A properly maintained computer will provide you with substantially higher speeds, both via RAM and on the internet, regardless of your hardware setup and configurations. The second law of thermodynamics states that all systems degrade over time, but here are a few tips on how to delay the inevitability.
Back up your data. When was the last time that you backed up your data? Not Â‘when was the last time you thought about itÂ’, or Â‘when was the last time you told someone how important it isÂ’, but when was the last time you actually backed up your data? And how much will you lose if your current hard drive fails right now and you have to rely on that backup?Think about that for a second. Now, go create a backup.If you donÂ’t know how, donÂ’t have a regular plan, or just want to see whatÂ’s new in the field, Consumer Reports has a good overview of the most common options. Personally, I have very little media on my computer, so I burn my files to CD once a year or so, and copy files to a flash drive in between. ItÂ’s quick, inexpensive, and secure enough for my needs.Another decent solution is to use a program like Foldershare to synchronise your files between two computers (even better, two locations).If you have the opportunity, make a full disk image (a Â‘snapshotÂ’ of your entire hard drive) immediately after reloading the OS and all your programs. This gives you a clean starting point to go back to if you need to reload everything again, and will be much faster than redoing everything manually. Acronis True Image 11 is good for the job.
Clean dust from your computer. Computers are some of the most efficient dust collectors known to man. Aside from looking gross and possibly being an allergy hazard, a dusty computer will trap heat, which can reduce its performance and lifespan. The easiest way to clean it is with compressed air Â– open up the case, take it outside, and blow the dust out. The exterior of the case can be wiped down with a damp cloth. Be careful about using household cleaners, as they can easily destroy circuit boards. For most computers, cleaning once every year or eighteen months should be adequate.Beyond just getting the dust out, here are some other steps to consider: Dust often collects inside the CPU and video card heatsinks, consider disassembling and cleaning them if you're comfortable doing so, or at least using compressed air to specifically blow them out. While the case is open, plug in the computer and turn it on long enough to make sure all the fans are still spinning. Replace any that are dead or noisy (a common sign of a worn-out fan). If there is sticky residue or dirt on the circuit boards, it can be removed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, which will evaporate cleanly. (Make sure the computer is unplugged first!) If youÂ’re not comfortable with working inside your computer or suspect your computer has chronic overheating issues, Puget Systems or another professional repair service can help you out.
Clean up your cabling, and everything else too. There are probably two things behind your computer: a mess of cables, and dust bunnies. If youÂ’re moving your computer, take the opportunity to clean your desk and floor as well. While I canÂ’t claim that a clean work area will improve your computerÂ’s performance or lifespan, it will certainly improve your peace of mind, and clean cabling will help prevent snags and stresses on your computer ports. If you have a lot of peripherals, consider using cable management of some type. Twist ties work fine, or make a trip to any large office supply store. You can use a full out cable solution, but even a five dollar cable wrap can neaten up your desk considerably.While youÂ’re wiping down your desk, wipe down the monitor too. CRT screens can be cleaned with any mild glass cleaner, but LCD screens canÂ’t tolerate it. Use a dampened cloth or a product specifically made for LCD screens.Keyboards can be turned upside down to dump out crumbs and dirt, or keys can be pried off and the whole assembly cleaned with compressed air. There are some good step-by-step guides available on Lifehacker. Take a picture first so you can put the keys back in the right place! If youÂ’re feeling adventurous (or just have a really disgusting keyboard), some people advocate running it through the dishwasher.This is a good time to take a look at where your computer is located. Is there adequate ventilation? Is the computer out of direct sunlight, and away from heat sources? What is it plugged in to? ThereÂ’s no excuse for not having a good surge protector (not just a plastic power strip!), and battery backup units have become affordable for most users. This will affect the lifespan of your computer.Smoking will make a mess of a computer faster than anything else I know of. While we at Puget Systems have never seen one quite this bad, we can always identify a smokerÂ’s computer as soon as we unbox it. Electronics absorb the smell very easily, and even an all-metal case will retain the odor after all the components have been removed. Plus, thereÂ’s usually a layer of dust and tar on the circuitry that tends to be a giveaway as well. Please, if I can't convince you to quit smoking all together, at least take it somewhere away from the computer!