Basic Computer Maintenance

infoWhile it is important to keep a system clean there is more that can be done with a desktop system than a laptop. With a desktop system you just remove the side cover and use compressed air to blow out all the garbage. With a laptop about the best that you can do is to keep the cooling fan clean if you can get to the fan. In most cases we would advise taking a laptop to a shop for cleaning as you often have to just about totally take the laptop apart to get to the cooling fan. It is also advisable to use a cooling plate to set under a laptop (these can be purchased at places like Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy for around $25). The cooler that you can keep a system the longer it will usually last.

Then there is your display screen and they do get dirty. You can buy screen cleaners and they work well but you may find that just a soft cloth (such as a microfiber cloth) with mildly warm water does just as well. NEVER use any type of abrasive or ammonia-based cleaners. If you are going to use a cleaner make sure that it is listed as safe for flat screens.

Mice and keyboards also get dirty. Unlike the inside of the system, feel free to use a vacuum to suck dust and grit out of a keyboard. Use a cotton ball and Isopropyl Alcohol to clean the bottom of an optical mouse. Do not use rubbing alcohol as it will leave a film on surfaces. Sigh... who has not dripped a drink on a keyboard and ended up with sticky keys? That same Isopropyl Alcohol will usually solve the issue. Put some in a spray bottle and spray the top of the keyboard until it all looks wet. Usually what makes the keys stick is sugar that was in the spilled drink. The Isopropyl Alcohol will dissolve this and, in most cases, give back a fully functional keyboard.

Should I monitor system temperatures? Unless you are over clocking the system (making it run at higher speeds than intended) we would say no. Unless your system is REALLY old it already monitors temperatures on its own and will shut down the system if any temperature gets too high.

Sigh, software also needs maintenance. Major software packages, such as Microsoft's Office, will check for and apply patches and updates to help keep the package as secure as possible. It all depends on the software package. Some will check for updates automatically, while an update check must be done manually with other software.

Then there are those mysterious things called device drivers. Actually, a driver is just computer code that allows the main system to communicate with added devices such as a printer. The general rule of thumb on drivers is to not fix something that is not broken. If everything is fine don't mess with updating drivers. If you are having an issue with an added device it may then be time to update a driver. You would usually find such driver updates on the device manufacturer's web site but there may also be cases when Windows Updates makes an offer.

Then we have those programs that promise miracles, such as CCleaner. We will not deny that CCleaner has valid uses but don't mess with the system registry optimization function in such programs. The problem with system registry cleaners/optimizers is that you really need to know how to edit the system registry manually before you are truly able to use such automated software. If you cannot do a registry edit on your own how will you know how to answer when an automated program asks you what it should do? Bottom line... Do NOT use registry cleaners/optimizers.

How often should I do a full scan with my antivirus software? Simple answer is whenever something seems odd with the system. Most antivirus packages will do a scan on a schedule and should just be left alone to do its thing. This type of scan is often called a 'Quick Scan' which covers the most sensitive areas of possible infection. If your system starts to act a bit strange then do a full scan.

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