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These hidden Windows tools can prolong your PC’s life and save you if disaster strikes.
We tend to take it for granted that our PCs “just work”. It’s easy to forget that (like any piece of technology) they need regular maintenance and fine tuning to prolong their life and keep them working smoothly. A number of often overlooked Windows applications can help you keep your computer up to speed.
Some of the tools mentioned will rectify a problem. Others have features that are worth using immediately because they’re good preventive measures to ensure you’re protecting your PC, in case disaster is nigh.
Troubleshooting should be your first port of call whenever you find that a particular PC component (such as your printer, the internet, or your USB drives) is not working as it should. Run a PC search for “troubleshooting” and click the first option that appears to see a useful “Troubleshoot computer problems” section.
You can choose from a variety of Troubleshoot sections. Click the one that applies to your problem, click Next, and follow the prompts for the tool to diagnose problems. You’ll be prompted to try different solutions and the steps are easy to follow. Upon completion, Windows will try to rectify the problem or direct you to other resources.
This tool is the best way to determine if the problem you’re facing is superficial and can be fixed, or if it’s something grave that needs the skilled hands of a technician.
2. Disk Defragmenter
Modern-day hard drives are quite robust, so defragmenting isn’t as useful as it used to be in earlier Windows versions. That said, it can still provide that slight boost in speed that will make your machine just a touch smoother and better to use. You can choose from countless free third-party disk defragmenting tools, but for basic purposes, Windows’ default Disk Defragmenter performs just fine.
Search for the tool, open it , then click Analyze disk. You’ll be informed which of your drives (if any) need to be defragmented. Even better, you can configure the program to run on an automatic schedule, so you can rest easy knowing that your PC is in the best shape.
3. System Restore
This underrated feature can be a godsend if a program or driver installation caused havoc. It saves your PC’s state at a specific point in time, so you can easily revert to that state, if anything goes wrong.
Some programs create automatic system restore points when you install them or before you use them to make changes to PC components. Follow Microsoft’s instructions on how to create a restore point and restore your files to an old restore point you created.
4. File History Backup
We have previously written about Windows 8’s File History Backup feature and Windows 10 has a similar tool, albeit in an updated form. The tool’s name is slightly misleading because it doesn’t only let you restore previous versions of your files, it’s a fully featured backup tool. You basically connect an external drive to your PC, then select which folders you want to back up and at what intervals.
In Windows 10, go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Backup > More options. Default folders are automatically backed up, but you can choose to delete them and add other folders. You’re only limited by the storage space on the drive you’re backing up to.
You’ll see options as to how often you want to save your files and how long you want to keep their saved versions for. The first backup can take a while (depending on your data), but subsequent ones will be faster. Once that’s done, you can return to the back up and restore earlier versions of any file if and when you need to.
5. Windows Reliability Monitor
Even though you may not realize it, Windows is automatically recording all hardware and software changes. These readings are saved to the useful (but hidden) Windows Reliability Monitor. You should check this every few months to see how your system is performing and address any issues.
We’ve previously written a detailed feature on how to access and use the Windows Reliability Monitor. The three links at the bottom of the tool let you save your reliability history, view all the detected problems, and check for solutions to all the problems.
6. Windows System Image
A “system image” basically contains your copy of Windows, as well as copies of all your programs, files, and system settings. You can store this on a DVD or external drive, then use this to boot into your PC when disaster strikes.
The process for creating disk images differs slightly from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 and 10. However, we’ve explained both the methods, including how to safely restore your files when disaster strikes in this elaborate feature.
7. Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool
This hidden nugget is set to run automatically whenever your PC detects problems with its memory. If you suspect an issue, you can manually run the tool and check your memory.
Open the Control Panel, type memory diagnostics tool in the search bar, then click Diagnose your computer’s memory problems. You’ll need to select whether you want to run the tool immediately (by restarting) or when you next boot.
Microsoft recommends that you contact your PC manufacturer if the tool detects any errors because memory problems usually indicate a fault with your memory chips or another hardware component. Obviously, it helps if your machine is still under warranty.
8. Resource Monitor
Resource Monitor is like Windows Task Manager on steroids. We wrote a detailed Resource Monitor breakdown about six years back. The tool hasn’t changed much since, even making its way to Windows 10 in the same shape and form.
You can see real-time usage of your PC’s CPU, Memory, Disk, and Network via graphs and graphical breakdowns, and even terminate space-hogging resources by right-clicking. In most cases, the tool will automatically level out the colors on the graph, but it’s useful to know you can manually disable any of the items if you need to.
What Is Your Favorite Maintenance Tool?
If this article opened your eyes to PC features you didn’t know existed, then it’s worth checking out similar articles, including our 10 neglected Windows superpowers and 15 surprising features you don’t know.
Have any of the above tools saved/prolonged your PC’s life in the past? Are there any similar, life-saving Windows features that we’ve missed? Let us know by posting your views in the comments section below.
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