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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Computer Care, Can I Do It Myself?

Author: The Computer Psychic

With all of the resources available to you, you may well ask yourself, "Why do I need a computer expert to maintain my computer?" The short answer is, you don't. Just like you don't need a technician to fix your car, repair your furnace, or do any other maintenance or repairs. If you have the knowledge and the time, you can easily repair and maintain your own computer.

But be warned, there are several potential "gotchas" involved in maintaining your own computer. If you decide to repair your own automobile, a company won't sell you a carburetor what will break your car. Unfortunately, that's not true of computer maintenance. There are many programs out there that either don't do what they purport to do, perform unnecessary functions, or are just plain dangerous to install. It's up to you, the computer maintenance technician, to determine what programs you can safely use in what manner.

In this article, we'll discuss some of the programs out there and what the do-it-yourselfer needs to watch out for.

Registry Cleaners Websites such as Finally and Double My have been promoting themselves heavily of late. These (and other) sites offer products to download and install that purport to improve your computer's performance. These programs are mostly registry cleaners. The Windows registry is simply a database that the operating system uses to store everything it needs to know to run as per your specifications. In addition, it's available to any other program to write their information in there as well. Since Windows 95, the registry has been the recommended repository for user preferences, settings, and any other variables a program has to remember.

Over time the Windows registry will become cluttered with unneeded information, most frequently caused by uninstallation programs not removing all of the data they should. The concept of a registry cleaner is that it will detect and remove these orphan settings, frequently improving computer performance.

The problem with registry cleaners is that they will often incorrectly detect a setting as unneeded and delete it, causing problems with either installed programs or the Windows operating system itself. Registry cleaners are good, but you should never blindly take their advice as to what to delete. You should always review each entry to verify that it can be deleted safely.
And keep in mind there are freeware applications that do an excellent job of cleaning your Windows registry. Ccleaner is the one recommended by The Computer Psychic. (Go to Google and search for ccleaner.)

Anti-Malware Applications Malware (spyware and virus) cleanup and prevention is one of the most important aspects of computer maintenance. If you catch a virus on your system, you leave yourself open to all sorts of mischief - including having files deleted, getting your address book scammed and spam e-mails being sent in your name, and even having your credit card and banking information stolen! Spyware can be just as bad - it typically "watches" what you do on your computer, down to even logging keystrokes, and thus stealing your passwords. In addition to these problems, spyware and viruses are often poorly written, causing performance problems in your system.
There are dozens of applications on the market that claim to remove malware from your system. And many of them do a good job. But here's the rub - many programs that present themselves as anti-virus or anti-spyware are, themselves, viruses and spyware! The Computer Psychic has seen all too many systems where the owner has - with the best of intentions - installed an anti-malware app into their system, only to see the floodgates opened; they find themselves with more popup ads and performance problems than they've ever seen before.

So how do you make sure you don't install one of these #$%& programs? First of all, if you get a pop-up message telling you that your computer is infected with viruses and click here to download a virus cleaner, don't do it! Without exception, these programs are scams. Downloading one of these apps will introduce your system to more viruses than you thought existed. In fact, when you see this window, you'll be presented with an OK and Cancel button. Don't click either one! If you click Cancel, it will still install a virus. Instead, click on the little X in the upper right-hand corner to close the window.

Secondly, if you use a search engine looking for anti-malware programs, be careful what links you follow. Malware creators will name their applications very similar to - or even exactly the same as - legitimate programs, hoping to confuse you into downloading theirs instead of the good one. For example, if you wanted to download Spybot Search and Destroy (an excellent anti-spyware program) and searched for it in Yahoo, the very first result you'll find purports itself to be Spybot. Clicking their link takes you to a page that says it's Spybot Search and Destroy, but is actually an application that acts as a gateway to allow viruses into your system.

So, again, you need to take the time to learn what is and what isn't safe to install. The Computer Psychic has a very easy recommendation. Microsoft has a vested interest in keeping your computer malware-free. If they do a good job of preventing viruses from getting into your system, then that's one less thing that Apple can beat them up over. Towards that end, in September of 2009, Microsoft released an excellent free anti-malware program named Microsoft Security Essentials ( In the past, The Computer Psychic has recommended against all-in-one solutions, arguing that no one application can catch everything. But Microsoft Security Essentials is just that good. It does as good a job as - or better than - any other application, or combination of apps, in blocking any type of spyware or virus.

Startup Monitors While not as popular as the other system maintenance programs, proper use of a startup monitor can dramatically speed up your computer. A startup monitor will tell you just what programs, drivers and processes load when you start your computer.
When you boot up your computer, the operating system will also auto-start many other components - possibly a fax application, printer elements, video or mouse drivers, to name a few. These are good - they are essential for the proper operation of your computer. However, many applications add themselves to the auto-run settings for their own convenience - not yours.

For example, programs such as Adobe Reader and Microsoft Office will tell the operating system to pre-load some of their components as Windows starts up. This allows their software to open more quickly when needed. The downside of this is, even if you aren't actively using their software, your computer is using memory running those components. Better to not pre-load those components; let the software take a second or two longer to load, and speed up your entire system.
Another popular use for the startup is for auto-update programs. These apps will periodically check the internet looking for updates. If one is found, the program will present you with a window telling you an update is available. Not only do these apps consume computer resources, they can be an annoyance.

In order to easily prevent unwanted software from running automatically, The Computer Psychic recommends a Microsoft application called AutoRuns ( Using Autoruns you can decide just what apps you want to run when starting your computer. Once again, though, don't blindly turn of all apps. Make sure you know what you're disabling.

As you can see, using the tools recommended in this article makes it quite possible for anyone to maintain their computer's health. But as with anything technical, make sure you know what you're doing before just tinkering away.
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About the Author
With over 20 years industry experience, Steven O Smith is the owner of The Computer Psychic, providing affordable on-site computer repair to residences and business in the Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR area. Visit for more valuable information and free software.

1 comment:

  1. Computer care should be your first responsibility upon acquiring yourself a high-priced PC. Computers are known to be laggy and inefficient when not used properly. To further help you with your PC care here are more inside and out computer maintenance that would surely make your PC last longer than its expected life span.