There are certain things computer users should know when working with delicate PC components. Following the steps below could significantly extend the performance and life of your computer.


Always keep your system UpDated

Be sure to configure your system to automatically run nightly system updates.  And leave your system on during the night.  That way, Microsoft will automatically download all Critical and Security updates, as needed.


Set your Anti-Virus Software to update Virus Definitions nightly

Configure your anti-virus software to update virus definitions daily, usually in the middle of the night.  Also, configure your anti-virus software to run in “Real-Time” mode, as well as automatically scan for viruses at lease once each week.


Power cycle the computer only when necessary

You should plan to just leave your computers on throughout the week. The computer’s power supply is a surprisingly fragile unit, and excessive power cycling can lead to a failed power supply. To keep your power supply working properly, refrain from turning the computer off and on as though it were a light switch. Since the computer uses very little power when it is running, it will be much better if you simply leave it on throughout the week and just turn it off once a week for just a few minutes.


Shut down Windows before powering off the computer

For those of us who work with computers on a daily basis, it’s common knowledge that you should shut down Windows before turning off your computer. However, many users simply turn the power off when they are finished using the computer without shutting down Windows. The only time a user should turn the power off with Windows still running is when the system is locked up and they have no other choice.


Run ScanDisk on computer systems

ScanDisk (AKA Check Disk) is not just a utility that automatically runs when a user improperly shuts down Windows. ScanDisk also repairs file system errors, cross-linked files, and other Windows-related problems. In addition, you can use ScanDisk to scan the surface of the hard disk to determine if there are any bad clusters on the disk. If it does find a bad cluster that can’t be repaired, ScanDisk will mark the cluster and prevent data from being written to it, eliminating problems before they occur.

To ensure the Windows file system is running in top shape, run ScanDisk at least once per week. Running the utility will only take a few moments, unless you do the optional surface scan, which can take an hour or more. You can get to ScanDisk by simply double-clicking the “Computer” icon (or the “My PC” icon), right clicking the drive to be scanned, and selecting “Properties.” From there, choose the Tools tab and click the Check Now button.


Run Disk Defragmenter at least once per month

Disk fragmentation occurs when files are written to and deleted from a hard disk. New data is then written to the free spaces of the disk, which may or may not be contiguous clusters. As a result, a large file could be written to several clusters that are located on many different sections of the disk. When a user wants to access the file, the read/write heads of the drive must move to each locations to retrieve the file. Depending on the size of the file and speed of the drive, this can cause quite a delay while the file is read.

To prevent such delays, run Disk Defragmenter at least once per month. You can get to Disk Defragmenter (AKA Optimizer) by simply double-clicking the “Computer” icon (or the “My PC” icon), right clicking the drive to be scanned, and selecting “Properties.” From there, choose the Tools tab and click the Defragmenter/Optimizer button. This utility will arrange the files on the disk so that they are all stored in contiguous clusters, making file access and system performance much faster. Depending on the size of the disk, defragmenting a drive can take quite a while. However, if you schedule Disk Defragmenter to run when users aren’t using their systems, such as at 2 or 3 A.M., they won’t have to wait for the utility to finish.


Note: While running Disk Defragmenter, program running in the background (i.e., screen savers, incoming e-mail, anti-virus auto scans, etc.) may cause the Defragmenter to stop and restart itself. This could put the program into a continuous cycle of stopping and restarting. Under these conditions, the Disk Defragmenter utility could appear to hang and never complete the full operation. For this reason, I always run Disk Defragmenter in SAFE Mode where all unnecessary activities are halted and Disk Defragmenter is not interrupted. When the Defragmenter is complete, simply restart your system. If this is done during a lunch hour, the process should be complete by the time you return.


Use the open/close button when using the CD-ROM drive

Putting a CD into the CD-ROM tray and pushing the tray closed may be easier than pushing the open/close button, but you risk breaking the drive. Although it is a little more work to find the open/close button, you will ensure that the mechanical parts that control the drive tray are not damaged by accidentally pushing the drive tray closed too hard. In addition, keep the CD-ROM drive closed when not in use. A quick twist of the chair is all it takes for a user to bump the drive tray and render it worthless.


Keep your System Case Clean

Dust accumulation and blocked vents can overheat a system.  This can be damaging to computer components.  Using an air gun or compressor with an air jet, blow out dust and remove dust accumulation from your system.  It is a good idea to remove the side panel of the computer to do a thorough dusting.



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