In last week’s post, I went over the various hardware components that we recommend regular testing and cleaning for to maintain a computer in running condition. Today, I’m going to mention the software items that need to be updated regularly to keep your computer up-to-date and operating at its peak performance. By keeping your computer’s hardware and software up-to-date and maintained, your computer will last longer and be safer to use, giving you a better value for your money.
Windows has traditionally been the updating king, with new updates coming down the pipeline every first Thursday, as if by clockwork. Recently, Mac’s, with their gaining popularity, have been updating almost as regularly, all of the software components on its software operating system platform. Both operating systems need the latest system software, or patches, as they often contain bug fixes, security patches, and added functionality. Bug fixes are fixes to problems that you, the trusty user, submit in your error reports, to Microsoft or Apple. Security patches are the most important, since they represent flaws in your software that other users have found and the developers have patched. This keeps your computer safe from hackers or exploiters. Added functionality is probably the coolest, since it gives you new features or added uses to your software. I think Google has been the best with adding functionality with their system updates. The earlier versions of Android didn’t have near the features that the newer versions do, and they’ve mostly been added with software updates.
Ran But Then Forgotton: Third Party Updates
I’ve gone over this in another post, called “Updates You Might Not Think Of” back in May of this year, but I can list the software that has to be updated.
These often sit unnoticed on computers for weeks or years at a time, unclicked and unran. I can’t stress how important these are, since Adobe Reader and Java are how most viruses get around today. It seems like an annoyance to have to update your software every little bit, but the companies know this. They’ve balanced the weight of the improvements versus the inconvenience and chose the improvements, so get them. Just make sure you don’t get a copy of the Google toolbar or the Bing toolbar with it. You don’t need that!
I mentioned antivirus above, but it bears repeating. Your antivirus is only useful to your comptuer if its running up-to-date definitions. So what are definitions? Let me define definitions: Definitions are the fingerprints or signatures of viruses that match the code of the virus with known code strings and allow the antivirus to recognize malicious code and identify it as potentially harmful so it can be quarantined or deleted. If your antivirus software is Norton 2004 and it came with your computer and hasn’t been updated since, you need to call me now.
Temporary Junk Files and Registry Issues
Do-It-Yourselfers beware, Registry cleaners are often another source of malware programs and I’ve frequently seen supposedly cleaner software actually be malware or spyware. There are good clean up tools that can empty your internet file cache and delete all your cookies, but there are bad ones as well. Your internet cache and cookies contain all the information about the websites you’ve visited in the last period of time, so you do want to be careful about the quality of the program you use and its intentions. Most browsers have a way to clean out their cache from inside the browser’s options or preferences, so start there first.
The registry can be a big old nightmare for a user, so don’t even go there. And supposed registry cleaners scare me, so don’t use them either. If you do decide to be brave and try to “clean” your registry, then be sure and back it up first, for the love of DOS. The registry contains every bit of information about every program and every preference you have on your computer, so to say you should treat it lightly is an understatement. Don’t touch it. Don’t. Or if you do and it breaks, I can say “I told you so.”
LCD monitors require special cleaning, but cases can be wiped off with pretty much anything, just so long as you don’t get fluid down in the delicate computer innards, which can be disastrous. The exterior of your computer is sure to get dirty and needs to be cleaned to stay in sync with the motif of your surrounding decorations. The best way to apply cleaner is to spray it directly on a rag, instead of spraying it on a monitor or a case where it could run into a power supply or other water-sensitive component. I like the smell of the orange cleaners, but anything should work, as long as its non caustic and won’t scratch or bleach your case’s coloring.
This is the most obvious place to clean, but is often forgotten by other techs. We take care of the outside of the machine too, to keep it looking like new. We usually try to remove marketing stickers too, to give your computer a cleaner, less advertising-oriented, look. Once its cleaned up and dusted off, you’re ready to go with a newly refurbished computer, almost as good as new. Frequent maintenance and cleaning will keep your computer running like it was when it was new for much longer than if it is not maintained or cleaned. So if you care about your new computer or your data, take care of it with regular schedule maintenance.