This page outlines some preventative measures you can take to help keep your computer running smoothly.
Computer Operating System and Program Maintenance
Update and use your spyware scan software.
More info here
Update and use your antivirus software regularly.
More info here
Updating the Windows software.
Patching Windows is the most important thing you can do to protect against computer attacks. This is an easy process done from the Windows Update website.
Get a surge protector.
Power surges destroy electronic equipment. We recommend getting a surge protector that has a port to plug in your Ethernet cable and get two Ethernet cables. This will cost a little extra, but in the case of a surge, you're protected.
Back up your data.
Hard drives are mechanical devices and everything mechanical will fail eventually. When that happens, your data is probably gone. There are places that can retrieve data, but at a thousand dollars or more, you have to ask yourself: Is it worth it? It is good practice to keep an extra copy somewhere, burn stuff to a disk every few weeks or so so you don't lose as much in case of failure, get an online email account with a decent storage limit (CU email accounts allow 2 gigs of space) and email it to yourself, anything to avoid having only one copy of data that's important to you.
Be careful what you download.
Avoiding spyware and viruses takes some discipline and practice. When downloading and installing programs (especially free programs) you must read each of the installation screens carefully. Many times, spyware-laden programs are installed with other programs we download. For example, for several years, Weatherbug (spyware!) was installed with AOL Instant Messenger if you did not change the default installation settings. You must carefully read each of the screens when installing new software. Currently, Instant Messenger will add the AOL toolbar and change your homepage to AOL unless you take the time to read each installation screen and change the default settings. Additionally, you should only download programs from reputable sites. We recommend using Google to try to find out if a program is spyware BEFORE installing it. For Example: If you Google the phrase smiley central spyware you will notice that many of the hits indicate that the program is spyware or installs spyware components.
Delete useless files.
Over time, all computers accumulate files that are no longer needed. These files are created while you are on the internet, when you add or delete programs and when Windows does not properly remove operating system files. These files can take up lots of space on your computer. These files can slow down virus scans, spyware scans and also your daily computer activities. There are several free programs available to get rid of these files. Two that we use and recommend at the helpdesk are:
- CCleaner - This program deletes most leftover internet files and also many temporary system files which tend to pile up over time. We have used this program for several years at the helpdesk when cleaning up student computers. After downloading and installing, just click the run cleaner button.
- Windows Cleanup - This program has been around for a long time and we have used it successfully at the helpdesk for many years.
Note: Although we use these programs regularly at the helpdesk and on our personal computers, we are not responsible for any damage they may do to your machine if you choose to use them. Occasionally, machines which are severely infested with viruses and/or spyware may be damaged by using these products.
Defragmenting your computer
After getting rid of all of the useless files on your computer you will have freed up a lot of space on your computer. Your next step should be defragmenting the hard drive.
When you save a file, the operating system looks for a space on the hard drive to store the file. It will start to store the file in the first empty spot it finds on the hard drive, but if the entire file does not fit in that area, it may store part of the file in another empty spot on the hard drive. This process continues until the entire file is stored. It is possible that the file can be broken up into many, many pieces and stored in many different areas of the hard drive. By defragmenting the hard-drive you can bring all of the pieces back together in an orderly way. Defragmenting speeds up your computer because it does not have to search all over the hard drive for all of the pieces of a file.
It is very easy to defrag your computer using the following instructions: Click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. You will be presented with a window similar to that shown below. Your window may look a little different. In the example below, there is only one hard drive present, but some machines may have more than one hard drive.
To begin the Defragmentation, click on Defragment. There is also an analyze button which can be used to display a visual representation of your hard drive's level of fragmentation. If you use the analyze button, you may receive a message that states that you do not have to defrag. Generally, it is best to ignore this message and defrag anyway. You can continue using the computer while the defrag process is running. However, we do recommend restarting the machine when the defrag process is complete.
Note: You should defrag your computer at least once per month or more often if you install/uninstall many programs.
Remove items from starting automatically
Many times, when you install new programs, the default settings of the software allow the program to automatically start each and every time you start Windows. As time goes on and you install additional programs, this list of programs starting automatically can become very long. If you look down at your taskbar next to the time, you may notice a group of icons similar to the image below. Each one of those icons represents a running program. All of these programs are running and using system memory resources! Many of these running programs are not necessary and can very easily be turned off.
For example: When you install AOL Instant Messenger, it automatically configures itself to start at windows startup. If you do not use IM very often it does not make sense for you to have it running all the time. It is very easy to change the settings. In the Buddy window, click on Setup, Preferences, Sign On/Off and uncheck Start AIM when Windows starts.
Many other programs have similar options for controlling how they start. Generally, you can right-click on an icon to gain access to the preferences or options.
An additional place to find programs that start up automatically is the Start Up group under the All Program list. Many of these programs are not needed and can stopped from loading automatically by right-clicking the icon in the start up list and choosing delete. This does not delete the program, it just stops it from loading automatically each time you start Windows.
Note: It is important that you allow certain programs to run. For example: You should never turn off your anti-virus software. If you have questions about which programs are safe to turn off, please call or email the helpdesk.
Restoring your computer
When all else fails and your computer just runs too slow, you can reformat the hard drive and restore your computer back to the original condition it was in when you bought it. This is a drastic measure and takes some planning, but sometimes this is your best option. Before using this option, there are several things you should do to ensure that you have everything you need to rebuild your operating system.
- You must have all disks that shipped with your computer. Most computers are shipped with restore disks. These disks will be needed to rebuild the system. Some computers do not ship with restore disks. Instead the manufacturer sets up a hidden partition on the hard drive to use for restoring the computer. Your computer documentation is a good place to look for restore documentation.
- Restoring generally wipes everything off of the hard drive. You must backup files you wish to save to cds or an external hard drive before starting the restore process.
- The restore will take some time. It usually takes several hours. We cannot restore computers for you at the helpdesk, but we can help you. We welcome you to call and make an appointment to bring your computer to the helpdesk. We will help you get started and answer any questions you have during the process.
Computing Services Helpdesk | Britt Hall Basement | M-F 8:30AM - 5:00PM
Phone: Local: 893-1208 | Campus - ext. 1208 | Toll-Free: 800-334-4111 ext. 1208