7 Basic Windows PC Maintenance Tips - Page 2

By Ronald Pacchiano
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Pay Attention to the Software You Install

I cannot stress this one enough. Many applications, especially freeware, often attempt to install additional software on your system.  For example, when I install RealPlayer it also gives me the option to install Google Chrome.

I’m actually like Google Chrome so, for me, it’s a bonus. However, some applications also try to install stuff I don’t want, like an additional toolbar in IE. In almost all cases you’ll be asked whether or not you want this extra software installed.

The trick is, and I know this can be difficult, is that YOU MUST PAY ATTENTION DURING THE INSTALLATION and actually read those screens that popup with the words on them and NOT just mindlessly click the “Next” button until the process finishes. If you follow this tip I can guarantee that the amount of junk installed on your system will decrease.

And should you find something installed without your authorization, uninstall it immediately. If it won’t uninstall, use Window’s System Restore feature to revert back to an earlier configuration. This brings us to our next tip…

Create a System Restore Point

Before you install any new software on your system, always create a System Restore point. Some software can play havoc to your system causing all sorts of strange problems. System Restore helps you restore your computer's system files to an earlier point in time when your system was working well.

It's a safe way to undo system changes to your computer without affecting your personal files, such as e‑mail, documents or photos. Having a restore point can significantly reduce your downtime. Plus this functionality is built right into Windows so there is really no reason not to do it.

To create a system restore point go to Control Panel and select Backup and Restore. Windows 7 users click “Recover system settings or your computer”. Vista users select “Create a restore point or change settings.” After you have created a restore point, you can access and use it easily through CCleaner. 

Defragment and Check Your Hard Drive for Errors Regularly

In order to help maintain the integrity of your data there are two hard drive tests that you should run at least once a month. The first is to Defragment your hard drive. Over the course of regular use, your files get fragmented or spread out all over your hard drive. So while an MP3 or WMV file appears as a single file to you in Windows Explorer, small pieces of the file could literally be spread across the entire hard drive.

Gathering all of these distant pieces back together into a single contiguous file makes file access faster. Depending on how fragmented the data on your drive is, defragmenting it could make your system noticeably faster.

The other test we are going to perform is a Check Disk. This tool checks hard disk volumes for problems and attempts to repair any that it finds. For example, it can repair problems related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files and directory errors. Disk errors are a common source of difficult-to-track problems, and running this test regularly can significantly reduce your risk of problems.

Windows has a built-in defragmenter and check-disk utility. To access either of them just open Windows Explorer and right-click on the drive you want to examine. Select Properties and then click on the Tools tab. To defragment your HD go to the Defragmentation section and press the Defragment now button. To perform a check disk, go to the Error-checking section and press the Check now button.

Certain free third-party defragmentation utilities have some significant advantages to the one built into Windows. For instance, both Ultra Defrag and Smart Defrag perform the job much quicker than the built-in version. You can schedule them to run automatically — and transparently — in the background while you work. Try them both for yourself.

You don’t need to be a computer expert to keep your computer running well. Resolving these issues doesn’t have anything to do with understanding computers. It has to do with paying attention to what you’re doing and actually reading those messages that popup on screen during an installation. Just follow these basic steps, and I guarantee you’ll computer will be safer and far more reliable.

Ronald Pacchiano is a contributing writer for SmallBusinessComputing.com.

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This article was originally published on February 10, 2010
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