NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2009
Preventive Computer Maintenance
Written by Stuart Rabinowitz,
Editor-in-Chief, the PULP, newsletter of the Hartford User Group Exchange, CT

s.e.rabinowitz (at) att.net (click to email author)

This article has been obtained from APCUG with the author’s permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

Distributed by APCUG. Original, uncopyrighted articles appearing in the PULP may be reproduced without prior permission by other nonprofit groups.

The single most important maintenance item that should be done on a regular basis is BACKUP YOUR DATA. What the schedule is depends on much data you can afford to lose. Try daily/weekly to an external hard drive and monthly to a CD/DVD, or use a backup application. Make sure that your software is updated; primarily the operating system and your primary browser.

Use utility software: get a sense of how your computer operates when it’s operating correctly. For the Mac use ‘Activity Monitor’ or ‘Tech Tools’. On the PC (in the control panel) administrative tools/performance. You can also check your internet connection speed at: http://reviews.cnet.com/internet-speedtest/?tag=ont.int.band

For the PC users--do regular spyware/virus scans. Make sure the definitions are up to date. Primarily for PC users--Defragment your hard drive (this may take a while). Mac users do not really need to do this since OS X (10.3 +) does it automatically.

Free up some space on your hard drive (PC users can use disk cleanup; Mac users can use CacheOutX). Clean out old files that you don’t use, after you’ve backed them up. Uninstall those programs that you don’t use. Apple recommends that you have at least 10% free, a bit more for PCs, this will improve virtual memory and may improve disk performance.

Clean the Hardware -- to clean the monitor and keyboard use a dry microfiber cloth (be sure the computer is turned off) and gently (don’t press hard) wipe the monitor, unplug the keyboard and wipe. If there are hard to clean areas, spray the cloth lightly with a vinegar/water solution and then wipe. For an optical mouse wipe the bulb gently. You’ll need to open a mechanical mouse to clean the rollers. Use a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol.

If your computer case is easy to open (i.e. not an iMac or Mac Mini), then open it up (after shutting down and unplugging it) and use compressed air to blow out the dust. Do not use a vacuum since it may create a static charge that could damage the electronics. After closing the case you can clean out the fan in the back.

You’ll also probably want to have the following tools:

Screwdrivers--standard, phillips, and torx in different sizes (especially the small ones)
Nutdrivers--1/4” and 3/16”
Pliers, part grabbers, and tweezers
Compressed air
Microfiber cleaning cloths
Antistatic strap--especially if you want to put your hands inside the computer

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