Maintaining Your Personal Computer













A Computer is like an automobile it has to have regular maintenance and upkeep otherwise don't expect it to function properly for any extended period of time. Following are some tips to help maintain your computer.

Virus Scan :
A good Antivirus Program is essential to the health of your PC. I recommend Norton Antivirus and you can download a free trial ware version that will work for 30 days here Down Load Norton . There is also Pc-Cillin, Mcafee, Command, and a host of many others. Odds are your PC came with AntiVirus Software.But if for some reason it did not, find one that you like and go from there. Why AniVirus software you ask? Last count since 12/20/00 was 48,240 virus's and it climbs exponentially every year. There are a lot of talented (I use that term loosely) antisocial bored people out there what can I say?!! So please protect yourself. The best way to protect yourself and not endow your computer with some destructive little program (a virus) is DO NOT OPEN E-MAIL ATTACHMENTS it is by far the number one way computer viruses are spread. They can be hidden in email attachments any number of ways. Do not ever click on a .exe file that is sent to you or if you do not know where what or how it got to you. But for those of you who insist on sending and receiving email attachments run a virus scan check on them before opening them. "I once got a virus sent to me by a High School Math/computer Teacher". It was disguised as links to porno sites and embedded within it was an .exe file that if I would had been foolish enough to click on I promptly would have installed it onto my computer. Which then would have sent it out to anyone that was in my address book of outlook express. Which is what happened to the poor unsuspecting teacher whom I am sure felt pretty bad and foolish. But hey it can happen to the best. Fortunately for myself I looked at the source code and immediately discovered it. But the moral of the story is. It could be your best friend or your worst enemy it does not matter, any one can bite or be bitten when you are messing with attachments. Be sure to update your virus definitions on a regular basis. Weekly is a good rule to live by or if by some chance you hear of a new virus. "Some are more publicized then others remember the Melissa Virus?"

By Defragmenting your hard drive you rearrange unused space and files to optimize the performance of your computer. It should be done on at least a monthly basis I recommend weekly depending on how much you use your computer, install and uninstall programs and how many crashes you have etc. All of this is a factor on how defragmented your hard drive may become.You can start Disk Defragmenter by clicking Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools, and then clicking Disk Defragmenter.

ScanDisk basically checks your hard drive for errors along with your files and folders. If it finds any it will prompt you to ignore resume or repair. Doing a thorough scan once a month or every other month is a good idea. It can tell you if your HD has been damaged and is a indicator of a failing HD. Hard drives do and will fail they are far and few in between but it does happen. It is nice to have some type of advance warning so you can save your data for transfer to a new HD. "I've had one fail several years ago and wish someone would have told me this then" I did however have backups of my email addresses and favorites but for the most part I was out of luck". Live and Learn! You can run ScanDisk by clicking Start/ Programs/ Accessories/ System Tools, and then clicking ScanDisk.

Cleaning up unwanted files and folders:
Windows has the tendency to create files and save files that are not always necessary to the functionality of itself. The trick is figuring out which ones it needs and which ones it doesn't.
Ones Not To Touch
Sytem.dat and user.dat (The .dat is short for database.) Absolutely under no circumstances should you ever touch or meddle with these two files. They contain your registry settings for windows and if they become corrupted your windows will behave erratically or cease to function at all. Your registry holds all the settings for your software, hardware and user preferences. Another key file that must never be deleted is loads the core components of Windows, so without it Windows cannot and will not load. Leave it alone. Rather than enumerating all the files that you should not mess with or delete, let's just set a general guideline. Don't delete anything in the C:/Windows folder unless you absolutely know what you are doing! This is the very same folder that contains System.dat, User.dat, and It also contains most other crucial files on your system, such as all the Windows system files that make your computer do its thing.
Ones you can delete, are any files with a .tmp for an extension. When you install a program it uses and creates many temporary files which end in the .tmp extension. Normally you can safely delete these files. In order to do this just click on them once highlighting them then press your delete button on your keyboard. Other files you can safely delete providing programs are not or do not use them when running are. bak which are backup files from various applications.
.bmp - picture files and wallpaper files. Don't delete your current wallpaper if you like it.
.mov - movie files.
.mp3 - MP3 music files.
.avi - another movie file format.
.wav - sound files. If you're done listening to them and have your cd burned, say bye.
.jpg - picture files.
.tiff - massive, pristine picture files that don't use compression
These are files that can be safely deleted from you PC without doing any harm but! Use your discretion don't go into programs and start deleting out all the .jpg or .wav files because they probably are needed by that particular program. We are talking about these files in the context of (you created them). Like a word document .doc if you wrote something and saved it somewhere and no longer need it then get rid of it.Or a picture that you may have scanned .jpg and no longer want or use. Wav files that you have converted from .Mp3 files to burn a CD for music that you no longer use (which take up a tremendous amount of space I may add) get rid of them. You can fill up a 30 G hardrive in no time at all if you are an avid music aficionado and don't know how to get rid of the .wav files after burning a CD. To check how much available space is on your hard drive follow these instructions.
Double-click on the My Computer icon;
Right-click on the C: drive;
Select Properties by left clicking
While you have this open if you are running Windows 98 click on Disk Cleanup it will clean out your recycle bin and temp Internet files among others. A nifty little add on to win98. One more word of caution you may delete the files and they go to your recycle bin which is where they stay until you go and actually empty it. To empty your recycle bin right click on the recycle bin once then left click on Empty your Recycle bin. A nice program which I highly recommend for helping you rid your PC of unwanted clutter and useless files is called Uninstaller by McAfee and you can download a free 30 day trial version here. Norton also makes a program called Cleansweep but at the time of this writing their download site was down for maintenance.

Get rid of programs you don't or no longer use:
No sense having something on your computer that you do not use. To uninstall an application or program you no longer use, follow these steps. Choose Start Click Control Panel. Click on Add/Remove Programs. Select any listed programs you no longer use. Click on the Add/Remove Button. Then follow the instructions. On most new computers they come loaded with about 1 to 8 different Internet service providers some are installed directly onto your system. AOL is one of them if you are not using it by all means get rid of it.

Cleaning out your Intenet Explorer and Netscape:
Internet temp files are webpages stored on your hard drive that help the pages load faster next time you visit them. Over time, these files can consume a great deal of space, and are useless. To remove them: Open Internet Explorer; Choose Tools; Internet Options; In the Temporary Internet Files box, choose Delete Files; While you're there, click the Settings button and tell your computer how much hard drive space to reserve for Temporary Internet Files. The rule of thumb is 10 percent of your hard drive space with a 40 G hard drive which is an incredible amount of space. So use your own discretion and common sense when making these adjustments.
For Netscape go to Edit/preferences/advanced/cache then clear both the memory and the disk cache out. While your there notice the Document in cache is compared to that on network. If you ever have any problems for instance you have a news site that you go to and its always the same news every day never changing. It may be because this protocol accidentally got changed to never. Therefore it constantly pulls the page from your cache never giving you the updated one. Internet Explorer has a similar setting and it can be found by going to Internet Explorer; Choose Tools; Internet Options;Settings.

Cookies what are they and where are they:
A Cookie is a little piece of information that is installed in your Windows Internet Explorer or Netscape Cache your C:\WINDOWS\Cookies Or Programs\Netscape\Users\default (Press F3 do a search for cookie or cookies) Cookies give you a unique identifier so when you revisit the site or web page again it will recognize you and know who you are, not literally so to speak. "It does not give the web server your name or address and telephone number so relax". For Example if you have a web page with Excite or Yahoo set up with certain criteria or information specifically for you it will then retrieve that information. For instance on Excite you can set up a favorites with TV guide, Sports scores Stocks and many other bits of information that you can gear to your own specific likes and tastes. Well in order for Excite to recognize you every time you return to the web page so it can display that information it installs a little cookie to tell the server what to display. Very harmless to say the least. However as usual (yes you detect a little cynicism) someone has figured out a way to exploit this. One company in particular is called Double Click. They are an Internet Advertising Agency and are most infamous or shall I say notorious for there ad banners that put little cookies on your PC that will track you around the net and tell them where you have been for advertising purposes. I call it an invasion of privacy and violates your rights to privacy. Lets just say it plain SUCKS!! And you can opt-out so they cannot do this to you at their own Website. Please Click Here to Do So Now be warned however they seem to do everything to discourage you but unless you want someone tracking your moves around the net Do It Now! Believe me odds are you have one on your Hard Drive already, there are add banners everywhere!!

Software for helping you maintain a healthy PC:
One of the best programs I have found and use every time I open a browser window to surf the web is called Cookie Pal its shareware free to try and $15.00 US dollars to keep it and more then worth it. Very easy to use and kind of cute to boot.It will manage all your cookies keeping the ones you want and not letting the ones you don't want on your hard drive from cluttering it up.(Like Double Clicks) You can down load it at Cookie Pal I highly recommend it! It won PC Magazine Editors' Choice Award September 1999 and September 1997.

Run Disk Cleanup urility:
You can run Disk Cleanup to help you free up space on your hard drive. Disk Cleanup searches your drive, and then lists temporary files, Internet cache files, and unnecessary program files that you can safely delete. You can start Disk Cleanup by clicking Start, pointing to Programs, pointing to Accessories, pointing to System Tools, and then clicking Disk Cleanup.

Schedule a weekly monthly clean up:
Set a side one day a week for clean up and maintenance of your PC and one day a month for intensive cleaning. Sometimes a thorough Scan Disk can take a couple of hours or more, same with the defrag depending on how bad it is. What ever works best for you as long as you have some type of regular maintenance plan in place. "If you have problems with the defrag or scan disk continually restarting because a program keeps writing to it or interfering then try running it in safe mode". For starting in safe mode see troubleshooting.

For tips on troubleshooting your computer please see Troubleshooting Your PC.

Tips on helping you maintain your PC.






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Physically Cleaning:
It is important to regularly dust and clean your Computer. The case and monitor and mouse on a regular basis. Check to make sure your cooling fans are functioning properly and keep all vents free of dust so it circulates air through the case for cooling purposes. I do recommend at least once every 6 months to a year depending on what climate you live in. Remove your case and blow out the inside components with compressed air in the can which you may buy at any electronic store. Use short bursts of air to prevent condensation. For cleaning your case and monitor I recommend Endust for Electronics which is an antistatic. Get something that is specifically for electronics. No ammonia or abrasives.






What's an OS?
Microsoft Windows. Which is the operating system (OS) that gives you all the wonderful graphics and programs that you use. "Some may dispute the wonderful part, but all in all Windows is the best OS out there." "I can already hear the Beos, Linux, and Sun people muttering what an idiot this person must be. "But I am speaking from the home user regular PC user's perspective". Not the super geek who thinks a good time is crashing windows beyond repair and then having to reformat and reinstall once a month! While compiling the latest Linux Kernal at the same time! But I will give a plug for Linux. Linux is a very good OS very stable and has security and functionality way beyond Windows reach. "I've been running Linux for almost 2 years and never had a crash". But to the regular home user it tends to be a little daunting and difficult unless you know your way around unix.Translating into a bit hard to understand. Beos on the other hand is pretty and nice to look at but has a very long way to go. Need an obsolete driver for that one? Well you had better plan on writing your own! Beos is very limited with the free version and actually runs while in Windows. The biggest and best difference between Windows is Linux and Beos are free, Windows is not! There are many versions of Linux out there the best in my humble opinion being Madrake, and RedHat. They can be downloaded for free but better have allot of time on your hands and a very fast connection were talking 600-950 MB. Then you need to burn it on to a CD making it bootable. Then repartition your Hard Drive eventually ending up with a duel boot system.. For repartioning your hard drive the best program out there is call Partition Magic by PowerQuest. For much more in depth information on Linux please see.

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