The Ultimate Periodic Preventive Maintenance And Computer Upkeep Checklist

 By Jerry A. Erbesfield

Here’s a nifty and useful checklist of preventative maintenance recommendations that YOU can perform on your computer. Performing these steps periodically will help keep your computer reliable and on-line.

Here's a checklist of 25 steps that YOU can perform to keep your computer happy, online and running smooth. If these items are routinely performed (based on computer workload), your computer will work faster, more reliably and will likely not let you down. Please note! This checklist is intended for use with desktop model computers - but it can be adapted to a laptop computer (the section on taking the cover off is NOT recommended on a laptop computer, unless you are a factory trained laptop technician).

1. Delete .tmp files. Before running Scandisk and Defragmenter, delete all *.tmp files that have been created prior to the current day. It will surprise most people to learn how much hard drive space has been used by .tmp files. Most .tmp files will be found in the “C:\Windows\Temp” folder. You can also just do a file search/find for *.tmp and delete them all.

2. Delete files that begin with a tilde. When cleaning the system of garbage files, readers might also like to check for any files beginning with a tilde (~). Make sure that all your application programs, such as word-processing, spreadsheet, and graphics programs, are closed first since sometimes the temporary file you are currently viewing uses a tilde. If the application programs are closed, the tilde files can be deleted. Some users find they have a lot of these on their systems!

3. Empty the Recycle Bin. Periodically empty your Recycle Bin.

4. Delete old .zip files. Users tend to unzip the files but then leave the zipped file on their computer.

5. Delete .chk files, and switch the swap file. .chk files are created when you run the Scandisk program. Scandisk fixes file system problems and leaves .chk files behind that contain the scraps of usually useless remains of corrupted files. Also, for those with permanent swap files, it’s sometimes a good idea to set the swap file back to temporary and then to permanent again. This cleans out any garbage (and therefore possible corruption).

6. Run Scandisk and Defrag the hard drive. It is important to periodically check the disk and to repair errors using the Scandisk program. With Defrag, check that the percentage of fragmentation is within acceptable limits. For Windows 98 and Me clients, you can use the Task Scheduler to automate Scandisk and Defrag. Windows will run more reliably and faster.

7. Check browser history and cache files. Check that the user history files and Internet cache settings are set properly (cache size). Delete the cache files and history files then reset the history files to no more than three days unless the user specifically needs to store that information longer. By freeing up the cache, downloads from the Web actually speed up since there is more space available to store the temporary files.

8. Clean out Windows temporary Internet files. If the browser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer, clean out the c:\Windows\Temporary Internet files folder.

 9. Check the operating system and applications. Update your Operating System and applications with the latest service packs or updates. Use “Windows Update” from the Start Menu or go directly to Microsoft’s update website at -

 10. Change passwords. Computer users should periodically change any and all system access passwords to assure continued privacy and protection from those that might want to access your information without your knowledge or permission. This step makes your computer much more secure over time.

11. Update the anti-virus software. Make sure your users know how to update their anti-virus software. While you're there, update it for them.

 12. Check the connections. People love to move their equipment around and sometimes forget to tighten things back up. Make sure all the plugs are snug in their connections.

13. Make sure all the hardware works. Some computers may not have seen a floppy or CD inserted in months, as most program installations are done at the outset or upgrades by downloading from the Internet. Clean or replace floppy disk and CD-ROM drives as needed.

 14. Check the printer. Print a test page on your printer. Make sure the printer is producing good clean copies, and that the toner or ink cartridges aren't about to run out.

15. Clean the monitor screen. Do yourself and your eyes a favor and clean the screen surface with a cleaning solution.

16. Open the computer case! - IF you feel that you can be comfortable with doing this. It is really NOT as difficult as you might think! And, a lot of good can come from it – with little to fear! Remove the cover. Usually just 2 to 4 screws hold the cover onto most computer cases. Some just have clips or levers and NO screws. BE SURE TO TURN THE POWER OFF FIRST! While the computer is open, check and re-seat all connections including expansion cards, CPU, memory modules, data cables and power connections. You'd be surprised how often an expansion card or cable isn't seated all the way, especially video cards and other PCI plug-in component cards. Check your work BEFORE you put the cover back on by re-booting through a cycle, and then back off again before you put the cover on.

 17. Use a can of spray air to clean the computer’s inside. Use “canned air”, available at computer shops, Radio Shack, Home Depot and most hardware stores, to blow out the accumulation of dust and debris that builds up inside of computers over time. Make sure there isn't dust accumulating on the back of the machine or wherever the air moving fan(s) are located. It's amazing how much dust can collect in a computer over time and cooling the insides of the computer is one of the most critical functions. A computer has only few moving parts and the fans are the most critical. If heat builds up, the computer WILL malfunction. Please note that blowing out the inside of the computer has a couple of pitfalls though that must be addressed. Blow out the power supply from the inside out first, or you’ll get tons of dust blown into the computer. Take each computer to a place that doesn't mind the dust, outdoors preferably.

 18. Check the cooling fan(s). Remember to carefully inspect the CPU and the power supply-cooling fan to see that they are working (fully) and that the airflow isn't impeded by dust. Make sure that the CPU fan turns freely and that dust buildup has not compressed and packed itself into the bearing area and made the fan bind or stick.

 19. Clean the keyboard. With the power off, tip or turn the keyboard upside down and carefully use the palm of your hand to strike the keyboard several times. You'll be surprised how much junk will fall out. Use the “canned air” to blow any remaining dust and debris out.

20. Clean the CD-ROM drive. Use a “CD-ROM drive cleaning kit”. Clean the laser with it. Many programs are installed corrupted from a dirty CD reader. Carefully also blow out the dust with “canned air”.

21. Clean the floppy drive. In addition to using canned air for the floppy drive, use a 3.5" floppy drive cleaning kit. It consists of a cleaning disk and a bottle of solution that you apply to the disk. First, apply the solution to the cleaning disk. Second, insert the cleaning disk into the floppy drive. Third, type: DIR A: (or DIR B:), which will spin the disk (repeat this three times). In some locations PCs are located in areas where the floppy drive, a.k.a. air intake manifold, collects quite a lot of dust and grime, so canned air alone does not always remedy this problem.

 22. Clean the mouse. It never hurts to make sure the mouse is free of dust and grime, especially the rotating ball. Liquid soap and water will work fine on the ball and denatured alcohol on any contacts.

23. Check the power sources. Make sure systems are plugged into protected outlets or surge protector power strips, if not uninterruptible power supplies, instead of a string of extension cords plugged directly into the wall.

 24. Reboot the system. I recommend against it but even so, some people still leave their workstations on all the time. Rebooting your system forces a memory reset and rebooting will also makes sure the machine will still re-boot after all this maintenance work is performed. Windows and many programs designed for and used in Windows have “memory leaks”, and because of that, any Windows 95,98 or Me computer should be re-booted at least daily, if not more often to prevent the “blue screen of death”, “Fatal Error” messages, lockups and other weird things from happening.

 25. Take inventory. Keep an inventory of all your computer assets. Verify serial numbers, CPU speed, hard drive space, memory, docs, disks and etc. Make sure that you include all disks and docs. You could need it for reference in case of problems and if it has to go to the shop for heavy-duty repair, the docs will be required.  Insurance reference or verification in case of fire, theft or other disaster is another good reason to inventory all your computer equipment and reference materials.


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Copyright 2011, Jerry A. Erbesfield