Maintaining your Windows computer

I have had several requests about what to do to keep a computer running without problems. As long as we are only talking software the steps below might be helpful. Most of the questions have been centered around how to avoid malware (viruses and spyware) taking over their computers, and what is better than to get a list of what a computer professional is doing for his own computer?

Of course I am sticking my head out with this list as most computer professionals have their own way of doing things. But my list is working for me and my customers and that counts!! ­čÖé Of course you have to use the programs and suggestions at your own risk. You will find a list of programs further down.

My monthly check on my own computers are the following:

  1. Make a backup of all data files.This happens a little bit more often than monthly.
  2. Close down all applications that you have running.
  3. Run CCleaner (crap cleaner.) It will also empty the recycle bin and other items, so you might want to take a look at what it will remove before running it. You can also clean up the registry, but before doing this part I strongly suggest that you have a backup.
  4. Run chkdsk. On Windows Vista or newer you have to right click on command prompt and select run as administrator. In the black window that opens type the following: chkdsk c: /f and press enter. C: is the hard drive that you want to check. /f tells the command to fix errors. If you have several hard drives/partitions, replace c with the letter that is used for that drive. You can not defragment a cd/dvd drive. For the system drive it will come up and say that the drive is in use and ask if you want to check on the next restart. Answer yes and restart your computer.
  5. Update Bitdefender and/or other antimalware programs.
  6. Scan the whole computer with the tools mentioned above.
  7. Run chkdsk again, shutdown the computer and when it comes back up, run a defragmentation.

One important task every 6 months is to open up the computer and get the dust out. Do NOT use water or other liquids to clean a computer on the inside! What I do is to use a low-power air compressor to blow out dust that is inside. You can also use one of the small cans of air that you buy in the store. The dust normally builds up in the power supply, the air intake filters and around the cpu. These parts are all crucial in order to make the computer run smoothly, but I normally clean out the whole computer so that I am not overlooking dust building up around other parts.

Here is my list of the free programs that I recommend in order to keep a computer clean of malware (virus, spyware etc). Keep in mind that this is for non-commercial use:

  • Bitdefender, Avira or Avast. All these programs are full anti-virus and -spyware solutions that exist as a free version and a paid version. Please make sure that you don’t install any extra features unless you want them. Avast and Avira might ask you to install other third party programs etc.
  • Malwarebytes. This is a free program and the free version does NOT stay resident in the memory which make it perfect for a monthly scan combined with other tools. Please remember to turn off the free trial of the pro version.

Other free programs that are very useful during normal maintenance:

  • Crap Cleaner. Removes temporary files and┬á is one of the best tools that I know of for this purpose. It will also empty the recycle bin and other items, so you might want to take a look at what it will remove before running it. Unhook all the unnecessary stuff during installation. You only need: Add start menu items (and Automatically check for updates.)
  • Defraggler or MyDefrag. These small defragmentation tools are a notch better than Microsofts built-in tool as you can specify how they should defragment.
    Download Defraggler from: http://www.piriform.com/defraggler
    Download MyDefrag from: http://mydefrag.com/Manual-DownloadAndInstall.html

Tools that I might use if a computer IS infected:

  • HiJackThis. This is a professional tool and NOT meant for beginners unless you know someone that can help you.
  • SuperAntispyware. Considered one of the best, but this one I normally uninstall after using it so that it doesn’t interfere with my other tools.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials. Free tool from Microsoft. Does not get top rating, but can be a good help.

There are other tools, but I will not suggest using them unless you are a professional computer consultant.