Published May 22, 2013 by Alex Doolittle
When you buy a computer, you want it to last forever. What most fail to consider is how their use of a computer will change over time, or how the few mechanical components within the computer will begin to fail. You may have purchased that laptop with the intent to use it for email and word processing, but someone introduced you to a cool productivity application or you started using it for high-definition movies. The computer requirements for those sets of tasks may be very different, and what was adequate when you bought it may be less than adequate now. As for mechanical issues: hard drives, case fans, power supplies, and optical drives are all points of potential failures.
You may have experienced issues with your computer that you simply put up with and attribute to the downside of computer ownership, or the fault of a particular operating system, when in reality these issues can be handled with a little help and regular maintenance. Just like you wouldn’t drive 40,000 miles without an oil change (or you shouldn’t, at least), neither should your computer go without an occasional check-up and the resulting recommended maintenance.
Most people call for help when they encounter problems, but many of the problems you have can be avoided with proactive maintenance:
- Running regular scans for malware (malicious software) and viruses can reduce the majority of problems individuals may encounter on an individual computer.
- Keeping software up-to-date is another proactive maintenance step, and can eliminate glitches with software that an individual may not even be aware existed.
- Disk and operating system cleanup is another task that should be performed regularly. Scheduled defragmentation may be necessary depending on how the computer is utilized, and clearing temporary files can free up precious disk space in systems with less-than-desirable hard drive capacity.
- Periodically evaluate changes in computer usage to preemptively determine when upgrades may be necessary
Reactive maintenance is less desirable than proactive maintenance, as it means some problem has already occurred that the user is aware of. Reactive maintenance should not be needed as frequently if a proactive maintenance schedule is followed, but some issues such as mechanical failure cannot be avoided by proactive maintenance alone.
- Loud disk drives or excessively noisy fans can indicate a failure or near-failure of the mechanical components in a computer system. If these components fail, it can lead to much more costly repairs. An overheated processor or disk drive that has worn bearings can cost significantly more than just replacing the components as soon as the problem is noticed. Recovering data from a failed disk is not always possible, and processor replacement may not be cost effective.
- Performance problems or issues with saving and retrieving files may also be related to gradual disk failure without the noisy warning of failed bearings. This is a problem that cannot be avoided with proactive maintenance, and should be checked out before it turns into a loss of data.
- Security warnings and excessive pop-ups may be indicative of malware that has gone unchecked, or updates that have failed to download for some time. If left alone, these problems will continue to worsen, and can leave your computer vulnerable to further malware infestation and may lead to performance degradation. Some malware may even attempt to mislead you into purchasing software you do not need under the false pretense that it will fix the problem you are having, the problem caused by that software in the first place. Now you’re looking at not only repair cost, but the cost that you may have been duped into spending on unnecessary and potentially harmful software.
Hardware Assessment and Upgrade Planning
The final reason to call an expert is hardware assessment and upgrade planning. After a few years, you may be using your computer for much more than you intended and it is probably time to reevaluate how it is being used. If your computer is more than a few years old, there is a good chance the hardware could use some upgrading to meet with the new demands you’ve placed on it. If your computer already seems to be on the edge of what it can do, and you are thinking about adding another piece of software, or you want to start using it for something more intense like 3d rendering or video editing, you need to explore your options.
You also need to remember that when you purchase a newer computer, or you choose to upgrade the operating system on your new computer, some of your older applications may not work. Many outdated software packages were written for a particular operating system, and unless you have since upgraded that software, it may not work on a newer version of Windows or Mac OS. This is less likely in a home setting, but many businesses are using applications written many years ago and have chosen not to update because the application works for them. Just be aware that the old application and its data may require special consideration when upgrading the computer on which it runs.
Proactive maintenance is good, reactive maintenance should be minimal, and periodic assessment and upgrade planning is a necessity. Don’t hesitate to call and allow us to help with setting up your proactive maintenance and upgrade road map, and avoid reactive maintenance and unnecessary downtime.