Best Ways To Maintain Your Computer

Free up disk space
By freeing disk space, you can improve the performance of your computer. The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk. The utility identifies files that you can safely delete, and then enables you to choose whether you want to delete some or all of the identified files.

Use Disk Cleanup to: 

• Remove temporary Internet files.
• Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
• Empty the Recycle Bin.
• Remove Windows temporary files.
• Remove optional Windows components that you don't use.
• Remove installed programs that you no longer use

Run Windows Update Weekly
So, what's so important about running Windows Update? Well, it's pretty simple really. There are numerous security holes and bugs in Windows, for that reason, it's important to make sure that you have all of the latest updates and patches installed on your computer.

Updates fall into 3 major categories: High Priority, Suggested and Drivers. At a minimum you must install the High Priority updates. I can't stress this enough. If Windows Update tells you that you should install a High Priority update - install it! If you're on dial-up and the file is large, you can either order a CD or have Microsoft mail it to you, or you can leave your computer online all night to download it then. Which ever the case is, make sure that you install it.

Suggested updates are just that and those are not as important. Feel free to install them if you wish, but don't feel that you have to. That being said, you should know that if you do install a suggested update, you need to make sure that you visit Windows Update again because there may be an High Priority update for the Suggested one that you just installed. As for the Drivers section, I usually recommend that you steer clear of this one unless you're currently having difficulties with the device the driver is for. I've run into too many cases where Windows Update says that there is a new driver for my sound card. After I install it, my sound card no longer works. Not a huge deal to fix, but a PITA for sure, so unless YOU know that you need the update, I wouldn't install it.

After you have applied any update, always go back to Windows Update to make sure that there isn't another patch that you need to download. I know it sounds silly, but it's true, often times there are patches for patches, so keep returning to Windows Update until it tells you that you have no High Priority updates left to install.

If you are on a broadband Internet connection (DSL, Cable, etc), then I recommend that you turn on "Automatic Updates" to download and install automatically. This way you're always up-to-date. If you choose not to do this, then I recommend that you check Windows Update at least once-per-week at a minimum.

Speed up access to data
Disk fragmentation slows the overall performance of your system. When files are fragmented, the computer must search the hard disk when the file is opened to piece it back together. The response time can be significantly longer.

Disk Defragmenter is a Windows utility that consolidates fragmented files and folders on your computer's hard disk so that each occupies a single space on the disk. With your files stored neatly end-to-end, without fragmentation, reading and writing to the disk speeds up.

When to run Disk Defragmenter
In addition to running Disk Defragmenter at regular intervals-monthly is optimal-there are other times you should run it too, such as when:

• You add a large number of files.
• Your free disk space totals 15 percent or less.
• You install new programs or a new version of Windows
Detect and repair disk errors

In addition to running Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter to optimize the performance of your computer, you can check the integrity of the files stored on your hard disk by running the Error Checking utility.

As you use your hard drive, it can develop bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing (such as file saving) difficult, or even impossible. The Error Checking utility scans the hard drive for bad sectors, and scans for file system errors to see whether certain files or folders are misplaced.

If you use your computer daily, you should run this utility once a week to help prevent data loss.

Install Anti-Virus And Update Daily
When was the last time you updated your Anti-Virus software? Can't remember? Then chances are you are out of date. Most anti-virus software companies are now charging an annual fee to keep your virus definitions current. If you haven't paid for an update in the past year, then your anti-virus doesn't have an up-to-date list of what nasties to protect you from.

This is especially true if you haven't done anything since you purchased your computer. Most computer companies give you a 30 - 90 day version of the anti-virus software that comes pre-installed on your machine. They expect you to purchase a full version somewhere down the road. If you haven't, then rest assured you're vulnerable. Personally, I think it's hogwash that a company wouldn't give you a full version of the software. I know it's in an effort to cut down on costs, but by providing only 60-90 days of protection, it gives the consumer a false sense of security. "But anti-virus software came with my computer." I often hear from clients when I tell them that they have to purchase a new version of the software. It's just not right, 'nuff said.
So what do you do? You have three options:

A) You can either purchase an update through the software that is currently installed.
B) You can un-install the old virus software and purchase a new version from the company of your choice. 
C) You can un-install the old virus software and install a free Anti Virus product such as AVG Anti Virus.

Most people are going to go for the free software and I don't blame you. It's what I use for my personal computer and I've been using it for over a year and really like it. Regardless of what option you choose, make sure you set it to update automatically and to run a full virus scan once a week. Most do this by default, but double-check just to make sure.

Protect your computer against Spyware
Spyware collects personal information without letting you know and without asking for permission. From the Web sites you visit to usernames and passwords, Spyware can put you and your confidential information at risk. In addition to privacy concerns, Spyware can hamper your computer's performance. To combat Spyware, you might want to consider using Microsoft Windows Defender, which is included in Windows Vista, and is available as a free download for Microsoft XP SP2. Alternatively, there are other free anti-Spyware software programs available.