Keeping your PC in top shape can be a chore but unless you can afford to buy a new one every time one cranks out, you really have no choice but to do something about. For most of us, a computer is not only a tool but also a repository of something more valuable so if it dies, we may lose irreplaceable stuff. Having a well-performing computer is of course better than a slow one so any computer user is bound to do PC maintenance one way or another. This post is all about PC maintenance obviously so let’s get on with it.
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Install driver updates
A device driver, often called driver, is just a set of files designed to allow the operating system to talk to a hardware component or device. As a simplistic analogy, a driver acts like an intermediary between a component or device and the operating system. Instead of accessing a device directly, an operating system uses drivers instead to tell how a device should work. Drivers are as important as the operating system itself and without them, the computer’s operating system won’t be able to send and receive data to a particular device like a modem or a keyboard.
Every hardware component in a computer system has its own set of drivers. Like the operating system, some drivers needs updating from time to time. Some components like video cards are regularly updated by their manufacturers but some may not be as active in notifying users about the need to download and install new drivers. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to check. To do that, simply head to Control panel>Device manager and right click on every item in the list to initiate a search for new drivers.
Install system updates
Keeping drivers up-to-date may be important but so is an updated operating system. Software updates can include enhancements as well as patches for known bugs and security threats so don’t underestimate them. If you are concerned of encountering problems due to Windows updates, we suggest that you visit this link.
Microsoft regularly releases software updates so all you need to do is to simply set your computer to automatically download and install updates.
To enable automatic update feature in Windows, just do the following:
- Open Windows Update by swiping in from the right edge of the screen (or, if you’re using a mouse, by pointing to the lower-right corner of the screen and moving the mouse pointer up), then tapping or clicking Settings, tapping or clicking Change PC settings, and then tapping or clicking Update and recovery.
- Tap or click Choose how updates get installed.
- Under Important updates, select the option that you want.
- Under Recommended updates, select the Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates check box, and then click Apply.
If you’re running older Windows version like Windows Vista and Windows 7, these are the steps:
- Click Start, type Windows update in the search box, and then click Windows Update in the Programs list.
- In the left pane, click Change settings.
- Select the option that you want.
- Under Recommended updates, select the Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates or Include recommended updates when downloading, installing, or notifying me about updates check box, and then click OK.
If you want to have some control over how your computer manages automatic update, you can select Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install option. This will tell Windows that you wish to have the latest updates downloaded but you want to manually select what to install.
Remove bloatware from your system
Whether you have plenty of disc space left or not, it’s always good practice to uninstall programs you don’t use. Most of today’s computers come packed with bloats or programs added by the manufacturer that are not usually that important or has redundant functions. Removing such programs will not only give you more storage space but also the reduces the chance of encountering problems. Keep in mind that the more programs you install, the more chances there is of more bugs developing.
To uninstall a program in Windows 10, simply do the following:
- Open the Start menu.
- Click Settings.
- Click System on the Settings menu.
- Select Apps & features from the left pane. A list of all installed app will appear.
- Select an app you wish to uninstall.
- Click the Uninstall button that appears. If it is grayed out, this is a system app you cannot remove.
- Click the Uninstall pop-up button to confirm.
To do the same on a Windows 8 machine, just do the following:
- Press Windows and x key to open a task list from the bottom left corner of the screen.
- Select Control Panel.
- Select Programs and Features.
- Double click on the program you want to uninstall and follow the onscreen instructions.
Clean the registry
As your computer ages, its registry becomes cluttered. The registry is database that keeps tracks of everything that happens on your computer. Everything that you do like browse the web, install a program, change your password, delete a file are all recorded in the registry. It also stores customizations and settings you did. As time goes by, this database can get disorganized causing performance problems.
With today’s faster machines, we don’t believe registry cleaning but if you have an older machine that was purchased about 5 years ago, cleaning the registry may help improve its performance. The exact steps on how to clean the registry is beyond the scope of this post but if you intend to try it on your machine, we recommend that you exercise caution.
Tampering with the registry can make or break with your computer so make sure to do some research before editing it. Accidentally deleting a critical setting can cause the system to fail to boot so make sure you know what you’re doing when dealing with this situation.
We would discourage you from using third party registry cleaners like CCleaners as they don’t usually do much good.
Minimize startup programs
Most programs are configured to run when you boot your PC up so the more programs you install, the longer the boot up may take. Many programs are also designed to run in the background causing performance issues. If you noticed that your computer appears to be slowing down, it’s probably due to a huge number of background applications running at the same time.
To ensure that you don’t let programs you don’t need all the time rob you of performance, you can use Task Manager to see what apps are running. If you are running a Windows 10 machine, turn on Task Manager and click on the Startup tab. This will give you a list of programs that runs when Windows boots up. You can disable the programs you don’t need right after booting up in this tab. Keep an eye on the items listed as High under the Startup impact as they are usually the ones that can significantly slow down the boot up process.
Regularly scan your computer
If you have an OEM computer, chances are it already has a third party antimalware package. If it does, make sure that it’s regularly updated and most importantly, that you use it to scan your PC. Although prevention is still a better option in today’s dangerous web environment, it won’t hurt if you do a regular scan in a weekly basis. You can still prevent malware infection by doing common sense practices like never visiting booby-trapped websites, not clicking on untrusted email links, or downloading and installing pirated software, but just as important is to have a strong antivirus or antimalware package.
We recommend that you scan your computer even if you don’t notice any problems with it. If you don’t want to invest in a good antivirus software, Microsoft’s own free Windows Defender can do a decent job at detecting common viruses and malware from time to time.
Keep off dust from the system
Once you’ve taken care of important software maintenance, it’s time to focus your efforts in making sure that hardware is working fine as well. For starters, you want to ensure the you minimize dust inside the case. Like any other electronic device, your computer can suffer from too much dust. While you can never eliminate dust entirely, you can significantly minimize it in your system if you routinely clean the inside of the case. Dust and debris can accumulate pretty fast, especially if your computer is located in an open, dusty environment. Too much dust coatings in the motherboard can shorten life expectancy of components as well as damage the fans or motors of fans. Dust can also block vents preventing good airflow inside.
Make sure that you open the case regularly and remove dust from the motherboard and other components thoroughly. As a safety precaution, make sure that you turn off the PC and unplug the power cable from the power supply unit before cleaning.
A good way to remove dust from components is with the use of compressed air. Be sure to also clean the CPU, heatsink, and the video card/GPU.
Keep it cool
An important but often overlooked practice is to put the computer in a cool place. The lower the temperature, the better it is for any computer. If you tend to use your computer to do graphics-heavy tasks or gaming, the inside temperature of your computer can rise fast. If possible, place the computer in a climate-controlled room if you plan on using it for long hours. Remember, heat is generally not good for all things electronics. The longer your computer operates in a hot environment, the shorter the life expectancy some of its components may become. Of course, the processor can also become overheated faster in a hot environment so if you want your machine to last longer, just keep it in a cool, dry place.
Shut down the computer properly
Not shutting down your machine properly can lead to all sorts of problems. System files can get corrupted if you turn the machine off while it’s still trying to read or save something. If you are located in a place with unreliable power, make sure that you buy a good UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to give you enough time to shut the computer down after the electricity from the mains has stopped.
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