- Computers & Software
How to Keep Your PC Running Like New
To some extent any computer will seem a bit slower as it ages no matter what you do, because technology advances so fast. Programs and web pages become bigger and more complicated requiring more of your computers resources. Your anti-virus and operating system updates also eat away at your computers limited capabilities. Don’t loose hope though, there are some steps you can take that will keep your PC running like it did when it was new and help you contend with the advancing technology.
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My first piece of advice is to make a back-up of your operating system files. Many computers come with a program that will allow you to create a back-up DVD or DVD set of the factory installed files. There are too many ways of doing this to mention so my advice would be to check your users’ manual or do a search for your computer and find the online manual. If you can this is the way to go because this back-up only includes what was on your computer when it was new. This DVD is only for emergencies or extreme situations as it does NOT restore any of your personal files or installations. For your personal files you should make regular back-ups with your back-up program which is usually located in control panel under Back-ups or System Restore. You will need both types of back-ups if you find yourself having to completely restore your PC. These back-ups are invaluable if you get a virus or have a hard drive failure, and need to restore your computer files.
The next order of business is to be sure you have an anti-virus program running and that it is up to date. I would recommend AVG as it has the best overall track record for preventing viruses over the last several years. I have been using the free version on all of my PCs at home for the last 5 years and haven’t had a single problem with viruses. Whatever software you decide to use, having an antivirus program and keeping it updated is imperative, if you want your computer to continue to run as fast and reliably as possible.
If you go to the start menu, then to All Programs; scroll down to the Accessories folder, and then to the System Tools folder you will find some useful tools. The main two I will discuss are the Disk Cleanup, and Disk Defragmenter programs. Disk Cleanup searches your system for files that are no longer needed or that can be compressed. Disk Defragmenter reorganizes the files on your drive to work more efficiently. I recommend running both of them once a week or so. You can setup Disk Defragmenter to run on a schedule if you choose; it makes it easier as you don’t have to do anything after it is set. I would also create a new folder on the desktop named tools or something similar so you can create links to these and other tools. To make the desktop folder right click on the desktop, go to new, then select folder. You can name it at this point or right click on the folder to rename it at anytime. You can also customize the look of the folder if you choose by right clicking on it, selecting Properties, and then clicking the Customize tab, then selecting Change Icon. You can add the links by right clicking on the programs from the System Tools folder, and pointing your mouse to Send to and selecting Desktop from the menu. Then just drag and drop the links into your Tools folder.
I also recommend downloading a program called CCleaner, which is similar to Disk Cleaner, but it finds many unused files that Disk Cleaner will miss. CCleaner also searches for registry errors and corrects them, which is a very helpful feature. I recommend following the CCleaner link above and downloading the installation file. After the file downloads install the program. I would leave the settings as they are unless you are an advanced user and know what you are doing. With the Cleaner tab on the left selected and with the Windows tab along the top in the middle selected run the cleaner a few times then a few times with the Applications tab selected. I usually run each of them until 0.0 MB is removed. Now select the Registry tab on the left and select Scan for Issues you may get a couple of notifications just agree and continue. I recommend repeating this process at least once every day that you use your computer.
As a computer’s fans work to cool everything down they also circulate lots of dust, which becomes lodged through out the computer. As that dust builds and accumulates air flow is restricted and your computer will begin to over heat. An over heating computer will be slower and the life of the computer will be compromised. So, it is important to clean out the dust from inside your computer case at the least a few times a year. If you live in a dusty environment you may consider four or more times per year. It is best if you have a vacuum that has an outlet hose that forces air out the end, though any vacuum will work to remove some of the dust. If you must use a vacuum it is best to at least have an attachment like the one pictured on the right.
Shut down and unplug your computer before attempting to clean it. After your computer is unplugged you want to remove the side panel or cover, many computers are like the one in the photo and only require you to remove two screws and slide the panel backward to remove it. If this isn’t the case refer to your user’s manual. Once the inside of the computer is exposed very carefully remove all of the dust possible paying special attention to areas near the fans. After the dust is removed replace the cover, plug the computer in and reboot it.
You should be sure to update you operating system files regularly or better yet set your system to automatically update. It is also best to limit the number of programs you install because the more files and programs you have on your computer the longer it takes to access them. You should also be aware of how each program is set up; many programs will run in the background even when you aren’t using them, unless you set them up not to. These settings can usually be found in the properties section of that particular program. Also read everything as you install new software as many vendors like to add extra programs, which you can usually opt out of installing if you don’t plan to use them. If you use all of the maintenance techniques mentioned in this article your computer should last for years and continue to work like it did when it was new.
Basic Computer Mauntenance
Clean and compress files
1 time per week
Organize files on disk
1 time per week
Cleans files and fixes registry bugs
1 time per day
Back-up (Factory Files)
Backs up all factory installed files
Back-up (Personal Files)
Backs up your personal files
At least monthly or as needed
Keeps OS files up to date
1 time every day or two
Keeps virus definitions up dated
1 time per day
Keeps computer cool
2 times per year
A quick guide to updating RAM
I have included this video as a walk through to upgrading your computers RAM, which is the easiest and cheapest way to upgrade a computer for improved performance.