Your home computer is a big investment that can serve you well for many productive years…if you take care of it. But most laptops and personal computer systems don’t come with maintenance manuals; how do you know what you should do to keep your system healthy? Here are our 5 top tips to keep your home computer running well—and 5 well-intentioned pieces of advice you can just ignore.
5 Best Ways to Keep Your Computer Healthy
- Keep your computer clean. This is the number one, most important tip. Keep your computer free of dust and debris, and prevent pets from sleeping on the warm keyboard or CPU (irresitable to many cats). Blow out the dust, pet hair, pollen, etc. from the keyboard and fan, before it builds up and prevents the fan from dispelling the heat generated from the computer’s internal components. Heat is the number one "electronics killer," and it can significantly shorten the life of a computer in addition to causing malfunctions and problems. If you must use your computer in a dusty environment or you have pets, you should thoroughly clean your computer every 6-12 months.
- Run a good anti-virus program and keep it up to date. This means ensuring that you renew the software as soon as you get the notification that it’s going to expire.
- Don’t ignore error messages. At first sign of an error, you should always reboot. If the problem persists, get professional help right away! This doesn’t necessarily mean a costly trip for computer repair; a quick 2-minute phone call to an IT expert may prevent a simple error from turning into a computer catastrophe.
- Make sure you keep your software license keys and disks. Many programs are now only available as a file download from the internet. If something goes wrong and you need to reinstall, you may not be able to reinstall the version of you were using unless you have the original disks and the included software license key. Keep those safe, or you may have to re-purchase the software. If the program key came in an email, create a special folder in your email program to keep copies of all those emails separate (then you can search for it using keywords when you need it).
- Update your programs. In addition to allowing your programs to automatically download recommended patches and updates, you need to upgrade your programs every few years. After a program becomes 5-6 years old, significant compatibility problems arise. Software companies just don’t support much older versions of their programs. This can have major ramifications with complex programs like Quickbooks, Quicken, Adobe Photoshop, AutoCAD, and other specialty programs. If you wait too long to upgrade to the next version, you may waste hours manually re-entering old data or lose some data entirely.
5 Common Computer Maintenance Tips You Really Shouldn't Follow
There are many sites listing computer maintenance “tips” that you’re honestly better off not doing, because the advice is outdated, incorrect, or just not worth investing the time relative to the benefits. Here are the top 5 common computer maintenance "tips" that you should ignore:
- Defragmenting your hard drive. This is a very outdated tip. Computers have been taking care of defragmenting on their own ever since Windows Vista (2006). You can actually hurt newer hard drives called SSDs by defragmenting; luckily, computers automatically know this and avoid running defragmentation programs. Leave this function up to the computer and avoid trying to do any manual defragmentation.
- Constantly updating your programs. This may seem contradictory, but you really don’t need to worry about updating your programs as much as all the internet tipsters make you think you do. As long as you’re buying new versions of Windows and other major programs like those listed above every five years or so, you’re good! Windows and most other programs actually do a great job at keeping themselves updated with minor patches and fixes without the need for a complete upgrade.
- Running “utility” programs. You need a good anti-virus, a good backup program, and that’s about it. You absolutely do not need any kind of “utility” program such as defragmenters, registry repair, tune-up programs, etc. These are just wastes of money that can actually do more harm than good.
- Deleting your cookies. Honestly, there’s really nothing good to be gained by deleting cookies from a computer. Without going into a technical description of what they are and how they work, just know that they actually have a purpose and it’s mostly beneficial: to improve your web experience. Put simply, cookies make websites work better and save you time—two things we can all agree we want! The only time you should delete cookies is when a website is not working as expected; even then, you can delete cookies for that one website only rather than across the board.
- Changing your passwords often. Many sites continue to spread the antiquated advice that you should change your passwords every 30 to 90 days. This honestly just isn’t true, and it can actually be counterproductive and make you less We recommend creating good passwords and using a password manager program such as LastPass for maximum security.
Dymin Systems can help you with all of your computer maintenance questions, from day-to-day maintenance to troubleshooting, remote and on-site repair, and hardware and software upgrades. If you have a business, our managed IT service plans are an effortless, economical way to ensure your computers stay well-maintained, updated, and performing optimally. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with all your home and business computing needs.
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