How to Take Care of Your Computer

By Kevin Lee

Unlike a car, your computer doesn't have doors you can open to clean out the inside. That's OK, because computer care usually involves keyboard strokes and mouse clicks. Windows and vendor-supplied applications contain tools you can use to care for your computer and keep it running at peak efficiency.

Keep Windows Current

When you installed Windows, it gave you the option to enable automatic updates that keep your computer loaded with the latest Windows bug fixes, security patches and enhancements. If automatic updating is turned off, you can turn it on by clicking “Settings” followed by “Change PC Settings.” After you click “Update and Recovery,” click “Choose How Updates Get Installed” and select the update option that works best for you. For example, if you don't want Windows to install updates automatically, you can choose to receive messages telling you that new updates are available.

Secure Your Computer

Surprisingly, there is no guarantee that anti-virus software will protect you from attacks. This sobering assessment from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team emphasizes the importance of developing safe computing habits and keeping anti-virus software running continuously. Windows 8.1 comes with Windows Defender, a security program that combats malware to keep you safe. If your desktop's status bar displays a "Turn on virus protection" message, click it and follow the directions to enable virus protection. You can also install anti-virus programs such as Avast or AVG.

Small Programs: Big Jobs

Drivers are vital programs that make it possible for webcams, monitors, video cards, printers and other hardware devices to operate. When manufacturers release new drivers, install them on your computer. If your computer's automatic updates are turned on, Windows installs many drivers for you automatically. Look for a device's recent drives by visiting the manufacturer's support page. Updating a driver can sometimes resolve a computer problem and add new functionality to a device.

Keep It Clean

As you work on your computer, temporary files accumulate on your hard drive and may slow things down. Delete unneeded temporary and system files by running the Disk Cleanup utility. After you click "Settings" followed by "Control Panel," type "Admin" and click "Administrative Tools." Double-clicking "Disk Cleanup" launches the utility and gives you the option to choose the types of files you want to delete. Programs such as CCleaner and nCleaner can tidy up files, optimize the Windows registry and perform other housekeeping tasks so your computer works more efficiently.

Improve Your Vision Without New Glasses

Clean your monitor and you may discover how much easier it is to read on-screen text. Stay away from cleansers that contain alcohol or ammonia. Instead, spray a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and distilled water on a soft cloth and wipe the monitor gently. Don't press hard or you may damage your LCD screen.

Make Your Keyboard Look Like New

Give your keyboard a good cleaning to keep it sanitary and professional looking. Unplug the keyboard from the computer. Hold it upside down and shake it gently to dislodge large particles and debris. If you have a can of compressed air, hold it at a 45-degree angle and aim the nozzle between the keys; spray to remove residue and grime and then give the keyboard a few final shakes. Finish the job by wiping the keys with a slightly damp lintfree cloth. To disinfect the keyboard, wipe it with a disinfectant wipe that is barely damp. Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to dry the keyboard. While you are at it, clean your mouse with the wipes and dry it with a microfiber cloth to remove any remaining moisture.