Technology was designed to make our lives easier and more efficient, but it can only do that if it’s maintained. As the winter months approach, it’s a perfect time to ensure your computer is running efficiently.
What needs to be cleaned?
- Keyboard. Do you eat on or near your computer? If so, crumbs may have inadvertently fallen underneath them and could be impeding their function. Once a month, turn the keyboard upside down and gently shake it to remove the bigger crumbs. If the keys are still sticking, use a can of compressed air to gently remove the dust and other debris that is out of reach. Don’t forget to disinfect the keys! This can be performed using a Q-Tip, or other cotton swab, and some rubbing alcohol. Make sure you do not saturate the Q-Tip as you only want the alcohol to go on the keyboard surface, not inside!1
- Defrag your computer. If you notice a drop in speed, and you have a SETA drive (one that spins, not an SSD drive) it may be time to defrag your computer. Fragmentation occurs when there is not enough contiguous space to hold the complete file. An algorithm is then used to break that data so that it fits into the available space.2 The slowness is caused upon retrieval; the computer must search the entire hard drive to find all the pieces of the data or file. “When you defrag your computer you not only increase the speed of the computer but you also keep your hard drive healthy and extend its lifespan. The wear and tear of fragmentation will eventually shorten its life but with proper maintenance you keep it running smooth and steady.”3 The general rule of thumb is to defrag when your disk is more than 10% fragmented.4 The frequency of running a defrag depends upon the usage of the computer. If the machine’s main duties are for general use (web browsing, email, games, etc.), completing a defrag every month is recommended. If you use it more often (8 hours per day), it should be performed roughly every two weeks. It is important to know that a defrag may take a few hours to complete so it is best to perform this overnight. Just make sure energy-saving features such as a screen saver are temporarily turned off as this may cause the defragmentor to stop and restart the process.5 Make it easy and set up an automatic defrag schedule.
- Cleanup your folders. Take regular stock of what is housed on your computer. If you have files that you haven’t touched in months or even years and are not necessary to keep, delete them from your computer. Having too many files will slow your machine as it needs to sort through them all when conducting a search.
- Delete Programs you no longer use. Similar to files that you haven’t opened in a long time, go through your programs and delete ones that you have not used. Maybe this will give you the added push to learn that software you downloaded months ago, but never pursued.
- Cleanup your desktop. While keeping files on the desktop can make files easier to find, but can quickly become overwhelming and inefficient. The last thing you want to do is to be rifling through icons looking for that one document. Instead, place them in subfolders within “My Documents.” By creating a file system, it will be easier to find the folders and will take up less space on your hard drive. Additionally, files on the desktop are not as protected as those in “My Documents” or “My Pictures. “For instance, if you use System Restore to return Windows to its state as of last Wednesday, the feature will remove any files added to the desktop since that date. The files in My Documents will be left untouched.”6
- Cleanup your browser. Similar to cleaning your desktop, it is recommended that you regularly check your browswer applications to see if there’s any that can be removed. This will streamline your browser and lower the demands on the hard drive.
- Install Updates. Just because your system appears to be running well, doesn’t mean you should ignore system updates. “Staying current on updates will not only keep your computer running well today, it will fend off unforeseen problems tomorrow.”7
By performing these tasks regularly, you will be able to extend the life of your hard drive, and be more efficient. There’s nothing worse than replacing a device far sooner than you expected because preventative care measures weren’t taken.
1 http://www.popsci.com/clean-your-keyboard-without-breaking-it#page-5. Maldarelli, Claire. Popular Science. 10 March 2017.