There's no doubt that items last longer and perform better when they are properly taken care of. Computers are no different. Proper care and maintenance will keep performance at a high, while increasing the longevity of the hardware as well. The big question is, what are the proper steps in maintaining a computer system?
Computer care and maintenance is easily broken down into two parts - hardware and software. Hardware care involves the physical computer itself, and the software care involves keeping your software clean and properly configured so that it runs smoothly.
Hardware care and maintenance includes the following:
1) Keep the inside and outside free of dust and other small particulates. Canned air works well for this purpose. When cleaning the inside of the computer, keep the can upright as much as possible, as the chemical fluid inside the can could actually damage the electronics.
2) While cleaning the inside of the computer, don't touch any of the electronic components unless you know what you are doing! Computers are extremely sensitive to Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) - An innocent touch of the finger can easily destroy a major component of your computer, rendering it entirely inoperable.
3) Keep your computer in a well ventilated area. Putting a computer inside an enclosed desk is probably okay as long as there is sufficient air flow through the front and back of the compartment.
4) If possible, don't put the computer directly onto a carpeted floor. Keeping the computer elevated (or on an anti-static mat) will protect it from major electrostatic buildup in the carpet.
5) Keep the surrounding air from becoming overly humid or overly dry. Excessive (humid) moisture is bad for a computer, but so is overly dry air (which encourages static buildup).
6) Do not expose the computer to water, especially the inside of the case. Do NOT clean the internal components with fluids of any kind. This includes damp rags or cloths.
Software care and maintenance includes the following:
1) Run Scan Disk and Disk Defragmenter periodically (on your local hard drive). If the computer is used heavily, run it at least once a month. Both tools can be accessed via "My Computer" (inside "My Computer," right click the drive, then select "Properties", and then click on the "Tools" tab)
2) Run a spyware scanner periodically. There are many to choose from if you don't have one already. If you need help selecting one, check the Tech Tips: Spyware, part 1 and 2 that was published in late February and early March of 2005 (they are available online in the Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress archives).
3) Make sure you have a virus scanner installed (with up-to-date virus coverage), and make sure it is scanning your local hard drive (typically the "C:\ drive") periodically.
It may be wise to run these maintenance tools during periods of inactivity, like during the night, when the computer may not be needed. These tools can create temporary decreases in performance while they are running.
It is also smart to read your computer's manual. Most manuals have a maintenance and care section that can provide some very helpful and useful information.
In the long run, keeping your computer clean will help it to perform better and will increase the longevity of the computer.
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