By now, the majority of New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside and if remembered at all, they are recalled in sentences like, "What was I thinking? Every time I organize my office, I cannot find anything for weeks!" So how about a few things that are easy to do and will make a difference in your computer life?
1. Clean out your computer at least three times a year (every month with a laptop). Arizona has some of the grittiest air in the country and this plays havoc with the fans in your computer whether they are laptops or desktops. Grit in the fan bearings is one of the leading causes of hardware failure. Get a couple of cans of compressed air at any office supply store, many supermarkets or any computer store. Turn off the computer and blow the compressed air into every opening on the computer then turn the computer back on.
2. Allow your computer the opportunity to run scans and checks. Most people have good anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, but many people turn off the computer before allowing the scans to run. Check the settings on your protective programs and let them run preferably two to three times a week. There are differing schools of thought about whether or not to leave your computer on all the time. I believe it prolongs the life of your hard drive and computer components to leave it turned on but whatever your feelings on this, allow your protective programs to do their jobs.
3. Allow updates for your protective programs. Many people tell us they do not know which updates are bad and which to allow. When you are prompted to update a program, look at the prompt and determine what program is asking to be updated. If it is one of your protective programs (Malwarebytes, Super Anti-Spyware, Microsoft Security Essentials, etc.) allow these since they are helping you. Java is also a program that is constantly updating and is OK for you to allow.
4. Periodically go through your "Add/Remove Programs" and delete programs you are not using. When you blow out the fans in your computer, it is a good idea to go through your programs and remove those you are no longer using. Many programs sneak onto your computer as gifts that come with downloads you want. These unwanted programs are automatically starting when Windows starts so they begin to slow down your computer until, finally, your performance is greatly compromised. Click the "Start" button and click "Control Panel." Once that opens click "Programs" or "Add/Remove Programs" and wait for the screen to populate. Look for programs like coupon printer, Bing toolbar, ALOT toolbar, etc. Toolbars can be helpful for some applications but you only need one like Google toolbar, Yahoo toolbar or AOL on your Internet Explorer. If you have any questions about a certain program, do a search on the Internet about it BEFORE uninstalling it and do not uninstall any Microsoft updates without specific instructions from a professional.
5. Remove all email addresses before forwarding email and NEVER block a sender. The last one is two parts, but both relate to spam. When forwarding an email, do everyone a favor on the forward list and remove all the email addresses before sending on the email. Once you click "Forward," the email becomes editable so you can highlight the email addresses and press the backspace button on the keyboard or click "Edit" and "Delete" once they are highlighted. This will reduce the insidious spam problem and make you the talk of the town for your computer savvy ways. Also on the subject of spam, never put anyone on your blocked sender's list. Spammers have banks and banks of computers set up to generate every possible email address in the world and send spam to them. They realize that 99 percent of these are not legitimate email addresses, but they are waiting for that 1 percent to block them. When this happens, they receive a message alerting them to being blocked and they know your email address is valid so they can sell it. Selling good email addresses is a huge business so to avoid being one of the unfortunate few who receive hundreds of spam per day, bite the bullet and delete the spam.
If you need any help in sorting good programs from bad ones, please email me and I will be happy to help.
Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services and lives in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 753-7667.