Simple PC maintenance that works

By | February 26, 2009

PC maintenance is NOT difficult at all, but a lot of people don’t really know how to maintain their PCs and end up with all kinds of problems. Daily, I see requests for help in computer forums from guys that got their machines bugged. What I’m about to recommend may not be 100% full-proof but personally has worked for me 99% of the time. In fact, the tools that I’m reviewing here are all free so it doesn’t cost you anything to try it.

The underlying principle in recommending these tools is to protect and solve common problems for a typical PC/Internet user. Below are 3 main issues most normal users have:

  • Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure. Most PCs nowadays are constantly connected to the Internet and therefore require round the clock protection in order to fend off various threats.
  • Installing and uninstalling programs causes the gradual slowdown in PC performance (especially Microsoft Windows based systems). This do not necessary mean your hardware is wearing out or a lack of memory, it might be caused by ‘leftovers’ from all the old programs that you have installed and was not removed completely, causing unnecessary delays and checking in the system.
  • Running out of disk space. Yes, disk drives are cheap but why not optimize your current storage capacity before forking out money to get new ones? There are some tools that could help you search for unused files to delete.

Fending off Virus and Spyware

I’ve used Norton, Panda, McAfee and AVG Free before, but now I use Avast! and it works great. I mention Avira because I’ve got friends who are happy with Avira, and they always download all kinds of stuff, really.

Most of you might have AVG Free installed, but I’ve seen a number of PCs getting infected even with AVG on. If you’re using AVG alone, I suggest including a strong firewall like ZoneAlarm in tandem.


Installing and having them running constantly is one thing, it’s another to make sure it is updated constantly with the latest new virus threat list. Here are some guidelines to really protect your PC against malware.

  • Schedule your Antivirus program to update everyday, at least. New threats are discovered on a daily basis and increasing on an hourly basis, you need to have the very latest threat list in order to detect them.
  • Schedule to run a full scan at least on a weekly basis. From experience, I find that even if you have an antivirus program on, sometimes some virus (especially the dormant type) might seep through undetected into your system, especially if you like surfing high-risk sites, therefore a weekly (preferably once every 3 days or so) is required for total protection.
  • Use a backup spyware tool like Spybot, running this at least once a month (if possible once a week). Be sure to keep it updated.

Why is my PC getting slower and slower?

You can’t get better than using these two:

Many people wonder why their PCs are running slower than when they were new. From experience, the main cause of this problem is not due to hardware wearing out or lack of memory. The main cause is due to ‘wear and tear’ in installing/uninstalling various programs. Many programs do not uninstall cleanly. In the long run, all these ‘crap’ accumulates in the registry, creating unnecessary delays, therefore degrading your PC performance.

Here’s where CCleaner proves handy. I recommend running this once a month or whenever you feel that the system is ‘bloated’ and performance has degraded. There are two parts to the cleaning process,

  • ‘Cleaner’. This feature identifies all the temporary files and log files that gets generated during the usage of the system. These files gradually accumulate and might even take up substantial disk space if left uncheck.
  • ‘Registry’. This feature is a registry cleaner. It will remove all orphaned and unnecessary records in the registry due to ‘leftovers’ from removed programs. It will also backup the current registry just in case you need to restore it back.

Why am I constantly running out of space?

Windows Directory Statistics is good:

As we surf, we tend to accumulate unnecessary files that you might not want anymore. One solution, before going out and getting more storage, is to identify what files are taking up storage space and delete unused files. However, with big storage comes the potential to accumulate many files till the point it becomes difficult to track. And especially if you are not exactly the highly organized type (like yours truly), you might lose track of where you store it, so you can forget about identifying what files to delete.

WinDirStat is a disk usage stats viewer and cleanup tool for Windows based systems. It scans disk drives and sorts all your folders and files from the largest files to the smallest. You’ll know which files are taking up space and then you can decide to either delete it, back it up elsewhere. A word of warning though, if you decide to remove some of the files, do not delete Windows related files that you are unsure of. It is best to copy the file names and do an online search to see what it does, and whether it’s safe to delete or not.

As you can see, it doesn’t take much effort to optimize your computer usage experience. I always believe in the 80/20 rule. Most problems can be solved and prevented by following only a few simple guidelines. I hope this posting would prove useful to at least some of you; please feel free to comment about your experiences.

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