Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Spring Cleaning Your PC

I am very excited to share that I have a guest author that will be sharing on our site monthly to help all of our working mommas and to also help those of us that, challenged technically! Nicole, from the Geek Squad team, will be tackling all of our questions each month about our computers and she wants to know what you are interested in. Have a story idea for Nicole? You can send it her way to [email protected].

To coincide with our new relationship with the company, the Geek Squad has generously offered to participate in a giveaway with us. This giveaway has a retail value of $169 and has just been listed on our product review site, The Motherloot. Hurry over there and get your entries in!

Many thanks to Nicole and her team for making this opportunity possible!

Spring Cleaning Your Computer by Nicole Conway

So it’s that glorious time of year again! Time to clear the clutter and cobwebs from their hiding places and tidy the home for the coming Spring. But what about your computer? Often overlooked, your computer also needs Spring cleaning, and some basic maintenance measures to keep it humming along. So what are some basic things that you can do?

Well first, print this page so that you can refer to it during the first part of the Spring Cleaning!!

Keeping the inside of your computer’s case clear of dust is important for the long life of your computer. It also saves electricity, because your computer does not have to work so hard to keep itself cool. The inside of your computer attracts a lot of fine dust. The build up of dust can clog the vents and fans, and eventually cause your computer to get too hot. This can cause some parts to stop working correctly. In order to clean it, you will probably want to bring it outside on a clear day. First, turn off your computer, and unplug the different wires and cables. Don’t worry! If you take a good close look at the back of your computer, you will find that everything only fits where it belongs. Putting it together again should only take a few minutes. Most computers have a side that opens easily, after a large screw is loosened on the back. Remove the side, being careful not to touch any of the parts or cards inside. You can buy a can of compressed air at nearly any major electronics store, do to the job.

Keeping an arm’s length away, spray the high pressured air from one side of the computer, pushing the dust to the other side and then out. Watch out! It may create quite a cloud of swirling dust devils and bunnies!!! Repeat the sweep a few times, until the inside of the case, and the vent holes of the sides, are relatively clear. You will notice that the can gets very cold. It is probably a good idea to keep this, like any other high pressured can, out of the reach of the little ones.

Slide the side of the case back on, and bring your clean computer back inside. This is a good time to dust out the space where the computer is normally kept, and to get those cables and wires wiped down, as well.

Now it’s time to plug everything back in. Look carefully at the plugs and wires. You will notice that they are mostly color coded, and some have different shapes. Almost everything in the back of a computer will only go where it is supposed to. The only exception is those flat USB plugs. These can be plugged into any USB ports.

Turn your computer back on, and now we will get down to some basic software maintenance.

So what makes up “software clutter?” Temp files, cookies, browsing history and the like. To start your clean up, we will start with the Control Panel. The Control Panel is the best place to start for safe computer maintenance. Click on the Start menu, and then choose Control Panel. Once this comes up, you will see a number of different options. First, we will choose Internet Options. When you click it, another window pops up, called “Internet Properties” , and you will see that there are some options there to choose from. First click on “Delete Cookies”, then on “Delete Files”, lastly on “Clear History”. This will remove some unnecessary temporary files that your computer saves. Once this is finished, you can close out of this by clicking “OK”.

Close out of the Control Panel, and let’s do some more clean up. If you click on “My Computer” it will open up, and you will see some of the things that makeup your computer. The main drive of your PC has the letter C assigned to it, and you can right click it to see a menu of options. At the very bottom is the Properties choice, which we will select here. A picture will come up, which tells you how much space is on your computer, and how much has been used already. Click on “Disk Cleanup” and let that little program do its thing. When it is finished scanning for potential free space, it will give you a tidy list of files you can clean out. To be on the safe side, make sure you only choose the Temporary types of files, and then click “OK” followed by “Yes” when it asks you if you are sure. Let this run, and then you can close out of it when it completes.

Lastly, now that we have cleaned out what isn’t needed, it is time to organize! So how do we organize the files in the computer? With a good “defrag” once a month. Defragging sounds like a complicated thing, but it is really a pretty simple thing. When your computer saves something, it breaks the file up into little pieces. Sometimes, the pieces are in different places, and all defrag does is move them all together so your computer can find them quicker!

If you right click on “My Computer” you can choose “Manage” from the menu. A new window will come up, with some pretty confusing things, but we will only need one. Click on Disk Defragmenter, and the main display window will change, to show you a picture of your computer’s storage space. When you click “Defragment” a bunch of red and blue lines will show up, and one or two blocks of green. The green will not move, but as you watch, the blue and red will move around until the red lines are almost completely gone, and the blue lines are more or less all together, in a blue block. If this is the first time that your computer is going through this, it may take a couple of hours! Don’t be alarmed. Afterwards, your computer will be able to find files quicker, and will run much better.

Although Spring Cleaning is a good time to start taking care of your computer, it is a good idea to do these basic preventative tasks once a month. This will keep your computer humming away, and give you longer life, better performance, and save you over the long term.

About Nicole Conway, Geek Squad Deputy Field Marshal
Conquering the tech terrain means knowing it's ok to run a sticky keyboard through the dishwasher (yes, just take it out before the hot drying cycle starts) or befriend your daughter on myspace so that you can monitor her activity (and every high school boy that goes near her).

When I'm not coaching on the soccer field, gardening, helping my three daughters (Emily 14, Erica 12, Erin 9) complete homework, or caring for my Beagle, 3 cats, 4 parakeets, and 2 hermit crabs (*catch breath), I'm hard at work as a Geek Squad Deputy Field Marshal. With a license to tech for three years now, I specialize in hardware repair, Networking, Virus and Spyware removal.

In other words, I'm that person you want to call when you're about to throw your computer out the window.

After 17 years of "another career" (too painful to talk about), I pursued my true passion for computers. I relish the challenge behind life's biggest annoyances -- the jammed printer, the keyboard soaked with juicy juice, the wireless router that doesn't route, the pile of wires your child devilishly jumbled up (need I say more?).

Go ahead, tell me if you have any issues (ones I can actually address). I should note I am a European History buff and cloth diaper sewer, so questions about Henry VIII and mending seams are not off limits!

Have a burning question about your computer? Send an email to [email protected] and get answers!

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