PC maintenance.

Welcome To My Homepage PC maintenance. Ireland 2006 Photo

Basic PC maintenance.

For the typical home user, keeping your PC(assuming it's used for the Internet) running well requires(at a minimum) an updated anti-virus program, good disk managment practices, a Spyware detection and removal program and some sort of firewall.

Choosing good applications(programs) to use will also make the difference and well as how many are starting up when Windows does(the fewer the better for the most part).

1. Viruses are the biggest threat out there so it should be covered first unless you keep very sensitive information(then security would be right up there with viruses as a threat. Norton and McAfee are most popular but there are others(Panda, Grisoft(Free version), Trend). Any decent updated anit-virus is better than none. Update it weekly with all the updates available. Some viruses need a removal tool so if you get one that you cannot remove(you get that message from the program)see if Norton makes a removal tool for that virus.

-Most nasty viruses come with your e-mails, if you don't known the sender or there is an executable attachment(file named with an .exe extention("ending") delete it. Simple as that.

2. Get a free download of Ad-Aware or Spy-bot from www.download.com update and run it every week or two. I also like Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware as well as Combofix.  Now being called "malware"(mal=bad), spyware has to do with advertising, pops ups, web tracking and even browser hijacking. Get one of those I mentioned then update and run it.

If you get a nasty piece or group of malware you may need to run more than one of the above free programs.  You may need to run them in Safe Mode. 

3.. A firewall to keep out unwanted intrusions. More common than you may think but most are low risk. Still if you use broadband get a hardware firewall(harder to circumvent). Dialup you can do well with a software based firewall(since you are assigned a different IP address each login, some broadband accounts will use a set IP address which leaves you a bit less secure) like ZoneAlarm or that offered by Tiny Software. There are others but get one. Again, if you have sensitive info., get a hardware firewall. It's harder to get past. Here's a good security resource(Staysafeonline).

4. Hard disk(drive) management. Simply put, run a Scandisk and Defragment regularly. The scandisk should be done first(to check for hard disk/data organization problems) and fix them and defragment(arrange the data so they can be read more quickly). Sometimes this is best done in "safe mode" so other processes doesn't cause the scandisk or defrag to be interupted and restart).

-Also running the Disk Cleanup utility that comes with Windows should be done to clear temp. files and other unneeded files off your hard drive(make sure you delete your Temporary Internet files).

5. This one is not as easy:Keeping crappy programs off your PC. Some are CPU or memory hogs, others have Spyware built in(kaaza) and others are just not the best software(AOL?). Research programs you are thinking of getting. Read reviews, talk to friends, etc. Also make sure you need it. Too much installing/uninstalling programs clogs up the registry with stuff it's better off without. Some programs don't uninstall very well due to a poorly written uninstall file. Let others "test" stuff and you read about it before installing an application.

-Try to keep a minimum amount of programs starting when Windows does. This just means it will take longer to boot and leave fewer resources for your programs to use. If you have a very fast PC, this is not such a big deal. You can get a good idea by seeing how many icons are in you System Tray(down in the same box as you system time). Besides the volume control all those icons represent a running program(there may even be others running with no icon in the system tray). Your anti-virus should be open but if you have a large number down there, it's good bet some don't really need to be open. RealPlayer for example by default will add itself to the startup group but it doesn't need to be open for most users. You will have to go into the application and set it to NOT open when Windows starts or however it's phrased in the app.
You can also go to "start", "run" and type in "msconfig" and click "OK".  Click on the "startup" tab and look over what's listed.  If you see an application running there that you can't disable from within the application, uncheck it, make a note of it and restart.  If it causes probelms, recheck it and reboot.  A "System Configuration" message would pop up about an application being disabled so just select "don't notify me again" and click "OK".
You can check the Startup group under Programs from the Start meneu but most application won't show up there.
You may also need to go into the Registry Editor but tread carefully here.  As a rule only go there with specfic detailed intructions from a good resouce for a specific problem.
I always backup the key(s) I change and save it to the root level of the C: drive.
You do that by exporting the key via "File", "export" from within the Registry Editor.
Sometimes removing spyware will also require you go into the registry....so go carefully.  Better yet, let the anti-spyware program do it.  It may take several anti-spyware apps. to clean nasty ones.  There are times when they cannot be removed or always seem to come right back.  You might have some bad program(often some kind or freeware) loaded that you need to do without or live with the spyware if you cannot do without the offending program.

Below are some common free apps. that are good(or are well written and safe) and you should have.

-Adobe Acrobat Reader(disable from running at startup or auto updating). .
-RealPlayer(disable from running at startup or auto updating).
-Quicktime.(disable from running at startup or auto updating). 
-Macromedia Shockwave Player and Flash Player.
-Java Runtime.
-Microsoft Virtual Machine.

-Updating Windows and device drivers. In a nutshell, install critical and security Windows updates at least. As for device drivers, unless you have a specific problem or here is a compatability issue, updating a given device driver is not always needed. From my experience, if all is working well, your drivers are OK. If you have a problem with a device that uninstalling/reinstalling doesn't help, try updating the driver and then updating Windows. You should do some homework on the device to make sure there isn't a simple fix out there. Try the manufacturers web site or the all mighty google search to research the particular device.

More to come........