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     Keep Your Computer in Working Order

To many, a computer is intimidating. You might use it for typing a letter or strictly doing email -- or you may run your business entirely on your computer. But if you are the only one that uses it, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to keep it working. Follow these instructions for keeping your system in good working ORDER.

CLEAN your mouse. Sure, this peripheral is a relatively cheap item, but it can be devastating when you need it and it all of a sudden it doesn't work! If you have an OPTICAL mouse, a mouse that uses light rather than a ball and wheels, disregard these instructions. To clean your mouse look under it and you should see the ball toward the middle of it. There is a circular thing around the ball that should have instructions to rotate it one way or another. Then, look inside and notice a few wheels, usually, one at the top and another to the side. If you notice black stuff, dirt, on the wheel, you should use a toothpick or something small and skinny to scrape the dirty away. Immediately you should notice smoother MOVEMENT of the mouse.

Most keyboards have little CREVICES between the keys. All kinds of things can find its way between the keys. For some of the stuff, simply lifting the keyboard upside down and shaking can result in a lot of the stuff falling out. What I suggest is getting a can of compressed air or similar product and BLOW out what ever might be in the keyboard. This should result in a better working keyboard.

This system utility should be run at the very least once a month. It's better once a week. Scan Disk will check the PHYSICAL disk for errors and check all files and folders for errors as well. Certain problems with computers can be simply be REMEDIED by Scan Disk. Be prepared for a couple hours of letting the computer do its thing with this utility. The bigger the hard drive the longer it will take.

This is another important utility that should be run at the very least once a month, preferably once a week, or even daily. This utility literally ORGANIZES the computer files. When a file is created and saved on a computer then is exited from what ever program used it, it is saved as CLUSTERS or tiny segments of the hard drive, and can be in many different places around the hard drive. Defragmenter finds the multiple clusters from all over the disk and puts them right next to each other. This will make programs and files load faster. As with Scan Disk be prepared for a couple of hours of letting the computer do its thing. The more OFTEN you do this the less time it will take to do it again. For example, if you haven't defragmented for over a month and your hard drive is 20 Gigabytes, it may take 3 hours to complete, but if you waited through that and defragmented every week with that same hard drive it may only take 1 hour because there hasn't been nearly as much activity in a week than in a month so there is less work.

If you have email, or letters or reports or anything you deem important on the computer, of course you don't want anything to happen to it. Computers are far from perfect and things can and usually will happen where files can get LOST, hence the importance of backing up. Use a CD-ROM recorder. The media (blank discs) are less than a dollar a piece; they are versatile and last pretty much forever. The expense is between $100-$200 for a disc recorder, but its well worth it to not lose your precious files. Or, use a ZIP drive. These can be about $100 and the media (zip disks) run about $10 a piece. Also, the difference between disc-recorder and a zip drive is that the disc-recorder holds 650 Megabytes of space and a zip disk would only hold up to 250 Megabytes of space (depending on the type of disk you buy).

This is most likely the most IMPORTANT thing one could do to help the upkeep of their computer. There are two well known anti-virus programs: Norton Anti-Virus and McAfee Anti- Virus. Both of these have their pluses and minuses and virtually work exactly the same. They will both get the work done and PROTECT you from viruses. A person can follow all of the above outlines and then a virus can wipe out the computer if the person didn't have an anti-virus.

Computers can be scary to non-techie owners, but with the right care they can LAST a long time and be less intimidating.


Thomas Le is a Programmer, Web Designer, and Techie. Subscribe to "Thom's Techie Tips" to recieve tips, news, articles, and more twice a month for FREE. You may visit his website at www.ThomasLe.info.

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