Just Fix Your PC? Don’t Stop There! Prepare for the Next Emergency

Sometimes, you think it may take a miracle to get a sick PC working better. In fact, one study tells us that as many as 20% of Americans admit they have actually prayed for their PCs to overcome their problems. But once your “miracle” happens – usually through your diligence and research mingled with a few colorful words- are you prepared to avoid a repeat of your disaster?

The best way to recover from a disaster is to prevent one from happening in the first place. While you can’t prevent software and hardware problems completely, steps you take when your PC works well can make all the difference in how quickly you can get past a disaster and get back to work, play, and Internet communications. You can also dramatically reduce the amount of problems you have with your system overall through proactive steps like good PC maintenance.

You don’t need a degree from MIT to prepare either. Some of the most effective steps you can take combine common sense with tools you likely already have available. The secret is to use them to your advantage.

With this in mind, here are 10 of the smartest things you should do once your PC recovers from a serious problem:

1. Take a Virtual Snapshot

This one does not involve taking a picture of your PC monitor displaying a big happy face. Instead, you should use appropriate software tools to:

a) Make a backup of your entire system using the Backup tool available when you click Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Backup.
b) Turn on Windows System Restore (also available at Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>System Restore) and then create a restore point which takes a snapshot of your system at that point in time.
c) Use third party software such as Norton Ghost or Drive Image to make an image of your Windows-booting hard disk that you can apply later, if needed.

2. Document What You Did to Repair

Make a note of what you did to fix it in case you can use this information later. For best results, buy a cheap little notebook and make it your PC journal where you record any details about problems, fixes, repairs, and replacements you perform. Refer back to this journal when you are troubleshooting and you may find solutions to current problems based on the computer’s past history.

3. Own it; Learn from It

If a “user error” is responsible for the problem you had, try to remember it along with the trouble caused. The idea here is not to make you feel guilty about an electronic device or to undermine your PC self esteem. Instead, you need to own it and remember it so you can learn from the experience.

4. Don’t Rush to Make Big Changes

If you had to undo a recent hardware or software addition to get Windows working, you may want to wait to reinstall the new equipment until you do a bit of research to see if you can avoid the problem. A serious incompatibility, for example, may be at the root of the disaster you suffered; you want to be sure you know what to do to avoid a repeat.

5. Run Windows Update

Windows Update, available when you click Start>All Programs, is your online gateway to all manner of updates for files on your Windows PC system, from the drivers – software needed to run the hardware – to key system files to program upgrades. You should run Windows Update regularly and then download and install at least the priority updates recommended.

6. Take a Look at What Else Your PC May Need

Once you have created a backup or a drive image (see Step #1), check your system out. Jot down and try to fulfill a list of things you can do to help the PC run better overall. For example, you may be short on PC memory so add memory to your “To Do” list. The same holds true for hard disk space. Also look at the vents on the PC to make certain they are not clogged with dust. If they are, they should be cleaned (a stiff brush may do the job) with the PC turned off.

But the work does not end with creating the list. You then want to address items on the “To Do” list one at a time.

7. Houskeeping Isn’t Just for Your Home

Windows packs with decent cleanup and maintenance tools that can help keep your PC in fine working order. These include:

– Disk Defragmenter to optimize the space on your hard disk
– Disk Cleanup to remove old and unneeded files from your system

But these tools can’t help if you don’t run them and do so on a regular basis which can be once a week or once a month, depending on how much you use your system.

8. Do Your Research
You can try to learn more about the problem and how to avoid it. Help and Support Center may help. Jot down any error messages you see as well as click on any links Windows directs you to find more information.

9. Recognize Patterns.

Sick PCs often follow certain patterns you may be wise to break.

For example, if you frequently see problems:

a) caused because someone who shouldn’t have had access to the system got it, institute Windows Security.
b) related to power failures and fluctuations, install power protection like good surge suppressors and uninterruptible power supplies, called a UPS.
c) rooted in unstable software, uninstall and reinstall the software; if there is stil an issue, remove the software again and do not reinstall it until you research and find a fix.
d) from bad hardware, you want to do more than replace the hardware; try to determine if power problems or use and abuse of the system is leading to frequent hardware failures. Then try to change conditions to reduce the hardware loss.

10. Always Shut Down the PC Properly

This simple act can save you and your system big time. When you just turn off the PC without proper shutdown, you can corrupt files, mess up the hard disk, and wreak many other types of havoc.

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