What do you do to ensure that your computer is regularly maintained and tuned-up for peak performance?
I found this question on Yahoo! Answers, it rated as one of the most popular IT questions on the site so I thought I would answer it myself.
As I work in the IT industry I quite often work with other people’s computers both through work and through personal contacts and I have seen some messy ones! Nine times out of ten when someone brings their computer in for repair the only description they will give you of their problem is that “their computer is slow”.
Some times these are near-brand new computers that they have somehow managed to bog down with browser toolbars, background processes and a taskbar that is 40 feet long with all kinds of weird and wonderful items in a few months.
Following these tips you can keep your computer running nicely for a long time.
First of all I am only explaining what I do personally so if you have any suggestions please let me know in comments or send me an e-mail!
- Cleaning out dirt and dust
- Removing unneccessary start-up programs
- Uninstall old and unsused software
- Clear temporary files
- Defragment the hard drive
- Clean up the registry
- Scan for viruses and spyware/malware
The following is how I boost and maintain my PC’s performance.
Dust, dirt and heat!
Every three to four months (depending on how dusty your environment is) I pull the side cover off my PC; if you have never done this before don’t be too scared, it’s not going to break your computer. Just avoid touching any components, or if you have to make sure you are properly grounded by touching another metal surface to prevent any static discharge from damaging sensitive electronics. To be on the safe side you could use an anti-static wrist band, they are a cheap precaution to take rather than having to replace expensive memory chips or CPU’s!
Anyway, back on topic. With the cover removed check for any dirt and dust. Remove all the plugs and cords from the back of the computer, take it outside and blast the dust out with a can of compressed air or an air-compressor. If you use an air-compressor do not have it set flat-out! Just enough pressure to dislodge the dust is all you need.
Pay special attention to the heat-sinks and fans over the CPU and on your graphics card (if you have one), clogged heat sinks obviously heat up more and this can cause performance issues, computer jamming and in some bad cases can cause the component it is cooling to fail completely.
While you have the cover off it would be a good opportunity to check cables. Using your anti-static wrist band check that all the cables are seated correctly by applying gentle pressure on each.
I did forget to mention that this article is directed at my own personal maintenance routine and my computer has always run Windows so some of the points in this article are directed at Window’s machines but can be generally applied to any computer.
Non-Windows users can stop reading here and skip the next heading.
The next performance sucking items that I look for are in my Startup folder in the ‘Start’ menu. Quite often over a period of time the Startup folder can fill up with all sorts of items and services that for the most part you will never use.
The problem with the start-up folder exists because anything that is in there will start running as soon as Windows boots up after you switch your computer on. Fortunately this is very easy to combat. You will need to:
- Click on your start menu.
- Go to the startup folder.
- Identify startup services you do not need.
- Right click on their icon.
- Select and confirm ‘Delete’.
You might be wondering how to tell if it is a startup service that is needed or not. Generally most things in the startup folder are not computer critical, meaning if you delete everything in that folder your computer is not going to stop working or explode. If you are still in doubt you could do a Google search for the item you are about to delete or keep all the deleted items in your Recycle Bin so you can restore them if you need to. At the time of writing I have two items in my startup folder, “Adobe Acrobat Speed Launcher” and “Dropbox”.
Uninstall unused and unwanted software
This is a big one. Over time we tend to download bits and pieces of software, perhaps use them once and then forget about them. Every now and then I like to hit up my Control Panel and go through my Programs and Features, Windows users can go to ‘Start’ > ‘Run’ and type in ‘appwiz.cpl’ to see a list of all the software that is installed. (Also see this huge list of other handy Windows run commands).
Again, every computer is different and you will need to decide what you do and don’t uninstall. I would keep a special eye out for toolbars. Ask! Toolbars, Google Toolbars, Yahoo! Toolbars etc. They are pretty much unneccessary and chew up system resources and screen real-estate when browsing the internet. Get rid of them!
Clear temporary files and system mess
Temporary files build up every time you browse the internet or install a new piece of software. In some cases they can chew up a lot of hard drive space. This is a very easy one to solve to and the simplest way to do it is to use CCleaner which you can download from here. Best of all it is completely free! If you do not want to use CCleaner then Windows has a built in tool for cleaning up temporary files that you can find by going to ‘Start’ > ‘Run’ and typing ‘cleanmgr.exe’. Otherwise it can be found in your Start menu under Accessories > System Tools.
Defragment your hard drive
Hard drive defragmentation is important to do and I do it once every month or so. I could explain exactly what hard drive fragmentation is but it would make for a very long article so if you are interested you can check it out on Wikipedia but for now you will just have to trust that it does good things! Again, Windows users can find the utility to defragment your hard drive on the Start menu under ‘Accessories’ > ‘System Tools’ > ‘Disk Defragmenter’ or by going to ‘Start’ > ‘Run’ and typing ‘dfrgui.exe’. (See Windows Run Commands)
Clean up your registry
This step is optional and in my opinion probably doesn’t really need to be done unless your computer is a few years old. Other people may disagree with me. Tidying up your registry can’t really hurt but it is a good idea to back it up beforehand. Luckily there is a neat little Windows utility for doing just this. The Eusing Registry Cleaner is completely free and does a great job. Check it out now.
Scan for nasties
This one is kind of obvious, most computer users have some kind of virus protection these days. Once you have completed your maintenance routine it is a good idea to run a full system scan with your preferred anti-virus and anti-spyware tool. Myself, I am a bit of a cheapskate and I use free utilities. At the moment I am using Microsoft Security Essentials for my real-time virus protection and scanning and Malwarebytes Anti-malware for, you guessed it, malware protection.
If you look after your computer and follow this simple routine your computer will keep buzzing away nicely for a long time to come. Any questions, comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated. All comments are moderated so don’t even try to spam me :P.
If you are interested in optimising your Window’s experience further take a look at this article on memory and page file optimisation.