Computer Maintenance Checklist

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We are all “plugged in” to our computers in this day and age… so we might consider our computers a need versus want. However, people who work at home, such as Medical Transcription/Healthcare Documentation Specialist’s, depend on their home PCs for income. These people can’t afford any downtime on their technology.

Although computers are very different from us, we can directly relate preventative maintenance in our own lives to the health of our computers. People gain a huge health benefit practicing preventative maintenance with their health; some people use exercise, others follow healthy eating habits, and some go for regular visits to the doctor for check-ups. For computers to stay running at optimal condition, they need to be on a preventative maintenance plan too. Below are some of the basics that I would recommend you do on a regular basis:

Clean Your Computer

…both on the outside and on the inside. You have no idea how much havoc dust can cause on hardware – it can fry a circuit. That means take off the cover and remove the dirt, dust and other debris from the cooling fans, power supplies and other components that show signs of dirt. Try not to touch the components directly, rather, use an air spray or anti-static vacuum. The frequency will vary depending on the environment but I would say monthly to start and either increase or decrease the frequency as needed.

Manage Your Data

I can’t stress this one enough… you’ll understand better when you lose your data and realize that your only copy of that great picture you have with your best friend is now gone… or worse, your word expander word list! External hard drives or online storage is cheap but data recovery is expensive – typically, you’re looking at over $1,000 to recover data from a 500GB hard drive – and that’s a big maybe. I had a 1 TB drive fail not too long ago and I was about a month off my manual back up and it took over 10 days of non-stop data recovery to get the missing files back. The reason is that the information is not stored as one linear block of information, rather it is scattered all over as it writes to available space rather than reorganizing data to fit the data it is writing – see defragmentation below…

Do Regular Software Updates

This is a tricky one, it is recommended you keep your system with the latest updates but sometimes you can run into issues with hardware and software version compatibility. You find this is most common with video cards; you will have a stable version that works well with all of your software but may cause havoc when you updated to a new version and now some application crashes your system. In some cases, you may have to revert (system restore to a previous point) and you’re fine. There are many possible reasons for the crashing but generally it comes down to testing by the developers and the myriad of computer/software configurations that exist – they can’t possibly test them all, so they test the most common configurations. Software updates also address bugs in previous versions and may resolve some of the glitches you might be experiencing. Updates should be conducted weekly (monthly at the latest).

Scanning

I mean a couple of types of scanning: viruses, Trojan horses, worms, spyware – these are programs that you most likely won’t even know are running other than if you notice some slower than normal performance or odd things happening (website redirects, mysterious pop ups, etc). Some of these programs can be installed just by visiting a website (no need for interaction!) and some can be harmless while others can cripple your system and steal your information. These scans should be done frequently, I would recommend weekly unless you had a virus recently, then I would ramp up that to daily until you can confirm the virus is removed. You may need to consult an expert here as removing the virus may be beyond the removal program.

Registry

The registry is like a big atlas for your computer, it’s where all the settings and configuration information is stored. The big issue here is that anything and everything that has ever been installed goes into the registry and can affect system performance. Even when you remove a program there is always some information that it leaves in the registry – the “I was here” scratched into your system. This is a less frequent scan and you should be safe with monthly or even quarterly scans.

Hard disk scanning/defragmentation

In the computer world, you’ll most likely have a bunch of files that you’ve added then deleted over time – it’s a misconception that the hard disk stores data like a CD ROM, it’s not one continuous line of data – It’s like having a book with all the sentences spread out over the entire book, sure all the content is technically there, but it increases your reading time as you‘d have to go all over the place to actually read anything (your computer just happens to do this super fast). These additions and deletions eventually cause the hard disk to become fragmented and slows performance… This scan should be done quarterly but also depends on how often you copy, delete, and move files.

Cleaning temporary files

You’d be amazed at how much data you have stored in temporary files. These are files that are downloaded from visiting websites, created by using software programs, orphaned files, updates, system logs, etc. You should do this clean up fairly frequently, at least monthly.

There are a lot of tools available to help you get that system working perfectly. Typically a good virus scanner such as Bitdefender, Norton, or Kaspersky will do the scanning and cleaning mentioned above.