Technology Helpdesk

Computer Health

It is important to develop good computer maintenance habits to keep your computer running as efficiently as possible. Some time spent taking care of you computer will reward you with reliable service. By doing the following maintenance practices you can keep your computer happy, healthy and trouble free.

1. Error Checking with Windows (Scandisk): A Windows utility that checks the integrity of data stored on a hard disk drive, identifies problems, and where possible puts them right. It's wise to do a thorough check on the status of your hard drive once a month. Applications and files must be closed in order for error checking to fix the problems it finds, so XP will often report that the disk check will run the next time you restart your system if you've checked 'Automatically fix file system errors' on the next screen.

Note: Finding and recovering bad sectors can take hours if you have a large drive.

WinXP Scandisk:

  1. Open My Computer and right-click the Local Disk (C:).
  2. Select Properties, and then single-click the Tools tab.
  3. In the Error-Checking section, click the Check Now button.
  4. In the dialog box that appears, select Automatically fix file system errors.
  5. Click the Start button.
  6. You will get a message that scandisk cannot be performed...would you like to schedule Scandisk when you restart.
  7. Click OK, restart machine.

VISTA Scandisk:

  1. Click Start, Computer, right-click on the Local Disk (C:).Follow steps 2-6 above.
  2. Click the Schedule disk check button.
  3. Restart the computer, Scandisk will run on a blue screen before windows loads in a series of three steps. It will verify files, indexes, and finally security descriptors. A summary will be displayed and then windows will load.

2. Windows Defragmentation: Reorganizes a hard disk drives data to help increase the proficiency of accessing the data. Hard disk drives that are severely fragmented will take longer to access the data because it is spread across the drive and not located in a central area. It's wise to do a defrag once a month.

WinXP Defragmenter:

  • Open My Computer and right-click the Local Disk icon.
  • Select Properties, and then single-click the Tools tab.
  • In the Defragmentation section, click the Defragment Now button.

VISTA Scandisk: (Note: You will need administrative access to open the defragmentation application.)

The Defragmenter runs as a scheduled task which is automatically enabled. You can modify the schedule and run it by clicking the Defragment Now button.

  1. Click Start, Computer, right-click on the Local Disk (C:).
  2. To modify the schedule, click the Modify schedule button.
  3. Select the frequency, day of the week, and time.
  4. Click OK.

3. Disk Cleanup: The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk by searching your disk for files that you can safely delete. You can choose to delete some or all of the files. Using Disk Cleanup on a regular basis can significantly improve system performance. Use Disk Cleanup to perform any of the following tasks to free up space on your hard disk:

  • Remove temporary Internet files. Remove downloaded program files.
    For example, ActiveX controls and Java applets that are downloaded from the Internet.
    Empty the Recycle Bin.
    Remove Windows temporary files.
    Remove optional Windows components that you are not using.
    Remove installed programs that you no longer use

WinXP - Disk Cleanup

  1. Open My Computer and right-click the Local Diskicon.
  2. Select Properties, and then single-click the General tab.
  3. Click the Disk Cleanup button.
  4. The drive will be analyzed to determine how much space will be freed up. This my take several minutes.
  5. The Disk Cleanup dialog box is displayed allowing you to select the categories of files to be deleted.
    (Note: Use the View Files button to see the specific files that will be deleted.)
  6. Click OK to begin process

VISTA - Disk Cleanup

  1. Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and click Disk Cleanup.
  2. Use the drop down arrow to select the desired drive to be cleaned.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Follows steps 4-6 above.

4. Automatic Microsoft Windows Updates: Activate Windows automatic updates to make sure you are up-to-date on Microsoft windows updates to prevent any vulnerability to viruses, hacking, or spyware programs.

WinXP - Set Auto-Updates

  1. Single-click My Computer with the right mouse button; select Properties.
  2. Click the Automatic Updates tab.
  3. Select the Automatic option, and use the pull-down menus to choose time and day for update.
  4. Click Apply to save your new settings, and then OK.

VISTA - Set Auto-Updates

  1. Click Start, right-click Computer, select Properties.
  2. On the Task Pane, in the lower left-hand corner, click Windows Update.
  3. On the Task Pane, in the upper left-hand corner, click Change settings.
  4. Select the Automatic option, and use the pull-down menus to choose time and day for update.
  5. Click Apply to save your new settings, and then OK.

5. Weekly Virus Scan: A good antivirus program is an absolute necessity for protecting your PC and scheduling a weekly virus scan is a good routine precaution. A complete scan is also advised whenever the antivirus program says it has detected and cleaned a virus. Antivirus programs are not effective if you don't update them on a regular basis.

  • Important: Configure the option in the virus protection software to automatic update. If there is no automatic update option, manually update before a scan is run.

6. Weekly Spyware Scan: Spyware/adware are applications that get installed on your machine without your permission and noticeably slowing your computer's performance. Free anti-spyware tools are available for identifying and removing spyware, adware, and various other non-virus malware at Remember: Once these tools are installed, you need to download the latest updates before a scan is run.

7. Email Attachments: Email attachments can infect your computer very quickly with a virus or worm. You should always be wary of any suspicious attachments.

  • Do not open any email attachment without first determining that it is safe to open.
    1. Detach the attachment and save it to the Desktop.
    2. Locate attachment file on the Desktop.
    3. Right mouse click on the attachment icon to display a Shortcut Menu.
    4. Select "Scan for Virus" from the menu.
  • Do NOT open an attachment icon that has a files extension of ".exe", ".ini", ".bat", ".pif", or ".vbs". These could launch a dangerous program.

8. Programs at Startup: Do not let a lot of programs load when you start the computer. Too many programs initializing during startup may slow your computer down and affect performance. Only necessary programs should load at startup (such as virus scanner, computer system utilities, etc.) Programs such as MSN Messenger should not be automatically started when Windows loads. These programs should be configured accordingly.

9. Reboot When Programs Crash: Failed applications can cause other programs to falter. Restart you system after every crash to clear it out.