Connection failed: SQLSTATE[HY000] [2005] Unknown MySQL server host 'gccdbgen.db.7044252.hostedresource.com' (0) Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/gcc1multi/public_html/downloadMe.php:34) in /home/gcc1multi/public_html/downloadMe.php on line 42 Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/gcc1multi/public_html/downloadMe.php:34) in /home/gcc1multi/public_html/downloadMe.php on line 43 Title: "How to" 101 - Basic monthly PC maintenence Hi, all. This is your favorite (or not) Pc guru/lunatic, Dave! In an effort to inform, educate and entertain some of my fellow carbon-based lifeforms, I've decided to write down some thoughts that may assist in making life a bit easier; or, at least, less hard. :) These articles will, more or less, be on a broad range of subjects, and some may actually be useful! Well, that said, let's get into this, the first of what I hope will be a long line of musings, rants, lectures, and other ramblings. This time we cover the one item in the home/office that we all have in common, the computer! Ok, enough rambling for now. Let's get down to business, shall we? It seems that everyone these days has a home or office computer these days that are used in various different ways, from playing games, to surfing the web, to balancing the budgets of households and small businesses. It's been reported that in 2003, over 62 million homes had computers that were connected to the Internet, with an additional unknown number that were not. That was 3 years ago, and I wouldn't be suprized if that number had doubled by now. Anyways, just like a lot of things that we use on a daily basis, such as our cars, our homes, our bodies, etc, our computers need periodic maintenence to keep it running smoothly. Today's discussion will cover the steps that are recomended each month. I'll provide a basic outline first, then go into more detail for each step. First, the outline: Monthly Windows PC checklist: 1.) Anti-virus update 2.) Anti-spyware sweeps a.) Adaware b.) Spybot c.) Microsoft Anti-spyware 3.) Update the Operating System 4.) Hard drive maintenence a.) Cleanup I.) Cleanout "My Documents" b.) Defrag c.) Run Scandisk 5.) Clear Browser Cache a.) Internet Explorer b.) Firefox c.) Opera 6.) Backup data a.) Files b.) Registry 7.) Physical cleanup a.) Dust b.) CD/DVD cleaning disk Nice list, huh? :D By the way, you'll notice that the applications on the list are all links to the apropriate websites to obtain the software in question. This is just in case you don't have the software, and want to go ahead and download it. While I recomend every one of the applications listed, you don't necessarily HAVE to use them if you have a program that's comperable, and are more comfortable with it. These are just suggestions, after all. :) Anyway, let's go through the list, shall we? 1.) Anti-virus update I actually recomend doing this every day if you have an "always on" connection, such as DSL or cable, and leave the computer on 24/7. If you have a dialup connection, or only have the computer on for a few hours a day, then weekly updates are ok, but absolutely make sure your anti-virus is updated every month. Suggested applications are AVG, kaspersky, McAfee or Trend Micro. Of these anti-virus solutions, only AVG is free. And AVG works well. 2.) Anti-Spyware sweeps/updates Just like my suggestion regarding AV sweeps, if you're constantly on the web, daily sweeps are the order of the day. I strongly recomend using not just one of the applications listed in the outline, but all three! Each has it's strengths and weaknesses, and they overlap nicely, catching well over 99% of all spyware, as long as you keep them updated. I suggest updating just before you run a scan. (I don't want to turn this article into a novel, so I'm leaving out the specific, line by line instructions for updating and scanning your computer. However, if you have a question about how to update/scan with a specific application that I mention here, just reply to this post with your question, giving me the application name and what you're having trouble with, and I'll answer the best I can.) 3.) Update the Operating System For most of us, this simply means visiting the Windows Update website. For you users of Linux, don't think I'm giving you the cold shoulder. It's just that I have such limited experience with Linux that I can't give out any useful information on how to update the OS. I can't be expected to know everything, can I? 4.) Hard drive maintenence Ok, now for the fun part! this is the first section I'll actually break down into step by step instructions. You MAY want to print this out, so that you can follow along without having to have this page open. I've also provided a link at the end of the article for folks who want a 'plain text' version to refer to. 4a.) Cleanup Ok, here we go. The fun stuff. :eek: Disk cleanup is fairly simple to do with just a bit of patience and the ability to follow directions. Just take it a step at a time, and you'll be ok. Go to Start > My Computer and right-click the "C" drive, then select "properties". Click the "disk cleanup" button. Select the types of files you want to delete (all are safe) and click "OK". If you have more than one drive, repeat the process for each hard drive. On slower systems, or computers with huge hard drives, this can take a few minutes, so be patient. I.) Cleanout "My Documents" If you're like me, over time you've collected a lot of different types of files here, ranging from plain text files to Word-type documents, to pictures and such. When it gets to be a bit large, it's time to look through the mess and sort all the files into 3 seperate categories: Stuff you need quick access to, stuff you need, but don't need right away, and stuff you don't need any more at all. The first "pile" of files you can leave alone. The second, you can save to a removable drive (floppy disk, CD ROM, Zip disk or DVD), and the third, you can just delete. the criteria for selection I'll leave entirely up to you. 4b.) Defrag Accessing this step is very similar to "Disk Cleanup", above, but instead of clicking "disk cleanup", look for a tab at the top of the little window, for "Tools". Click that, and look for the "Defragment now" button. Depending on your Operating System, the next few steps will slightly differ, but it's fairly straight forward stuff, so I'm sure you can figure out what to do next. Repeat for any other hard drives you may have. 4c.) Run Scandisk Ok, on the same "Tools" tab from the previous operation, you'll also see a button labeled "Check now..." By now you should know the routine, so I'll not bore you with repetition. :) 5.) Clear Browser Cache Being as paranoid about security as I am, I do this, not on a daily basis, but every time I use my browser, by adjusting the settings to allow it to clear the cache every time I close it. For those of you who wish to adjust these settings, you'll generally find them under "Tools" > "Options"(or "Preferences"). Just poke around, and you'll find it relatively easily. If you have trouble locating the setting in a specific browser, just reply here, and I'll go through the process for you. Anyway, here's how to clear the cache in the following 3 browsers: a.) Internet Explorer Click on "Tools" > "Internet Options", and select the "General" tab. In the center of the applet is a section for "Temporary Internet Files". Click the button that says "Delete files...", then click "Ok". b.) Firefox Click on "Tools" > "Options", then select the "Privacy" tab. There will be several sub-tabs for "history", "Saved forms", "Download history", "Cookies" and "Cache". Each of those tabs has a "Clear" button. Click them to your heart's content. ;) c.) Opera Click on "Tools" > "Preferences", and look for "History and Cache" on the left. You'll see a button that says "empty now", referring to the cache. Click it, and you're done! 6.) Backup data This is probably the most important step in the entire list, but it's been my experience in working around computers for as long as I have, that this is also the most neglected of all of them. I know that backing up your data CAN be a tedious process, but with a little bit of planning, you can make it a much easier job to do. First off, try and make sure that all your data is located centrally. The "My documents" directory is a good choice, but don't make the mistake of just tossing all your files into one folder and trying to sort it all out at once. Just take the extra few moments to impose a bit of structure here, and you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to keep things cleaned up. Below is a basic example of what I'm referring to: [IMG]http://dmorton.no-ip.info/images/treeviewExample.gif[/IMG] a.) Files Now, if you live in a perfect world and you've got all your data stored in a central location, backing up your data is as simple as burning a CD or DVD with the contents of just one folder. Unfortunately, a perfect world doesn't exist *well, it doesn't for me, at least), so you're going to have to locate the data you want to backup. While I don't personally use it for myself, Microsoft's backup tool is very useful, and I DO use it for my friends' computers when I backup thier data, prior to doing anything big on their systems. It's relatively easy to use, and it doesn't take a huge chunk out of your already busy day. On XP systems, you can find it under the "Accessories" portion of the start menu, under "System Tools". On my box, it's the first menu choice. The nice thing about Microsoft Backup on XP systems is that you can schedule backups to occur on a regular basis, only needing to choose the files to backup once, and inserting a writable CD/DVD before the scheduled time. now how cool is that? Ok, now that your files are backed up, let's put the disk(s) in a safe place, and move on. b.) Registry This is one step that I don't generally see other folks recomending for some reason, but I can tell you from personal experience that this one, simple step can save a huge amount of headaches! And it's not all that hard to do, so let's get to it, shall we? WARNING! Making changes to any settings in the registry can have disasterous effects if you don't know what you're doing, so don't make any changes unless you know EXACTLY what you're doing. You have been warned! OF course, you aren't in the registry to make any changes, so you're in no REAL danger anyway, are you? Anyway, on to the instructions: Go to "Start" > "Run", and type in "regedit". The regedit app will open. Go to "File" > "Export...", select a location to save the file to (I use "My Documents\Registry saves"), and type in the name of the file to save it to. I generally suggest using the name "backup_", followed by the date as the naming convention. For example, today's registry backup would be "backup_05272006". I also generally keep at least the previous 2 backups, and just delete any files beyond that, to avoid clutter. Now that wasn't so bad, was it? c.) System Restore since the introduction of Windows ME (ME = "Multiple Errors", or was it "Migraine Edition"?), there has been a nifty little tool called "System Restore", that was actually a cool and useful thing that Uncle Bill's posse did. I won't go into how it works, since the smell of sacrificed chickens makes me slightly nauseous (I.E. I have no clue!), but I CAN outline how to set a "Restore Point", which is the original idea, I think. To access the System Restore applet, click "Start" > "Help and Support". on the right side of the applet, there's a link titled "Undo changes to your computer with System Restore. Click on that to bring up the system restore tool. From there, you have 2 options. "Restore my computer to an earlier time", and "Create a Restore Point". Make your choice and follow the prompts to save your computer's current state. Viola! We're done! 7.) Physical cleanup Ok, next is the "Care and Feeding" of the physical aspect of your computer. This is another item on the much needed list of essential care that is woefully neglected by most folks. Did you know that the leading cause of CPU failure is due to excess dust that clogs the cooling fins of the CPU, allowing damaging heat buildup? It's a simple matter to clean the dust out of your computer, and I'll get to that in a bit. First, however, let's worry about the outside. It's a quick task, and as simple as wiping off the case with a damp cloth. Now one thing to note at this point is this: Damp does NOT mean DRIPPING! Too much water is only good for your computer if you want to use it as a meat smoker, and trust me, the smell of burning electronics is NOT something you want on your food. If you can wring out the cloth with moderate force and still get water to drip out, then it's too wet. Anyway, just wipe off the dust and house grime with a damp cloth and you're done. a.) Dust Ok, you've wiped down your computer, and it's all clean and shiny outside. So why do you now want to dust it? There's no dust on it, you think. True enough, but what does it look like on the inside? In nearly all computers in use today there are at least 2 cooling fans that move air across various heat generating parts. some of these fans bring air from outside your computer, drawing within that air, tiny particles of dust that get deposited on the very surfaces that they shouldn't be on. This is a slo process, and takes a while to become a problem, but as it builds up, it acts like insulation, locking heat in the CPU and other circuits, causing overheating. If bad enough, it also blocks airflow, making the matter worse. If you have pets, the buildup happens a lot faster, since animal dander is added to the mix. Cleaning out the dust is imperative to a healthy computer, so let's get to it. Bit first, a few simple rules: 1.) NEVER dust out the computer while it's plugged in, let alone running! 2.) Dust creates static electricity when it's dislodged, so make sure you're always in contact with the metal case of the computer. Either get an inexpensive grounding strap from your local electronics shop (e.g. Radio Shack) 3.) Clean out the dust in a well ventelated area, and if you're allergic to dust, get a mask, or have someone else do the dirty work. While there are several methods available to you for removing the dust from your box, my personal favorite is to use a combination of compressed air and vaccuum. I've made a special attachment for my camping air pump that uses 2 hoses, one with pressurized air from the pump, and the other that pulls the air and dust away, taking it to a filter. This method works very well, but beware. Certain vaccuum cleaners have hoses that can develop a serious static charge during operation, and static electricity is more dangerous to your computer than being struck by lightning is to you. Once all the dust is out of the CPU and other visible areas, make sure you take care of the power supply. It gets dustier than the CPU, since the primary supply of air coming into the computer comes straight through the power supply. I use canned air, with a small hose nozzle to probe into the power supply with short blasts of air, while the vaccuum is pulling out the air from the back of the computer. It's very efficient, and takes care of the dust problem quickly. b.) CD/DVD cleaning disk I'm afraid I'v run out of time for going into detail here, but I'm sure we've all used cleaning disks before. If not for the computer, then for your CD player in your walkman/home stereo. The principle is the same, so go to it. Well, that's it for now. I hope you've found this "How to" article helpful. If you have any questions about what I've written here, just post a reply, and I'll answer to the best of my abilities. Have fun, and Happy Computing! 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