Today, I’m going to write about another universal computer need: Regular Maintenance. Through proper maintenance, you can make your computer last longer, run faster, and be more dependable. You would be surprised at how often I get computers into my shop to find out that they have never had any maintenance performed on them. Computers require maintenance to keep running at their peak performance. The car analogy applies here: would you drive your car without regular oil changes and inspection by a qualified mechanic? Then why would you use your computer, which in some ways carries more important information, regarding your identity and your personal information, without proper, regular tune ups?
Clean me Seymour
The reasons computers need maintenance are that they get affected by time, just like everything else. The inside of the case of your desktop and laptop get full of dirt and dust, which limits the fans ability to properly cool the cpu. Computer processors and other components run their best when they are cooled down, which is why high performance machines use liquid cooling systems, similar to a radiator cooling system on a car. Your PC “Engine” also need to be free of dust and grime so that air can flow most efficiently through the chassis of the computer. The worst computers I’ve seen inside are the computers of smokers. They have nasty tar and gunk on the CPU fan and chassis fans and this sometimes can even stop the fans from running. Whether or not you smoke, I recommend getting the inside of your case cleaned properly every six months, with a year being the longest.
Hard Drive Hard Facts
Hard drives don’t just go dead one day. Except in cases of sudden drops of traumatic blows to a running hard drive, most hard drives just start to fail and may continue to fail over time. There are ways to check to see if your computer’s hard drive is failing. One of the best is the SMART test, which we run during our hard drive test. SMART stands for Self Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology, and it is a way for your hard drive to show signs of aging and failure, before it has failed all the way. I have caught many hard drives before they’ve failed, but after they’ve started to show signs of failure in their SMART test. With these drives, I can copy the entire contents to another drive and send them on their way with relatively little pain or data loss. For the safety of your data alone, you should have your hard drive tested every six months to a year.
Remember Your Memory
Other hardware components can show signs of wear and tear that are detectable. The RAM modules are subject to a lot of voltage and can go bad without a sign or warning. We have specific tests that can show if memory modules are going bad. This isn’t as likely to cause data loss, but is more likely to cause your computer to act screwy and show blue-screens. Ram modules can be tested individually and replaced individually for very little cost, if identified as troublesome, but there is no cost equivalent for frequent computer hangups, application crashes, or other strange computer activity.
Sour Power Supplies
Power Supplies are the fuel for your computer, giving the components the vital electricity at specific voltages it needs to work. Power supplies, when they go out, will usually just make the computer not turn on, but I have seen instances where a power supply is going bad but the computer still kind of works. This can also cause weird intermittent problems with your computer, which are often incorrectly misdiagnosed to other components failing. Similar to bad memory, you can get blue-screens, application hang-ups, and random restarts to your system. We have a power supply tester that tells us if every pin on that power supply is putting out the necessary voltage to run your computer. If it is not, a power supply is a pretty inexpensive part. However if its not caught early, a bad power supply runs the risk of frying your entire system. We test our power supplies on every machine that comes through our shop to make sure they are up to par and will work in the future.
The other hardware components that might go bad are pretty obvious. If your keyboard goes bad, you’ll know it doesn’t type (check the batteries if its wireless!). If your monitor goes bad, you can’t see anything! For the other hardware failures, you’ll probably be able to tell if it is bad, but these internal components should be tested often to make sure they keep running at 100%. If you can’t live without your computer, then get it maintained regularly so that it continues to be the workhorse and productivity tool you bought it to be. Tune-ups usually take about two hours and can be done in the shop or at your home or business. Take proactive care of your computer and get it tuned up every six months.
In the next part of this series, I’m going to write about software maintenance and how important it is.