Computer Health

A computer is like a person- it crashes, if it is overloaded or unhealthy.

Although there are other computer types, this summary is focused on “IBM compatible” computers, which are commonly referred to as PCs (Personal computers). The two main operating systems for PCs are Windows and Linux. The following instructions outline how to manually take care of a PC using Windows 10, and the research came from various on-line searches and computer expert inquiries. Since technology is always changing, please use the “On‑line Search Tips” below to find updated steps, and consider hiring a computer expert to clarify your computer specifics.

All computer types need to be physically cleaned, backed up and updated often, but PCs also require a “defrag” step, due to the way its operating system is built. However, it may be said that newer operating systems are already performing this step in the background, for which a manual defrag is required less frequently.

  • On-line Search Tip: Do I need to defrag my computer?

Safety Points:

  • To reduce the amount of viruses that your computer comes across, practice not opening any social media links or e-mails that you do not recognize, because it could be a virus or a link to hack into your computer.
  • Always renew your annual software subscriptions for anti-virus or internet security, as they help capture and remove viruses early. Internet security usually includes anti-virus and other anti-malware.
  • The 10 step computer maintenance process, outlined below, should be performed

Maintaining your computer health is a process that needs to be done in a specific order to prevent data loss.  Before beginning, be sure all files are saved and all programs are closed.  Note: Each step may take a few hours

  1. Backup your computer files
    1. Purchase external/portable hard drives to use as a backup sources, or use cloud storage accounts
      1. There are different opinions about whether or not to leave external hard drives connected to computers all the time, please research for yourself and decide accordingly
        1. On-line Search Tip: Leave external hard drive plugged in?
      1. It is recommended to always “safely remove” external hard drives from PCs.
        1. Select the upward arrow “^” on the task bar to show hidden icons, and select the icon that says “safely remove hardware and eject media.” After about a minute or so, a pop-up message to say whether it is safe or not to remove. When it is unsafe to remove, it is usually because a computer program is using a file on the external hard drive. Close all programs and repeat the process.
        1. If you do not do this step before unplugging the external hard drive from the computer, any files that are running during an “unsafe ejection” could become corrupt and may no longer be available to open from this external hard drive
          1. On-line Search Tip: Safely removing an external hard drive
    1. Open two “File Explorer” windows: One for the external hard drive and one for computer hard drive (C). Copy and paste important files from the computer hard drive to the external hard drive.
      1. In general, music and pictures require more data storage than most files. Depending on the type of files being backed up, a larger external hard drive may be required.
        1. 1 terabyte (TB)= 1,000 gigabytes (GB), and 1 GB= 1,000 megabytes (MB)
          1. On-line Search Tip: External hard drive sizes and purpose
  2. Backup your accounting software company files (if applicable)
    1. For accounting software that is updated daily or periodically, it is recommended to backup these company files at the end of every day or period as a safeguard. If a computer crash occurs, these backups can be used to reinstall all data from inception, and only the days not backed up will have to be reinput into the accounting software.
      1. Additionally, it is recommended to practice saving a copy of the “general ledger detail” at the end of every reporting period, or at least annually for potential audit purposes
  3. Empty Recycle Bin
    1. This icon is usually located on the actual desktop, and is not easily accessed through the “File Explorer” window for most updated computers
    1. As items are deleted from your computer, they are moved to the recycling bin
      1. If an item is accidently deleted, it can be retrieved from the recycling bin by right-clicking the appropriate file and selecting “restore”
        1. Once restored, this file will reappear in the file path from which it was deleted
    1. The act of emptying a recycling bin, removes the ability to “restore” files that have been deleted
      1. Right click the recycle bin icon on the desktop > select “empty recycle bin”
  4. Run Updates
    1. If an update is run without first backing up the computer, important files may be lost
    1. For updates, it is best to close all programs before running.  If a pop-up to update an application is received, and there is not enough time to properly backup before updating, come back to it later in the Windows Settings. 
      1. Start Menu > Settings > Update and Security > Check for updates > Restart PC
        1. On-line Search Tip: Check for updates
  5. Run a System Backup
    1. This process is usually done by a computer expert, because it involves backing up computer programs and related data, such as a company’s database
      1. On-line Search Tip: Backup your programs system settings
    1. If the average person were to do it, the concept would go as follows:
      1. Keep all software CD-Roms with the “Installation key” numbers in one area, including a list of websites for software/applications that have been downloaded from the internet
        1. In the case of a computer crash, software can be reinstalled on the computer using CD-Roms or downloads from the internet
      1. Figure out the best frequency of time to backup/export related software data, so that files are as current as possible when it is used to import after a computer crash
  6. Run Disk Cleanup
    1. This process deletes temporary files and other items.  When running a disk clean up, the computer suggests unnecessary items, such as downloads that have already been saved to another location. These items can be researched on-line and reviewed for removal.
      1. Start Menu > File Explorer > Right click “C” drive > Properties > General Tab > Disk cleanup
        1. The “General” tab of the properties window, shows how much used and free space is on the computer hard drive
          1. On-line Search Tip: Run disk cleanup
  7. Run Scan Disk (commonly referred to as Chkdsk)
    1. This process includes checking the hard drive performance for file system errors or bad sectors (soft or hard).  If a computer expert is not available, research on-line the items that show up after running “Chkdsk” and resolve accordingly.
      1. Start Menu > File Explorer > Right click “C” drive > Properties > Tools Tab > Check (under section: Error Checking) > Run updates > Restart PC
        1. On-line Search Tip: Check drive for errors
  8. Defrag computer
    1. This process clears out duplicate bytes that occur when we do simple tasks, such as resaving a file
      1. Start menu > File Explorer > Right click “C” drive > Properties > Tools Tab > Optimize (under section: Optimize and defragment drive) > Analyze > Optimize > Restart PC
        1. The analyze button takes time to identify what percentage of the “C” drive is fragmented
        1. The optimize button takes time to defrag the fragmented items identified
          1. On-line Search Tip: Defragment
  9. Remove Unknown Programs
    1. This process involves reviewing a list of installed programs, and researching unknown programs on-line to determine if they are no longer needed or if they were unintentionally installed
      1. Start Menu > Settings > System > Apps and Features > Select unknown programs > Uninstall > Empty recycle bin > Restart PC > Run disk clean up again
        1. On-line Search Tip: Uninstall program
    1. In the “uninstall program” window, there are two important columns: Size and Installed on
      1. Begin researching the programs that are larger in “size”
        1. If a program works with another necessary program, then it should not be uninstalled
      1. Review the “installed on” date for each program to see if it agrees with dates you recall installing programs
        1. If on-line research indicates that an unknown program is not needed, then it probably was involuntarily installed and needs to be removed
        1. If unsure, make a list of unknown programs and consult with a computer expert, before deleting
  10. Clean PC components (physically)
    1. Tower: Unplug entirely, wipe exterior and blow out interior with a can of compressed air “outside” to prevent dust from resettling. Do not use a vacuum as it could fry important items in the tower.
    1. Monitor: Power offer and wipe gently with a dry microfiber cloth
    1. Keyboard: Unplug and blow out using a can of compressed air “outside” to prevent dust from resettling. Then wipe keys with a cloth/Q-tip and rubbing alcohol.
    1. Mouse: Unplug and wipe with cloth and rubbing alcohol
    1. Scanner: Wipe scanner screen with a dry microfiber cloth, then clean with a glass cleaner
      1. On-line Search Tip: How to physically clean your computer?

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