Avoiding computer meltdowns

When a computer goes haywire and it threatens to destroy all of the files on it  most people panic.

Knowing some basic computer care can save your computer from being Control-Alt-Deleted.

To keep a computer up to speed, Steve Oldaker, organizer of the Southeast Coastal Georgia Computer Club, says users should have the latest updates to their operating systems.

“Updates to your computer’s operating system, security software, and Web browsers should be applied as soon as available, at minimum. This is usually set to occur automatically by default on Windows and Mac computers,” Oldaker said.

“You can consult the ‘help’ feature of your software to see how to check your settings. It’s good to keep all of your other software updated, as well.”

Even simpler computer maintenance is to regularly turn a computer on and off.

“One tip most people never do is reboot the computer once a day,” said Adam Casgar, owner and senior network engineer for Coastal Computer Consulting.

“I tell people if the computer is slow to reboot, at the end of the day when you are done, select ‘shutdown’ and ‘restart.’ That way memory can be recaptured by the operating system,” he said.

Avoiding registry cleaners and installing anti-malware software are two other tips Casgar says will prevent problems.

Registry cleaners are software programs that remove unnecessary entries to the Windows registry. Anti-malware software scans contents of the Windows registry, operating system files, and installed programs on a computer and will provide a list of any threats found.

“Registry cleaners … put in their own programs, and this could be dangerous for your computer, because when you go to eliminate it, the registry and the computer both crash. If an (anti-malware software) is installed and you get infected tomorrow, it can be cleaned faster,” Casgar said.

Though deleting certain files can be beneficial, Oldaker says that uninstalling some programs may not be necessary.

“Unused and/or unneeded programs take up disk space and possible memory and processing resources, and can slow things down,” Oldaker said.

But he says caution should be used when uninstalling a program. “If you’re not sure you don’t need it, don’t remove it. (But) if you have documents, photos, music, videos, etc. that you do not need to access routinely on your computer, you can back them up to a DVD, external storage device or online backup service to free up room on your computer’s hard disk and increase performance,” Oldaker said.

When it comes to getting a computer to run more efficiently, Oldaker recommends disk defragmenting.

“Disk fragmenting occurs over a period of time as you save, change and delete data on your computer’s hard disk. Files may become stored in fragmented pieces instead of one continuous unit, so it takes longer for your computer to access them,” Oldaker said.

“Disk defragmenting is a tool built into your operating system or a third-party application that reorganizes data on your hard disk and reunites the fragmented files so your computer can run more efficiently. The quicker you computer can access your data, the faster it will be.”

But don’t think having a faster computer means you’ll have faster Internet.

“Ensuring you have the latest version of your Web browser and periodically cleaning up temporary Internet files will help with Internet performance, but the speed of Internet access depends primarily on your Internet service provider, your router, your type of connection and your computer’s network adapter (the hardware that connects it to the Internet),” Oldaker said.

When all else fails and you’re at your wits end, it may be time to call in a professional.

Oldaker and Casgar say choosing to seek a professional’s help should be considered when working on your computer is out of your comfort zone.

“If you have the time and patience, you can find a wealth of step-by-step information to address the issues … using the ‘help’ feature available in all software or by searching Google and/or YouTube for ‘how to’ information. But not everyone has the time or interest to do so, and professional help may be their best option,” Oldaker said.


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