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Basic Computer Maintenance to Prevent Crashes, Slowdowns and Overheating

Updated on November 15, 2015
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John is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in History from Montclair State University and thoroughly enjoys reading literature.

There is nothing worse or more frustrating than a slow computer, or one that crashes or overheats often. Amazingly enough these things are really very easy to prevent, with only the investment of a little time over the course of about a month. Most of these things are basic maintenance that needs to be done to ensure your computer will run in top condition. Many people do not think a computer needs any maintenance, and this leads to a lot of problems. It amazes me that as technology gets more advanced, the less people seem to know about maintaining it. However, just as you wouldn’t neglect checking the oil in your car, or making sure there is enough antifreeze, you shouldn't neglect the basic maintenance on your computer. Even if you do not do these things yourself, you make sure your car is running well. Basic maintenance on a computer is thankfully much easier, and you don’t even need to pay an IT guy to come do these for you. In fact, you can set up your computer to do most of this by itself! Here are five ways to keep your computer in pristine condition.

1. Run a Disk Cleanup.

A disk cleanup will take out files that you may not need or want, such as temporary internet files, system error reports, and the recycle bin, as well as others depending on your settings. These are things the computer keeps around for a little while, in case it needs them, but most times these files are only taking up space on your computer, and should be deleted. This frees up a little space in your memory, which will help your computer run a little faster. It’s like a basic decluttering, as if you were throwing the garbage out of a certain area you wanted to clean more thoroughly later. To run a Disk Cleanup, (On Windows XP,Vista or 7,) Go to the start menu, to the programs menu. Then go into the Accessories menu. From there, access the system tools sub menu. There you will see the Disk Cleanup. Simply click on this to start a cleanup. If you have more than one account on the Computer, it will ask if you only want to clean one account or all of them. I would clean the whole computer, especially if it’s the first time you are doing this. If this is the first time running a disc cleanup, it will take a lot longer I would do this at least once every two or three weeks. This would also be the first thing I would do, as this only takes out unwanted files.

2. Run a Disk Defragmenter.

A disk Defragmentation basically consolidates the memory on your computer. It moves the files around to make more space. It would be as if you were taking all the books, toys, papers, or whatever, and moving them all into one spot, like a bookshelf, box or desk. It frees up a lot of room, right? This is your computer doing the same thing. It moves all the files around to make more space. This will not only make your computer run faster, but also run into less problems. Going back to the paper analogy, you lose less when you keep it all in one spot, right? This lessens the chances of your computer “losing” something. One more thing to take into consideration is that this program will help the computer deal with corrupted files, or files that can no longer be accessed. Again, here you will go into system tools submenu, and select Disk Defragmenter. You can set up a schedule so that your computer will do this automatically, at a certain interval, or date and time. I would recommend this. That way you do not need to try to remember to do it. I recommend scheduling it for a time when the computer is on, but not likely to be used. This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The general rule is that the longer its been since you’ve run this, the longer it would take. The first time I would set this up just before you go to bed, and let it run overnight. This should be done about every month, or if you run into a major problem.

3. Run a Virus Scan.

Most people, I’ve found, will only run a scan if they think there is a virus on the computer. This is very wrong. There are viruses that can infiltrate and destroy your computer long before you think there might be a problem. Spyware and Malware often do not show any sign of them being there. Many times, Malware will be quietly be destroying a computer, with the computer not showing signs until it is far too late. Virus scans know what to look for and check the files on your computer for known viruses. They take and quarantine any infected files so they cannot harm your computer, and give you the option to delete or clean the file. I always delete. It’s easier and less time consuming. Virus scans basically are the police of your computer. If the police find someone in your house that doesn’t belong there, they’re arrested. Virus scans do the exact same thing.


First off, make sure you have anti-virus software. If you don’t, I would strongly encourage you to go out and buy some. Don’t download free virus scans unless you are ABSOULTLY SURE they are safe. Many are viruses themselves. When you have the software and have downloaded it, click the icon on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, or the icon on the desktop. From there, programs differ, but mine opens with the option to immediately scan. Most times you can set up a schedule for scans and again, this is recommended. You should try to do a quick scan every week, and a full scan every month.


4. Blow out and Clean the Computer.

This sounds ridiculous, I know. But, this is often the most neglected thing in all computers, laptop, PC, Macs, most people don’t do this. If you go to any electronics stores, most times you see cans of air. This is what they are often used for. Take the can of air (Well, buy it first..) and blow out any open vents on your computer. Any fans, vents and the keyboard should all be blown out. Dust builds up in these vents and fans, which blocks them. This makes it hard for the computer to “breathe” and keep itself cool. Most computers that have never been cleaned out have a thick layer of dust, and a high probability of overheating. A computer that is overheating will preform slower, may smell like burning plastic, and will have problems remaining on. When a computer overheats, you may be frying essential parts in your computer. Your RAM, fans, and even your hard drive can become damaged from becoming too hot.If this happens, you can actually destroy components of your computer. this leads to them needing to be replaced and costing you money. A computer should be blown out at least once a month, more if you have a laptop that you carry with you in a bag. Particles from other things can enter the inside of the computer.

In Conclusion

These four things are really basic and easy ways to keep your computer running smoothly, without too many problems. If and when you have a problem with a computer, these things should be done first to rule out the basic problems. However, doing these four things at least once a month should lead to a happier time using your computer.

Still having problems? Try cleaning out your Adobe and Java caches! Don't know how to? Check out the next in this series, How to Clean Out the Adobe and Java Caches


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