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Computers are costly items, and repairing one can be even costlier. Over time machines begin to run slowly and acquire "bugs." Are these normal results of a time-worn system, or can they be the product of computer abuse? Maybe it's time to begin some new habits.
First of all, shut down computers on a daily basis. Like people they need to "reboot" each day. Before shutting down for the day, make a habit of updating virus programs and checking for any Windows updates. Many systems can be set to do this automatically, prompting the user to update before shutting down. Although downloading these can be time consuming, running without them can be worse.
New viruses are released daily, and software is only as good as its update. No virus program, no matter how aggressive, can block a virus that it doesn't recognize.
Some tasks do not need to be done daily, but that doesn't mean that they're less important. Weekly backups are important, as are tasks such as defragmenting disk space and eliminating unneeded files. Set a time that is convenient to make a backup CD so that crucial data isn't lost during a system crash. Defragmenting can be done in Windows by following the link on the Start toolbar.
Cleaning a PC of unneeded files is important for hard drive space. Periodically scan through files and programs and delete those which are rarely used. Windows also offers the option of Disk Cleanup; this eliminates unneeded files in a more automatic way. If in doubt, create a backup CD before eliminating items.
What a Computer Can't Live Without
What is the single most important habit to form when caring for a home computer? Daniel D. Diefenderfer, technical support for Computer Sciences Corporation, believes that the answer is "properly working anti-virus software with current definitions... Malware (viruses, spyware, Trojans, worms) can make a PC unusable and possibly result in identity theft. They will cause slow performance and unpredictable behavior of applications."
Likewise, Diefenderfer warns that "running out of disk space can corrupt the operating system and will slow down performance." Fragmented data can do the same.
What Could Poor Habits Cost?
Poor computer maintenance habits can be costly. Worst case, the entire system needs to be rebuilt. Without system backups, this could cost a minimum of $200 from an in-store repair department which will rebuild the computer as it was new. All saved data, preferences, and programs will be lost.
When asked to put a price on the procrastination of proper system care, Daniel Diefenderfer asks, "How valuable is your data? Think of the cost of losing it."