Over time, you may notice that your computer isn’t running as smoothly or as quickly as it once did. There are many reasons why your computer’s performance may have declined with usage. Disorganized files, excessive software installs, unnecessary programs automatically run at start up – all these will eat up computer resources and significantly slow down its start up and processing time. Thankfully, there are basic maintenance tasks that a regular user can routinely perform to keep his/her computer running smoothly.


 Organize Your Files

 

Keeping all your documents in one folder is the first step to maintaining a tidy computer. Windows has a default folder in which to store your documents called Documents. It is a good practice to create subfolders within the documents folder to organize your files according to category. Additionally, if you frequently access a single file, you should make a shortcut of it on your desktop instead of leaving the file itself on your desktop, to minimize the risk of it being accidentally deleted. Finally, if you continuously work on the same project, it’s a good idea to save multiple versions of it in case you want to revert to a previous copy of the document. Remember to include the date of the document in the file name.

These simple precautions can save you time and energy in the event of a system failure -- an organized computer is much easier to backup than a computer that has its files scattered all over the hard drive.

 

 

Do Routine Backups

 

Get in the practice of doing frequent backups. This could make the difference between a computer failure being an annoying inconvenience or a catastrophic meltdown. Backing up your computer is a highly personal task, and one that only you can do with confidence -- no one but you knows which files are important and which are not. Suggestions for files that you will want to back up are: photos, email archives, bookmarks, personal projects (Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, etc), contacts, and purchased software and music. Programs do not need to be backed up. You can always back up your data to external media, such as an external hard drive or a flash drive, or also save your files into OneDrive for Business.

 

Remove Temporary Files

 

Disk Cleanup is a Windows utility that calculates how much space can be recovered by deleting temporary files on your computer. After it is done assessing your hard drive, it will allow you to select which temporary files you want to delete. To run Disk Cleanup:

 

  1. Double-click the Computer icon or the This PC icon.
  2. Right-click the drive you want to clean (usually the C: drive) and select Properties.
  3. Select the General tab.  Press the Disk Cleanup button.
  4. When the scan is complete, you will be able to choose what files (if any) that you want to delete.  If you want to delete any of the files, check those files, and then press the OK button.  When the message pops up that says "Are you sure you want to permanently delete these files?", press the Delete Files button.
  5. Press the OK button to close the window when the cleanup has been done.

 

 

Error Checking

 

ChkDsk is a Windows utility that analyzes the hard disk for errors and fixes any problems it encounters. To run ChkDsk:
  1. Make sure that all your programs are closed. Double-click the Computer icon.
  2. Right-click the drive you want to scan (usually the C: drive) and select Properties.
  3. Select the Tools tab. In the Error-checking section, click the Check Now button.
  4. When the Check disk options window opens, press the Start button.


 

 

 

Defragment Your Hard drive

 

As you add and remove files from your computer, the hard disk will become fragmented, meaning that there will be pieces of files in different locations on the disk which slow down the computer’s ability to access data. In order to consolidate these pieces into contiguous files, use the Windows Defrag utility. Be advised, the utility can take up to several hours to run depending on the size of your hard drive. Run the utility by going to:

 

  1. Double-click the Computer icon.
  2. Right-click the drive you want to defrag (usually the C: drive) and select Properties.
  3. Select the Tools tab.  In the Defragmentation section, press the Defragment now button.
  4. You can then choose the drive to defragment, then click on the Defragment disk button.

Remove Unwanted Startup Items

 

If your computer used to take 60 seconds to start up, but now takes 2 minutes to start up, it may be loading too many programs upon boot up. Sometimes, the programs that we install configure themselves to run when the computer is started. They can run in the background undetected and considerably delay the start up process of the computer, as well as consume needed resources while the computer is operating. If you find that an application is opening at start up, but you don't need it to do so, then go into the Options section of the application and choose to stop the program from opening at start up.

     

    Download Windows Updates

     

    Periodically, Microsoft releases updates which contain patches for security holes, bug fixes, and sometimes added features and drivers. In order to protect your computer and enhance its functionality, you can activate the Windows updates tool in Control Panel > Windows Update. You can also point Internet Explorer to the following URL http://update.microsoft.com/ and the updates will be installed through your browser.


    Update your Virus Definitions

     

    Thousands of new computer viruses are discovered every year. Most of them are easy to identify and isolate, but only if you have updated your virus definitions in your antivirus software. The antivirus Lesley uses is System Center Endpoint Protection.  Click here to find instructions on how to make sure your Windows updates and your antivirus definitions are up-to-date.

    Reboot your Computer

     

    Although this is by far the easiest task on the list, it’s one that is most often overlooked. Leaving the computer on for days eats up system resources that can only be restored when the computer is restarted. Shut down your computer whenever you anticipate you will be away from it for an extended period of time.