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Routine Maintenance

Notes on simple things you can do to keep your computer running smoothly.    Doing these things quarterly would be more than adequate (accept backing up of course).  These things should make you computer run faster but it may only make you feel better but either is good.

Has any one stolen one of your passwords:
Go to https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and enter your email addresses and user names you use.  They will tell you if your e-mail address is linked to any sold passwords.  If so, it will tell you what account and when.  They found two associated with me.  One I was almost certain of before hand.  In my case I had not used that password anywhere else and the accounts were not at all significant so it was not a big issue but if I had used the same password for a lot of accounts it could have been.  You should always use unique passwords for critical accounts like those where money can be spent or your e-mail account.  If someone can get into your e-mail account, they can go to one of your other accounts and claim they lost the password and the firm will typically e-mail you something to allow you to reset the password.  This brings up another thing.  Companies often e-mail a notice when your password has been reset. If it was not reset by you act immediately.  You will want to keep track of the date you updated your passwords because the accounts that were compromised will stay on the list so you need to know if you changed the password after the compromised.  I use Keeper Password Manager and Data Vault to keep track of all my passwords.  It is free on one device but much more voluble on multiple devices.  It keeps the passwords in the cloud so you have a common list between multiple devices such as multiple computers, smart phones, and tablets.  There is a place for comments that in some cases for me go to multiple pages because it is a common place to keep notes about everything that requires a password.  I even use it to keep track of the combinations on my padlocks.  The cost is $29.95/Yr for one account and an unlimited number of devices.  If you want a free one, try Last Pass, the paid version got high marks from PC Magazine. I gave it a quick try and it seems quite good, in fact I can not find an area where it is worse except I am nervous when the data, encrypted admittedly, is only saved on the cloud or my smart phone, not on my PC.  It does have some advantages including a spell checker built in, an obvious advantage for someone like me.  Another one is that it has an easy way to separate notes from sites and has a wide variety of notes already available.  It has a premium version for$1.00/mor.  Premium adds, quicker response to problems, the ability to share passwords with others not on your account.  For a video on LastPsss click HERE.  Some sites say the free version will not work across multiple platforms like PCs and cell phones unless but I have not had trouble doing that.

Disk Cleanup:  This task deletes a lot of files that you do not even know you have like temporary files, web pages you have looked at, cookies etc.  It also empties the wastebasket.
On Windows 10 systems (and probably windows 8), in the search window in the lower left of the screen that you see when you click the start button, enter "Disk Cleanup" then click on the "Disk Cleanup" label that shows up above.  You will have the option to select various categories of files to clean up as well as what disk drives to clean up.  Drive C: is the most critical.  This program does not delete the history files associated with programs like Word.  There are third party programs which do a more through job but also delete the history file associated with programs like Word.  CCleaner is the best known one and one I use.

Hard Disk Error Checking:  This task checks the hard disk for errors.  You can request that the program try to fix the error or to just mark the spot bad so it will not be used in the future.
Open windows explorer to the spot where you can see the various hard disks you have.  If you have a quick link to "My Computer" or "This PC" that will take you directly to the spot you want to be in. Then right click on the disk you want to check and select PROPERTIES   > TOOLS  > ERROR CHECKING.
If you want to run a more robust hard disk error check, use chkdsk.  Click HERE to see how. 
The checks are somewhat independent so sometimes when chkdsk will not run, the disk error checking discussed above will still work however if ether one gives problem it is a sign that the disk is starting to go bad and you so start thinking about replacing it. This check can also be run on a computer that will not boot, see HERE.

Defragging the hard disk:  This task works the problem that over time, file segments get scattered around the hard disk so the hard disk has to jump around to read it all.
Windows 7, 8 and 10 automatically defragment on a schedule, normally every 7 days so this is no longer usually necessary.  Also solid state hard drives (SSHD) should generally not be defragmented as it leads to premature failure. Windows knows this and does it much less frequently.
If you still want to do it, then START  (the icon in the lower right of the screen)  >  COMPUTER  (or my computer) then Right Click on the disk you want to defrag and select PROPERTIES   >  TOOLS  > DEFRAGMENTATION
You may also be able to schedule it to run at a convent time when you have the computer on but not using it.  The program may run for an hour or more.

If you want to move up to the next level then:

Clean the Registry:  The registry is a large obscure file that Windows uses to keep track of all sorts of things that various programs want to remember like various default settings, what extensions open what programs etc.  For reasons mostly unknown to me it accumulates junk.
There are various free and for money programs that will do this.  I normally use CCleaner, a fee program that also will do the disk clean up task and a few other minor things.  See my page REGISTRY CLEANERS for a more general discussion of this topic.
The program will ask if you want to save a copy of the Registry.  Always say YES.  The chance of messing it up this way are small but the consequences are GREAT.  It can make it so your computer will not run any more.

Run chkdsk to look for bad spots on the hard disk.  This is different than then defragging or error checking the hard disk.  It is like checking all the books in the library for torn pages, not just that they are filed correctly.  Click HERE for a detailed set of instructions.  It will take a few to many hours to run, good to do over night.

Smart PC Care (Advanced System Optimizer) by Systweak highly recommended by CNET.  It does multiple things to tune up your PC.  (CCleaner items, outdated or missing drivers, status of internet and other privacy issues) Will check for free, cost $39.95 for 1 PC, $69.95 for 5 PCs if you install it on all the PCs in a short period of time, around 1 month.  Seems to do a good job and does not hog resources like some programs.  Will automatically run a check about twice a month.  Not as all as good as CCleaner at cleaning out unnecessary files but about as good for registry work.  I have taken to using it regularly.  It may mostly make me feel good but it probably helps.  It does not check to see if your programs are up to date, only that your drivers are up to date. Windows Update keeps Microsoft type programs up to date assuming you have it turned on but not other programs.  The one possible downside is that it does check automatically a couple of times a month.  This is not a problem for you but if you have installed this on a computer normally used by someone else, they may be alarmed when the notice pops up listing a bunch of problems with their computer.  On other computers your support, you are probably better off running it manually when you are doing other support on them. I am working on how to disable it from running automatically. It does not show up in the list of Startup programs.

Iolo System Mechanic is the program I now use to do a general optimization of your system.  The benefits are most obvious on really marginal systems.  On one such system I got memory usage to drop from 64% to 40% by optimizing memory.


Update your programs to the latest version:

Secunia PSI Checks software to make certain you have the latest version, from CNET and highly recommended by them. psia.exe is the executable and it tends to grab a lot of CPU and does not shut down when you close Secunia PSI. You must use Windows Task Manager or or an uninstall to shut it down. It shows up as Secunia PSI Tray.lnk in the list of Startup programs. Secunia tries to restart every time you start up the computer so you need to go into your list of programs that start at boot time and disable it. CCleaner can do this easily.  Look under "Tools" for "Startup".     Online Updater is another program it installs and uninstalling Secunia PSI Tray.lnk gets rid of it.  Even after deleting it, two programs of it's is left in your startup programs, Secunia PSI Tray, Secunia PSI Agent and Secunia Update Agent. They can be disabled by programs that let you disable startup programs such as CCleaner free mentioned elsewhere


Update Drivers:

Drivers are small programs that help hardware communicate with the software.  When you attach a new piece of hardware to your system, you may run a program to install the drivers or windows may just recognize you have installed new hardware and will go on the internet to get the drivers.  Over time these drivers become out of date.  Running out of date drivers is not a security issue but it may cause some performance problems and occasionally even lead to crashes.  Some drivers like for video cards seem to be updated all the time, even weekly, others rarely.  I suspect the frequent updates to video drivers is only an issue for those playing leading edge video games.
I am now of the opinion that all of the programs to update drivers, unless it is from something like the maker of your video card, are programs to use with extreme caution.  It is only a matter of time before your system gets messed up and you will have to go back to a previous configuration.  I think you should save the system configuration before updating drivers so you can use the option to go back to a previous restore point.  I would just update drivers at most once a year so you will need to tell your program to not automatically scan for problems. Outdated drivers usually do not cause any sort of problem.  I have had 10 or more outdated drivers and not noticed no change when I updated all.

To see my detailed notes on updating drivers click HERE.

Check for viruses: Just because you do not suspect a virus does not mean you do not have one.  I have found a dozen viruses on my machine when I did not suspect anything. Run one anti-virus program such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware that can be run without messing up your existing anti-virus software, see step 6 of my notes on removing viruses for more programs.  If you find any, run some more different programs in the list till you get a clean slate.