A little time spent now on preventive maintenance can save hours of system troubleshooting later. It’ll also provide better computing all year long.
This article is something of a Windows Secrets tradition: We update, refresh, and then publish a new version of this story in the first issue of each new year. In this iteration, you’ll find more references to top-notch, detailed PC-maintenance how-tos and related information than ever before!
This past year was tumultuous for Windows — and most likely for your PCs, too. To start, Windows Update released hundreds of new patches (see list), some in a new cumulative/ roll-up format. And along the way, you’ve probably installed some new third-party software, uninstalled other programs, and upgraded or patched apps and utilities. You may have also altered, tuned, and tweaked various aspects of your system’s user interface, and software and hardware settings. And you’ve undoubtedly created and deleted myriad emails, documents, photos, MP3s, videos, spreadsheets, and so forth.
You might even have upgraded your Windows 8, 7, or Vista system to Windows 10. And if you were already using Win10 at the start of last year, you hopefully survived the major upgrade to Version 1607 — aka, the “Anniversary Update.”
All that activity takes its toll. Over the year, software errors, large and small, undoubtedly crept in. Your hard drive spun hundreds of millions of revolutions, and the system fans rotated for hundreds of hours. Heat, dust, and chemical degradation did their inevitable (often invisible) damage, shortening the remaining physical life of your system’s components.
In other words, just as we’re all a year older, our PCs are not the same machines they were a year ago.
To ensure your system runs smoothly for another year, now’s a good time to perform some extra maintenance. It’ll help prevent new errors from piling on old ones and keep your system fundamentally sound and ready for the changes 2017 will bring.
As with all significant changes to a PC, start any serious system maintenance with a full system backup. That way, if anything goes awry, you can recover relatively quickly.
Making regular backups is always a good practice. It’s strong insurance against all manner of ills that might bring down a PC: power spikes, hard-drive crashes, malware infestations, cockpit error, and many other calamities.
All current versions of Windows provide the means to make reliable backups, though each new generation of the OS has added enhancements to its archiving capabilities. Here’s a quick list of resources:
Vista: This aged version of Windows is in its last few months of service life (see the Windows lifecycle fact sheet). But for now, Microsoft still supports it; so I’ve included it one final time.
For Vista backups, check out TechNet’s article, ”
A Guide to Windows Vista Backup Technologies.” Also, many of the techniques cited in the May 12, 2011, Top Story, “Build a complete Windows 7 safety net,” also apply to Vista.
Windows 7: The “Build a complete Windows 7 safety net” story walks you through the entire process of setting up and using Win7’s built-in backup tools, providing near-total data safety. (See Figure 1.)
All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2017-01-10:
- Introduction Introduction: We’re all here because we have hope (in technology)
- Best Practices Start 2017 right with a clean Windows PC
- LangaList Plus Reserved RAM leaves almost nothing for apps
- Show all articles on a single page