Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

We all hear about anti-malware solutions we should be implementing, but what other things should we be doing to keep our PCs running smooth?

What I REALLY need to know is the basic, day-to-day regular preventive maintenance, etc. that I should be performing on this equipment. Stuff that is probably so basic to PC usage that no one has thought to tell me -- what do I need to know and DO to keep my computer trouble as well as virus free?

The virus-free part is addressed in my article Internet Safety: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet? I consider that one of the most important articles here on Ask Leo!

But you raise a good issue - what other kinds of things should we be doing to keep our systems running smooth?

First off, if you do nothing more than the steps outlined in Internet Safety: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet? you're probably about 80% there already.

In no particular order, here are few other things I think that every PC user should consider doing on a regular, or semi-regular basis.

Windows Update: Setting aside malware, Windows Update is a good place to visit for additional non-critical updates to your computer. Updates often include bug fixes that, while not related to malware, can sometimes manifest as crashes or annoyances if left unfixed. Related: How do I make sure that Windows is up-to-date?

"... performing those steps on a regular basis can help keep your computer running just a little faster, a little better, and perhaps a little longer."

Backup: Something will break, and the contents of your computer's hard disk will *poof* disappear. You might be able to get it back or you might not. Are you prepared for the "might not" case? Related articles: What backup program should I use? and So what should I backup?

Defrag: I used to do this nightly, but now do it only once a week. There's nothing really wrong with never doing it, but on a seriously defragmented drive you may notice a minor performance improvement if you do. Related articles: What is 'defragging', and why should I do it? and How do I defragment my new hard disk?

Delete Temporary Files: They have a tendency to accumulate and eat up disk space. I don't have a formal recommendation for how often to do it. Personally, I do it when I remember or when my hard disk seems to be running low on space. Maybe once a week or once a month or so. Related articles: Can I delete the contents of my TMP folder?

Dust or Vacuum: Something that people overlook regular is the accumulation of dirt and dust in and on their computer. Particularly for those of us who are pet owners, it's often easy for fur to accumulate inside the computer and prevent it from cooling properly, thus shortening its life. Related: How should I clean my computer?

There are a few things missing from that list that others may consider important.

Ultimately your computer will for the most part run just fine even if you ignore the all steps at the top of this article (except Internet Safety: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet? - that's critical). However performing those steps on a regular basis can help keep your computer running just a little faster, a little better, and perhaps a little longer.

Have a tip for routine PC maintenance? Add a comment.

Article C3115 - August 13, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Andrew Goodall
August 18, 2007 1:22 AM

CCleaner works for me and it is a great way of removing stubborn programs like Symantic security. I found using the config remove all programs failed to remove some of the Symantic files but ccleaner did it and it is free:-)

Ken Crook
August 18, 2007 11:31 PM

When vacuuming the computer use the brush attachment not the straight hose. Once when cleaning the keyboard I thought "the brush works good, the hose will work even better". Wrong!! It sucked some keys right off the keyboard. I had to dig through the dust bag for all the little parts and then spend an hour putting the keys back on the keyboard. Not fun!

James Nell
August 19, 2007 11:44 AM

I have been running the same win xp pro instalation now for the last three years , throughout hardware upgrades , even a new motherboard and xp is still running fine , never reinstaled , this is how i keep my pc in good order:
1. antivir free edition runing 24/7
2. sygate firewall on all the time
3. winpatrol plus
4. AVG antispyware gaurd running 24/7
5. I run full virus check once a week
6. I run Norton systemtools windoctor once a week
7. I run Ad-aware once a week
8. I make a new restorepoint once a day and keep 4 old ones on backup
9. I run motherboard monitor 5 and sysmetrix to keep a eye on temperatures and other system actions
10. I open my pc case once a month to clean the fans and blow dust out of system.
11. I Run explorer proceses as seperate proceses
12. My pc never gets switched of , only when i do upgrades or cleaning of components.
13. My broadband conection is active 24/7

I find win-xp pro to be the best os there is , I do run vista as well but just to learn the os as a second os on a seperate partition. but my xp - tweaked with x-setup pro and customised with style-xp , Yahoo widgets and a few others to make the system look and operate beter and more stable than vista. I never get crashes , mabe a lockup now and again due to unstable codecs , but rarely and no harm done.
I never install any new software without first making a restorepoint.
And last but not least i always read all the Ask Leo articles as i get the newsletter updates because there is very interesting articles.

all for now
Keep well

James Nell- [Email Address Removed]

May 18, 2010 2:07 PM

Hi Leo,

Thanks for sharing this helpful list. This is certianly helpful.

I agree that it helps to follow some basic recommendations/best practices on keeping your computer healthy.

One of my colleagues recently shared a similar helpful list of recommendations which could help your readers as well - so I thought I'd share it with you.

Thanks again - nice work!

Good luck!

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