keep your computer in optimal condition

Throughout the years, we have been asked this question many times: “How do you keep your computer in optimal condition? What can I do?” Have you ever asked this question to someone before? If you have, you’re not alone, and that is totally fine.

These are our top five tips to keep your computer in optimal condition for many years:

Tip #1: Install an anti-virus program and update it daily.

Most computers, when you purchase them at the store (especially computers running the Windows operating system), come with some sort of anti-virus package that has been factory pre-installed. These pieces of software come with a price tag: the manufacturers install a demo version of their software, which expires in a time period between 30-90 days after you turn on your computer and register the software. After that, you are required to purchase their yearly virus definition subscriptions if you want to be able to update your software and be protected from current and future threats.

There are free alternatives to these, but most do not offer some of the features of their commercial counterparts, like real-time scanning, e-mail protection, sandbox (the software creates a virtual “place” where it tests and runs applications that require execution without compromising the rest of your system), or a firewall to protect you from outside intrusions.

Whatever solution you choose to go with (commercial or free), make sure that your anti-virus software is ALWAYS ON and UPDATED. Most of these programs will have an option to self-update daily. Let yours do that. This way you will minimize the chances of being infected. Also perform a full scan of your system at least once a week.

Tip #2: Do not download or install any kind of web browser toolbar or search bar!

We see them everywhere. We all have at least one on our systems right now. Those “convenient” little toolbars that are offered on the internet–or may be an extra add-on to downloaded software–have two missions:

  1. they add an extra unnecessary search function to your web browser (I say “extra” because all web browsers already are capable of performing web searches without needing a toolbar); and
  2. they collect your personal private data and search history, which is then sent to a marketing company located who-knows-where. All your collected personal data is used to bombard you with ads, or worse yet, sell your information to other companies who will also bombard you with more ads and spam email. Worst case scenario, this data could be used to steal your identity and damage your credit, or get one of those fake “IRS” phone calls.

This also goes for other downloads that remain running in the background, like weather apps or desktop widgets. Not only they are invading your privacy, but they also consume valuable computer resources, and could make your computer run slower. Some could even install back doors (hidden access to your computer’s file system), key loggers (hidden apps that log every key stroke), or other kinds of malware on your computer without your knowledge.

Keep an eye out for toolbars that come bundled with other software. Make sure that you consciously know what you click “I Agree” to. If you need to have a search function–or a weather report–readily available without having to type in any web addresses, my recommendation is to create bookmarks for these trusted sites. Bookmarks don’t consume computer resources, they don’t collect any personal information, and you can conveniently call on them with one or two clicks.

Tip #3: Delete temporary files and empty your recycle bin.

Computers have special folders to store files for temporary use, for example, when downloading files, or installing programs. Sometimes the system will take care of deleting these temporary files on its own. If it doesn’t, these temporary files will accumulate, and will make your computer run slower. This also goes for temporary internet files and the recycle bin.

These temporary folders are part of the system and they are hidden from you, so you will need to use programs to perform these tasks. Luckily, there are tools that can be accessed to perform these tasks:

  • On Windows systems, you can use Disk Cleanup, located in the Accessories folder in the “Start” menu (for Windows 8/10 users: search for “cleanmgr” in your search bar). With this little tool, you can delete those persistent temporary files and empty your recycling bin all at the same time.
  • On Mac systems, you’re pretty much good to go. But, if you want to be in control of when to go and perform maintenance on your machine, you can download and install a free tool called OnyX (type “OnyX Mac” on your search engine). With this nifty little tool you can perform different repair functions and temporary file maintenance.

Whatever system you use, getting rid of these unused temporary files is a good way to keep your computer in optimal condition.

Tip #4: If you have a laptop, don’t place it on the bed!

Laptops are a convenient way to have mobile computing power. We can take them anywhere, and the bedroom is one of our favorite places. We can watch movies, browse the web, even work in bed.

The problem with bringing your laptops to your bed is that we forget that these are machines that generate heat, and that they need to dissipate this heat in order to function properly. If you place your laptop on top of the bed sheets–or on a pillow–you are effectively blocking the air vents that are located at the bottom and on the sides of the unit, thus “choking” it. The generated heat has nowhere to escape, and the laptop could potentially bake to a nice crisp on the inside.

If you need to use your laptop in bed, there are products that will allow you to keep them close without the risk of damaging your investment (or burning your lap), like bed desks, bed stands, or lap desks. Some even come with heat dissipation fans and speakers!

Tip #5: Optimize your hard drive periodically.

All computer components are important, but your hard drive is one of the most critical. This is where the operating system runs from, as well as all your applications and your files. Keeping your hard drive optimized is essential to properly maintaining your computer in top shape.

For Windows users, there are basic tools that already come pre-installed on the system. Run Disk Defragmenter and Chkdsk periodically to keep your hard drive organized and error-free. If you want more exhaustive maintenance tools, there are more robust commercial alternatives available for purchase.

For Mac users: we go back to using OnyX, which can perform these maintenance and optimization tasks. And, like Windows, there are also other commercial products available.

That’s it! If you follow these 5 simple recommendations, you are sure to prolong the life of your system, protect yourself, and keep your computer in optimal condition for years to come…