If you’ve ever fried a CPU because you didn’t clean your fan, lost a decade of your digital life to a hard drive crash, or spent four hours trying to remove a nasty virus, you’ve probably already learned a valuable lesson about the need to maintain your computer.
Medical experts remind us that "prevention is the best medicine," so as your personal computer support experts, we're going to strongly advise that you apply the same logic to your computer!
While the three areas we talk about below are anything but exhaustive, they're the most important things to consider and, if you act on them, should keep you from suffering from some of the more serious, and expensive, issues you might otherwise run into.
Keep Important Files Backed Up
The most important thing you can do as a computer owner is to consistently and reliably back up the data stored on your hard drive. Hardware used to be the most valuable part of a computer, but those bits and bytes are now the real investment.
You've spent huge amounts of money on software and digital music and video, and countless hours authoring documents and organizing your digital files. If you don't regularly back up this information, a serious computer problem could leave you with nothing but a huge feeling of regret.
The best solution is a cloud-based backup service. Yes, if you don’t use a free backup service, it’ll cost you several dollars a month, but considering what you get, it’s the cheapest insurance policy on your important stuff that you’ll find.
Traditional backup software—like where you store everything on an external hard drive—is an option as well, but all in all, it’s less safe than backing up to the internet since local backups are stored locally, right there in your house. This makes them much more susceptible to things like disastrous weather, fire, theft, etc.
Regularly Update Your Critical Software
Keeping the software on your computer updated is no longer an optional part of computer ownership. Viruses, worms, and other malware, in addition to junk mail, security breaches, hardware incompatibilities, and software conflicts are all now part of your daily digital life.
Updating your computer with the latest patches, fixes, and device drivers really can keep these annoyances at bay. Updates are freely available on the internet for just about every antivirus program, email client, operating system, and piece of hardware you could possibly own.
So, don’t skip those Patch Tuesday releases, don’t be scared to update your hardware’s drivers, and please make sure that you regularly scan for viruses or make sure the “always on” protection is enabled in your antivirus program so that threats can be caught before they do any damage.
Updating is so vital that there are even entire companies and programs built around providing an easy way to update your computer software, so don’t miss out on getting one of those software updater programs that can do just that. Some of those free updaters are even completely hands-off and will do all the updating for you, automatically, so that you don’t have to worry much about it at all once you get it installed.
Make Sure Things Are Clean (So They Stay Cool)
We all know that most things run a little better when they're clean. Water flows easier when your plumbing is clean, your car's engine runs better if you've been taking care of it, and your dryer does more in less time when you clean out the lint.
The fans in your computer, assuming yours has any, need similar care so they can continue to keep the important components that are part of your computer nice and cool. If things get too hot, they stop working.
See our Best Ways to Keep Your Computer Cool guide for lots of advice, from how to clean your fans, to other tips that can help keep the heat at bay.
Your computer is no different. Keeping your files and folders tidy in your virtual world and clearing the dust and grime that builds up inside and outside your computer, all play a part in keeping it running smooth day in and day out