Keeping Your Computer In Top Running Condition

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I (Katie) give my computer a pretty heavy workout each and every day. I expect it to take me all over the world with lightning fast speed, store and edit thousands of images, and create digital masterpieces. Oh, and there’s banking, record keeping, blogging, bookmarking, researching…. well, I don’t have to tell you because I bet your computer goes through the same rigorous routine as well! We require a lot out of these machines and they are usually more than willing to deliver. When something does go wrong, it disrupts our life in many ways.

Like most computer users, I’ve been on the receiving end of a crash and it is no fun! I’ve become a firm believer in keeping my computer maintained and protected as much as possible to avoid potential problems. Regular maintenance also improves the speed of a computer’s performance and provides you with a more organized and productive workspace.

Here are some of my tried and true tips (and a whole lot of links!) to help you keep your computer in tip-top working condition. I use a PC (windows based) so some of these tasks might only apply to those with a PC. I have also asked a few of our team members to help me include some tips for MAC users as well.

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If you have never had a hard drive (or external hard drive failure) before, you will. It seems to happen to everyone. For a long time I heard that MACS never crashed. I can tell you from hanging out in forums and reading designer blogs that they do. I’m not sure there has been a crash-proof computer invented. Even if your hardware never fails you, there are other calamities that might intervene. Theft, fire, flood, or even a simple coffee spill can wipe out your system. Protect your data, photos, and digi supplies by backing them up! There are so many options for backing up files, that there really is no excuse to not do this.

Tips & Resources for Backing Up:

  • Make backup copies of anything you don’t want to lose by using your computer’s CD or DVD burner. You don’t even need a special program to do this as most systems will let you simply drag and drop your files into the desired drive. An external hard drive is another great method for backing up files. I use 2 of them so if one fails, I will have the other as a backup of my backup. 🙂 If you are storing your backup CDs or EHD in the same place as your computer, you still might lose those if something were to happen to that location (such as a fire) so it is a good idea to consider some online options or an offsite storage spot like a safety deposit box, or a trusted relative’s home.
  • Even though all my photos are saved on my external hard drives, I feel even better that they are also stored on flickr. Because I have a pro account at flickr.com ($24.95) a year, the full resolution size of ALL of my photos is available to me at any time. Read our post about flickr for more details. There are other online photo storage sites, but I haven’t found any that offer full resolution storage for such a low price.
  • Online backups are another great way to protect against loss. Steph loves Mozy.com (she picked it as her product pick in the PaperClipping Roundtable podcast episode 18). Online backup sites keep a copy of your computer’s files on their server so you can restore the items your own system if something goes wrong. You can subscribe monthly for $4.95 a month or save money by purchasing an annual plan. There are other online backup sites out there. I have tried a few that I did not like, and I know that Steph tried several others before finding Mozy.
  • Keep your desktop and files clutter-free. If you know where everything is stored on your computer, you will be more likely to avoid duplicates and keep things backed up.

Whatever method you choose for backing up your files, be consistent with it. If you only burn CDs every few months, you could easily lose precious photos if your computer crashes between backups. I suggest you add a regular task to your calendar or to-do list to help you remember to back up.

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Keep your computer clean and free of viruses and spyware. These are the most prevalent causes of malfunction, so protecting your system against them is very important. Unfortunately, there are cyber-criminals out there who make it necessary to use virus protection programs to keep our computers safe. There are new threats every day and new methods of delivery. I believe a facebook virus compromised my computer a few months ago. Be very cautious about opening suspicious messages on facebook!

How to Protect Yourself Against Viruses:

  • Check to see if your computer has any pre-installed virus protection programs. Sometimes a newly purchased computer will also include a subscription to a service such as McAfee or Norton. If you already have something like this, be sure you are using it! Check your system folders to see what’s installed and make sure it is enabled and functional.
  • If you don’t have virus and spyware protection, consider adding it. Browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox have some anti-virus tools built in to them, but they are generally not adequate enough to block all malware on their own. PC Antivirus Reviews is a good site to go to for comparing various programs.
  • As digital scrapbookers, we often download files from all over the internet. Be careful to use reliable sites for freebies and downloads. Free isn’t worth it if you pick up a bad file along the way. If something looks suspicious, don’t download it. If your virus blocker finds a problem with a file, let the poster know. We want you to know that we here at The Daily Digi are very careful about the links we recommend!

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With all that we put our computers through, it’s actually amazing they don’t act up more. I’m always amazed that I can move my laptop around the house and haul it through road trips and airports and it still performs beautifully. A little prevention and maintenance goes a long way in keeping a computer running smoothly.

Maintenance and Prevention for the Computer:

  • Use the built in system tools to improve speed and functionality. Empty the recycle bin (garbage) regularly. Run disk cleanups and even disk defrags if needed. This article from Microsoft at Work has some great tips for both tools.
  • Don’t eat or drink over the keyboard. Crumbs can get lodged into openings, and liquids can seep through and destroy hardware.
  • If you are packing your computer around (laptop), use a padded case with plenty of protection. Don’t drop it. 😉
  • Use the proper electrical cords and/or batteries for your computer. Use surge protector cords to protect your system from electrical surges.
  • Occasionally clean the keyboard and fan in your computer. After powering off the computer, use a small amount of compressed air to remove debris. Keeping the fan clear of dust will help prevent the fan from overheating. See this list of computer cleaning no-nos for more information.

Now that I’ve cleaned up my computer, I think it’s ready for some new digi supplies. Seems like a nice reward for a job well done. 🙂 I’m off to shop!

katie

P.S. Our apologies for not posting the winner from the Kitschy Digitals post sooner! The random winner for Danielle’s gift is KirstyB – she said “Ooohhh….lovely scrap goodies!! This months digi files is STUFFED WITH GOODNESS!! Love the Woodland Book Lovers stuff from Danielle too!!” Thanks Kirsty! Check your inbox for your gift!

P.S.S. We updated the original post on Kitschy Digitals with a coupon code that is good for both of Danielle’s stores so be sure to check it out!