April 14, 2009

Quick Tips to Optimize and Keep your PC Healthy

So after recently doing some routine maintenance and fixing a couple of PC's for family and friends I wanted to take a step back and provide some quick tips I've found useful for keeping my pc's up and running. These are easy and effective steps that anyone can do simply by reading the instructions, following the steps, and be confident! Also do some Googling on these various topics to gain more of an industry perspective and to get more opinions I'm only one person and these are the methods I find useful but certainly aren't the "say-all" de facto; but they have worked for me. to keep my PC's healthy.

Lastly, one point of caution; use these steps at your own risk! If even after reading the instructional materials you still feel you lack the experience to perform these tasks don't. Because you can end up putting your PC in a position to work improperly or not at all. If you need assistance and live within the North Central Massachusetts area I'd be happy to make a house call, for a nominal fee of course ;-).

The Approaches

Clearing your temporary internet files or "cache" - This is a common issue that often plagues users who do a lot of web surfing and can experience a host of slow issues like internet page loads, connection speeds, and even system processing issues like opening new files from applications like Word, Excel, etc. This is because many web pages nowadays store temp data and content in our web browsers file directory and this file store unless configured to; will not empty itself and uses up unnecessary disk space.

To easily clean these files:

  1. open your Internet Web Browser (Internet Explorer is used here)

  2. click Tools>Internet Options>Delete (under the Browsing History section as shown in the image below)

  3. Then you can easily pick and choose which temporary areas you would like to clean; you'll notice your password data is separate from other data points

Note: Remember things like cookies do hold some "remember me" type information for many of your websites that require authorized access. So delete with care!!!

Defragging your disk - Disk Defragmentation basically reorganizes your data in such a way that allows your computer to more easily and quickly access it. When data is saved to your PC hard drive it isn't always saved in a particular order. So over time this can degrade your PC's ability to perform operations and accessing files. Most folks don't have to do this if they are simply web browsing and creating documents; but for heavy users of music/ media downloads, moving and removing files on/off the PC hard drive should do this once a month. Before you get started please note this could take some time and by time I mean hours if this has never been performed so plan to not use your PC while this function is being performed.

You'll need administrator access to perform this function (most home pc owners have this; business owner do not perform this step you have an admin this is what they get paid for :-), and if you don't have one I'm available as a contractor

To defrag do the following:

  1. click Start>Settings>Control Panel

  2. dbl click Administrative Tools

  3. then open Computer Management (in older Windows systems it's called Management Console or MMC)

  4. then expand "storage" and click Disk Defragmenter

  5. Then you'll first click "Analyze" we do this to assess if the hard drive needs to be defragged

  6. Once the test is finished it will tell you how you should proceed with a pop window that says "You should defrag this volume" or "You do not need to defrag this volume"

Based on the result conduct the appropriate action and if defragging allow it to complete with only that application open.

The System Rebuild - Some people say "if it ain't broke don't fix it", well in the case of a PC's it all depends on how much use your pc gets and how much it varies over time. Rebuilds are performed to keep a PC running optimum and to the specification we need it; PC usage tends to change and as it changes we accumulate "stuff" we simply don't need and it wastes valuable disk space that ultimately effect the performance of our rig.

I'm not saying stop what you're doing and rebuild but look at your usage; is it different than what it was if so how different is it? If it's drastic and your pc seems a bit sluggish then you should probably considered doing a system rebuild. I won't cover the exact steps because that's part of the fun of learning but I will give you some best practices so you are bold enough you'll be able to try it out on your own.

Some practices to consider prior to performing a system rebuild:

  1. Block out a day or two as this could take that if longer depending on your experience and the systems hardware processing ability
  2. Find ALL disks used in your initial install along with serial keys for easy reinstall (this includes all of your applications installed to the operating system aka OS)
    NOTE: If you don't have the system recovery discs or OS install disks Google how to make them!

  3. Backup all of the files you'd like to keep because once you start they will be deleted until they are restored to the newly built OS

  4. If you can invest software that completely purges your hard drive to almost new specification; it's always good to start fresh...here's the one I use
  5. Consider hardware upgrades like RAM upgrades; the more RAM the better performance and more multi-tasking your PC can do (like running more than one application)

Few closing thoughts

These are some things I consider when doing a rebuild and have been successful doing. Other things that keep your PC safe and healthy and running peak are running things like Anti-virus software's and Anti-ad/spam programs. For me, I use an all in one that is free to public users and not to business called AVG Free, it has a built in Anti-Ad program which works awesome and that coupled with the appropriate web browser security settings I don't have any issues. I especially like that for the price of AVG Free; it works much better than leading "pay-for" anti-virus solutions. I also employ the use of Windows built-in firewall in addition to the NAT-based firewall on my home network router.

Performing all or even some of these tasks routinely can help keep your PC up and running and out living any of its predecessors! Good luck, and remember we covered a lot here so if you plan to do it yourself, which I encourage, work the steps and DO the research before pulling the trigger. And if all else fails invest in paying a professional; our lives have become pretty dependent on technology so I can imagine a down pc could be detrimental to your livelihood (i.e. paying bills, email, facebook).

That's all from me for now,

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