Routine Maintenance & Operation

You may remember the first article was on the need for backing up. This second article will pick up right where that one ended: The first thing to do for routine computer operation is to complete regular backups, and remember to test them periodically so you know a backup will work for you when you need it most.

Second, remember that heat is a killer of electronics. Modern computers have fans, and these fans must be operating. With more and more multi-core processing chips and faster graphics cards, we’re seeing more fans in computers than ever. Other examples of fans are “coolers”installed on CPU chips and graphics cards. If your computer shuts down for no apparent reason, it could be due to a fan that is not working. If you’re comfortable working inside your computer, check to see if any fan blades are stuck. And get rid of dust and dirt. (They’re insulators!) Blowing out dust is generally better than vacuuming it, unless you use a special anti-static electronics vacuum.

Laptops are especially prone to overheating—and will often overheat your lap, too! A tip is to use a “laptop cooler.” Or put the laptop on a flat table or desk surface when you’re using it, so air can circulate around it properly.

You will want to install a surge protector to help keep these nasty surges out of your computer system. A minimum rating is about 600 joules—which is obtainable with very inexpensive devices. Better is somewhere around 2,000 joules. These are available for under $30, often with “connected equipment” guarantees.

You should also consider an Unterruptible Power Supply system (UPS). These provide battery power for a limited time, which allows you to have time to save your work and shut down your system in the event of a power outage. Note: do not trust a typical UPS to continue operating for more than a few minutes. When they are activated, save your work and shut down the computer until power is restored—and be glad you installed a UPS! Also, note that a laptop, if effect, has a “built-in UPS.” This is, of course, the laptop’s battery! So be sure to use a surge protector with a laptop, but a UPS isn’t necessary. Finally, don’t try to use a UPS on a laser printer. The peak current demands of a laser printer will overload all but the most powerful UPS systems. So in a power loss, just turn the laser printer off until power is restored.

Next, it’s a good idea to turn on “automatic updates.” These Windows Updates can contain very important bug and security fixes. In Windows XP, access Windows Updates from start/control panel.

Many computers have a “restore partition”(a “hidden partition” on your hard drive that contains a compressed version of the operating system and all the system files and drivers your computer shipped with—in other words, it restores your computer to “factory fresh” conditions—without your applications and data files). And remember to save your original discs, usually shipped with the computer. Your manufacturer may try to tell you that you don’t need your original discs because you have the restore partition. Don’t believe it! Some day your hard drive may be damaged. If that happens, the “hidden partition” probably won’t work! Also, you’ll likely need the Windows OS disc to do some troubleshooting anyway. So, save your original discs, or get them from the manufacturer while your computer is still operating properly.

Installment 3 will be next…slow computer issues. Stay tuned!

73, Mark WA9IVH


Mark Klocksin is the Net Director of the NSRC. He recently took some computer courses and later qualified for the A+ computer industry certification. He is sharing some of his recently-acquired knowledge with his fellow radio amateurs.


© 2011 Klocksin Consulting

Mark Klocksin, WA9IVH