If you’re familiar with the basics of how your computer and the internet works, you’re more unusual than you think. I can tell you that definitively because I do internet tech support and I’ve talked to people who have (and no, I’m not joking)…
– Said they deleted all the .dll files on their computer to save space and wanted to know why their computer didn’t work anymore.
– Said they got an “illegal operation” while they were on the FBI page and hadn’t turned their computer on for a year afterwards. Was it safe to turn it back on now?
– Ran their tower through their dishwasher because the dog peed on it and are wondering why it isn’t working anymore.
So in an effort to help people, because I care, and most importantly because it’ll mean I have more time to screw around in between calls, I’ve decided to punch up a basic guide to computer maintenance. But, before I get started, let me make three things clear…
1) I’m only dealing with Windows 95, 98, ME, & XP here. No Macintosh, not just because I hate that operating system, but because there are only like 174 people using it. There’s also no need to cover Linux because it’s an OS designed solely for computer junkies who get off on figuring out how a computer works and if that doesn’t describe you, you have no business using it to begin with.
2) Before you write that email asking me to personally tell you how to fix your computer problem…don’t do it. No, I’m serious…don’t, stop. It’s not going to happen, no chance, no way Not. Gonna. Happen.
3) I am not responsible for any problems on your computer that result from following my directions, not following my directions, programs you downloaded, ideas I gave you, etc, etc, etc, yada, yada, yada, you get the idea. Just remember…I. Am. Not. Responsible.
Now, let’s put the rubber to the digital road…
Alternate Browsers: I talk to people every day who have had their Internet Explorer go kaput on them and who may be able to get the fix for the problem on the web, but are unable to do so because IE is their only browser. So have a back-up browser on your computer like Netscape, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera.
Defragment: Ever so often, the memory on your computer will become fragmented, which causes your computer to run slower than it would otherwise. Your computer will fragment very slowly if you’re an 89 year old grandmother who only uses the computer to send email to her grandchildren and very quickly if you’re a college kid who regularly ads and removes hundreds of megs of Mp3s, games, videos, or nudie pics from your drive.
In either case, if you decide you need to speed things back up, you’ll need to defragment your computer. In order to do that, you go to Start, programs (all programs for XP), accessories, system tools, and then disk defragmenter. Do keep in mind that some virus scanners screw up the disk defragmenter and keep it from ever finishing, so you may want to disconnect from the net, turn your virus scanner off, and then either reboot or turn your virus scanner back on when you’re done.
Firewalls: Firewalls are a great way to control access between your computer and the internet. Unfortunately, it’s also a great way for clueless people to block their own email programs and browsers from the internet. So, pay attention to what you’re blocking! ZoneAlarm & Sygate are popular free firewalls and after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2, your firewall — which comes with XP — is turned on by default.
Msconfig: It’s never any fun to wait for your computer to boot up, especially when there is a poor tech on the other line who has to keep his average call time down. So, here’s how you make your computer load faster; go to Start, then Run, type in msconfig, hit OK, go to Startup, take checks out of items *** YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH ***, that don’t need to run when your computer starts up, and hit OK. Bingo bango, you should boot up faster next time.
Preventing Spam: Like all normal people, I think spammers should be coated in honey, locked in a crate filled with bees, and rolled down the side of a mountain. But while that would be satisfying, it wouldn’t slow down the amount of spam rolling into your inbox. So what can you do to cut down on spam? Here are 4 basic suggestions…
1) Don’t select a user name that is a word in the dictionary or a common name.
3) Don’t post your email address online. If you post it anywhere, post it like this… ABC -at- Juno.com
4) Don’t open obvious spam or respond to spam you do open. Any response is probably just going to get you added to a list which means more spam.
Reboot Or Power Cycle: Here’s a tip that’ll save you — and more importantly, me — a lot of time. When something on your computer that was working, stops working, errors start popping up, or you lose your internet connection, you should…
1) Reboot your computer if you are using dial-up.
2) If you have a high speed connection, do a power cycle. Shut down your modem, computer, and router, hub, or switch (if you have them). Then wait 5 minutes, turn the modem back on first, then the router/hub/switch (if you have them), and then turn the computer on.
You will be surprised at how often this fixes problems on your computer.
Spyware: Not only is there a lot of Spyware floating around out there, it has really gotten intrusive. It can change browser homepages, tracks where you go, produces pop-ups, and it’s now not unusual to see Spyware even screw-up Internet Explorer to the point where it won’t work at all.
Luckily, there are plenty of free programs out there you can use to get rid of Spyware including Spybot – Search & Destroy, Ad-Aware, & Bazooka Adware and Spyware Scanner. I’d suggest trying one of them out.
Updates: Either click on Start, then Programs/ All Programs, and then Windows Update ** OR ** open up your Internet Explorer, go to Tools, and then Windows Update. Once you get there, make sure all of your crucial/high priority updates are installed. If they are, good job. If they’re not, then like duh, hurry up and install them!
Virus Scanners: It blows my mind that there are still people in 2004 who either don’t have virus scanners on their computer or don’t keep them updated. In fact, let me put it this way — if you connect to the internet and don’t have virus protection, just take your computer outside and smash it on the sidewalk. It’s only a matter or time until a virus puts it out of commission anyway and if you go ahead and destroy your machine, you won’t be able to infect anybody else.
If that doesn’t convince you, you have rocks in your head. But, if you don’t have rocks in your head, try AVG, McAfee, Norton, or one of the many other anti-virus products out there. They’ll save you and — potentially other people — a lot of trouble.