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Computer Best Practices

What will it cost you in time and lost business to recreate all of your critical files?

Here are nine things that you can (and should do), regularly, to maintain your computer's health. Put it on your calendar now. Print this page. In the long run it will save you hours of time and aggravation.

1. Clean your temp files & folders. Go to your c:\windows\temp file in your Explorer and delete everything older than a couple of days.

Tip: click on the date column and it will sort the files by the date they were last used. Highlight all the old files and Delete.

If you also have a c:\temp file repeat the same steps as in 1.

Also search in each of your drives for all *.tmp files dated earlier than today and delete them.

Look for all files beginning with a tilde (~) and older than today and delete them.  These are the working files that were left on your system during crashes.

2. Empty the Recycle Bin.

3. Run ScanDisk. From time to time when your computer crashes (and we all know they do), it can leave a corrupted file in your system that will bog things down or make a "right proper" mess of things. Cleaning up your system regularly (especially right after it crashes) will save you many future headaches.

  • Click on Programs, Accessories, System Tools.
  • Select the Standard radio button.
  • Check the box that says Automatically Fix Errors.
  • This should take only a couple of minutes.

4. Run Defrag. As you work your computer it places your data wherever there is convenient space. If you work on the same files over and over again, after a while the various parts of the file are scattered all over your hard disk. This can slow down your system significantly as the computer must work harder to go find all the bits and pieces of the file in order to work.

  • Make sure all your programs are closed.
  • Click on Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter.
  • Select the drive you want to clean.
  • This can take quite a while, depending on how fragmented your system is. Go get a cup of tea and catch up on your reading for a while.

5. USE ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAMS ALL THE TIME. If you don't have one on your systems, run, don't walk to your nearest store or website and get it installed. Make sure it will check your e-mail as it arrives and, most importantly, any time you open attachments.

If you have one installed, MAKE SURE YOU DOWNLOAD THE UPDATE FILES REGULARLY (MINIMUM OF WEEKLY). Your virus check files are only as good as your most recent download.

Your vendor may have an ability to register for e-mail notices, go sign up. That way you will know when to go get the updated files.  Better yet, use a program that automatically updates your virus list.

NOTE: Make sure to de-activate your anti-virus software temporarily when you install new software as it may cause conflicts and errors.

6. BACK UP YOUR SYSTEM. The stories we could tell. Investing in a good, simple, thorough backup is worth a fortune. All it takes is one crash and you can lose more than you know. Sometimes irreplaceable data, certainly untold person hours of work.

  • Backup every night.
  • Put the backup in another, fire proof, flood proof location.
  • If nothing else, rent a safety deposit box.

7.  FIREWALLS.  If you EVER go onto the internet for any reason, have a modem, DSL, T1 or other connection to the outside world, a good firewall will protect your computer from outside intruders.  Once you have installed protection, you will see what we mean.  It can be software, hardware or a combination thereof.  Software is the easiest and quite effective.  Hardware is even better.

On the day that we installed our firewall on one computer we experienced 10 attempted break-ins on our computer.  The firewall stopped them cold.  

8.  Check Your Firewall.  How secure are you.  Go to www.grc.com and run the "Shields Up" program to test your system.  It will take a few minutes but it will run a whole series of tests to try and break into your system and give you a full report back on how secure your system.  The ideal is "as far as the internet is concerned, your computer does not exist."

9.  Beware the Cookie Monster.  While cookies are very helpful and keep you from having to re-log-in to favorite sites, many unscrupulous companies are using them to track your behavior and worse.  Go to www.lsfileserv.com and install the free version of AdAware.  Make sure to also install their RefUpdate and use them both regularly to clean your system of unwanted cookies.  We were appalled the first time we used Adaware on one computer and discovered 21 "tracking cookies".  

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