Preventive maintenance for a computer is a boring task. Unlike the panic you might feel when fixing a computer, its routine drudgery not much different than regularly mowing the grass.
Luckily, Im a guy who loves boredom. I spent a lifetime at pressure-filled advertising agencies, corporations and then newspapers. So a little boredom seems pleasant to me.
Come with me today as I teach you how to embrace boredom and in the process save yourself the unwelcome excitement of a computer emergency down the line.
Even commercial pilots with thousands of hours of flying time use a checklist each time they prepare to start an airliner. Its the same with maintaining a computer: A checklist will help keep you honest.
Ironically, its especially easy to forget a task that is performed routinely. So, create a schedule that lists each task and check it off once it is completed. And take full advantage of programs that use software that lets them run automatically on a schedule.
Hard disks fail
Its just a fact of life at some point, your hard disk will fail even if you do everything right. But thats not a good reason to skimp on maintenance. Use a defragmenting program a good one comes free with Windows or you can buy the even-better PerfectDisk at http://perfectdisk.raxco.com.
You should also take advantage of the fact that most new hard disks use a technology called SMART that constantly monitors the condition of the disk. A free program, DiskCheckup (http://tinyurl.com/beonk), will translate the information provided by a SMART disk and can warn you that a disk may fail soon.
Back up data
OK. We know your hard disk will fail some day, so it would be silly to ignore that looming death. Use backup software to make regular copies of the data you create. Use an external hard disk or an online service, or both.
Periodically check old backups by restoring a file or two from them. You can read more about backing up your computer and the products that do it here: http://pcbackupreview.com/.
Use programs that detect and eliminate these threats. Its likely that your computer is already infested with at least some of these critters. In fact, the leading cause of computer slowdowns is adware and spyware.
Some users get a false sense of security because they believe an infected computer just stops working. Because their computer works, they think its clear of threats. But it is more likely that an infected computer will gradually slow down and exhibit occasional glitches.
Use a UPS (uninterruptable power supply) to filter the electricity that powers your computer. Make sure you get one big enough to handle your computer, monitor and devices such as routers and modems.
Test the system once a month or so by pulling the plug on the UPS. If youve installed a large enough UPS and if the battery is in good condition, it should provide enough battery power for you to leisurely shut down your system.
Windows comes with some free tools that automate many maintenance tasks. Once youve set up these tools, theyll work behind the scenes with no tinkering from you.
You can learn how to set up these tools at this Web address: http://tinyurl.com/ov5ro2. That same page also offers some excellent tips from Microsoft on computer maintenance.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.