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Our Top Ten Tips

Once upon a time, your computer was brand new.  It started up perfectly, ran your software without errors and it had never even seen the internet.  However, over time things started to slow down.  As you visited websites and installed software, something had a negative effect on your computer’s performance.  Your local Computer Troubleshooter can ‘clean’ things up, but what happens when you get your computer back again?  Is it just a matter of time before another service is needed? 

Fortunately there are some things that you can do.  Below are our ‘Top Ten Tips’ for looking after your computer:       

  1. Use a ‘firewall’: A firewall allows you to prevent access from the internet to certain areas of your computer.  This increases your level of security and makes it harder for ‘hackers’ to get to your information.   Firewall protection is provided by special software on your computer, or your network hardware (e.g., your broadband internet modem may have an inbuilt firewall capability).  A firewall is essential for anyone with high speed internet access. 
     
  2. Use up-to-date anti-virus software that works:  Anti-virus software is essential for any computer that reads information from another source (including emails, websites and files on USB sticks).  To be effective, your anti-virus software must be working and it must be updated with the latest information from the manufacturer – they regularly send out updates telling your system what new viruses to look out for.  Check with your anti-virus software maker, as you may need to pay a subscription fee to entitle you to the updates.
     
  3. Use anti-spyware/anti-adware software: Spyware and adware programs will slow down your computer, running ‘in the background’ without your knowledge and they will not be picked up by your anti-virus software.  Anti-spyware/anti-adware software must also be kept up to date, but those scans do not examine each file as it is used on your computer.  Run your anti-spyware and anti-adware scans on a regular basis, or see if you can schedule them to start automatically at a certain time each day.  
     
  4. Apply new ‘Windows Updates’:  As it becomes aware of them, Microsoft releases updates and patches to fix security problems.  Find the ‘Windows Update’ icon or visit http://update.microsoft.com to check if there are any new updates that your computer needs.  If you have Windows XP with Service Pack 2, this can be automated in ‘Control Panel’ – ‘Security Center’.
     
  5. Backup your information & test your backups: Make sure that your important files are being copied somewhere else on a regular basis (e.g., onto CD, tape or using online backup solution).  Your computer can fail at any time, and you could lose everything!  Make the time now to check that you can actually read those files from your backup copy.
  1. Cleanup your disk:  As you perform tasks on your computer (like browsing the internet), a trail of ‘temporary’ files are left behind, so your computer can access your information faster the second time around.  Unfortunately, these are often not cleaned up again and the pile of temporary files grows bigger, taking up valuable space on your hard disk.  The easy way to delete these (without deleting something important by mistake) is with Microsoft’s Disk Cleanup program.  In Windows XP you can find it under Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup.  We recommend you run this once a month.
     
  2. Defragment your disk:  How does your paper filing cabinet look?  Is everything logically stored and labeled, or it is messy, with documents stuffed in wherever you could find room?  You’d agree that it’s much quicker to retrieve documents from a tidy filing cabinet.  The physical storage of files on your computer can get messy too, slowing down the time it takes to open them.  Microsoft’s Disk Defragmenter program literally tidies up the ‘fragments’ of your files, much like tidying your filing cabinet.  In Windows XP you can find it under Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter.  We recommend you run this once a month too, after your Disk Cleanup.
     
  3. Remove and prevent dust: A serious, hidden danger lurks in the room with your computer – dust.  Just like a blanket, even a thin layer of dust inside your computer causes heat to build up which can cause permanent damage to your computer’s vital internal components.

    Do not place your computer directly onto carpet - it will suck up carpet fibres and dust.  Check the outside of your computer case and brush off any dust from the fan grills (with your computer turned off!).  If they are looking particularly dirty, call your local Computer Troubleshooter – they can clean the dust from the components inside your case too.
     
  4. Upgrade your hardware:  As technology advances, new software programs require more computing power.  Asking your old computer to perform new tricks could place too much strain on it.  You may have an option to upgrade individual components rather than buy a whole new computer.  Consider upgrading your computer’s memory, hard disk or processor to speed things up and handle your new software.  Your local Computer Troubleshooter can advise if this is a cost-effective option for you.
     
  5. Address little problems before they become big ones: If you notice a minor problem with your computer, call your local Computer Troubleshooter. It can be significantly more cost-effective to fix a minor problem straight away, than waiting for it to compound and then require major work.  Keep a log book to record the details of any problems, including what you were doing at the time and the exact wording of error messages.  This can help speed-up our troubleshooting process, as we follow your trail of ‘clues’ to help us determine the source of the problem. 

Contact us about how we can put these and other tips into action for you.


 

The information presented in Dave's Tricks & Tips is provided "as-is", and is not intended as a substitute for the hands-on services of Computer Problem Solvers.
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