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How to Maintain Your Computer: Some Basic Tips

March 16th, 2010

basic-computer-maintenance.jpgThis article by Nidhi Varma provides a practical introduction to some basic computer maintenance tips. For related information on backing up your computer’s data, you can see last month’s article on Tips to Prevent Computer File Loss.

The other day I was sorting out some stuff and came across a carton full of audio cassettes. And I wondered what to do with them. With an external hard drive connected to my computer only for music, along with an amplifier and a set of speakers, it was a pretty difficult thing to think of a use for the cassettes. Computers have become integral to our lives in a way that is hard to describe. They have taken over almost every function (except an essential few). When our computer crashes, we are stranded, with everything from music to working data inaccessible to us. So I thought of a few basic tips that would help us keep our computer from crashing and maintain it in a good working condition.

The first is, of course, the use of an anti-virus software and anti-spyware solution. Avast, Kaspersky and McAfee are trustworthy and recommended. Avast Home Edition is a free anti-virus software, which is great for home users. Kaspersky, K7, and McAfee will have to be bought online, but they are also very good ones. Usually, such software also provides online protection, wherein they would let you know if a Web page you are trying to open is infected. Try not to open the ones they say are infected!

The Windows Vista and XP operating systems offer the option of a built-in Online Firewall Protection. Keep this turned on for higher protection. Your anti-virus software will also offer the same; keep this turned on as well.

Do not pile up your Desktop. Do not store files like documents, pictures, etc. and folders directly on the Desktop. Keep it as free as possible, with shortcuts to the files and folders you might need.

Partition your hard drive. Your main hard drive is usually labeled C: by default, and it stores your system files along with other program files. Try not to burden it too much with your data. Store your files and folders in a partitioned drive, for example, D:. Keep C: only for program files, so that even if it crashes and has to be formatted, you can take a backup of the data on D: before formatting C:.

In cases where you are using any external data storing devices like a pen (flash) drive, a floppy disc, or an external hard drive, do not run them before a virus scan. That is, when you plug in, say, a pen drive, do not directly open it through the Auto-Open function prompt. First go to the Computer window, right click on the pen drive, run a virus scan, and then open it only if the scan is clear. To stop using the drive, go to the Computer window again, right click on the drive, choose Stop, and when the computer prompts that it is safe to remove the drive, only then remove it from the USB port. Do not pull out a pen drive or other external storage device without stopping it. The data and the drive can get corrupted otherwise.

If you download anything from the Internet or copy something from your friend’s pen drive, do not run it on your computer before running a virus scan on the file. Run anything at all only if the virus scan is clear.

Clean up your primary hard drive periodically. This can be easily done by a right-click on the C: in the Computer window and choosing Properties. In the Properties window, you will have different options like Disk Cleanup and Defragment. Both of these should be run periodically to ensure the optimum utilization of space. The Disk Cleanup option will ask you to choose the areas you wish to cleanup in the C:. You can choose to delete temporary Internet files, cookies, empty the Recycle Bin, and a few other options.

Periodically back up your files to ensure that you do not lose any data. These backups can be stored on CDs, floppy discs, external hard discs, or pen drives. Windows XP and Vista provide the backup utility that can be used for this purpose. This utility will save the data on your computer by making a copy of it to a location of your choice without saving system and program files.

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