While the personal computer is no longer as expensive as it once was, we are still a long ways away from considering it as a throwaway technology. In most cases, a PC purchase is still considered to be a multi-year investment, which is further extended by the quality and level of technology included in most modern processors. Also gone are the days that new programs and applications required significant hardware upgrades, with modern programs operating fine on five to six year old PCs and many services moving to the cloud.
Upgrading individual hardware pieces, like installing new RAM or a new solid state drive, are a great way to increase performance quickly, but are not the only options for extending the useful life of your PC.
Protect against power interruption and surges
The PC is an assortment of circuits and components that are susceptible to fluctuation in power. A significant power fluctuation of any type is capable of causing stress to a PC as well as damaging delicate components or the power supply. To combat this danger, PC owners should invest in either a reliable surge protector or the more robust Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS).
Surge protectors do exactly what their name implies; they protect electronics from power surges and fluctuations. However, surge protectors can lose their ability to protect electronics from surges after a single spike in power without interrupting its ability to power devices. This can lead to PC users with a false sense of security and a vulnerable machine. Consult your surge protector manufacturer's instructions for recognizing protection faults and check your device regularly to insure proper surge protection.
An Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) is basically a surge protector combined with a built-in power supply designed to automatically engage when power is lost or interrupted. The UPS is used in most cases to prevent problems from affecting your PC due to unexpected power loss, which could include lost files and documents and file corruption. The amount of time that a UPS can protect and provide power to your PC is limited by its battery size and rating, but even the smallest UPS will provide you with enough time to properly shut down your system.
Keep your hard drive healthy
The hard drive on a PC can and will become corrupt with file errors and bad sectors when subjected to improper shutdowns, crashes, and other issues. Corruption of this type can damage files, cause system instability, as well as prevent Windows from booting if allowed to continue. Luckily, disk corruption can be found, managed, and automatically repair with the tools provided in the Windows operating system.
In order to diagnose and repair the potential problems with a PC's drive, use the Check Disk tool. The program offers a few different scanning and repair options, which include the scan with automatic repair options and the scan without repair. Be aware that the full scan with automatic repair can take several hours and requires that the user not use the computer during the process. The scan without repair takes less time, coming in a 5 to 10 minutes and allows use of the PC.
To run a Check Disk in Windows 7 or earlier versions, click your Start button and select Computer. In the new screen, select the drive you wish to scan by right-clicking on it and then select Properties. Now select the Tools tab and click the selection for Error-checking. The Check Disk window will appear and provide options for running the scan. You will run a full automatic scan if you select both checkboxes or a simple scan by leaving both boxes unchecked. The final option will allow you to schedule the Check Disk after your next restart.
In Windows 8, as soon as you access the Check Disk program it will report any problems already recognized. The program will suggest a full scan and repair if problem have been found, but will still offer a quick check if no errors are present.
In order to access the full scan's report on a Windows 7 or earlier PC, press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialog, type eventvwr.msc, and press Enter. Double-click the Windows Logs, the right-click on Application, and click Find to search for the chkdsk results. For Windows 8 machines, you have a choice to follow the same instructions as above, or you can rick-click on the Window icon of your desktop taskbar and then select Event Viewer.
Keep it clean
It is a fact of PC ownership that eventually the internal hardware of your computer will become covered in dust, unless you work and live in a sterile, clean room environment. If this growing pile of dust and debris is left alone, it will eventually suffocate your PC, increasing the heat generated and held internally, and eventually causing damage to components. A dirty PC will be a slow and under-performing system that will more than likely fail.
Depending on your environment, a PC should be cleaned thoroughly every 6 to 12 months or every 3 months in decidedly dusty areas. Use compressed air cans to remove excess dust and small debris from internal PC components and only perform the cleaning on a completely shut down system in a well-ventilated room.