Proper maintenance will keep a home computer running well. A few minutes spent on tests and updates can avert frustrating crashes and sluggish performance.

Follow these computer maintenance tips:

  1. Install antivirus security software and set up a regular sweep. Your computer may have come with a pre-installed antivirus system, but be sure you have one and it is set up to regularly search for and destroy malware on your machine. There are plenty of quality free programs such as AVG, Avast or Avira available if you need them, but no matter what, it is vital to protect your computer against viruses.
  2. Consistently back up stored data and create restore points. Be prepared for the worst by regularly backing up your files on the hard drive or an external hard drive to be extra safe. It is likely that your computer came with a program to create system restore points (System Restore on Windows computers and Time Machine on Macs) that save a complete version of your computer that you can return to later. This is very helpful if a virus has completely ruined your machine and you can’t find out how to get rid of it. You simply go back to before the virus was introduced. Be sure to set up the programs to automatically create regular restore points or you can install third party programs to do this as well.
  3. Keep your system and programs updated. Software developers regularly put out updates for everything from your operating system to programs you use regularly. These updates make sure your software is running top notch, but updates also regularly plug security holes so you will want to install updates as soon as you are notified of them to protect yourself against malicious viruses and spyware.
  4. Uninstall unused programs and files and regularly defragment your hard drive to keep your computer from slowing down. The more free space your computer has on the hard drive, the faster it will run so if you have old files you don’t need or old programs you don’t use, clear them out. You will also want to regularly do a disk cleanup to clear out junk files that get downloaded by your browser or temporary program files that take up space. Also, regularly defragmenting your hard drive will keep your computer running smoothly. Your computer likely has a tool you can use to set up a routine defragmentation.
  5. Practice safe browsing habits to avoid viruses and phishing scams. Much of the malicious software that wrecks computers finds its way to your device through your own unknowing clicking. Protect yourself by always reading the web address before you click a link in a search result, never clicking through on a suspicious popup window, never giving out login information even if the requester claims to be from a reputable company and never opening an email or email attachment you are unsure of.
  6. Clean out dust and grime that accumulates outside and inside the machine. Built up dust can cause overheating and is to blame for lots of computer breakdowns. This is simple to avoid by regularly using a small vacuum to remove dust and then spray with compressed canned air. For tower-style desktops, you will want to remove the side panel to carefully clear the dust inside the tower every three to six months for optimum performance.
  7. Plug your desktop into a surge protector. Electric storms can irreparably damage sensitive components inside your computer. The simplest way to protect it from power surges is to plug it into a surge protector.