Computers need to be maintained, like any other machine. But running computer diagnostics can't become a full-time job when you have work to do (or games to play). The best way to deal with problems is to deal with them before they get serious. Here are a few computer diagnostic steps you can take to keep your machine running smoothly and problem-free.
Run a Virus Scan
Schedule a regular virus scan to make sure your machine is free of infectious malware and destructive viruses. The best antivirus software in the world is no good if you don't use it — use the software's scheduling to run a scan every few days, preferably while you're not using it.
Check Your Connections
Sometimes troubleshooting a problem doesn't require a complex PC diagnostic — it can be as simple as a loose connection, or an unplugged cord. Every computer technician probably has the story of fixing a client's "broken" machine by plugging it back in, or turning a power switch back on. It may seem obvious, but it's worth checking out before you move on to more time-consuming computer diagnostics.
Clean it Out
A computer will naturally accumulate dust, hair, and dirt over time. Keeping the outside clean isn't enough — you should occasionally open up the machine and spray it out with computer duster ("canned air") to clear out the junk. Just use caution! Make sure the room is well-ventilated before you start. Verify that the computer is unplugged from the power source, and ground yourself by touching a metal part of the case to avoid causing static damage to any of the components. The occasional cleanup can work more magic than the most complex PC diagnostic.
Listen For Noises
Most modern computers make almost no noise while they operate. Any sign of whining, whirring, grinding, or clicking can be a danger sign. One of the most common components to fail on a computer is the fan — either those on the motherboard, or the fan on the video card. An overheated video card can cause shutdowns, lockups, or even permanent hardware damage. Most of all, watch out for the distinctive "clicking" of a dying hard drive — it means the drive probably only has a little time left, and you need a backup solution as soon as possible! There's no PC diagnostic tool in the world that will save a failing hard drive.
Track Any Changes
One simple computer diagnostic to maintain your machine is to keep track of any major changes in your computer. Write down or record when you install new software, change hardware, or change any important settings. Sometimes, what looks like a major malfunction or dying hardware can be as simple as switching back a setting or uninstalling an unnecessary program. Also, make sure your device and software drivers are up to date — not only will it keep your machine running smoothly, but it may prevent security issues in some cases.
AOL Computer Checkup's Computer Diagnostic Tools
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