I believe it was 1998 when my family invested in our first PC. Late by many’s standards, but I was only a nine-year-old kid at the time. Since then, if I had to take a stab in the dark, I’d say I’ve been through about eight different PCs. Some were just replaced by more powerful, newer models. Many suffered hardware failure, because I seem to live in an area prone to lightning strikes and electrical surges. Others, well… we could say it was my fault. You learn how to take better care of a computer as you go through them.
One of the biggest learning experiences is finding out what parts of your computer are sensitive to tweaking. We all have that older relative who seems to think that clicking a button on an installation prompt could result in their entire computer melting. It’s good to be cautious, but not that cautious. If you consider yourself a novice to the Windows platform, here are four areas that I recommend you stay far away from.
A driver is basically a piece of Windows software that helps manage a piece of hardware. Your video card needs drivers to function properly. Your mouse might require a driver so that you can customize the wheel’s scroll speed. Your keyboard could need drivers to set up certain media keys.
Keep in mind that it is pretty important to keep your drivers up to date. I’ve put out an article in the past to help MUO readers update their video card drivers, and it isn’t exactly a difficult process. However, putting driver updates into the hands of an automated and third-party program is incredibly risky.
SlimDrivers is a really popular tool that does just that. Used with a little discretion and manual babysitting, it can be a really effective tool to keep your computer up to date. But, keep in mind how crucial your drivers are to the functionality of your system. Should a tool like SlimDrivers uninstall your video card drivers and reinstall some set of drivers that isn’t compatible with your system, it could lead to some serious issues.
The registry is a database where thousands and thousands of keys and configurations for your system are stored. Already, it sounds like a very touchy area. Think of it this way: every option you tick or setting you select in your Control Panel, or even in a third-party program, is basically just a graphical shell on top of your registry. All of these configurations are being saved as text within the registry. It’s not the most eloquent explanation, but in layman’s terms it’s as close as I will get.
One of my favorite cleaning utilities, CCleaner, offers the functionality to clean through the registry. I do not support any type of automated registry sweeping like this. You are unlikely to see significant speed increases if your registry is tidied up. Moreover, it could lead to an entirely irreparable system if an inexperienced user allows a third party tool to accidentally remove the wrong registry key.
Explaining Windows services is pretty simple. They’re nothing more than a program that operates in the background of your system. One of the first things I do when I get a new PC is sweep through and disable all unnecessary services. It’s something I actually recommend.
There are a ton of services you don’t always need. There’s Print Spooler, Bluetooth Support, Remote Registry, Remote Desktop, and more. However, if you go overboard and start disabling services like your DNS Client, Plug and Play, Server, and Workstation, you could face some pretty problematic situations.
The description of many services is a little hazy. If you’re unsure of the finer details of a service, you can always use Google. There are plenty of guides around the web that offer you lists of services that are safe to remove.
By this, I don’t mean your physical devices. I mean going through your Device Manager.
Many years ago, I had a PC with (I believe) six USB ports at the back of the case. I used just about every one of them. My situation was that sometimes I didn’t need to make use of the devices (be it a webcam or flash drive) connected to that port, and rather than pulling my case out and disconnecting the device physically, I’d disable that device in my Device Manager.
Reading online, this is apparently not the best practice. Not only that, but if you make a single mistake and disable the wrong device, you could be in for a heap of trouble. It wouldn’t be cool to accidentally disable your monitor, keyboard, or even a disk drive.
The purpose of this article is to draw your attention to some sensitive parts of your system and give you the confidence to deal with them. You should always handle your PC with caution. Treat it the right way and it’ll be sure to return the favor for many years. Get comfortable with your drivers, registry, services, and devices. Don’t trust automated tools to handle them for you. Learn how to manage and maintain them manually. It is a much safer way to take care of your system.
Have you ever had a major problem while fooling around with one of the four parts of your system mentioned here? Let’s hear your story in the comments!