Following a schedule is a simple way to maintain the health of your computer, but the key is knowing how often and what kind of preventative maintenance your PC needs. PC system utilities have all the tools you need to keep your computer running smoothly.

The way you use your PC is the single biggest factor in determining your maintenance needs-it's even more important than how often you use your computer. To illustrate how PC maintenance needs differ, I'll use the computers in my home as examples.

Our home has seven computers (yes, computers outnumber people here). Our computers cover a wide range of use-from the overtime workhorse to the light duty, part-time computer. Your PC will probably fit into one of these maintenance categories:

High PC Maintenance

One computer in our home receives heavy use, including:

  • Frequent file creation/deletion, all file sizes
  • Frequent application installs/uninstalls
  • Frequent high-memory tasks (website programming, video editing)
  • Frequent computer configuration changes
  • Continuous Internet use
  • In use over 50 hours per week (full-time work and beyond)

This computer receives constant, daily wear and tear. Internet developers, graphic designers, computer programmers and gamers often use computers this way.

If this description fits your PC, your computer needs frequent maintenance-twice a month or even weekly. A recommended maintenance routine is listed at the bottom of this article.

Above-Average PC Maintenance

We use one computer in our home 50 hours a week for word processing, email and photo editing. Computers requiring above-average maintenance are used for:

  • Frequent file creation/deletion, small and medium files
  • Infrequent installs/uninstalls
  • Infrequent use for memory-intensive tasks (video editing, gaming)
  • Infrequent configuration changes (same applications, little change over time)
  • Internet use is typically limited to browsing
  • In use over 40 hours per week (full-time work computer)

If your computer fits this description, get in the habit of running maintenance on the system regularly-start with once a month. If you find you desperately need each maintenance session-say, your hard drive is completely in pieces before you defrag-step it up, do your maintenance on that computer more often. (A recommended maintenance routine is listed at the bottom of this article.)

Average PC Maintenance

Our children use three computers fewer than 15 hours a week for homework, games, email, art, music and movies:

  • Infrequent file creation/deletion
  • Infrequent installs/uninstalls
  • Infrequent use for memory-intensive tasks (video editing, gaming)
  • Internet use is limited to browsing
  • Infrequent configuration changes (same applications, little change over time)
  • Part-time use or light full-time use (often a recreation computer)

Average computers don't change much from day to day. These computers aren't used for file manipulation and are only involved in a few tasks. If you use your home computer mainly in the evenings for email, word processing and photo editing, your computer needs average maintenance.

Treat this computer the same as an above-average computer-start your maintenance at once a month. If you see little change from session to session-for example, if you try to defragment and the software says it's unnecessary-you can relax the time between your maintenance sessions.

Light PC Maintenance

One computer in our home acts as a full-time firewall, online connection and in-house server. While this computer is on practically all the time, we don\'t use it to store data or applications beyond the basics: operating system, security software and a browser. We also use a laptop infrequently for a variety of tasks.

  • Infrequent file creation/deletion
  • Infrequent installs/uninstalls
  • Rarely used for memory-intensive tasks (video editing, gaming)
  • Internet use is limited to browsing
  • Infrequent configuration changes (same applications, little change over time)
  • Part-time use (or full-time, if used for limited, repetitive tasks)

Lightly used computers don't change much from day to day. These computers are involved in few tasks and aren't used much for file storage. If you use your home computer just a few nights a week for email and word processing, your computer may only need light maintenance.

Start your maintenance schedule at once every three months. If you find the maintenance routine takes a long time, move to every other month. Keep in mind that it's better to do too much maintenance rather than too little.

Now that you've pinned down a starting point for how often your computer needs maintenance, you must choose what to include in your PC maintenance routine.

Recommended Maintenance Routine

Few software packages cover preventative care as thoroughly as PC utilities software (also called system utility software). Most utilities products allow you to set up regular, automatic computer checkups so you can keep your maintenance simple and convenient.

These are tasks you should perform at each maintenance session, regardless of which maintenance category your computer fits into (click here to find descriptions of these features).

  • Remove duplicate/deleted files
  • Clean the hard drive
  • Clean Internet activity
  • Perform hard drive repair
  • Make a system backup/hard drive backup
  • Optimize Windows operating system
  • Optimize Internet settings
  • Optimize memory
  • Defragment the hard drive
  • Optimize registry settings
  • Perform registry repair
  • Clean the registry
  • Defragment the registry

Without regular, preventative PC care, you may make an expensive visit to the computer store unnecessarily. So don't wait until your computer has a problem. Start maintaining your PC before it protests.

 

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