|Computer Housekeeping Tasks|
To prevent avoidable problems and improve performance, a few simple jobs should be done on each computer periodically. Many people choose a frequency of one, three or six months to do these things; depending on personal circumstances, others undertake this more or less frequently. A more comprehensive preventive maintenance service is highly recommended every 12 - 18 months. As with any equipment, routine maintenance will prolong its useful life and mitigate against the gradual performance loss which all systems experience.
If the following tasks are more than you are willing or able to do, I offer to undertake most of them remotely - perhaps while you are out at work: I can do many of these things each month without entering your house. And after 11 such checks, I will undertake a complimentary annual service. Essential checks are shown in red.
Confirm latest Anti-virus data files are loaded
All suppliers issue new updates as new threats become apparent. Reputable firms issue these every few hours and enable protection from fast spreading worms, trojans and diallers. Check that your last update is less than a day old. A full system scan could then be initiated if you feel particularly vulnerable. Also check that you have the latest updates to Java, Flash (if installed), your PDF reader and other potential security back doors.
Patch Operating System
Update framework programs
Optionally Remove Spyware/Adware
This is software that runs on your computer for the author’s benefit and at your cost. It is delivered by many Web sites, file sharing programs, chat rooms and included in many CD-ROMs that come free with magazines. The aim is usually to collect information about you with a view to targeting advertising to maximise sales. Quite apart from privacy issues, this code will at best, degrade the performance of your PC, and often causes ‘legitimate’ programs to fail or give unexpected results. Many Internet security suites include a degree of this type of protection, but sometimes not as complete as programs that target this type of threat solely. Note that removing some malware may cause the delivering host program to produce unexpected results or fail. See example report produced for a recent client to see what harm some of these things can do. See here for additional information. Frequently used free removers include:
Prevention is a good idea, two popular free programs that will help limit problems and should be confirmed to be updated are:
Delete temporary files, browser cache & trash
These files waste space, and slow file access and therefore negatively impact system performance. There are numerous free programs to help with this, such as CCleaner (http://www.ccleaner.com/)
Take and verify Backups
Sooner or later, all hardware will fail. Also, despite taking all reasonable precautions many people fall foul of malicious code or install software incompatible with their computer. In such situations having a second copy of your favourite photos, address book entries or secret password document will save a lot of anguish and money for data recovery. This is a good time to either make a backup copy of important files or check the log files of an automated backup regime. Also, try to restore a test file to confirm that the backup is sound and you remember how to do it. Please see my Guide to Backing up Computer Files.For Windows 8 systems consider refreshing the system image from the command prompt by running RECIMG
Ensure Surge Protection is Effective *
If you have already received a spike you may not notice that your equipment is unprotected unless you check that the appropriate LED is still illuminated. Often an amber LED indicates that power is connected, and a green LED is illuminated if your appliances are protected. If there is no green LED then you have taken an electrical hit large enough to cause the surge protector to save you - there is no further protection until you replace the surge protector or fit an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). If you have a UPS already - test it.
Clean filters *
If you were wise enough to pay a little extra when buying your PC and have one or two removable air filters included, this would be a good time to remove and vacuum them to prevent dust limiting the effectiveness of your heatsinks.
Hard disk error check
By resolving logic errors now, future corruptions may be avoided. Access via Windows Explorer, right click the device, Properties, Tools tab, Error Checking. Tick the first checkbox only to run the 3 phase repair.If you have a constantly running program that reports on the SMART parameters such as GSmartControl or Acronis Drive Monitor, check it to ensure the health is still good.
Clean print head *
Run the regular cleaning cycle on your printer. This prevents tiny build-ups of ink in the nozzles of your print head and thereby prolongs the printers useful life.
Locate password reset disk & recovery notes *
To ensure that you can not be locked out of your own computer, ensure password reset disks are prepared and accessible as explained at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/305478 for Windows XP or here for Windows Vista. Recovery notes will be invaluable when the computer has to be repaired. Include usernames/passwords for any important websites, product activation keys, location of installation CDs, e-mail account details (username, password, server addresses & configuration details), name of e-mail and address book clients, ISP authentication credentials.
Defragment system volume (Not Solid State Disks)
By making all files contiguous, disk reads are minimised as split I/Os are avoided and performance therefore improved. For Windows XP do this via Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter.For Vista and Windows 7 you can easily set this to happen automatically. Note that electro-mechanical disks (80% of those running today) always benefit from this but hybrid solid state disks should only be defragmented infrequently.
To book a check up contact 1ComputerCare
* Not done as part of remote housekeeping
† Subject to configuration inspection