Computer Maintenance Tips Expanded
Many things can be done to your computer to make it faster, more reliable, and generally easier to use. Most computer maintenance tips are ongoing tasks that need to be executed on a regular basis.
We are reluctant to recommend any registry cleaners because the ones tested have deleted a necessary setting at one time or another - so use them judiciously.
Set Browser Cache
Setting the browser cache to 25 MB is a good compromise. If set too large, the browser spends too much time searching through files on your disk; if set too small it spends too much time downloading files from the Web.
- Internet Explorer 6 - Tools, Internet Options, Settings.
- Internet Explorer 7 - Tools, Internet Options, under Browser history click on Settings
- Firefox 1.5 - Tools, Options, Privacy, Cache
- Firefox 2, 3 - Tools, Options, Advanced, Network tab. Under Cache.
- Opera - Tools, Preferences, Advanced, History.
Change the setting to 25 then click OK to save it.
Delete Temp Files
Deleting temp files on a regular basis is a good idea. Unlike browser caches, which have a size limit to them, temp files can grow until there is no more disk space left. We have used freeware program ccleaner since it is more thorough than Disk Cleanup included with Windows.
Depending on the amount of computer usage, delete temp files every week to every month.
Update Your Computer
Keeping your computer's operating system updated with the latest updates (aka patches) is critical. Many of these patches fix computer security issues. Windows separates its updates into high priority and optional. The high priority ones should be applied.
Windows XP: Start>All Programs>Windows Update
For other versions of Windows look for 'Windows Update' under a menu selection in internet explorer.
Most programs also have a way of updating themselves. Start the program and look for 'check for updates' or something similar.
Inspect/fix your Computer's Files Every Month
The program Chkdsk (included with Windows 2000/XP/Vista) or Scandisk (Windows 9x) inspects the computer's files and folders for integrity and fixes them if necessary. Each drive must be inspected separately.
To run chkdsk:
- Close all programs
- Open Windows Explorer
- Right click on the drive you wish to analyze and select Properties
- Tools tab > Error-checking > 'Check Now' button
- Check 'Automatically fix file system errors'
- Check 'Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors'
- Click 'Start'
- Your computer will probably have to be restarted. Analysis/fixing occurs during restart
Chkdsk should be run once a month or if you suspect something is not working correctly.
Verify the Operating System Files
(Windows XP/Vista only) The system file checker (sfc) will verify that the operating system files are valid and correct. Sometimes weird problems can be fixed by doing this task. We recommend doing it once a month.
What about windows updates? When an update is applied, the updated files are placed in a holding area that only Windows knows about. When sfc is run it knows to look in the holding area first then the CD-ROM for the correct files.
Click start > run
type in: sfc /scannow
and hit enter. The system file checker may ask for your Windows XP CD-ROM.
For Vista sfc must be run in administrator mode. So:
In the "start search" box type in: cmd
The cmd.exe icon will appear. Right click on the icon and choose "run as administrator" then click continue.
At the command prompt type in: sfc /scannow
and hit enter.
Reduce Recycle Bin Size
The default size for the recycle bin is 10% of your drive space; which can be several gigabytes. To reduce the size the recycle bin takes up:
- Right click on the recycle bin icon
- Select 'Properties'
- Drag the slider to a lower percentage. We keep ours at 2%.
You can check out how much space is taken up on each drive by clicking on the tab - 'Space reserved' is how much the recycle bin is using.
Keep Data Separate from Programs
Your data should be kept separate from the operating system and program files. If the operating system ever becomes corrupt the disk may need to be reformatted and a new one installed (without affecting the data disk).
One way to keep data separate is to have (at least) two drives - one for the operating system and programs (e.g. C:) and the other for data (e.g. D:). Also a good idea is to move the My Documents folder (if you use it) to your data drive.
To move My Documents folder to drive D:
- In Windows Explorer, right click on My Documents and select Properties
- Click on 'Move...' and navigate to the D: drive.
- Create the folder you want. (I created D:\MyDocs\dd)
- Click OK. The contents of My Documents will be moved to D:\MyDocs\dd.
Many programs, such as Outlook, store data on the operating system disk so it is imperative to move it to the data disk.