Computers often freeze or crash when one needs them the most, in the middle of an important presentation, a term paper that’s due the next day, or while updating our financial software. Many computer problems can be solved with free or low-cost products or just by using a few common sense tips to improve performance and keep your PC running for a long time.
1. Virus Scan Program
The most essential thing to have is a virus scan that is run weekly. Most new computers come with a virus scan already installed. If the computer you are using doesn’t have a virus scan there are free scans available online, but one really should be installed on your computer if you spend any time at all online. Spend the time learning how to use your virus scanner. Find out how it’s updated – most update automatically – and use the options to set it up to run automatically at a set time every week. Most computer problems can be prevented just by having a virus scanner installed.
2. Run the Scandisk program
At least every two months you should run a program called Scandisk. It is automatically on your computer. Scandisk actually scans your files and even your hard drive and can let you know of any problems it discovers.
To run Scandisk, first make sure everything running in the background on your PC is turned off. To do this press “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” and your close program box will appear.
Highlight each item EXCEPT “explorer” and “systray”. Click on “End Task” to close the program.
Then go to your start button and choose “Programs”. Choose “Accessories” at the top of the list. Move your cursor down to “System Tools” and Choose “Scandisk”.
A box will appear giving your choices of what you want your computer to scan. You can have it scan your files only or your entire hard drive. Scanning your hard drive will take longer.
3. Run the Defragmenter program
Another program that you should run about every two months is called Disk Defragmenter. Defrag will arrange your files better so your PC can access them faster. It’s best to run this program after the Scandisk program is finished.
To run Disk Defragmenter go back to the “System Tools” and choose “Disk Defragmenter”. It’s best to run this program overnight as it takes a long time.
You should not be using these programs while using other programs on your computer. If the Scandisk or Defrag program keeps starting over you may need to run the programs in Safe Mode, a special diagnostic mode. Read the manual for your PC to find out how to put your PC into Safe Mode.
4. Use a Firewall program
For anyone on a DSL or cable connection a personal firewall keeps viruses, hijackers and hackers from your computer. Since you are constantly connected to the internet by using these connections there is a constant threat that others may try to access your computer. There are free firewall programs available for download.
5. Run a Spyware program
Anyother important program is a spyware search program. When you download something from the internet sometimes other software is included. This software is called “spyware” and it can do many things to harm your computer, including letting someone from another website see what websites you surf in order to send you advertising. Other spyware tries to steal your passwords or other personal information. You should run a spyware checker at least once a month or at any time you are experiencing problems with your connection or computer speed.
6. Run a hi-jacker search program
Another important program to have is a hi-jacker search program. A hi-jacker changes your homepage to a different search engine page and can also block links to common search pages. They are trying to force you to use their homepage. Some of the hi-jacker’s homepages are not pages you would like your children to see. You should use a hi-jacker search program at least once a month or whenever you are having a problem with your homepage.
7. Clear your temporary files
Sometimes your PC’s virtual memory will become full. When this happens your computer may run slow, give you error messages or freeze during a program. This happens because everything you do on your PC – every picture on every webpage, every document you type, every photo you change – is saved somewhere on your PC, even after you have left that page and closed the document. In order to erase this memory you need to do the following steps:
Open your internet browser. Go to “Tools”, “Internet Options”.
A box will pop open. It should be open to the “General” tab.
In the center of the box is a section marked “Temporary Internet Files”.
Click on “Delete Cookies” and “Delete Files” one at a time. This will delete the temporary files that are clogging the PC’s memory.
8. Change your history options
Another way to clean out your computer’s memory is to change how many days it saves visited pages. You will find a “history” box in your internet options. It asks how many days you wish to keep pages in history. This is the part of the computer that saves all pages you’ve visited for as many days as you wish. By saving these pages for a smaller number of days you can clear up more of your PC’s memory.
9. Clean out old files
Periodically going through the files in My Documents or other folders you have set up and deleting or archiving them on a CD can also help your computer’s memory and performance. Do you really need to keep a saved copy of last semester’s English term paper? If not, delete it. You can also go through the programs on your PC from the control panel and delete those you no longer use. Don’t delete any of the shared files, though, if it asks, because that can cause more problems.
10. Reboot the PC occasionally
The last thing that is very important to do but seems simple is just to turn your computer off periodically. Your PC needs to be restarted in order to reset itself after new programs or equipment is installed. It also erases the virtual memory from the last session and goes through a self-diagnostic to look for any problems. It sounds like a simple solution, but most problems can be fixed simply by restarting your PC.
Troubleshooting your PC’s problems doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or require technical expertise. By using just a few software programs and common sense most problems can be stopped and you will find that your PC has better performance and reliability.