Section 2.6: Performing Preventive Maintenance

Performing preventive maintenance increases the life of your computer. It also saves the money that you would spend in repair and replacements of computers parts that may become faulty. The maintenance can be both software and hardware related.

Section 2.6.1: The Hardware Related Maintenance

The hardware related maintenance includes cleaning your computer system. The parts of a computer such as mouse, keyboard, computer case, monitors, and motherboard may accumulate dust that can reduce their efficiency. Cleaning dirt and debris can improve the efficiency of your system and the lifetime of computer parts. Make sure that the computer is switched off before you clean it. The cleaning of the computers parts can be done as follows:

  • Computer case and monitor: The monitor's case and computer case can be cleaned with mild soap and water on a clean, lint-free cloth. Make sure that the cloth is just damp with water and not soaked in water. Just remove the dust and the dirt on the monitor with the damp cloth and then wipe the moisture with a dry lint-free cloth. The screen of the monitor should be cleaned by a glass cleaner specially designed for monitors with a soft cloth. Do not use any commercial window glass cleaner because it may remove the anti-glare coating from some monitors. The dust inside the computer case should be blown out with compressed air.

    If something has been spilled on your keyboard then you can soak the keyboard in the distilled demineralized water. This water has all the minerals and impurities removed from it. This will not leave any residue on the keyboard that will hinder its working. After cleaning it leave the keyboard for drying for at least 48 hours, till it becomes completely dry and ready for use.

  • Motherboard and Electronic connectors: The motherboard and electronic connectors on expansion cards accumulate oxidation and dirt, which should be cleaned with a swab moistened in distilled, denatured isopropyl alcohol. It removes oxidation from the connectors and pin contacts of PCBs. The water should not touch electronic connectors because it will corrode the connectors.

  • Printer: The spilled toner of a printer is very difficult to clean. It sticks on things and should not be breathed. To clean it, you need to use a vacuum filter specifically designed for electronic items that is fine enough to catch all the particles.

    The prevent computer from becoming dirty make sure that the environment is appropriate. There should be enough ventilation, the dust level should not be excessive, and the humidity should be maintained to 50 to 80 percent.

Section 2.6.2: Maintaining UPS

The Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) should be checked periodically to make sure that its battery is in working condition. Most UPS have test button to test the power outage. Sometimes the electrical tripping occurs when the UPS or surge protector turns off a device because it received a spike. When tripping occurs, the device starts using the battery from UPS instead of power supply from the main line.

Sometimes a situation called nuisance tripping occurs when the tripping occurs without any serious condition. The surge protectors can help in reducing the nuisance trips. A surge protector protects electrical devices from voltage spikes by regulating the voltage supplied to the device by either blocking or by shorting to ground voltages above a safe threshold. The surge protectors are usually built into UPS systems. However, if your UPS does not have it then you can add it to the outlet of the UPS to protect it from damage.

Section 2.6.3: The Software Related Maintenance

The software related preemptive maintenance include running software utilities that are made for maintaining the file systems and hard disk of your computer on regular basis. These utilities are:

  • Disk Defragmenter: The Disk Defragmenter utility rearranges the files on your hard disk in such a manner that they occupy contiguous chunks of space. It also allows you to analyzing how fragmented your hard drive is. After defragmentation the performance of the drive increases and the file retrieval becomes faster because the read write heads have to move less.

    There are two versions of Disk Defragmenter utility, a Windows version that runs from Windows only and command line version that runs from command prompt with command DFRAG.EXE. The command line version has three switches -a; which runs the utility only for analysis, -f; which forces defragmentation even when disk space is low, and -v; which verbose output.

  • Scan Disk: Scandisk checks the hard disk for errors.

  • Check Disk: The check disk is a Windows 2000/XP tool that is used to find the bad sectors on the hard disk and relocate any readable data from the damaged spots. It is also used to find and fix logical errors in the FAT file system.

  • Disk Cleanup: Disk Cleanup tool allows you to clean your disk by deleting unnecessary files from the disk. It is used to remove temporary Internet files and other unneeded files from your disk. It is very useful when the disk space on your computer becomes low.

Section 2.6.4: Backup

Back up is also one of the preemptive maintenance techniques. Backup creates duplicate copies of the important data and are stored at a separate location. The operative systems usually have backup and restore utilities that help you to take backups and then restore information. It important to keep the backups updated with current data and makes the backup data immediately available because they are the first step towards disaster recovery. If possible, proper backup policies should be made.

The working copies or the shadow copies are the partial or full copies of the backups. They are kept on the premises for the immediate recovery of critical data. There are a few backup procedures that you can use while taking backups and that are offered by most operating systems. These procedures are:

  • Copy Backup: The copy backup is similar to a full backup except that it does not clear the archive bit. The full copy backup allows you to make a duplicate "full" backup.
  • Incremental Backup: The incremental backup will back up all files that have changed since your last backup. Incremental backup clears the archive bit. Incremental backups take less time to create, but involve a longer restore process.
  • Differential Backup: The differential backup backups only the files that have changed since the last full backup but do not clear the archive bit. Any differential backup set contains all files that have changed since the last full backup.

A combination of Normal and Incremental or Differential backups should be used all together for a perfect backup arrangement. This is because the full backup is not possible every time. It is time both time and space consuming. Therefore, if for example, you create a Normal backup of all selected files on Monday, you should perform a Differential backup or Incremental backup from Tuesday through Friday. Each of these backups would include all files that have changed since Monday. In case, you need to restore data on Saturday, you would only need to restore the original Normal backup, and the last available Differential backup/Incremental backup.