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Regular PC Maintenance Tips

Juan, from Albuquerque NM asks:

I like to perform monthly maintenance on my PCs and I’d like some advice from you regarding getting this task done? I’m using windows Vista and 7. I already clear temp files, cookies, and other basic items.

Juan, maintaining your computer is like maintaining a car. The more you look after it, the better it will run. Here are some tips on what you can do on a monthly basis to help make sure that your PC runs smoothly and stays in good shape.

1. Run Maintenance Tasks: A good place to start is with the built-in tools that Windows has for cleaning up your system. In Vista and Windows 7 you can run maintenance tasks to do just this. In Windows 7 click Start > Control Panel > Find and Fix Problems.

Now click Run maintenance tasks under the System and Security submenu.

Click Next on the following screen and Windows will start scanning your computer for any disc errors, missing shortcuts, and other such oddities. By default, it will autofix these errors unless it requires any additional actions by the user, such as a reboot.

2. Disk Cleanup: As Windows goes through its daily business, it creates and stores a lot of junk files, temporary files, thumbnails and other such things that over time will take up space and slow down your computer. Clean them up with the Windows Disk Cleanup tool. You can find it by going to the Start menu, clicking All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. You can also access Disk Cleanup by holding the Windows key and hitting the R key (Win+R). In the Run box that appears, type cleanmgr. Once you run this handy tool, Windows will look to see how much free space it can clean up for you and present its findings for you in a short report, (see below).

Another great free tool that achieves promises to find all the same files, and more, is the excellent CCleaner [1] from Piriform.

3. Clean the Registry: The files stored in the Windows registry also need cleaning up from time to time, so maintaining a clean and organized registry is an important part of keeping your computer running smoothly. Take a look at the Registry Cleaner [2] in the Worldstart Store, or try the Wise Registry Cleaner [3] and your computer’s registry will soon be optimized for all the work it needs to do.

4. Defragment: When you defragment your hard drive you are asking Windows to reorganize the contents of drive so that it uses less space and stores files more efficiently. This can speed up your computer and help your programs to run more smoothly. XP, Vista, and Windows 7 have built-in defragmentation tools and you can access them by going to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. In Vista and Windows 7, you can also access the Disk Defragmenter through Run (Win+R). In the Run box that appears, type dfrgui

To see if your hard drive is in need of defragmenting, click Analyze disk and Windows will run a short diagnostic scan. Once it is finished scanning the disk, you will see how fragmented it is in terms of a percentage, (with 0% being the optimal score). Anything over 5% is probably worth defragmenting. You can even set up a schedule so that Windows does all the hard work for you. Simply click Configure schedule to set up a time that suits you.

5. Windows Update: The various patches and updates that Microsoft releases for its operating systems are intended to improve security and performance. As such, it is important to keep up to date with as many of these as you can. Most PCs are configured to do this automatically, but you can do a manual check for updates at any time by going to the Start menu, clicking All Programs, and then selecting Windows Update.

Click Check for Updates on the left hand side of the window to see what is available for your computer. To set up a schedule that will download and install updates for you, click Change settings and tweak the preferences to your liking.

6. Spyware/Antivirus Scans: The last sure fire way of making sure your computer is in the best shape it can be is to check that you are up to date with antivirus and spyware scans. Malware is a common problem today and something that will definitely stop your PC from operating at its peak performance. However, there are a plethora of great software solutions out there that can clean your computer quickly and efficiently. A full list of compatible products can be found if you read this amazing Worldstart article [4] by Lori Cline.

While this might seem like a long list of tasks to complete, many of them are quick to accomplish, and others can be scheduled to run automatically in the background. Together, they are a great way to make sure that your PC is all it can be. Good luck with your maintenance!

~Jonathan Wylie