People are creatures of habit and, unfortunately, most of our habits aren't the best ones for us. Take for example, our computers: we remember to check Facebook, our email, download and share photos, and many other random tasks that are fun and social, but we forget to run malware scans, disk defrag (when appropriate), or even to remove unwanted files that have been hiding on our drive since the day the PC was turned on.
Many essential PC upkeep tasks are easy to manage and should become a regular and beneficial addition to our PC lives. The following suggestions are the simplest and most useful tasks we all should be doing.
Automate, automate, automate!
While most of the important tasks run by your PC are already automated or need only to be run once, the rest of your important utilities have to be handled manually. Programs and apps like malware scanners, antivirus and disk defragmentation need to be scheduled for times when you, or your computer, are available. The hard part, for many, is remembering to start the process at all.
To remedy this problem, use the Windows-included program Task Scheduler. To find Task Scheduler, simply locate the program in the Start menu (Windows Vista and 7) or find it on your Start Screen (Windows 8). Once the program is up, select Create Basic Task in order to begin scheduling programs and tasks to launch. Use the Task Scheduler to launch programs automatically, like CCleaner or Malwarebytes, on a regular schedule.
The only drawback to Task Scheduler is that it will not run the programs for you, only launch them. However, having a program like CCleaner popping up in the middle of your screen is a great reminder to click the clean button.
To Defrag or not to defrag, that is the question
If you have used a PC for more than just holding your coffee while you play games on Facebook, then you probably understand the need for defragmenting your hard drive. The process of defragmentation is useful for consolidating files on older storage drives, which will reduce the time a drive takes to gather intended data. The benefits of defragging a mechanical drive are not as significant now as it once was with much older hard drive systems, but it is still a good idea to run the process occasionally in the case of drive failure. A well-defragged drive will be easier to recover in the event of a drive disaster.
In PCs that contain a solid state drive, the benefits of defragmentation are reduced to almost nil, and in most cases defragmentation of a SSD is frowned upon. Most manufacturers of SSDs recommend that users never defrag their solid state drives due to the type of internal hardware used and the way these drives store and retrieve information.
If you are using any Windows PC from Vista forward, the defragmentation process is already set to run once a week, during the night. If you want to know what day the process is scheduled to run or if you need to disable the defragmenting process due to your SSD, simply search for Disk Defragmenter in the Start Menu or Start Screen.
There's old and then there's really old
The best, and the worst, part of technology today is how easy it is to update aging software to fix issues and provide new experiences. The good side of easy updates is everything you want it to be: new features, security patches, updated versions, and so on. The bad side of our easy-to-update technology is the flip side of the good: patches are mandatory to keep things running, included features can be stuck behind paywalls, update services can be hijacked, and keeping on top of the most recent updates can be frustrating in the best of times. The only reliable expectation to take from this is you have to update your software, and you have to stay on top of the update process.
The simplest update process is the most important one to follow, your operating system. Microsoft Windows allows users to customize the update process to fit their level of comfort and interest. The only constant is that Windows Updates must be run and run regularly to stay on top of emerging threats and discovered vulnerabilities.
Other programs are not as easy to keep up with. Most software that operates with an expectation of needing regular patching will come with a update warning and patch to facilitate the service. However, important services used by your PC need updates as well and they will not inform you of every update, like Java for 64-bit systems. To solve this problem, you will have to rely on a third-party program like Avast!'s Software Updater or Secunia Personal Software Inspector. These programs will scan your system and then indicate the programs that are installed and when or if there are updates available.
Tune in next time...
So there you have three very good first steps into taking care of the easy utilities and important tasks that most users will overlook. That's not all of them, not by a long shot, so check back in our next blog for a few more easy to do tasks that you may not be using, yet.