Files are broken into pieces on your hard drive, and as you add, modify and delete files, these pieces can become fragmented. File fragmentation causes the hard drive to move to different locations to retrieve all the pieces of a file, which can take more time to use the file.

Before defragging your hard drive, we will first be checking for errors. To check for errors, use the following steps:

  1. Double-click My Computer, and then right-click one of the local disks that you want to check.
  2. Click Properties and then the Tools tab.
  3. Under Error-checking, click the Check Now button.
  4. Under Check disk options, select the Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check boxes.
  5. Click the Start button.
  6. At this point a message may appear on the screen stating that the disk checker utility needs exclusive access to the disk. It will also ask if you want the disk checker to run at restart. Click the Yes button.
  7. If you got the message in step 6, then close down any applications and restart your computer. Once Windows starts it will then execute the disk checker which will then check your hard drive. It may take a while to complete depending on the size of your hard drive, but just let it run.

Once the disk check has completed it’s task and Windows has restarted, it is now time to defrag your hard drive. To defrag your hard drive, use the following steps:

  1. Double-click My Computer, and then right-click one of the local disks that you want to check.
  2. Click Properties and then the Tools tab.
  3. Under Defragmentation, click the Defragment Now button.
  4. Once the Windows defrag utility loads, select your hard drive in the list at the top and click the Defragment button.
  5. Just let the defrag utility run. Depending on how defragmented your hard drive is it can take some time.

The steps above explained how to execute the Windows defrag utility. If you have installed another utility, then you can use that one instead.

Summary

This post explained the process I use to keep my computers running smoothly. You should do these steps on a regular basis: weekly if you can but at least once a month. If you notice your computer is unstable, or is slow, then you should perform these steps to find any problems with your computer.

PG

About Paul Salmon

Paul Salmon is the founder of Technically Easy. He is a an experienced PC user, and enjoys solving computer-related problems that he encounters on a regular basis.

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5 Comments

  1. Alyssa Thompson
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    today, there are lots of spywares and viruses that lurks over the internet-~,

  2. Carter Ward
    Posted August 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    spywares and viruses always give me some headache. they can really mess up your pc.;’:

    • Posted August 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Tell me about it. I have helped others overcome some really nasty malware that was secretly installed on their system.

  3. Adrian Morgan
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Spywares and Viruses do really give me one heck of a headache..*”

  4. Live Computer Support
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I can’t get your site thow show up correctly in k-meleon and I thought you should know, cool website though!

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    I am Paul Salmon, an avid technology fanatic who is always learning new things. My goal is to inform and help others with technology.

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