What regular maintenance should I perform on my computer?

There are some routine maintenance and housekeeping tasks which you should be performing on a regular basis.

###This has the same principles as checking your oil, tyre pressures and topping up your washer fluid on your car. It’s a few simple steps that make a massive difference to how well your PC will run.

This guide will help ensure that your machine will keep running at peak performance, in addition making sure that your personal files are kept safely and securely.

I will outline each of these below along with a quick guide, some useful links and in addition how often you should perform these tasks, and how difficult they are to perform. You will see that these tasks really aren’t too difficult and will allow you to experience a machine that runs quickly and responsively.

Around an hour total each month will keep your machine usable for much longer that it would if you didn’t perform these tasks (and you don’t have to do them all at once!)

(1) Keep Your Files Organised

Frequency: Whenever you create/save a new file.
Length of Time: Just a few moments
Benefit: Easy to locate your files and know which files need to be backed up.
Difficulty: Easy

Whenever you go to save a file, you’ll see a box that asks you where you want to save the file. Maybe you just hit save, or maybe you choose the documents folder and then hit save. Either way, over time it will become more and more difficult to locate your files and know which are most important. A simple change in practice will allow you to work much more efficiently.

Firstly make sure that you choose a decent name for your file. Instead of “Document1”, which is impossible to identify, type a useful description. For example “Payments and Invoices February 2017” or “Wedding Invitation - version 2”. Secondly, create folders and subfolders (folders within folders) to keep similar documents grouped together. For example “Invoices”, “Wedding”, “Contracts”.

Just as you wouldn’t throw paperwork blindly through the doorway into a backroom in real life, instead of filing it away, don’t do the same with your files on your computer.

(2) Regular Data Backup

Frequency: Every week for a daily user, once a month for an occasional user.
Length of Time: A few minutes to start, up to a few hours running in the background.
Benefit: Keeps your personal files (documents, photos, etc) safe in case your PC or hard drive fails.
Difficulty: Easy

All computers and storage devices have a finite life. As much as we would love for it to not be the case, everything will eventually fail. Considering you store a large proportion of your important documents, photos etc on your computer, it’s incredibly important that you are regularly making backup copies of your files, as the inevitable will inevitably happen when you haven’t prepared.

There are two really easy ways to do this (there are other ways, but these are the most common).

  1. Purchase an external hard drive and make regular copies of your files to that.
    An external hard drive is a storage device that connects to your PC but is separate from the tower itself. Once connected, it behaves the same as any other folder on your computer (meaning you can drag and drop files onto it, save into it, etc). A backup by definition means the files are in two different places. So you’ll need to keep them on your machine AS WELL as on the external hard drive. When not in use, you should disconnect the external hard drive from the machine and keep it in another room from the computer (in case of fire, or electrical failure, for example). It really is as simple as copy and paste. If you’re an organised person and can remember to do this on a weekly basis, then this is a great solution. If not, cloud backup is probably better for you.

  2. Sign up for a free/paid-for cloud backup service.
    Cloud backup keeps your files online on a providers service meaning no matter what happens to your machine, your files will be OK. Commonly used providers are OneDrive (Microsoft), DropBox, Google Drive, MEGA (other providers are available). These services come with a program that installs on your computer and keeps your files “in sync” with the files in the cloud. This means as soon as your files are saved, they are then uploaded, making the whole backup process automatic, and most of all really easy. You can just set it, and forget about it.

(3) Malware Scan and Removal

Frequency: Weekly / Fortnightly
Length of Time: A few minutes to start, up to a few hours running in the background.
Benefit: A long way to helping the machine stay free of malware, adware, spyware and browser hijacks.
Difficulty: Easy

Malware is a catch-all term that includes adware, spyware, browser hijacks and PUPs. These various types of infection all have one thing in common, they are out to ruin your experience of using your computer. They can also force unwanted advertisements to appear, steal your personal information, block you from accessing your files and even confidence trick you into paying for them for the privilege.

Malware can easily get into your PC via drive-by downloads, cleverly disguised advertisements, and loading unwanted programs during installation of other software. Your PC probably has at least one piece of malware even if you consider yourself savvy, if you have never cleaned the machine before.

I have detailed a full step-by-step on the below forum thread. Click the link to view the instructions. You should do this at least fortnightly but ideally every week.

(4) AntiVirus Scan and Removal

Frequency: Fortnightly
Length of Time: A few minutes to start, up to a few hours running in the background.
Benefit: A long way to helping the machine stay free of viruses.
Difficulty: Easy

Every computer needs to have protection against viruses. It is simply not optional in today’s modern web where it’s so easy to stumble inadvertently into a virus. You have a number of different options available to you, from premium internet security suites/packages available from Novatech to freemium alternatives offering more basic protection such as Avast and AVG (others are of course available). Bear in mind that you can only ever have ONE antivirus program on your PC. Having more than one will make your PC incredibly slow and also they’ll actually work against each other!

These tools work in real-time to protect your PC, and in general they can simply be a “set and forget” type setup. That’s the best way for it to be, as the antivirus software will defend you from threats before they even make it into your PC. However for good practice, you should run a full scan of your PC every fortnight. This will be as simple as opening up the program and clicking the option to scan the computer. This will differ from program to program but will be really easy to find once you have the program open.

(5) Keep Windows and Graphics Drivers Updated

Frequency: Weekly
Length of Time: a few minutes to start, a few minutes the next time you shut down the machine.
Benefit: Ensures that your machine has the latest fixes and features, keeping your machine secure and preventing crashes.
Difficulty: Easy

Microsoft distributes new updates for Windows sometimes as often as twice a week. In Windows 10, open settings, then Windows Update - you’ll just find a single button — “Check for updates.” Click this button and Windows will check for available updates. If it finds any, it will automatically download and install them. Windows generally will also check for updates in the background and automatically download and install them.

If you have purchased a machine for gaming or computer aided design (CAD), it’s important that you also update your graphics drivers on a regular basis. Fortunately, both NVIDIA and AMD (the two main graphics chip manufacturers) offer programs that make this easy and automatic. For NVIDIA, that’s the GeForce Experience, on AMD there’s a notification built into the driver program. If for whichever reason you want to update the driver manually, the link is here for AMD and here for NVIDIA. If you’re not sure which graphics card is featured in your PC, the auto-detect tools available on those links will get you the answer.

There are programs out there which will claim to “keep your drivers updated” but be cautious - they are very often malware! There is no need for 99% of computer users to do anything more than what I have detailed above.

(6) Disk Cleanup

Frequency: Monthly
Length of Time: a few minutes to start, up to an hour or so running in the background.
Benefit: Free up hard disk drive space.
Difficulty: Easy

There are a number of different programs available for this. There’s the disk cleanup utility built into Windows (which is not great) and there’s what we would generally suggest, ccleaner. There are other programs out there but be cautious of “registry cleaners” and other cleanup utilites - they are very often malware! For this reason we would suggest sticking with ccleaner which is tried and trusted - and also free.

Just a quick note, if you have upgraded to Windows 10 from a previous version, running ccleaner will remove the option to revert back to the previous version.

Once installed, right click the Recycle Bin in explorer (the file browser), and choose to “Run CCLEANER…” (or if you want to configure the program further, choose to open instead)

The program will now clean up your PC. You’ll see a logo of a red C with a flashing brush in the system tray (next to the time and date) whilst this is happening. When the flashing stops, it’s done!

(7) Clean up Windows Startup

Frequency: Monthly
Length of Time: 15 minutes
Benefit: Speed up the time it takes the computer to start and become usable.
Difficulty: Slightly less easy, but not difficult.

When you turn on your computer, a number of programs will start up automatically. Sometimes that is useful (for example, for your anti-virus), but other times it can cause your machine to be incredibly slow. You can change which programs start with the computer and this can drastically improve the time it takes your machine to start up and become usable. If you’re used to having to leave your PC before you can actually use it, this is probably the cause.

How-to-Geek (third party website) has written a really good guide on how to do this, and I would suggest following the instructions they provide. The link to this is here (Novatech is not responsible for the content of external links).

If you are at all unsure if it is safe to remove any program, please feel free to get in contact with us on 02392 322 500 and choose the option for technical support.

(8) Remove unnecessary, unused software.

Frequency: Monthly
Length of Time: 15 minutes
Benefit: Free up hard drive space, speed up startup.
Difficulty: Easy

This is as simple as reviewing the programs which you have installed, and choosing to remove any which you no longer use. You can quickly get to the installed programs list with the following instructions.

On your keyboard, press and hold in the Windows Flag/Logo Key and tap the letter R at the same time. Then release both. This will open up a “Run” box. Into this box, type “appwiz.cpl” and press OK (without quotes).

When the list opens, simply right click any programs which you want to remove, and choose “Uninstall”.

If you are at all unsure if it is safe to remove any program, please feel free to get in contact with us on 02392 322 500 and choose the option for technical support.

(9) Physically clean and dust the machine.

Frequency: Monthly
Length of Time: 10 minutes
Benefit: Reduce heat and energy consumption. Maintain physical appearance. Increase reliability and hardware life expectancy.
Difficulty: Easy

This is about as straightforward as it sounds. Firstly use some surface wipes/cleaner to wipe the outside of the computer removing any marks/spills. Any general surface cleaner would be OK, but be sure to apply the product to cloths and not directly to the tower itself. I tend to find microfiber cloths work the best.

Secondly, using an airduster, blow out all of the vents on the computer.

If you’re feeling confident, you can also remove the service side panels from the machine (underneath on a laptop) with a few screws, and also airdust the inside fans and heatsinks (this would be most effective). We can offer a professional airdusting service if you would prefer. Watch this video for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1o8BvA4awI

It is imporatant that you never use a vacuum cleaner inside the unit. The static electricity generated could damage the machine.

If you have any questions whatsoever please feel free, as a Novatech customer, to contact our free-of-charge lifetime technical assistance/support service via 02392 322 500.