Remember how, on “Star Trek”, every time the crew suspected a ship malfunction or experienced odd phenomena on the deck, they told the computer to perform a level-one diagnostic?
While our laptops, tablets, gaming consoles, cell phones, and other electronic devices are pretty amazing technology, they can’t perform all necessary maintenance on themselves—yet.
To get the best performance and longest lifespan out of our devices, it’s a good idea to do periodic housekeeping of both the hardware and the basic software that keeps them running. Below are a few things you can do to ensure everything is running properly, as well as precautions you can take now in case something fails in the future.
Give Your Hard Drive a Health Check
It’s a good idea to start by reviewing the state of your hard drives. Mac users can run Disk Utility, the free software that comes with the iOS operating system. Similarly, Windows users should take a look at Chkdsk.
While defragmenting isn’t necessary under most modern operating systems, some users still like to do it. You can use an app like CleanMyMac for OS X computers while TechRadar offers options for PC owners.
You might also take a look at your available storage. When hard drives fill up, it can reduce your computer’s overall speed, so this is a great time to move all of your dog and cat photos to a cloud-based storage solution like Google Drive or Dropbox. PC Magazine has reviews on different cloud storage options to help you choose the best solution for your needs.
Make Sure You Have a Reliable Backup
Everyone should have at least two backups for their computer data, ideally ones that you never even have to think about. As Jack Schofield, long-time tech writer for the Guardian, puts it, “data doesn’t really exist unless you have at least two copies of it.”
If you already routinely back everything up, consider adding another backup to your system. Experts recommend multiple backups for redundancy—as well as different types. For example, Apple Insider suggests that Mac users run both a Time Machine backup to an external drive (one that backs up all data) and also a bootable clone of the hard drive (using software like Carbon Copy Cloner). You might also consider cloud backups of your data using a service like Mega.nz, Backblaze and Crashplan.
While you’re at it, perform a backup of all your mobile devices as well (to your computer or the cloud), so you don’t lose every photo you’ve taken since you got your new phone.
Be sure your backups are reliable. It’s not enough to have a bunch of backups if you’re not sure if the external hard drives are working. Check your backups periodically to make sure your backup system is functioning properly, and make sure you know how to restore files (or your entire hard drive) if necessary.
Update Your Operating System
Make sure you have the latest operating system updates on both your computer and your mobile devices and check for software updates frequently. Manufacturers regularly release updates that improve performance and security and skipping them can leave your device vulnerable to viruses or other issues, so be sure to check your Apple menu or Windows Control Panel, or update apps on your mobile devices.
Lock All the Doors
Both PCs and Macs can get computer viruses and become victims of malware and ransomware attacks. Good security software doesn’t have to slow down your system and many of the best options are free. For Macs, Digital Trends offers some great options, while PC Magazine has these recommendations for Windows machines. If you already have antivirus software installed, now’s a great time to check to make sure it’s updated along with your other important software.
Give Your Devices a Good Cleaning
When dust and cat hair work their way into your consoles, it prevents proper airflow, which can cause the unit to overheat. Laptop keyboards also have very tiny components that can easily get compromised by a bit of dust or other debris.
Use compressed air to clean out fans and air vents on desktop and laptop computers as well as your Playstation and Xbox. Even better, take your machine in for a professional cleaning. If you live in a dusty environment or have pets in the household, chances are your computer innards are clogged with the tech equivalent of dust bunnies. Most cities have local computer repair shops that would be happy to lend a hand. Depending on what it is, you may be able to set up an appointment at the nearest Apple or Microsoft Store for a device tuneup.
And don’t forget to give the outside a little love too. Use computer wipes on screens and monitors (and take your cell phone or tablet out of its case and give it a good cleaning while you’re at it). Wipe down your computer keyboard and mouse, and give them both a good shake or shot of compressed air to dislodge bits of gunk caught inside.
Replace Your Batteries
Batteries don’t last forever. If your laptop runs out of juice after just an hour, or your cell phone isn’t as snappy as it used to be, it might be time to replace the battery. In fact, Apple recently admitted to slowing down iPhones with older batteries and is offering low-cost replacements. And it might be time to replace the rechargeable batteries in your wireless mouse and keyboard as well.
Consider Upgrading your Computer or Peripherals
Space bar always sticking? Mouse doesn’t move like it used to? It might be time to upgrade these devices. And as much as you might love Windows XP on your machine from 2006, now could be the time to consider trading up to a newer computer. If you’re still unconvinced, Lifewire has a great article that will help you decide whether or not it’s time to upgrade.
A Little Love Goes a Long Way
In the end, whether you rely on your computer and other devices for your livelihood or just as entertainment and a way to keep in touch, it’s important that you take care of them. Just like with owning a car, taking a little time now to do preventative maintenance can help to prevent major time-consuming headaches later on.
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Did we miss any tips? Let us know how you keep your own devices running at peak performance!