PC Maintenance 101
08-03-2011, 10:12 PM,
PC Maintenance 101
Not everyone is savvy enough to know how to properly maintenance their Windows machines on their own nor do they want to put the time into learning how. I’ve put together this small guide on what you can do to keep your computer running in top condition for maximum performance.

1. Dust=bad

Dust is the enemy of computers. If it builds up and collects on the components inside your computer it will collect heat and clog up ventilation. A graphics card with dust all over it and inside it will run twice as hot as one that is clean. Heat is obviously bad since it can shorten the lifespan of your hardware over time but your computer will also run slower the hotter it gets.

If you’re one of those people who has never opened up their computer you certainly need to do some spring cleaning as it is almost guaranteed to have dust inside it. Dust buildup is an unavoidable problem that computers face simply because of how they’re built. This doesn’t just mean PC’s either. Macs and consoles will gather up dust inside them over time as well (Of course, if you have a console good luck getting it open to clean it without the special screwdriver necessary. Oh, and it will void your warranty if you do so, so good luck with that.)

First off, don’t vacuum the inside of your computer.

Now that I’ve covered the common sense details, here’s the best way to get rid of dust. You need some canned air. You can pick this up at literally any computer store or buy some online. Obviously you can’t wash a motherboard and it’s a bad idea to take any kind of physical cleaning instrument to it so air is your best option. This will blow very concentrated blasts of air at all the crevices in your computer ensuring no dust is left sitting there even in the hard to reach spots. Don’t ever clean with your computer on. Fans are harder to clean when they are spinning.

Depending on how much dust is built up you will probably end up blowing a lot of it into the air around you. It’s good to keep a vacuum cleaner hose going next to you to suck up all this dust filled air to ensure it doesn’t just get sucked back into your computer when you turn it back on. Also it’s worth noting that you should touch your computer case or something metal before venturing inside your computer as electrostatic discharge from the human body can ruin computer components.

2. Defragment

This is important to ensure your load times stay short and your hard drive lifespan stays long.

Your hard drive is divided into sectors and chunks that it uses to fill up with data. Ideally when you install something it puts the data all together in one chunk, but sometimes a chunk cannot contain all of the data so it has to divide it and write the remainder of it somewhere else on the hard drive. This is fragmentation.

This is bad because when a large file loads it is reading it off your hard drive to put it into ram temporarily while you use it. If the map is divided into 2 or more parts across your hard drive then your hard drive has to spend time seeking out the individual parts. While this still happens very quickly, it can still slow down your load times tremendously if the hard drive is fragmented enough. Don’t confuse this with the actual files on windows though. A file can be physically split up on your hard drive but still appear as one file in windows.

This is what defragmentation programs are for. Windows comes with it’s own but it is ridiculously slow. I recommend Puran Defrag.

Puran Defrag

It finds all of these fragments and rearranges the physical chunks on your hard drive to put everything back together again so your hard drive can access them much faster. Puran defrag is free and unlike most freeware defraggers it can even defragment directories and your master file table.

Defragmentation time depends on how much there is so if your drive is heavily fragmented I would recommend doing it overnight while you sleep. If not, just run it when you have a few minutes to spare. Don’t run it while you are downloading, moving or editing files. You must also have a decent amount of hard drive space free in order for defragmentation to be possible.

3. Malware and Viruses: Kill them

Nothing will slow down your computer more than malware. While viruses and trojans are usually meant to completely cripple windows or your computer, malware is designed more to run hidden in the background and do any number of malicious things without you knowing. This is the #1 cause of WoW accounts and Steam accounts being hijacked.

First off if you don’t have a firewall you are asking for viruses. There are plenty of freeware firewalls out there and windows comes with a semi-decent one as well. Do not ever browse the internet without a firewall. You are walking through a minefield and will tread on one eventually. The best firewalls are the ones you pay for, but something is better than nothing if you’re broke. Secondly, use a virus scan and use more than one. Different programs have different databases so one virus scan alone cannot get rid of every virus out there no matter how hard it tries. Some of them get pretty close though and here are some I recommend:


Spybot S&D

Ewido Anti-spyware

Many anti-virus programs install a passive scanner that works in the background. These are often a bit useless but if you want this feature I recommend only using one as using many of them will only slow your computer to a halt. Virus scanning, like defragging, can be a time consuming task when doing deep scans so again this is something you may want to do overnight.

4. Keep a certain amount of hard drive space free

Windows needs some space to breath. If you only have 1 or 2 gigs of free space (or god forbid even less) your computer is going to struggle to work properly.

5. Keep your drivers up to date

90% of the time if someone cannot get a game to run it is because they are not running the newest version of their graphics card drivers. Drivers are the software or firmware that tell your hardware how to do what they do. They aren’t perfect though and they must be updated to weed out errors and introduce new technologies. Updating the drivers of any components in your computer that have a newer version available is often a good way to stabilize your system and avoid problems with getting thing to work properly.

I recommend Drivermax as it will scan your computer and tell you what needs to be updated. It’s much easier than doing it yourself trust me.

6. Tweak your TCP

You only need to do this once but it will potentially help optimize your internet connection.

Speedguide.net makes a program called TCP Optimizer.

When you run it you must first select the speed of your internet connection. If you don’t know exactly what it is, find out here: http://www.speedtest.net/

Do not set the bandwidth to a speed higher or lower than your actual internet connection speed. That will not magically give you a faster connection. You can custom tweak the settings yourself but if you don’t know how just select the “optimal” option and it will automatically select the best settings fit for your connection speed. This won’t make your connection blazingly faster, but it may give you a bit of a pickup or better pings in a game.

7. Don’t run programs in the background if you don’t use them

Just because you aren’t logged into your multiple IM clients at the time doesn’t mean they are not sucking up valuable resources that could be put towards whatever you are doing at the time. Computers are like cars in the sense that when you buy one they are touted to be able to handle anything you throw at them. While modern PCs can indeed handle quite a lot, they are still subject to being slowed down under larger loads. Cars will always run faster under a lighter load and so will your computer. Having extra software running in the background is much like having a car trunk pointlessly filled with cinder blocks.

8. Check your hard drive for errors


That link will show you how. Sometimes hard drive sectors can become corrupt and that can lead to a whole plethora of problems. Once every blue moon you should run this to make sure it’s running at 100%. It’s very rare for this kind of issue to occur in modern hard drives but things like power outages can still be a culprit for sector corruption. On a related note, you should always have your computer plugged into a surge protector or UPS to defend it from power surges as those can fry your entire system.

9. Myths about PC maintenance

Going into your task manager and ending all the processes (or getting a program that does it for you) will not make your computer faster, only more crash happy.

Using registry cleaners does not make your computer faster unless you have a metric ton of orphaned registry entries and errors. The primary purpose a cleaner serves is to clean up errors and traces after you uninstall something or are having registration issues.

'Memory cleaners' do nothing except make your computer use more virtual ram which makes it seem as though you are using less memory. This is a bad thing. Don’t fall for the marketing gimmicks.

'PC optimization' programs are a bunch of crap unless they are freeware.

10. Extra stuff

Don’t smoke around your PC. Unlike dust, cigarette smoke will do much more than just settle on your hardware and make heat. It will destroy your components over time.

Do not put your computer into sleep mode when you intend on moving it. The hard drives will only spin down if the computer is shut off and if they are not spun down when you move your computer you risk damaging your hard drive platters and then your machine is bricked.

Set your monitor to turn itself off after a while. If it’s constantly on it will start to die and wear out 50% faster.
08-09-2011, 01:02 PM,
RE: PC Maintenance 101
WOW, this is the greatest and easy-to-follow maintenance guide that I have ever read so I truly want to thank you, specially for recommending Puran Defrag.

Just these days I'm having troubles at boot up and I'm sure that defragging the hard drive is needed just to start troubleshooting, but I can't wait for a day or so to get Microsoft Defrag doing the job on a 250 GB hard drive.
MyDigitalpoint PRO Freelance Marketplace
01-30-2012, 12:11 PM,
RE: PC Maintenance 101
Nice. I already know SO much about computers, but for those who don't - this is great.

I had an idea of a blog once. You could help people with their issues.. You could have a lot of lengthy blog posts. Good method!

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