The Basics-What Every Computer Owner Should Know

Run SCANDISK regularly. This utility repairs errors in you files and folders and can help keep file damage to a minimum. Depending upon how much you use your computer, you should run SCANDISK as often as weekly but at least monthly. Detailed instructions for running Scandisk can be found at Scandisk Fundamentals.

Run DISK DEFRAGMENTER. A file that is too large for a single location on a disk is fragmented and stored in any free spaces on the disk. You can use fragmented files, but your computer takes longer to access them. Disk Defragmenter rearranges the files and free space on your disk. Files open more quickly because they are stored in adjacent units and free space is consolidated. Running Disk Defragmenter is usually not required more often than twice a year but more frequent use may be warranted if your hard drive is close to being full or your computer is used very often. Detailed instructions for running Disk Defragmenter can be found at Defragmentation Fundamentals

Update your VIRUS software. New viruses are discovered every day. Most virus software companies offer free data file updates via the Internet. Keeping your virus software data files up-to-date is very important if you are on the Internet or if you ever use disks that are used on other computers (especially computers used in public environments). Instructions for updating the two most popular anti-virus programs are at Updating Anti-virus Programs.

Update Windows. Windows operating systems (Windows98, WindowsME, Windows2000 & WindowsXP) include a feature called Windows Update. Windows Update is Microsoftís web-based resource site for CRITICAL security patches, driver and system file updates, and up-to-date support files for Microsoft Windows. This is also the preferred place for downloading Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and other free Microsoft software. Open Internet Explorer and click on Tools, then Windows Update or got to windowsupdate.microsoft.com

Clean it. Computers have fans that keep the vital components cool. Unfortunately, these fans suck outside air into the computer. No matter how clean the environment is, dust will build up inside your computer and can cause components to overheat, despite the best efforts of the cooling fans. Once a year, the computer should be blown out with compressed air (use cans of air specifically designed for the purpose). Under no circumstances should you use a vacuum cleaner of any type. Components can be sucked into the vacuum cleaner or parts dislodged.

Backup your data. Anything that is important and canít be recreated in 1 day needs to be backed up. I canít begin to tell you how often customers lose information (usually through no fault of their own) that is critical to business or personal pursuits. Backup devices (ZIP drives, tape drives, even floppy disks) are very inexpensive compared to the hours it sometimes takes to restore data. Remember that it is not a backup unless the same file is stored on 2 different types of media. The same file in 2 separate folders on the same hard drive doesnít qualify.

Where's your software? Part of having a backup is knowing where your software is. Computers purchased from reputable companies will include all the software that was preloaded on the computer separately on either CD-ROM or floppy disks. Don't let some salesperson tell you that all the software is "pre-loaded" therefore you don't need the disks. You lose the hard drive or need to reload something (and you can bet during the life of a computer that 1 of those 2 things is probably going to happen) you are out of luck. Keep your software in a safe place, don't loan it to anyone and know where it is. Replacing it can be very expensive at least and in a worst case scenario--impossible to replace.

Password...What Password? As of last count I have (because of the services I have signed up for) 23 usernames and passwords. No, as most of you know, I'm no rocket scientist or "super genius", so I have all those usernames and passwords written down and stored in a safe place. It would be nice, albeit dangerous to be able to use the same username and password for every service, but such will never be the case. Losing your username/password for services can be a real drag. If you are reading this then you have at least 1 username/password combination to remember. Losing it, can cause as much difficulty as losing a credit card or driver's license. Write them down (and not on a sticky note on your monitor), keep it in a safe place and update it as necessary.

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