When you rely on your
System maintenance is required...
It has become possible to
purchase, assemble, and make good use of a computer with no
thought about how or why it works. Poring over an owner's
manual is now a thing of the past (as is in many cases the
manual itself). Unfortunately, this leaves many owners unaware
of the standard maintenance procedures their machines require.
The result of improper maintenance is a progressive, geometric
likelihood that you will lose your data. A fully implemented
program of scheduled backup and maintenance procedures
guarantees you won't.
A hard drive relies on a
nightmarishly convoluted logical structure made up of the
relationships between magnetic, microscopic particles. These
particles, in turn, rely on the physical integrity of the platters
they're affixed to. Because of the way your file system
works, the logical structure that makes the content accessible is
in a state of continuous revision.
The more you use your system,
the more chaotic this structure becomes. Without adequate
maintenance, the system will slow down. As it reaches an extreme,
the system can become hopelessly muddled and the hard drive may be
unable to locate anything.
problems the easy way...
For maximum reliability, be careful what you install on your
computer. Never install pre-release or beta software.
Avoid version one releases from even the best-known vendors.
Don't install trial or demonstration versions just to satisfy your
Be very wary of shareware,
freeware, and bargain basement software. These often contain
outdated DLL files which overwrite your good ones, introducing a
bewildering array of mysterious malfunctions.
Don't try to "tweak" your
system with arcane tips intended for hobbyists. Don't use
programs that claim to double your RAM, compress your hard drive,
or prevent system crashes.
If you want to play games, get
a dedicated game machine.
Get an uninterruptible power
Tell me more...
Basic system maintenance...
Basic hard drive maintenance is a simple and quick
procedure, and the tools you need are part of the Windows package.
In theory, all you have to do is run them periodically (say, once
You'll find defrag and
scandisk in the System Tools folder of Windows 9x.
Running them on a regular basis will go a long way toward
improving the reliability of your system. Although it takes a long
time to execute, you should occasionally run the surface scan
portion of scandisk or its equivalent, particularly as your hard
drive begins to age. This will find and work around physical media
problems that develop over time.
Outside your hard drive, you'll
probably find that various software packages install sometimes
invisible startup programs that run in the background and sap your
system resources. In Windows 98, check for these and control
them with the System Configuration Utility under the
Tools menu in the System Information applet from the
System Tools folder.
The free Windows utilities are minimal implementations, so
you'll probably want to replace them with a good utility suite
that takes care of a much wider range of problems, including those
that afflict the Windows registry.
Aside from fragmentation and
such, you'll want to keep an eye on the amount of free space
remaining on your drives. Whether to preserve space or
simply to get it out of your way, you'll eventually have to remove
software from your system. Removing modern software is
sometimes tricky. Never attempt to remove programs manually.
Use the uninstall routines in the Windows control panel first,
then remove the obvious files these often leave behind. We
like specialized utilities for this purpose, like Norton Clean
More about Norton
Use the right software for
We like Norton Utilities from
Symantec software. In addition to noticeable improvements
over the standard Windows utilities, it includes a wide range of
programs designed to keep your system operating properly, as well
as a set of recovery tools just in case it doesn't. The "System
Works" package is an excellent value, combining top-notch
maintenance, software removal, and anti-virus products into an
integrated package at an unbeatable price.
With utility software, it is
important to read the manual. Be very careful with
"automatic" functions in utility software like portions of Windows
98 or Norton Utilities, and any of the several software removal
programs on the market. These programs can with your unwary
permission quite cheerfully wreck your system files, delete your
data, and generally wreak mischief that most viruses would not
dare. If you are not entirely certain what it is,
exactly, that one of these helpful little programs is offering to
do- you are better off not doing it.
In particular, be extremely
careful with DLL files in the Windows System folder when removing
software from your system. If you're not positive it's
specific only to the software being removed, leave it where it is.
Advanced maintenance tools:
More about Norton System Works
A complete physical...
Depending on the operating
conditions in your environment, your computer system needs
physical attention as well. If the mouse becomes sluggish or
erratic, the ball and rollers should be cleaned. Your monitor's
screen, like your television screen, attracts enough dust to
become obvious. Don't use regular glass cleaner on your
monitor. It can ruin the anti-glare surface. Buy a
special monitor cleaning solution- it's worth it.
While you're at it, check for
what I call "adjustment drift" that afflicts some monitors from
day one and others as they age. Every once in a while you should
check the brightness and contrast controls, as well as any others
that are available on your set, for optimal display.
Vacuum the dust from your computer's case fan and ventilation
slots. If there is much of it, you should disassemble the case and
check for dust in the CPU fan and cooling fins, as well as any
other internal buildups. Dust can and will short out electrical
components, and cause your CPU to overheat. Naturally, you should
be very careful inside your computer. Vacuum the dust and paper
bits from your printer's moving parts as well. Miniature,
hand-held vacuums with specialized attachments are made
specifically for this job, and are needed to do it well without
inflicting damage on your system. Forget the battery powered
and $20 versions though. They lack the power to accomplish
If you don't already
have it, one of the most important accessories to ensure your
computers' continued well-being is an uninterruptible power
We now return to
your regularly scheduled program...
When you rely on your
computers, regular maintenance is required to ensure reliability.
If all this sounds like a lot of work,
it is. And it's all too easy to let it slide. Don't leave it
to an office volunteer. We highly suggest that you learn the
ins and outs of your own systems' maintenance and take care of it
yourself, or hire an outside service to handle these and related
tasks on a scheduled basis.
minor upgrade can alleviate some software issues. Adding
more RAM to your system can provide some elbow room for software
consistently obtained both good prices and good results with RAM
Our favorite source for all
types of RAM (including Compact Flash, Smart Media, and
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almost any application.
doing with your system, whether adding hardware or learning the
ins and outs of software packages, it's nice to have someone who
knows the way to guide you.
What you want is
real technical support for what you're doing.
It's the technical support you imagined in the first place..only
better: 24 hours a day - 7 days a week - 365 days a year!
the Jacksonville, Florida area, backup and maintenance services
are provided by
ThirdStar System Services.
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