Basic PC Computer Cleanup: Developing Regular Drive Backup and Maintenance Routines

You probably won’t hop into the driver’s seat of a new car without knowing the basics of operating it and likewise with your new computer. Knowing the basics of backing up your files, cleaning up and maintaining your system are as important as understanding your new car.

Daily: Backup Your Files

If and when a crash happens you’ll be glad you took the time to back up your files. Online backup and file storage is available from sites like McAfee or Norton with a subscription. There is also the ‘Windows Backup Utility’ explained on the Microsoft Website along with several additional backup options including:

  • Zip drive: a disk drive that uses removable Zip disks to store hundreds of megabytes of data.
  • CD RW: A CD-RW is a compact disc onto which you can burn information if you have a CD-RW drive.
  • DVD RW: A DVD-RW is a DVD onto which you can burn information if you have a DVD-RW drive.
  • USB Flash Drive: A USB flash drive is like a small hard drive, about 2-3 inches long that plugs into your computer through a USB port. You can download information onto it for storage.

Weekly Clean Up

Delete Temporary Internet Files and Cookies

Slow loading is one of the first signs that a clean-up is past due. Start by getting rid of everyday clutter like temporary internet files and cookies.

To delete temporary files and cookies

  • Internet Explorer users: Go to Tools > Internet Options > General Tab > Browsing History > Delete (to clear both temp files and cookies)
  • Netscape users: Go to Tools > Cookie Manager > Stored Cookies Tab > Remove All Cookies
  • Firefox users: Go to Tools > Options > Cookies > Clear

You may need to close and reopen your browser or restart your computer for these changes to take effect.

Scan for Viruses, Spyware & Adware

Keep your anti-virus software up to date and check for viruses regularly. The McAfee Threat Center has current information on viruses and threats.

Spyware and adware (programs that you may not realize have been installed on your system) may cause your computer to run slowly or interfere with normal applications. explains how spyware could be harmful to your computer.

Ad-aware is an excellent free program that will scan and remove adware and spyware from your computer.

Run Scandisk

Scandisk is a software utility designed to look at data integrity, scan your hard disk for errors and make necessary changes to the data on the hard disk drive. Scandisk will not cause any physical problems to the hard disk drive regardless of how many times it is run.

To run scandisk

  • Go to My Computer and highlight a local hard disk drive by clicking on it once
  • Right click the highlighted local drive
  • Go to properties > tools tab and click ‘check now’ to check the drive for errors
  • Restart your computer to run scandisk in a safe mode.

Windows, Browser and System Updates

You should update your system regularly with the most recent updates and patches. Windows updates and IE updates are found at the Microsoft website; Netscape Navigator updates are found at the Netscape website.

Monthly Maintenance

Defragment Files

With regular PC use, your files get fragmented or spread out all over your hard drive. A photo for example may appear to be in My Photos, but physically, bits and pieces of the file are scattered. When everything is working well, this fragmentation doesn’t do any harm but it’s recommended that you defrag monthly.

To defragment your system

  1. Go to My Computer and right-click the local disk volume that you want to defragment

Go to properties > tools tab and click defragment now > defragment