Computer Maintenance and Safety Tips

Fall 2009 CSANews Issue 72  |  Posted date : Sep 22, 2009.Back to list

From the numerous e-mails that I receive on a daily basis, it is apparent that most computer problems are software related. Hardware rarely fails if computer maintenance and security are taken seriously. Computer problems can also be caused by a lack of organization.

Software-related technical problems are rare when computer maintenance, Windows updates and spyware and antivirus software are updated and run regularly. Computer maintenance includes removing unused programs, "tidying up" disk space, defragmenting disks and checking for errors.

Get organized

Start by clearing the desktop of all icons except for the Recycle Bin. The desktop should only be used temporarily for files on which you are working. Once completed, file your work into the appropriate folder. Clear the System Tray of unnecessary icons to increase the speed and performance of your computer. The icons that appear on your System Tray, which is next to the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, are programs that are running in the background while you are working on your computer. The only programs that you need in this "tray" are your security program icons and notification icons, i.e. sound icon, Internet or wireless connection, etc. Others, such as RealPlayer, QuickTime, Picasa and MSN, do not need to be running constantly. If you remove these from the System Tray and need to use them later on, you can easily access the programs from the Program List, Start Menu or Quick Launch bar, depending on where you have placed them.

Keep your frequently used programs on the Start Menu by "pinning" them from the Program List. Alternatively, you can "unpin" these programs as well. Put the MOST frequently used programs on your Quick Launch Bar.

Delete all files that you no longer need. Deleting files from your computer frees up space and makes room for new files.

Keep files safe

Don't wait until a catastrophe occurs. Copy your important files onto an external medium, such as a flash drive, CD, DVD or external hard disk drive. It doesn't make sense to back up your files to the hard disk drive inside your computer because if your computer were to fail, you would also lose your backup. If your computer does fail, you can then connect the external hard disk drive or use the flash drive/CD/DVD to restore your files to your new or repaired computer. If you would like to have a complete backup of your entire hard drive, an external hard drive can be purchased and used for this purpose. Remember to detach the external hard drive from the computer and from the power supply after each backup to ensure safety, should a power surge or crash occur.

You will also ensure safety by installing both antivirus software and anti-spyware. Viruses and spyware can greatly inhibit computer performance. Spyware has the added "skill" of collecting information about users without their knowledge. Spy files can steal your identity and compromise your security, so be diligent and make sure that you update and run your anti-spyware on a regular basis.

Keep software to a minimum

"Lean and Clean" is my motto, and less certainly is better when it comes to computer software. Install ONLY the programs that you need and do not duplicate, i.e. having more than one photo-editing program. Stay away from free programs unless you are going to use them.

It's very tempting to download programs if they are free, but many of these programs come from the Internet with spyware attached to them. It is very important to run your anti-spyware program every day on which you surf the Internet.

These simple procedures will ensure that your files and folders are easily found and that your computer, regardless of its age, is running as fast as it was on the day it was purchased.

Pamela Tabak specializes in computer help for mature users. For solutions to computer problems, please visit her website at


Spyware - any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes.

Virus - a computer virus is a small software program that spreads from one computer to another computer and that interferes with computer operation. A computer virus may corrupt or delete data on a computer, use an e-mail program to spread the virus to other computers or even delete everything on the hard disk.

Anti-spyware - a type of program designed to prevent and detect unwanted spyware program installations and to remove those programs if installed.

Antivirus software - a utility that searches a hard disk for viruses and removes any that are found. Most antivirus programs include an auto-update feature that enables the program to download profiles of new viruses, so that it can check for the new viruses as soon as they are discovered.

Start Menu - the Start Menu contains shortcuts to programs that are installed on the Windows operating system. To make the Start Menu appear, press the "Start" button on the taskbar or press the Window Key.

System Tray - the System Tray is a section of the taskbars in the Microsoft Windows  desktop user interface that is used to display the clock and the icons of certain programs, so that a user is continually reminded that they are there and can easily click one of them.

Quick Launch bar - the Quick Launch bar makes it easy to access frequently used programs such as Windows Media Player and your e-mail, and to open an Internet Explorer window.

Flash drive - a small, portable flash memory card that plugs into a computer's USB port and functions as a portable hard drive. USB flash drives are touted as being easy to use, as they are small enough to be carried in a pocket and can plug into any computer with a USB drive.

Defragmentation - to optimize a disk by unfragmenting files; defragmentation reduces data access time and allows storage to be used more efficiently.