Keeping your PC Healthy
10 Recommendations to Consider
By Barry Jahn

This document is a summary of constructive recommendations reiterated by many knowledgeable tech support people in todayís PC industry.

With the multitude of tech support issues we deal with on a daily basis (at home and in business), I certainly concur with what these leading experts are saying.

You may wish to print this out as a potential  "to do" list.    So, here we go ...

1. Save all the data you create in your My Documents folder (and not scattered all over your PC). This includes photos, Word documents, taxes, downloaded images, and scanned images. If it's currently scattered all over, select and <move> it to My Documents. This ultimately makes backing up your important data a snap, and finding files never an issue.

2. Backup your My Documents folder regularly. CD burners are down in price to $20 to $50 and install easily, and there is no reason not to back up regularly. You should never have to stress over your hard drive crashing, or your PC getting stolen, or lost data or needing to rebuild due to viruses or system lockups.

3. Run Antivirus Live Update (Nortonís) or AutoUpdate (McAfee VirusScan) frequently. If you have Nortonís or McAfee, set it to automatically update at least weekly. This is the number one cause for corrupted systems and many people are actually becoming the unknown 'source' of a virus sent to people in their email address book.

4. Check and Run all available Critical Windows Updates regularly (several times per month or set to automatically check). Start Internet Explorer, go to the menu bar and click Tools, then Windows Update. Click on Scan for Updates on the Microsoft Windows Update web page. Viruses propagate thru security holes in the operating system, and nobody is immune from them, so use the Windows Update regularly.

5. Buy a hardware firewall if you use cable modem or DSL. The installation only takes 2 minutes, and is extremely simple to do. This will block hackers and sleuthers from invading your PC. Remember, unlike using a dialup Internet connection, if your PC is turned on, then your system is wide open for others to invade. Software firewalls are nothing but a huge headache and cause more problems than they solve. Besides, hardware firewalls only cost from $20 to $60. Both DLink or Linksys are good brands of routers/firewalls. Note that you can connect up to 4 additional computers to the firewall, thus adding a small home network for no additional charge. No firewall --- not a responsible decision.

6. Upgrade your PC, or not? We hear this request almost daily. Here's what a number of PC Magazine say: "If you have to make more than one upgrade --- of your hard drive, or graphics card, or operating system, or memory --- you should probably be thinking new PC." If the system is over 3 years old, then the street value is probably around $150. Simply adding or replacing a new hard drive with installation costs and updates will surely exceed the street value.

7. Think connectivity speed. If you have any extra money to spend on your PC this year, get broadband Internet access for your home or small business (either cable modem or DSL). You're better off with a 3 year old PC and broadband cable modem than a brand new Pentium 2.6 ghz and dial-up. Cost is around $43/month, or roughly double the cost of a typical dialup connection, but 10 times the speed and not tying up your main phone line. If you are buying a second phone line for your dial-up modem, then factor the total cost of that line into the mix. More importantly, you can regularly update Antivirus and Windows in a reasonable amount of time. Some updates are over 20 megabytes, which could take hours on a dialup (and that's if you're not disconnected in the process).

8. Run Scandisk, then Defrag regularly (weekly). Both programs work better from Safe Mode (when starting your computer press the F8 key and choose Safe Mode).

9. Keep your Email Inbox clean (15 or fewer messages). If you need to save messages, then build <folders> in your inbox to hold the messages.

10. Rebuild your home and/or business PC (from scratch) once per year. Tech support people in the industry are confirming the importance of this process. It's like taking your car in for oil change, tune up, and tire rotations. It restores your pc to its factory speeds, which if you use your PC on a regular basis cannot be accomplished in any other way. The process is backup your data (see #2 above); reformat the hard drive; install operating system and do Windows Updates; reinstall just the software you really need; then restore your backup data. Although the process takes a while, if you do a full backup when you're done, then future rebuilds will only take a short time.  Result:  an efficiently running PC and a full system backup.  What could be better?  

Hopefully you will be able to utilize some of these recommendations.

Barry