A slower PC will consume more energy and time, and both of those cost significant dollars over the course of a year. According to Free Computer Maintenance, a PC with one drive and moderate fragmentation uses about 12.4% more electricity annually than does an optimized computer. That can add up to over $20 a year. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but factor in the cost of a new hard drive or even a new computer because the old one fried of neglect. Ouch.
With that in mind, here are 7 wallet-friendly ways to maintain your PC.
Update, update, update
You know that window that fades in by the bottom right corner of your screen every few days? Be sure to click on it and do whatever Windows Update tells you to do. Then, restart your computer—later, if you’re busy. Neglecting these updates can make your computer unsafe and unstable, increasing the chances of a downed computer.
Easy on the reinstall
This will save you time (and time is money). Although sometimes it can’t be helped, most of us don’t need to reinstall Windows every six months. Scrutinize your downloads, uninstall unnecessary programs, defrag as needed, and you won’t need this extra headache.
Beat the heat
Gary Strain contributed back in July about PC maintenance and heat control. Be sure to check out the full article, but the gist is this: let your PC breathe. Overheating—such as during strenuous tasks like PC gaming or running iTunes and, well, pretty much anything else—can cause computers to crash, which can damage it over time, not to mention result in data loss.
To keep your PC cool, you can install extra cooling fans, which are an affordable (about $10 according to Gary) and worthwhile investment. You can even get a cooling pad or place an object under your laptop that will allow for greater ventilation.
And don’t forget about dust.
Another one bites the dust
If your computer is on right now, you can probably hear the fans going. You can also probably bet that they’re covered in a thin-to-medium layer of dust. (Make that medium-to-thick if you have pets.) Dust blankets parts of your PC, acting as an insulator in something that really doesn’t need any more insulating than it comes with in the box.
Get a can of compressed air at the local office supply store. Turn off and unplug your computer from the wall and open up the case. Spray. (Be sure to wear a mask over your nose and mouth since dust is also harmful to humans.)
Defrag—if you need it
The truth is that, unless you have XP, you probably don’t need to regularly defrag your PC. Vista and 7 do it automatically. (If this still makes you nervous, check out your defrag schedule.) If you’re on XP, be sure that your Disk Defragmenter runs regularly. How often, you ask? It depends on how much you use your PC. Try to defrag it whenever it’s over 10% fragmented.
Dead in a flash
Lightning doesn’t have to strike your house to fry your PC. The electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) can affect electronics from a surprising distance, so it’s a good idea to always use a surge protector.
Back it up
This one is mostly to save your sanity, not your credit rating. Most computers take time to die, but some can go in a flash (like, say, in a lightning storm). If you keep business records on your PC instead of a cloud drive, back up your information. You might pay for it later.
Kim Willington is a freelance writer and researcher for Helpdesksoftware.org, where she has recently been researching best help desk software. In her spare time, she enjoys antiquing and taking long walks with her retriever, Spencer.