|The computer needs a little love to keep the evil out!
If you're like most people you don't DO anything for your computer. It runs. You use it. End of story. But, let's be honest -- you know it needs a little maintenance, yes? Things you can do maybe once a year? Things that will prolong its life, keep it running, and even running well? You would be willing to do those things, hmmm? So here are 3 easy things you can do, and this is a good time of year to do them. Now.
First, clean out the dust. Take off the side panel (figure it out -- I know you can) with the computer unplugged and disconnected, and take a look inside. Again, if you're like most people, you've NEVER done this. So, it's likely you are going to see, instead of a pristine clean interior, dust bunnies and layer of dust and maybe fur and hair from your pets as well. This is not a good thing. It cuts down on airflow, gums up mechanical parts, could possibly cause an electrical short, and even cause the power supply to overheat and fail.
Blow it out (outside -- you know why) with a hairdryer on cold, or a vacuum cleaner with the flow reversed. Really get into all of the nooks and crannies and blow out the power supply and the DVD or Blu-Ray drive, and especially blow clean all of the fans and heat sinks as well as the card and memory slots. See my previous post, Top Ten Computer Problems Out There In The Jungle, problem #3 on Dirty Computers for more info.
Second, check your Anti Virus or Internet Security Subscription. Make sure you have AV or Security Software installed, of course! But beyond that, most software, free, or for-pay, requires that you renew your license annually. It may cost nothing to do it, but they want to keep track of who is using their software and make sure you are using up-to-date software, so the companies that make the AV and Security Software make you renew. If you do not, you will not be getting the virus and program updates and may very well leave your machine exposed to infection.
There is plenty of good, free AV software out there, so don't let cost keep you from being protected. See my article on Microsoft's own, free AV and Security Software, Microsoft Security Essentials. The thing I like best about MSE is that it truly is a set-it and forget-it program -- it doesn't bug you or talk to you. It just works quietly in the background and leaves you alone. Check the other free AV programs available, too, if you like. See my article on 3 Free and Good Programs, maybe a little noisier and they do solicit you to upgrade to their commercial counterparts, but still, very good in and of themselves. Do also make sure that Windows Firewall is turned on, or that your Security Software includes one and IT is turned on. Windows Firewall is accessible from the Control Panel.
Third, and last, make sure your computer is receiving and installing Microsoft's Updates for your OS, be it XP, Vista, or Windows 7. We see too many machines that have updates turned off, or where updates have not been given permission to install, and left their owners with big security issues unresolved as well as reliability and functional problems. It's easy: run Windows Update from the main menu and make sure it says there are No Important Updates Available, or ...run Windows Update!. Check to see that updates are set to either install automatically, or ask you to let them be installed, by looking at the left hand side of the Windows Update Window where it says "Change Settings", click on that, and make sure that updates are set to be donwloaded and and installed, either with permission or automatically.
There are other things you can do to maintain your machines, such as defragging the filesystem on a regular basis automatically, cleaning out old or duplicate files, and a bunch of other stuff, but these 3 things are the absolute minimum that needs to be dealt with annually.
Oddly enough, too, they often do not get done.
Do them and get the Evil Out!
Photo credit: Evil Inside c/o http://geeks.pirillo.com/forum/topics/what-is-the-next-technology