Posted on: June 21, 2011
Simple Maintenance for PC Longevity
Posted by: Brett Bisbe
Read time (bolded): 4 minutes
Read time (comprehensive): 8 minutes
Nobody likes a broken computer, that moment when you realize just how loud the fan is, or how long it’s taking to load some small file. There’s also, of course, the gut wrenching, panic inducing Blue Screen of Death.
Suddenly, you become aware of all the important documents, family photos, saved games, mountains of data that you’re at risk of losing. Or, if you are the fastidious type, with all of your data backed up on a server, stored on an external drive, or compressed onto DVDs, you still face the problem of a crashed computer. How will you ever get any work done?
While no machine is foolproof, there are steps that can be taken to give your PC some longevity. Relatively simple maintenance is the key to keeping your computer healthy and functioning the way you need it to.
Let’s start with hardware. The biggest physical threats to the electrical system are heat and moisture. While keeping your PC dry is kind of a no-brainer (avoid spilling liquids on it, don’t keep it in a terribly damp room, etc.) keeping it cool is a little bit more difficult.
First and foremost: fans. Fully functional fans are the first defense against overheating. Pay attention to them. If it’s excessively noisy, working too hard, working inconsistently, or not working at all, it’s probably time to replace it. For basic case fans, this is usually a pretty simple process (only a couple of screws and a single wire to the power supply). If you are buying a new fan, bring the old one with you to make sure you’re getting the right size. For other, more delicate fans, like the ones used to “spot cool” CPUs or PCI Slots, help from an experienced hardware technician is advisable.
The other major threat to your PC’s optimal temperature (as well as a threat to your fan) is dust. Regardless of the source, dust will clog up vents, overwork your fan, and generally gunk things up. Cigarette smoke and pet dander are notorious culprits for damaging dust and residue. Avoid these things if possible.
Compressed air cans do wonders in the fight against dusty PC towers. They are most effective when used in short bursts, and can dislodge dust and grime from fans and vents. To really remove dust, you may even want to use a small vacuum cleaner, though there is a risk of creating unwanted static.
Clean computers are generally healthier, and it is in every PC owner’s best interest to keep his or her machine clean. Using antistatic cloths, you can clean inside the case with a few drops of mild cleaning solution diluted in water. You may also want to use an antistatic wrist strap. Full, step-by-step instructions for disassembly, as well as cleaning practices specific to hardware are available online. Just ask Google!
The other side of PC maintenance is, as you’ve probably guessed, is software related. Squeaky-clean hardware won’t do any good for an operating system riddled with old junk, piles of cookies, and fragmented files. There are a few Windows utilities that can get you started with software “housekeeping.” Dedicated utility or not, you should be looking for the following:
After you’ve cleaned up some of these rogue files and defragmented your drives, can start thinking about unwanted or unused programs, assuming you have up to date antivirus and anti-spyware software installed.
In the Windows Control Panel, you will find a utility called “Add/Remove Programs” or “Program Manager.” This utility will show you the software installed on your computer, as well as how often it is used. Based on your own usage patterns, simply uninstall what you don’t use. Your computer will thank you for it.
Cleanliness, both physical and digital, is paramount when performing computer maintenance. Just as the hardware components get bogged down with dust and debris, the internal workings get cluttered with temporary files and old, unused programs. Make a point to clean your computer regularly. Schedule the defrag utility and update your antivirus software. Pay attention to dust collecting in the vents and how close you place it to heaters or other heat/dust creating objects. It doesn’t take much, and a little maintenance can make your computer go a long way.