If you want to get the most value out of your computer, you need to do a little maintenance. The following five utilities will help you keep your computer running smoothly.
1—Anti-Virus & Firewall
Nothing ruins a computer faster than malware. You’ve probably already heard how important anti-virus and firewall software is, so we won’t belabor the point. Just make sure you use one anti-virus program and one firewall program.
For a firewall, the built-in Windows Firewall is entirely sufficient. You don’t need a third-party or commercial firewall, although they may have a few extra features.
For anti-virus software, you can use the free AVG or Avast programs. Both are practically as good as a paid anti-virus program.
2—Hard Drive Maintenance
Hard drives all fail eventually. It may be several years until your drive fails, or it could fail tomorrow. But there are sensors built into most drives which help detect impending failure. The sensors are called Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART). If you have the right tools, you can read those sensors and estimate how long your hard drive has left.
One free program which lets you read your hard drive’s SMART data is SmartMonTools. It runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX—and you can even get it on a Live CD to investigate non-booting hard drives. If you’re new to SmartMonTools, you probably want to get the GSmartControl program which makes using SmartMonTools easier.
Even if you hard does not fail, it can be damaged unexpectedly or the boot sector can become corrupted. If you are prepared for common errors like this with education then when this event happens, you will be prepared.
3—Remove Unnecessary Programs
Have you ever noticed that computers seem to slow down as they age? There’s no technological reason that a computer processor should get noticeably slower over time. Computers slow down because they accumulate unnecessary programs which run continuously in the background.
Removing those unnecessary programs (or not installing them in the first place) is an important maintenance task, but it can be difficult to determine what programs are slowing down your computer. A free program like SlimComputer from Slimware can help you remove unnecessary programs.
4—Clean Temporary Files
Your computer saves copies of various files as you work. For example, it saves a copy of every image you view on the Internet in a cache so it can display the picture again later without re-downloading it if you view the same page.
Your computer is supposed to clean up these temporary files on its own, but if your computer crashes or there’s a bug in a program, these temporary files may become permanent. That means every time your computer goes looking for a file, it may have to scan through all of these temporary files.
A simple tool such as the free CCleaner can quickly clean out any temporary files which have overstayed their welcome, helping to speed up your computer.
Although backing up your files isn’t strictly computer maintenance, it’s the one task that can make all the rest of your computer maintenance easier. If you have a good backup, you don’t have to worry too much about pressing the wrong button or of getting a virus. A good backup makes you feel safe, so you can use your computer without fear of losing your important data.