You depend on it. You can hardly imagine life without it. Yet, reliable as it is, your computer may suddenly slow down, freeze, crash, lose your files and just plain wreck your day. However, with a carefully drawn computer maintenance plan, you can prevent your computer device from playing nasty tricks on you. Learn how you can start implementing a proper care plan that will help you avoid the most common computer pitfalls, keep your operating system (OS) working at its best and even extend hardware service life.
Taking care of your computer hardware
You already know this one, but take it as a reminder: Don’t eat or drink near your computer. Snacking while working at the computer can turn into a habit without much effort on your part. As careful as you may try to be, food crumbs and fluid drops can easily find their way into your keyboard and other parts of your computer equipment. You need to be aware of this especially around laptops since most of a laptop’s delicate components reside underneath the keys.
Be mindful of how you treat your desktop or laptop. Slamming, banging on your keyboard or other parts of your computer equipment can easily damage sensitive components. So be careful whenever you need to move your desktop around or take that laptop with you.
Hibernate or turn off your computer when not in use. If you need to take a break away from your computer, put it on standby or hibernation mode. This will relieve the voltage stress inflicted on sensitive components that are working with your different loaded programs and data. You also reduce energy consumption, components wear and help extend hardware lifespan. And, at the end of the day, turn off your computer.
When carrying the laptop with you, make sure it is turned off as well. When on, the hard disk’s head that reads the data is not stationed in it’s secured place and sudden movements may cause it to scratch on the disk’s surface. Eventually, this may lead to bad disk performance and loss of data.
Keep your computer cabinet, keyboard and monitor clean. You can find special cleaners and tools for this purpose in most computer supply stores. But if you decide to use your own home cleaners, pay special attention to your flat screen computer monitor. Use a soft microfiber cloth to remove dust. If you need to get rid of hard to remove spots, dampen the soft cloth with a 50/50 mixture of distilled water and white vinegar. Gently wipe the screen with it. This will prevent you from scratching the surface or damage the protective layer on the screen.
Operate your computer or laptop under normal room temperature. Over time, high temperatures may cause your computer to run slower, crash and severely affect sensitive components like RAM, video card, CPU, power supply, hard drive and other PC parts. On the other hand, low temperatures may lead to condensation, which also affects sensitive components.
Clean your computer case vents as needed. Vents help dissipate heat that emanates from internal components during operation. On your laptop, you can use a can of compressed air canister to clear the vents. On your desktop, remove the door panel from the computer cabinet and carefully vacuum inside to remove dust and dust bunnies. Then, put back the door panel and make sure there’s enough room between the vents and the surrounding area to help air flow freely.
Protect your computer equipment from irregular input voltage. Connect your computer equipment to an outlet through a power strip that shields it from voltage surges. Irregular voltage may cause hard disk errors and affect system operation as well.
Taking care of your data and software
Hard drive crashes and vicious virus infections come unexpectedly. And they usually happen when they can cause the most damage. To protect your data, back up your personal files on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on how much you use your computer. Most computers systems come equipped with a backup application. Keep a backup copy of your data in two different places. You may upload one copy to the Cloud, where you can have access to it from any computer connected to the Internet. And store another backup copy on a CD, external hard drive or USB drive.
To protect system files and personal data, make sure you have decent anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and a good firewall installed. You can find free and paid versions of these programs online. Check reviews to select the best for your particular system. Then, scan your disk for viruses and spyware at least once a week.
Once a month, perform a hard disk check. Use the check disk application that comes with your system, or some other application available online, to look into your disk’s health. Usually, the application is able to correct errors as they are found. This will keep your data and other important files safe.
Depending on the OS and version you are running on your computer, it may be important to defrag your hard drive. Over time, file pieces become scattered around the drive as the operating system tries to file away your data using the empty space left around by previously deleted files. This slows down your system, accelerates wear and tear against the drive and related components, and may corrupt the data on your drive as your system reads back those files. Defragging your drive places every file back in a continuous block for easy access. Windows Vista and 7 perform this maintenance procedure automatically for you. Also, defragging is not necessary if your OS runs on a solid-state drive. Other systems, like Linux, don’t have to deal with this issue, but consult the manual for your particular OS, if necessary.
Operating systems and applications are constantly updated. As part of your software maintenance program, make sure to update your system, programs and personal applications. These patches improve the security and stability of your different computer programs.
Remove temporary files that your operating system and other programs accumulate over time. They just occupy space unnecessarily. If you are running Windows, you can use a popular application like CCleaner or a similar one. On a Linux system, you may want to try Ubuntu Tweak or BleachBit.
Keeping your computer system, programs and data safe and in good health is not an easy task. Yet, implementing a computer maintenance plan like the one outlined here will help you minimize wear and damage against sensitive components, and keep your data safe. It becomes easier once you know what you have to do and why. And, if you stick to your plan, the chances of losing a sensitive component or a piece of data due to hardware failure or virus infection will be minimized.