If you have owned a computer, chances are you have become frustrated with slow performance, software programs taking a long time to load, blue screens, and program errors. All of these are part of our every day lives, as computer users. That is why it’s important that you take good care of your personal computer – both on the inside and on the outside. As a computer technician, most of the problems I’ve encountered have been solved by performing basic computer maintenance. I will list the steps I take in order to take care of personal computers.
If you use a desktop computer, you know how dust and debris can pile up on the CPU fan, peripherals, and on the case itself. Dust is an insulator, meaning it holds heat in and having large amounts of dust, especially on any parts that use fans and heat sinks to cool themselves, particularly your CPU, graphics adapter, decreases the efficiency at which the fans and heat sinks can reduce heat. Over time, if the dust becomes very thick, it can cause permanent damage to these peripherals, mostly from overheating. That being said, you should take a few minutes to use a can of compressed air (you can buy these at Wal Mart for around 4 to 6 dollars, depending on the size of the can) to the inside of your computer case, and blow out any dust or debris that has collected.
A good precaution to avoid shorting out your computer while working on it is to properly ground yourself. You can do this either by touching something metal that’s as far away from the computer as possible, or better yet, by wearing a grounding strap. This discharges any static charge that has built up on your body, and computer components are highly sensitive to static discharges. That is why when computer peripherals are shipped from the factory, or from whatever online store you bought them from, they are kept in specialized antistatic plastic bags to protect them during shipping.
Updated hardware drivers can save you a lot of headaches. Very often, blue screen errors and system lockups are caused by corrupted, outdated, or improperly installed or configured hardware drivers, or they have installed the wrong drivers for their hardware. Check the manufacturer’s website for driver updates. Do not download hardware drivers from anywhere else besides the manufacturer’s website, unless you know what you are doing! If you don’t know what you’re doing, and you are using a store bought computer (that means a branded computer that was built for you by companies like Dell, Alienware, Hewlett Packard, Acer, etc.), contact the support team for that company. Be prepared, however – they might charge you for support! To avoid being charged, you might want to look into whether your warranty includes free technical support.
You may be surprised, but if you have moved a lot of data around, deleted a lot of files, etc., your hard drive becomes “dirty” from fragmented files. What this means is that as you delete or move files, you are freeing up sections of the drive that were originally used by those files, and moving them to another section of empty space. Over time, this can cause your hard drive to become very disorganized, which decreases the efficiency at which the data on the hard drive can be accessed. (NOTE: This problem is less apparent on Solid State Drives, since they use very fast flash memory to hold your data.) De-fragmenting your hard drive allows these unorganized sections of free space to be rearranged so that the hard drive can once again be accessed at optimal efficiency.
As you visit the Internet, sometimes your computer may pick up viruses or malware that can drain your system resources, and negatively affect your computer’s performance. A reputable virus scanner and antispyware software goes a long way in cleaning up these viruses and malware. However, you need to keep in mind that not all software is reputable. There are a lot of scam programs out there that seek to take over your computer, and compromise your security. I strongly suggest doing a simple Google search to find reputable software solutions.
Following these five simple steps will save you a lot of headaches later. If you take care of a personal computer, it will continue to run smoothly for you for years to come, and it will save you time and money in the long run.