Start 2016 right with a clean Windows PC

Fred Langa

The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure was never so true as when applied to computing.

It’s time for our annual PC checkup. Taking an hour or so now to run through the following steps could save you many hours or even days of troubleshooting down the road.

(Editor’s note: In a sort of Windows Secrets tradition, we publish this story in the first issue of a new year — with some updates, of course. We have included a reference list of other PC-maintenance stories throughout this article.)

Undo a year’s worth of wear and tear

Consider what your PC has been through in the past 12 months: Windows Update added dozens of patches to your operating system; you’ve likely installed some new third-party software, uninstalled other programs, and upgraded or patched apps and utilities; and you’ve probably altered, tuned, and tweaked various aspects of your system’s user interface and software settings. And you’ve undoubtedly created and deleted myriad new emails, documents, photos, MP3s, videos, spreadsheets, and such. You might even have upgraded your Windows 7 system to the new Windows 10.

All during that time, 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 damage, reducing the remaining physical life of your system’s components. In short, just as we’re 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.

Preserve and protect system data — Take 1

As with all significant changes to a PC, start any serious system maintenance with a full system backup — if anything goes awry, you can recover quickly.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2016-01-07:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.