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Maintaining Healthy Computer Habits

We enjoy the convenience of our computers for so many reasons. We manage our budgets, pay our bills, and chat with friends regularly. Regardless of how you use yours, it functions best when it's well-maintained. Without regular cleaning and organization, your hard drive gets cluttered with data, your file system becomes messy, and overall system performance suffers. Without frequent backups, your data is less secure and more difficult to restore. And, unless you update your software and renew your subscriptions, your programs will not perform as well as they could. The following maintenance tasks, performed regularly, will keep your PC running safely and smoothlygiving you more time to enjoy your computer.

System checkups

Your computer works harder than you think. It's constantly prioritizing tasks, storing files, executing commands, allocating memory. It's really quite amazing how efficient these machines are. Over time, however, errors occur on your hard drive, data gets disorganized, and references become obsolete. These little problems add up, and as they do, your operating system slows down, crashes occur more frequently, and start up and shut down operations take longer and longer. In order to get your system back into shape, and even better, to keep it from slowing down in the first place, set up a monthly maintenance schedule. Be sure to include these basic items in your routine:
  • Scan your hard drive for errors
  • Repair corrupt sectors
  • Defragment your hard drive
  • Remove invalid Registry entries and broken shortcuts

Housekeeping

To ensure an efficient and enjoyable computing experience, you also need to keep your computer clean and well-organized. So, along with your maintenance schedule, set aside some time to complete the following tasks:
  • Remove anything you don't need, including old programs, temporary files, and Internet cache and histories
  • Delete obsolete and unused files
  • Clean your keyboard, mouse, monitor and computer case, using manufacturer-recommended cleansers and tools

Backups and disaster preparedness

Systems crash, power goes out, and sometimesno matter how careful you areyou inadvertently delete files. That's why you need to back up your computer regularly. You may also want to invest in a recovery tool to bring back your system and files should trouble occur. Regardless, don't ignore these basic backup and recovery tasks:
  • Back up your system and data at least once a month
  • Make two backups on removable media and store them in separate places
  • Create an emergency system recovery disk and store it in a safe place

Staying current: updates, upgrades, and renewals

From a performance and security standpoint, keeping your software and operating system up to date is as important as keeping them clean. The new digital reality is an ever-evolving, ever-improving world where staying on the cutting edge is a clear advantage. To remain current, check for software updates or upgrades each time you perform system maintenance. You should also check your subscriptions and licenses to make certain they haven't expired. The next time you do ordinary system maintenance, add these items to your checklist:
  • Update your software and operating system, paying special attention to security patches
  • Renew any lapsed software subscriptions services
  • Consider upgrading to the latest version of your favorite software

Security maintenance

Now more than ever, you should include a thorough security check in your maintenance routine. In addition to regular security checkups, you should also review your security setup whenever you make a major change to your system. For example, if you've recently upgraded to DSL or cable Internet service, take a moment to step back and re-evaluate your security situation. These assessments, along with the following routine tasks, will help keep your computer well-protected.
  • Run a weekly virus detection scan using a trusted virus protection program
  • Make sure all your security tools, including your virus definitions, are up to date
  • If you have a personal firewall or other security software, review your preferences and settings to make certain they're in line with your security needs
  • Run a security diagnostic tool on your system to make sure you have the kind of protection you need
Almost every part of your computer requires occasional attention, from defragging the hard drive to updating security to cleaning the monitor and mouse. If you don't set up a regular schedule, it's likely you'll never get around to many of these tasks. So, build a comprehensive maintenance routine, and run through that routine at least once a month. The payoff will be a healthy, reliable, and safe computerwhich means less stress, more fun, and greater productivity for you.

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