A computer needs to be maintained in order to keep working properly. Compare this to your car. To keep your car running in top shape, you need to check the fuel levels, change the oil every few thousand miles and, once in a while, do a major checkup. You maintain your car in part to prevent major problems down the road. Similarly, computer maintenance keeps your computer working in good shape and contributes to keeping computer troubles at bay.
Typical computer maintenance tasks include backing up your files, running antivirus software, installing software updates, using disk tools to keep your hard disk in good shape and physical cleaning of your equipment.
Back Up Your Files
One of the most stressful experiences for a computer user is data loss, which means that parts of a database can no longer be retrieved. Losing only a few files can mean hours or days of work lost. Imagine the consequences of losing all the data on your computer. Most computers use a hard disk drive as the primary storage device. Hard disk drives can function for many years, but at some point, they will crash. It's a matter of when, not if.
Data loss can also result from other types of damage, such as fire or water damage, or your equipment could be stolen. For things like theft and damage, you normally have insurance. However, the cost of a new hard disk drive is probably the least of your worries if yours has crashed and the data cannot be recovered. Think of all your files: your favorite music, your family photographs, financial documents, other personal files. How much are those worth to you?
Your best insurance policy is to create a backup of your files. You can burn a CD or DVD with your most critical files, copy your files to an external hard disk drive or use an online backup service. Whatever strategy you use, just make sure to create a backup copy of your files on a regular basis.
Backup software facilitates creating a backup of the files on your computer. Backup software helps you copy the most important files to another storage device, such as an external hard disk. You can also make an exact copy of your hard disk.
Increasingly, backup software uses cloud storage to create backups. This typically means you pay a fee to use the storage space of a third party and use their backup software to manage which files are going to be backed up. If your computer were to crash completely or get stolen, you can download all your files to a new computer from the cloud.
Use Antivirus Software
Computer systems face a number of security threats. The most serious threats consist of viruses and other harmful programs. A computer virus is a computer program that can cause damage to a computer's software, hardware or data. It is referred to as a 'virus' because it has the capability to replicate itself and hide inside other computer files.
There are many types of viruses, and new ones are being developed all the time. Once a virus is present on a computer, it typically performs some type of harmful action, such as corrupting data or obtaining sensitive information. Computer viruses are only one type of malware, short for 'malicious software.' Malware is used by attackers to disrupt computer operation.
The best way to deal with the threat of computer viruses is to use antivirus software. Antivirus software helps to protect a computer system from viruses and other harmful programs. As the first line of defense, antivirus software prevents viruses from getting into your computer system. Antivirus software scans your online activity to make sure you are not downloading infected files. Antivirus software also helps to detect and remove viruses from your computer system if you get infected.
One of the most common ways to get a virus on your computer is to download a file from the Internet that is infected. If you get an e-mail from someone you don't know with a file attached to it, be careful opening up these attachments because it could be infected with a virus. New viruses are coming out all the time, so antivirus software needs to be updated very frequently.
Typically, antivirus software is scheduled to run a scan on your entire computer system on a regular basis and to prompt you to download updates. Running antivirus software and keeping it up to date is one of the most important things you can do as part of computer maintenance.
Install Software Updates
A software update provides minor software enhancements. This typically means that you have to download a file that installs these updates. Most updates are related to security issues and bug fixes. The effects of an update may not be immediately visible to you, but behind the scenes, the updates make your software run smoother. A software update is also called a patch because it's 'patching' the software. Updates apply to both operating systems and application software.
Most software applications have built-in settings that check for the availability of updates. This is why you may get regular notices on your computer asking if you want to install updates. This can get a bit annoying, and not all updates are critical. However, figuring out which updates are critical and which ones are not can be tricky, so in general, you are best off to install all of them.
Updates can consist of very minor additions to the existing version of the software or a completely new version. In the latter case, the original software will be removed and new software will be installed as part of the updating process. Updating to a completely new version of software is also called a software upgrade, but the terms are used somewhat loosely.
Updates to existing software are almost always free. That is logical since the updates are essentially fixing a product you already acquired (whether you paid for it or not). Upgrades to a new version of the software may not be free because they often represent a new product with significant improvements. Most software companies provide discounted licensing fees to existing customers upgrading to a new version.
Disk tools include a range of different tools to manage hard disk drives and other storage devices. These are important because a hard disk drive failure can have disastrous consequences, including losing all your data. In addition, the speed at which data is transferred to and from a hard disk drive is often a limiting factor in the overall speed of a computer system. Keeping disks running securely and efficiently is an important part of overall computer maintenance. Some of the recommended disk tools you should use on a regular basis are disk cleaning and disk defragmentation.
A disk cleaner removes any unnecessary files from your hard disk drive. For example, your Internet browser software saves a lot of files in its cache memory. This includes many files you may not need. Similarly, if you have been installing and uninstalling software, there could be files left over that no longer serve a purpose. Running a disk cleanup utility identifies the files you may no longer need and allows you to select the types of files you no longer want to keep. This will free up hard disk space.
A disk defragmenter re-organizes file fragments on a hard disk drive to increase performance. When files are written to a relatively empty hard disk drive, they are stored in clusters that are continuous, i.e. directly next to each other. However, as the disk drive starts filling up with files, there may be no continuous areas left that are large enough to hold a new file. As a result, a new file is stored in multiple clusters that are not continuous. As files get deleted and added, the files on the hard disk drive become increasingly fragmented.
This reduces the speed of reading and writing files because a single file may be located in a number of different locations on the disk. Defragmentation is the process of moving the various segments so that they again become continuous as much as possible. This improves the performance of the hard drive. Defragmentation may not be able to move some files, in particular those associated with the operating system or certain software applications. Defragmentation should be done regularly as part of regular computer maintenance.
After a certain amount of use, computers will need some cleaning, like any other piece of equipment. The keyboard, in particular, can collect dust, liquid, food and other particles. This may cause the keyboard to not work properly. Other elements of your computer system may also need cleaning once in a while, such as the mouse and the monitor.
Cleaning your equipment should be done with care because you don't want to get any liquids into your equipment or damage any protective coatings. For example, a can of compressed air is often used to clean between the keys of a keyboard, and it's best to clean your monitor with a soft, clean cloth.
A computer needs to be maintained in order to keep working properly. You can prevent data loss by regularly backing up your files. Backup software makes this process a lot easier. Antivirus software helps to protect a computer system from viruses and other harmful programs. Running antivirus software and keeping it up to date are two of the most important things you can do as part of computer maintenance.
Software updates provide minor software enhancements, typically in the form of addressing security issues and bug fixes. Disk tools include a range of different tools to manage hard disk drives and other storage devices. A disk cleaner removes any unnecessary files from your hard disk drive. A disk defragmenter reorganizes file fragments on a hard disk drive to increase performance. Computer equipment also needs physical cleaning, in particular the keyboard.
After reviewing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Describe different ways to keep your computer working properly
- Explain the importance of backing up your data and having antivirus software
- Identify ways to get software updates
- Differentiate between disk cleaners and disk defragmenters