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pc maintenance tipsPCs still require maintenance, as much as we wish they were magic boxes that did all the work for us. Unfortunately, many people make mistakes when it comes to maintaining their PC. These mistakes could result in hardware damage, security breaches, data loss, money spent unnecessarily, and general system instability.

We generally cover lists of PC maintenance tips you should do, but knowing what not to do can be even more important. We’ll cover some of the most common mistakes so you can avoid them and keep your PC running like new.

Not Updating Your Operating System and Software

Keeping your computer’s software updated is important. Operating systems, browsers, and their plug-ins in particular are frequently updated with security fixes. If you’re running an unpatched version of Windows, outdated version of Firefox, or vulnerable version of Java Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Oracle’s Java plug-in has become less and less common on the Web, but it’s become more and more common in the news. Whether Java is allowing over 600,000 Macs to be infected or Oracle is... Read More , your computer is at risk.

Be sure to keep your software updated Why Do Apps Nag Me To Update & Should I Listen? [Windows] Why Do Apps Nag Me To Update & Should I Listen? [Windows] Software update notifications seem like a constant companion on every computer. Every app wants to update regularly, and they nag us with notifications until we give in and update. These notifications can be inconvenient, especially... Read More . Set Windows to automatically install updates or at least inform you of them, leave your browser set to automatically install updates, and ensure Flash, Adobe Reader, Java, and other browser plug-ins you have installed are set to update automatically. Don’t disable these auto-updating features — they help keep your PC secure.

pc maintenance tips

Letting Dust Build Up

Dust builds up inside of your PC’s case over time. This dust clogs up fans, reducing air flow and increasing the temperature inside your PC. A large amount of dust build-up can result in problems with cooling, which could even lead to system crashes as your CPU’s temperature increases too far. If you’re playing demanding games on a PC that’s clogged with dust, the heat will have nowhere to go and may damage your hardware.

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To help with air flow, you should open your desktop computer’s case occasionally and clean out the dust using a can of compressed air. Cleaning the dust inside your laptop How To Fix An Overheating Laptop How To Fix An Overheating Laptop Read More will likely be more difficult, as laptop’s aren’t generally meant to be easy-to-open. Spraying compressed air into your laptop’s fan vents may help dislodge some of the dust, but you’d have to open your laptop’s case for a serious cleaning.

common pc error messages

Not Backing Up Your Files

Your computer’s hard drive will fail eventually. It might even fail tomorrow. If your computer’s hard drive failed tomorrow, would you have backup copies of all your important documents, photos, and other files? Or would you lose lots of important data?

Create a backup strategy to ensure your files won’t go down with your computer, whether you make regular backups on a removable hard drive or cloud storage service. Windows 8 has a built-in backup tool Did You Know Windows 8 Has a Built-In Time Machine Backup? Did You Know Windows 8 Has a Built-In Time Machine Backup? We sometimes forget with all the focus on Windows 8's new "Modern" interface, but Windows 8 has a variety of great desktop improvements. One of them is File History, a built-in backup feature that functions... Read More that functions similarly to Apple’s Time Machine, while Windows 7 has its own backup feature How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature It's hardly a secret when I tell you that sooner or later you will need a backup of your personal data. Do you have one right now? What keeps most people from preparing regular backups... Read More .

Many people ignore backups until they lose their files. Don’t become one of them — start backing up your files before you lose them.

common pc error messages

Plugging Directly into the Power Outlet

Do you have your desktop computer or laptop plugged directly into a wall outlet? You shouldn’t. You should have your computer plugged into a surge protector and the surge protector plugged into the wall. Many power bars have built-in surge protectors, but the cheapest ones just function as extension cords and provide no surge protection.

A surge protector ensures that power surges — which can occur during bad storms, for example — won’t destroy your computer’s hardware. Plugging your computer directly into the power outlet could result in a power surge damaging it. You can even get portable surge protectors for your laptop Getting A New Computer, Part 4: How To Properly Protect Your Laptop Getting A New Computer, Part 4: How To Properly Protect Your Laptop A lot of research is involved in choosing the right computer. Should you go with a laptop or desktop? If you decide on a laptop, how do you choose which one? In all of these... Read More .

common pc error messages

Defragmenting When Unnecessary

Windows automatically defragments your hard drive in the background, so most people should never need to open the Disk Defragmenter and defragment their hard drives manually. There are some exceptions — for example, if you’ve just installed a large game and you want maximum performance, you may want to defragment before you play the game.

However, most of the time, defragmenting your hard drives is probably unnecessary. On a solid-state drive, it can actually be harmful — you should never defragment a solid-state drive 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More .

common pc errors

Running Multiple Antivirus Programs

You should only use one antivirus program on your computer. Antivirus programs hook deep into the operating system, checking programs before they run. If you have two antivirus programs attempting to do this at once, they can interfere with each other and cause your computer to crash. They may identify each other as malware or prevent each other from working.

Ensure you only have a single antivirus program installed and running in the background. If you want a second opinion, you can use an antivirus program that will just perform a system scan while not running in the background What Is The Benefit Of An Online/Cloud-Based Anti-Virus? What Is The Benefit Of An Online/Cloud-Based Anti-Virus? It seems like all the apps we use on our computers are migrating to the cloud these days. Email, chatting, editing documents and pictures – increasingly, we're using cloud-based solutions for almost everything.. There are... Read More .

common pc errors

Using a Registry Cleaner or “PC Cleaning” App

Everyone wants to sell you a program that will somehow speed up your computer by deleting temporary files and cleaning up your registry. These programs are at best unnecessary, and at worst harmful. Either way, many of them will take a bite out of your bank account.

We’ve already covered why registry cleaners aren’t useful Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More . A registry cleaner won’t speed up your computer, but it could cause damage to your registry.

The “PC cleaning” apps advertised on television at 3 a.m. and on banner ads all over the web are similarly unnecessary. If you want to delete temporary files, you can use the Disk Cleanup program 5 Ways To Clean Up Your Computer With An Automated Script [Windows] 5 Ways To Clean Up Your Computer With An Automated Script [Windows] Computer maintenance isn't exactly something that most people remember to do. For the general user that isn't exactly tech savvy, when a computer doesn't work, they either call for help or simply buy a new... Read More included with Windows or use the free CCleaner utility Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Over the last two years, CCleaner has changed quite a bit in terms of version numbers...up now to version 3.10 at the time of this writing. While visually the program actually hasn't changed much (it's... Read More . Avoid the paid PC-cleaning apps.

common pc errors

Obstructing Air Flow

Your computer needs proper cooling How To Install A New PC Cooling Fan How To Install A New PC Cooling Fan Computers have changed a lot over the last decade, but one thing remains the same – the need for cooling. Efficiency has pushed temperatures down but hasn’t eliminated heat as an issue. That’s particularly true... Read More . In addition to ensuring that dust doesn’t clog its vents, you’ll want to ensure that the air vents don’t become obstructed. For example, if you have a desktop PC in a tower, ensure that its air vents aren’t pressed up against a wall. If you have a laptop with an air vent, don’t place it on a bed that it will sink into, causing the blanket to obstruct its air vents. Don’t put your laptop on your lap in a position that will result in the air vents being blocked, either. Always take cooling and air flow into account.

This is particularly important when playing a demanding game or otherwise stressing your PC. If you’re just browsing the web, your computer shouldn’t heat up too much. You can get away with having your laptop’s vents blocked for a short time during light usage, but don’t leave it that way for long.

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Installing Dangerous or Annoying Programs

When installing programs on your computer, you should be vigilant. Judge the trustworthiness of each program before you download it How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software How To Do Your Research Before You Download Free Software Before downloading a free program, you should be sure it's trustworthy. Determining whether a download is safe is a basic skill, but one everyone needs -- particularly on Windows. Use these tips to ensure you... Read More . Don’t install programs that look scammy. Be careful when you install software A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk A Simple Checklist To Safely Installing Free Software Without All The Junk Picture this - you've just found this awesome free software that you are stoked about because of all that it can do for you, but when you install it, you discover that it is packed... Read More so you don’t end up installing browser toolbars and other adware that will annoy you. Know the types of files that are dangerous and be careful when running them — for example, don’t download screensavers, which can contain viruses.

installing software

Using Power-Hungry Graphics Cards

Everyone likes powerful hardware, but most people don’t need it. If you’re building a PC for your parents or upgrading an existing PC, don’t just put the most power-hungry graphics card in it. More importantly, don’t just install two of the most power-hungry graphics cards in an SLI What Is SLI & How Can It Improve Gaming Performance? What Is SLI & How Can It Improve Gaming Performance? Sometimes a niche term is taken for granted. We have some such terms in the world of computing hardware, and one of them is SLI. It’s been around for so long that geeks take it... Read More or Crossfire setup. The most powerful graphics cards can suck down a lot of electricity, even if they’re not being used heavily. Even if you got a great deal on that graphics card, it may not be worth installing — if you never play games, it will only increase your electricity bill.

Try to avoid using other hardware that sucks down too much electricity, too. For example, if you still use an old CRT monitor, you should upgrade to an LCD monitor — they take much less electricity to run How Much Does Your PC Cost To Run? How Much Does Your PC Cost To Run? Read More , in addition to eliminating the CRT monitor flicker that can cause headaches.

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We’re sure these aren’t the only widespread errors that people make. Leave a comment and share other bad PC maintenance habits people should avoid!

Image Credit: Serviceman Testing Computer via Shutterstock, versageek on Flickr, Electric Power Bar via Shutterstock, Paul Sullivan on Flickr, foskarulla on Flickr

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