Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Fixing PCs

As the old PC or Laptop are pretty essential for all manner of things, occasionally I need to do some maintenance on them to get them running OK, speed them up, clear out the rubbish and so on ...

We have a sort-of policy that no important data is actually stored on the computers themselves - everything is either in Dropbox, or on external USB connected hard drives ... so that we can back them up, have copies, and generally try and protect ourselves from losing everything ...

So I often see people asking online as to how to help sort their own computers out ... so I listed out the following basic set of actions which should help to improve any Windows PC or laptop.  I'm afraid I have never owned or used a Mac, so I have no idea what one would do for one of those machines ...

So I hope this is helpful to someone ...


1) Empty the Recycle Bin and ensure that WINDOWS UPDATES are all installed/up to date.
2) Go to SETTINGS/APPS (This is Windows 10. If you're on an earlier version, then this is the SETTINGS and PROGRAMS option) and go through all programs/apps and uninstall any you don't want/need (Google them if you don't know what they do)
4) Do a Disk Cleanup (WINDOWS ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS) and delete any/all elements showing there with space. There's often old Dump and Crash files there, plus old install files from programs, Windows Update temporary files and other stuff you don't need too.
6) If the internet is not working/connecting, then try opening the Windows Settings for it - in there will be diagnostic tools to check the connections and to help fix them ... (NETWORK AND INTERNET SETTINGS) ... Consider where you are using the PC/Laptop. If you're at home, then you should probably be on a Private Network as this is trusted. If you are at home but set to a Public Network, then it may be doing additional checks and security which are not needed.
7) Download Malwarebytes (https://www.malwarebytes.com/), install the free version and run to check/clean up anything dodgy on the PC - if you don't have internet, then download the install package to another PC and drop it on a removable USB drive, then install on the PC you're working on.
8) Download CCleaner (https://www.ccleaner.com/), install the free version. If you don't have internet, then download the install package to another PC and drop it on a removable USB drive, then install on the PC you're working on.
9) On CCleaner, Run a general cleanup first (ANALYSE and then RUN CLEANER). Make sure that SAVED PASSWORDS is NOT checked - it's greyed out on the free version - or you will lose all your stored passwords. If you unclick DOWNLOAD HISTORY then you won't lose your history of websites opened in the various programs ... so check the tabs carefully and make sure you understand what you are asking the tool to remove. If you don't want to lose the history of files opened in OFFICE applications, then click on the APPLICATIONS tab and Uncheck OFFICE (and any other applications you don't want to be affected).
10) Then on CCleaner run a REGISTRY CLEANER (SCAN FOR ISSUES and then FIX SELECTED ISSUES). It's a good idea on this one to save the previous registry copy to a folder - it prompts you to do this.
11) Then run the REGISTRY CLEANER again ... it sometimes takes two runs to clean it all up.
13) On CCleaner, go to TOOLS and the STARTUP tab. Check what your PC starts at startup. Double clicking on anything here will stop it starting ... so do that for anything you don't want to start when the PC starts - in general, keep things like system and printer software, Dropbox and Windows Defender there, and any anti virus/firewall software you have installed, but any specific programs can be stopped - like SKYPE, TOMTOM apps ... anything which if you want to use it, you can run it anyway. Anything you don't recognise or understand, Google to find out what it is/does and decide whether you want or need it running at startup.
15) If you have any hardware checking programs or tools (sometimes they come on the PC when you buy it) then run them to check everything out.
http://www8.hp.com/.../hpsupportassistant/pc-diags.html is a handy HP diagnostic tool to check out the key elements. I'm not sure if this works on non-HP kit though.

Lenovo have something similar called a Solution Centre (https://support.lenovo.com/gb/en/downloads/ds104494)  ... I'm sure there are others ...

As mentioned, we use Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com) for holding all in-progress files. This is free and easily downloadable, and you can gain more space for it by carrying out actions like sharing links on Social Media and so on ... of course you can purchase more space too if you want/need to.

Dropbox basically keeps an ongoing backup of everything in the Dropbox folder on your PC. It also keeps old versions of everything, so if you need to recover something or go back to an older version, it's easy to do so.

For other online backups, and after a crash which nearly lost a whole hard drive (!), I'm now using Backblaze (https://www.backblaze.com), as recommended by friends. It's not expensive (about $50 a year) and basically takes and maintains an online backup of EVERY hard drive you have (or can) connect to a computer.  It's NOT a storage facility though, so if you remove the hard drives, then after 30 days it assumes you don't want the data and so will delete it.  But if you have a hard drive go bad, or accidentally delete something you shouldn't have, then it's a great and simple way of having an up to date copy that you can recover from.

And hard drives ... they're always getting cheaper and cheaper, and you can find 3Tb ones now which are less than £100 ... a good investment to keep all your data, pictures. videos and whatever on, and to have spares with backed up copies on ...