4inkjets! Ink and Toner
Ask Dr. Tech



When you rely on your computer
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.
Proper maintenance is required...

System maintenance is primarily a matter of keeping your computer's hard drive reasonably well organized.  All of your software, all of your data,

practically everything the computer "knows" is dependent on that one component.

There is a variety of problems that can afflict a hard drive and the system that depends on it.  Complete, reliable, up to date backups are an essential part of any maintenance program.  Beyond that, regular system maintenance can help avoid some of the more common and inevitable glitches.

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.

Avoid common 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 curiosity.

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  These often contain outdated DLL files which overwrite your good ones, introducing a bewildering array of mysterious malfunctions.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 supply.   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 a week).

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.

Complete, ongoing maintenance...

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 Sweep.

More about Norton CleanSweep

Use the right software for the job...

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: Partition Magic...

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.

Calibrate your color display...  Go >

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 anything.

If you don't already have it, one of the most important accessories to ensure your computers' continued well-being is an uninterruptible power supply.   Tell me more...

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. 


Sometimes, a minor upgrade can alleviate some software issues.  Adding more RAM to your system can provide some elbow room for software to operate.

We've consistently obtained both good prices and good results with RAM from:

Our favorite source for all types of RAM  (including Compact Flash, Smart Media, and others) makes it easy and economical to get the RAM you need for almost any application.

Get the right RAM for your computer at Crucial.com


Whatever you're 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!


In the Jacksonville, Florida area, backup and maintenance services
are provided by
ThirdStar System Services.

Copyright . Site Information . Terms of use