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Computer Health and General Maintenance thread
President Solvite
This thread (and eventually accompanying article) is designed to help members keep a healthy computer system running smoothly for the maximum amount of time. Also to prevent your Horizon membership account from being banned (from apparent spamming offences, usually this is due to some bit of malignant adware or malware). Whether you're a Mac or Win user it is probably worth reading this article and perhaps apply some of the recommendations here for a happy time on the internet and be plagued less by system failures.

As a seasoned computer user I am pretty cautious in downloading and installing applications that claim to 'help' clean my system.. The following advice is primarily aimed at Windows 7 users, but it is equally applicable to other versions of Windows including XP, Vista and 8.x. Some of the advice however, is equally applicable to Mac and Linux platforms as some suggestions relate more to file management and hardware maintenance.

NB.. Do bear in mind Windows XP loses its extended support development by Microsoft in April 2014, so strongly consider updating your system after then!

Since computers are often the most important single items that you have, and having to reformat can mean a significant loss of time and information and be a cause of stress and worry. It is desirable to avoid the panic associated with file loss and/or corruption. This is a straightforward process if some of the following preventative steps are taken.

1 - Do a monthly clean up. Each month, delete unneeded folders, and files. They take up useful disk space, and if they become superfluous, can slow down your computer. If you're a file hoarder and just can't seem to part with these files, save them to disk for future reference if needed. Or better still to a cloud based service like DropBox or Googledrive

2 - Create system restore points regularly. Do this at least once a week. If weaker viruses are accidentally downloaded, the restore point will ensure that your data is more easily recoverable.

3 - Create backup disks. Backup any files that you use on a regular basis or files that are updated frequently. In the unfortunate event of a hard drive crash, you needn't panic about lost work.

4 - Use anti-spyware software. These programs can rid your computer of unwanted spyware, greyware, and malware.

5 - Utilize anti-virus protection. If you can't afford an anti-virus program (or don't want one because of the negative effects it can have on your computer), simply conduct a free online virus scan. Two of the most trusted scans are TrendMicro (http://housecall.trendmicro.com) and Panda(http://www.pandasoftware.com/activescan/com/activescan_principal.htm).

I however recommend using a locally installed scanner for peace of mind.

6- Delete cookies.
Reset your internet browser(s)
Clear your cache after you sign off. These files are completely unnecessary, take up memory, and can allow spyware to invade your computer. (CCleaner is very good for this, clearing out temp files but can be set to remember passwords)

7- Perform a scan disk operation. Periodically perform a scan disk to make sure that your files are all viable and your storage media is in good working order. This scan should be performed about once a week.

8 - Defragment. Defragmenting your computer will guarantee that your files are organized and your computer is running at optimal speeds. This should be done at least once a month.

9 - Consider formatting your hard drive before reinstalling your operating system. This should probably only be done if all of the above have been tried without success. It goes without saying (I hope! That you have adequate backups of your data)

10 - Stay away from websites that don't seem trustworthy this includes places like flash game sites, and blogs.

11 - Uninstall/Remove old or redundant software. If you don't use it, lose it!

Being prudent in what web sites and email attachments you open and applying the common sense approach to many computer related tasks can also save time in having to restore a system back to its normal self. It is also advisable to apply recommended service packs and updates for your Operating System. If running Windows, I recommend having these updates apply automatically.

Obviously other tools can are more powerful that just the standard options. I have found the following very useful in protecting, maintaining and cleaning the system should the 'worst' happen. These can be useful in fulfilling the standard maintenance tasks listed previously.

Antivirus Package



(Granted there may be better scanners and defenses out there that you could pay for. But I have had many trouble free browsing years with this as my primary AV defense and very experienced very few problems on my numerous PCs!.)

If you prefer an alternative to AVG, you can try the free version of AVAST here.

AVAST - Free Version


This should be considered a minimal level of defense in addition to your standard firewall and Windows Defender Application.

Should you suspect that your system has been breached..

Infection Removal



Click on the Free version download, it will scan and clean many items of malware that your typical anti-virus software will miss.

General PC cleanliness



This helps remove programs that wont uninstall under normal circumstances, cleans registry errors and improve boot up times.

It also cleans up your hard drive of temporary files that dont get removed upon browser exit.

I personally recommend running this application every week.

Defragmentation Tools



This reorganises how data is stored (reduces fragmentation of files) and does it much more quickly than the standard tool supplied with Windows.

Dependant on number of files copied and moved should be run Monthly to Weekly dependant upon size of files and storage capacity.

General system queries



Gives detailed information on motherboard, network, RAM and other peripherals, also things like temperatures that can be a cause of system failures. (Usually cured by vacuuming the vents! - Laptops watch out for the keys on your keyboard!)

The things listed here are my personal preferences or I have used from my own experience. But I'd also welcome tips from others not just on Windows, but also for Apple Macs, Linux, Ubuntu or other relevant Operating Systems.

Not just on general system maintenance, but things like browser add ons and streamlining as appropriate.

Joe Dredd
Great thread, el Presidente!

I completely agree with your recommendations for CCleaner and Malwarebytes.

Having ditched AVG for Avast, I have to say I love Avast and am glad I made the change.

The best defragger I've found is Ultradefrag:

As PS has covered all the essentials, I will recommend something else - 360amigo, the BEST system tune-up tool I've seen for PC:

It's very simple to use. It cleans up, repairs, defrags, creates restore points, returns physical memory, shreds (permanently deletes) files, recovers lost files etc. It is much simpler to use than it sounds, and all the options are tucked away under a few tabs and buttons. It's a real joy to find that this great tool can do more things, and some more, and some more.

One word of caution, though - make sure you customise the clean-up option before you run it. It's easy and all done by ticking a few check boxes, but if you don't look it can be surprisingly thorough - clearing out not just unwanted temp files and orphans but your last used links, last used documents, etc etc!
Delete your cookies after every browsing session. Do it immediately if your browser locks up. Do not allow your browser to 'restore last session' before dumping your cookies. Most cookies are harmless, and many are beneficial, but if you visit a new site, or especially if you are getting popups from a new site, delete those cookies.

CCleaner will allow you to keep certain cookies. It's a handy feature, but keep only the cookies from sites you visit regularly and trust.

Our IT guys at work are under orders to delete any non corporate approved software they find on our systems during routine scans, however they leave Chrome and CCleaner alone as they understand the benefits.

I highly recommend CCleaner.

For Windows Users, Microsoft Security Essentials is another free antivirus software. I have used it and AVG Free edition and been happy with them. Malwarebytes and Super Anti Spyware are two others that Paula and I both have at home.
Men of Harlech cease your dreaming, can't you see their street signs gleaming...
Spaceship Dispatcher
My laptop is protected by F-Secure at the moment.
President Solvite
Thanks for the feedback and extra links Smile

That 360amigo Util sounds interesting will try it out on a test system at some point.

Also have a few more utilities that might also prove useful and will add at some point!
As a technogeekette, I really enjoyed reading this thread.... :)
President Solvite wrote:
2 - Create system restore points regularly. Do this at least once a week. If weaker viruses are accidentally downloaded, the restore point will ensure that your data is more easily recoverable.
I didn't know Windows could do this. Can you recover the entire OS+user data from a restore point, or would you have to reload the OS & a restore point is just for non-OS user data? Does a restore point backup (for recovery) all installed Applications too?
President Solvite
Oh sorry Winnie-l I can see that what I typed there implies that a system restore point could store user personal data (Docs etc..)

This is NOT the case.

A Windows Restore Point only affects Windows system files, programs, and registry settings. It can also make changes to scripts, batch files, and other types of executable files created under any user account on your computer. However, System Restore does not affect personal files, such as e-mail, documents, or photos, so it cannot help you restore a deleted file. If you have backups of your files, you can restore the files from a backup. (From the cloud or removable media)

Of course many virus's destroy these system restore points, but it is nevertheless useful process to recover your system promptly should some files get accidently deleted or corrupted.

I suppose when I said easily recoverable, I meant that as a overall viable system. Getting up and running again after a quick reset, rather than restarting from scratch.
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