It's the last days before school starts. You've been out buying books, paper, pens and maybe even a new computer. But new or not, is your computer ready for school? Here is a checklist of things to do to ensure your computer is ready for the new season.
- Make sure your operating system is up-to-date. You don't need to upgrade to the latest, but just ensure that you have all the updates for your current operating system downloaded and installed. If you're running Windows XP, Microsoft no longer makes security updates for this operating system and you should consider upgrading to at least Windows 7. Ignoring operating system updates increases the likelihood of a virus or another malicous hacking attempt on your computer.
- Make sure your virus protection is up-to-date. Not all virus programs are equal, and consumers need to recognize that. Hackers generally cut their teeth on the most popular virus programs like McAfee and AVG. It's important to understand two things. 1 - your more likely to be protected if you use a subscription based program then a free one and 2 - you're more likely to be protected by purchasing a virus program that is not as popular. No virus program out there can assure you of 100% protection, but follow these rules and you're less likely to end up with your computer needing costly repairs.
- Have you checked the child safety settings? If your children are young they may need to do research on your computer for their projects. Have you set up your computer so that they don't end up seeing unwanted content? For example a quick search using Google images could net you an eyeful. There are programs that you can download like "net nanny" and there are also browser settings and browser apps and add ons that you can set up to stop the nasty content from being seen. With this in mind you may also want to have a look at your child's tablet or smart phone. These as well have the ability to show inappropriate images and content, so if you haven't set up some child content locks, you may want to look into it.
- Check how much hard drive space you have left. You may need to free up some extra space on your hard drive, or if you have a small hard drive, you may want to invest in a good quality external hard drive.
- Have a backup system in place. If you accidently delete your homework assignment, or if your computer is dropped, or if your computers hard drive fails -- will you have a backup in place? Save your sanity with an external backup system. It may sound like overkill, but let me assure you, it's not and there's nothing more haunting then the look on the faces of students who've lost their hard drive and their project is due the next day. There are several types of backup systems available and even cloud services that will back up your hard drive.
- Clean out the dust. Even if your computer doesn't look dirty, the internal workings might be. If you feel your computer getting hot to the touch, it might be time to have it taken in for a quick clean out and service to ensure that everything is ok. Remember heat will cause a bunch of damage to the internal workings of your computer so it's important to keep your computer cool. If your computer generally runs hot, there are also other items like cooling pads that can help keep your computer cool, lengthening the life of the internal components.
- Cleaning out your cookies and temporary internet files. If you've done a ton of surfing this summer, there's a chance that there's a ton of saved files on your computer that are just "junk" files taking up space. Go into your browsers and clear all your history to clean this out.
- Is your computer running slow? There are a couple of things you can check before you bring it in for service. Over time your computer places data all over your hard drive. If you go into your disk utilities you can defrag your computer - or optimize where the data is stored. Many newer computers defrag automatically, but this feature may be turned off as well. If you find your computer is still running slower then you need, there are other options like adding more RAM memory and optimizing other parts of the computer that may be done by a tech expert.
**NOTE - do NOT defrag your hard drive if you have a solid state drive. Defragging a solid state drive will cause it to wear out quicker.
- Do NOT leave home without a surge protector!! All electrical outlets can have surges, and many places have multiple small electrical surges daily! All these small surges can end up damaging the internal workings of your computer. Always, always, always place a surge protector between the computer and the wall socket! It's also good to note that surge protectors do not have a way of telling you when they are no longer able to protect your electronics. It's for that reason that experts recommend that you replace your surge protectors at the same time as your smoke detector batteries.
- When in doubt - ask an expert! A good computer is generally a big investment, and you should treat it as that. Just like a car, computers need regular care and maintenance to keep in good running order. If you are unsure of what to do or unsure of how to fix something, you're better off paying an expert, then making a mistake and wiping your whole computer - and yes, we have seen cases where someone thought they were "fixing" their computer but ended up wiping the whole thing clean.