May 29

It’s important to check your PC regularly and carry out maintenance – deleting temporary files and unnecessary files, checking for malware and updating software. I’ll run through my weekly maintenance routine here, built up and refined from years of practice and from reading tech blogs and listening to PC repair podcasts. By the way, if you have to download any of the following free maintenance utilities, be careful not to install any unnecessary or unwanted toolbars during installation. Read the installation screens carefully.

Pre-maintenance steps

1. Back up your data, just on the slim chance that something goes wrong. I’ve already gone over my PC backup routine recently.

2. Create a restore point, again just in case. I use Quick Restore Maker to quickly generate a restore point.

3. Close your browser/s. You’ll need to do this anyway later so that all temporary internet files can be deleted during maintenance.

PC maintenance steps

1. Run the CCEnhancer/CCleaner combo to delete temporary files, internet history, etc. CCEnhancer adds support to CCleaner for cleaning 500 additional programs. Run CCEnhancer first, it will download the latest definitions then it will ask to start and run CCleaner. Another good alternative to CCleaner is Glary Utilities. Carey Holzman has recommended this in the past so that’s good enough for me. It includes a number of nice routines including Disk Analysis (showing the space occupied by your files and folders) and Duplicate Files Finder.

2. Run a quick scan with Microsoft Security Essentials. This has been my first choice anti-virus program for a couple of years now. It’s free if you’re running Windows.

3. Run Malwarebytes Antimalware Free and SuperAntiSpyware. I regularly listen to Podnutz podcasts for repair techs and for many techs, these are the two mainstay utilities for identifying and removing malware. I have the professional version of SuperAntiSpyware which is resident at all times for real time blocking of threats so I just run a quick scan with these two programs to make sure there’s no malware on my system. I do find that SuperAntiSpyware picks up and lets me delete cookies which CCleaner and Malwarebytes ignore. They aren’t really threats but I like to remove these trackers anyway.

4. Run the Kaspersky free anti-rootkit utility TDSSKiller to check for rootkits. Be careful about quarantining what it finds. On my system it flags a hidden Akamai Netsession file as suspicious but googling the filename suggests it’s actually okay. Check everything out before quarantining anything.

5. Run JavaRa to check for Java updates and to remove old unnecessary Java installations.

6. If you use Chrome, run OldChromeRemover to remove obsolete versions of the Chrome browser.

7. Update your software with the latest versions. There are a bunch of software updaters out there. Here’s a few: Patch My PC, SUMo, FileREX, and Secunia PSI, but I do find that they tend to occasionally misreport your current software versions and suggest updates when they sometimes aren’t needed. If you’re in doubt about a suggested update, open the program and look under About for information on the software version. The one software updater I do like is Update Checker from FileHippo – it usually gets it right each time but on the downside, it doesn’t update as many programs as some of the others. It also clearly indicates beta software releases but it’s up to you if you want to try these.

What I don’t bother with in my PC maintenance

Up until a couple of years ago, I used to clean the Windows registry using CCleaner. When you read around, you’ll find opinion is divided on the benefits of cleaning the registry. I never really saw a performance benefit in it and now subscribe to the view, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The same applies to driver updates for me. If my system is performing well with no obvious problems, I just leave driver updates alone.

Defragging the hard drive is another routine I used to carry out every 3 or 4 months but again, for the last couple of years, I haven’t bothered. Lifehacker says: Windows Vista and 7 automatically defragment your drive, so there’s no need to do it yourself. So I tried defragging my Windows 7 PC recently before writing this post using Auslogics Disk Defrag and it reported only 1% defragmentation before I started, and I hadn’t defragged for a couple of years, so it really doesn’t seem to be necessary with Windows 7.

So what’s your PC maintenance routine? Which utilities do you favour? Drop a comment below.

Oct 25
Better safe than sorry
icon1 techandlife | icon2 How to, Security | icon4 October 25, 2008| icon3No Comments »

I haven’t really blogged about PC security yet because there are so many sites out there doing a great job informing how to keep your machine free from viruses, spyware and bots. I’ll mention one great site later, but first just a brief outline of my favourite antimalware and security applications. Over the years, these programs have been generally highly recommended on forums and blogs and I find them all excellent.

My firewall is ZoneAlarm Free and for anti-virus I use AVG Free. Both these products have served me well for years. For antimalware, I use SUPERAntiSpyware Free edition. Superantispyware This has been recommended for some time by the experts on the Motley Fool forum ‘Help with this Blasted Computer’, a forum I really like and trust for tech help. More recently, the program has also been picked up and recommended on the Podnutz computer repair podcast as the product which identifies and eliminates spyware which many other antispyware programs miss.

I route all my incoming email through Gmail as I find it’s excellent at eliminating the spam emails which my ISP and web host let slip through.

I use a product called RUBotted from TrendMicro to identify behaviour associated with bots.

As a password manager, I’ve just started using LastPass and so far I’ve found it excellent for managing my online passwords. lastpass One feature I really like is that you can quickly log into different online accounts at the same site very easily. For example, I have different Delicious accounts for personal and blog bookmarks and I can move between them very easily. I’ll be doing a separate post on LastPass later.

All the programs I’ve mentioned are free and I recommend them all. However, if you want real-time antispyware protection, then check out SUPERAntiSpyware Professional edition.

As has been said many times before, the best form of PC security is the person behind the keyboard. Don’t go to dodgy sites, and don’t click on attachments in email unless you are absolutely sure you trust the sender.

But if you really want the lowdown on PC security, great advice on free apps and how to keep your system out of danger, read and subscribe to Bill Mullins’ Weblog. Bill Mullins blog

I’ve been subscribing to his blog for several months now and Bill’s advice on computer security and products is second to none. Here’s just one post from his archive that will give you an idea what security software you need.

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