Many common computer and tech problems that arise could be avoided with some basic maintenance. Here’s a list of suggested tasks to perform regularly.
As a consultant, I usually instruct people on these things whenever I meet with them – providing a personalized strategy that meets their needs.
If you use your computer regularly, it’s a good idea to have automated daily backups. In many computers these run every hour to backup any recently created or changed files.
When writing longer articles or books that are time-intensive, consider saving frequently using the Save As feature and give the file a name that includes a revision number such as My Great Book Rev 7. Each new version you save provides a backup of the work done so far allowing you to go back in time to a previous version.
A common and sad problem is when people mistakenly select all, delete, and then save their blank document or presentation by mistake. When you save overtop of an existing file, it will be very difficult to recover it.
Computers are usually configured to update their software and operating system automatically. However, these updates sometimes don’t happen. For example, if you use your computer for short periods of time, and otherwise have it turned off completely, then the updates won’t happen. Consider leaving your computer on overnight once a week.
In addition to operating system updates, there will be updates to Java, Adobe software, Microsoft software such as Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), and others. It may be necessary to manually check for updates to these.
There are utility programs that scan your computer for software, check the versions, then check with the provider to see if a newer version is available, but this requires an additional program. Sometimes it’s easier just to simplify life and do a few things manually.
Virus Scan. Some people seem to get computer malware quite frequently. Other people can go for years without getting malware. You’ll want to determine how often you seem to be getting into trouble with malware and scan accordingly. Monthly scanning is a good place to start. A program like Malwarebytes protects in realtime and also can conduct scanning. Some malware will remove antivirus software so make sure your antivirus is still installed and actively protecting your computer.
Backups. Monthly or perhaps weekly, you may want to check and make sure your backups are running. Be sure the external drive hasn’t become disconnected. Perhaps go through a trial run of restoring a file. Even if you have a cloud synchronized drive (like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or iCloud) it’s a good idea to have a local backup as well. If a catastrophic failure requires restoring terabytes of data, it will go more quickly with a local drive. Also, if you have huge files to backup, that can take a while to upload those to the cloud given that upload speeds are usually 10% to 20% of your download speed.
Speed Test. It’s a good idea to check your Internet speed on a realgar basis. A clean ad-free way to do this is to go to Bing.com and search for speed test. You can then use the Bing speed test service.
Hard Drive. Checking your hard drive monthly can help you ensure it isn’t filling up to capacity with data. For each person the frequency of this will be different. If you work with video production, this could be a weekly task. For most people it could be done monthly.
Subscriptions. It’s a good idea to have a spreadsheet where you can keep track of various subscriptions for software and services that may be expiring. This could include antivirus software annual renewals. It could include website hosting and domain registration renewals. Microsoft charges an annual $99 fee for their Office 365 subscription plan. These monthly check-ins are a good reminder of when to expect certain fees to be charged. This is also a good time to check your bank and credit card statements for unexpected charges, and when you see renewals coming up, consider cancelling any services you don’t use. Also, make a note of any discount or free trial periods that may expire. For example, Sirius XM satellite radio has a $5 per month offer. When that expires, you’ll start getting charged $16 per month.
Cloud Data. Once a year, it’s a good idea to download all the data that services have on you. For example, you can download an archive of everything stored in the cloud of companies like Google or Facebook. That way, you’ll have a backup in case their systems go down, get corrupted, or get hacked.
Email Archive. Most email services maintain every email you’ve ever sent or received. These can go back years. You may want to use an email client to periodically copy those emails to your computer. Perhaps once a year, copy all the emails that are older than one year. These could be saved on your local hard drive and backed up. This would allow you to delete them from the cloud service. So, if your email account gets hacked, the hackers have limited access to all your personal communications. There have been billions of accounts hacked in recent years. Hackers use that information to contact all your friends with spam and phishing emails. They can also get insights into what services you use, where you bank, where you go on vacation, door codes you may have given to service people, and other details about your life.
Passwords. Managing passwords is something that could be done on a monthly basis, but most people are just too busy to commit to a long list of weekly or monthly tasks. At a minimum, it’s important to review your passwords annually. Make sure you have all your login information recorded either using a password management program, or a password protected spreadsheet, or perhaps a bound book. You’ll want to date every entry in your password list. This lets you know when a password was last changed or updated. Keep all the other account information recorded as well, such as security questions. Consider changing your passwords once a year. This could be as simple as adding a unique number to the end of every password. Be sure to use unique and complex passwords for every service you use.
Continuity Planning. If something happens to you, do you have a plan regarding how you want your data and online services to be managed? Once a year, it’s a good idea to review your various online accounts. Choose one or more people to update, maintain, or shut down those accounts if something happens to you. Have a plan for what becomes of your data. For photos, writings, audio, videos, and other content that you’d like to share with family or others, consider having that information already stored on an external hard drive, or even better, create a personal blog where you share everything in real-time. Then all your insights, humor, wisdom, and so on can be available on the web needing no additional management to distribute. Whatever you decide to do, it’s a good idea to review those plans each year.