Well, it's that time of the year again. It's the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. This year it begins on Sunday, March 9 at 2 a.m. and ends on Sunday, Nov. 2 at 2 a.m.
We adjust the clocks ahead one hour in March and move them back one hour in November according to the instructions "Spring forward, Fall back."
But it's not all about losing an hour of sleep in the morning, there's more to it than that. Some time ago The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission decided that the day everyone changes their clocks forward (or backwards) would also be a great time for everyone to check the batteries in their smoke detectors. Apparently there were a lot of deaths that could have been avoided had the smoke detectors been working so they started using the clock change days as a reminder to everyone to check the batteries. And it turns out that the plan apparently saves lives. I don't know what the statistics are but I'm sure a patient Google search will tell you just how effective the whole thing is but what it won't tell you is what all that has to do with computers.
Leave that to me!
As a computer fixer I see all types of preventable issues in my day to day travels. Many issues that (like dead batteries in the smoke detector) could have been avoided had the computer owner just checked the system a couple times a year and performed a few basic maintenance steps.
With that thought in mind I thought that it would be a good idea to follow the CPSC's lead and advise everyone to use the clock changing ritual that we go through twice a year as a reminder not only check the batteries in your smoke detectors but to go over your computer and perform some basic checks and maintenance. Lots of issues can be avoided if people would do a few simple things just twice a year.
I'm sure at this point you are probably thinking that maybe that is a good idea but what should we check? I mean the smoke detector thing is easy - just swap the battery with a new one and you're done but aren't computers a little more complicated than that? Well, yes. But don't let the fact that your average PC has quite a few more things to check cause you to procrastinate the chore. I'll go over a few of the basics that really should be looked at and you'll see just how easy and painless it can be.
First and foremost you need to have a backup system in place. You really should be backing up on a daily basis but if you just can't bring yourself to do that then at least do it twice a year when we change the clocks. When your hard drive does die, recovering something is better than nothing.
Next, check for dust. I'm not talking about dusting the keyboard and monitor I'm talking about the air intake grills that are all over your machine. These things need to breath and over time these intakes get clogged with a blanket of dust that can quite literally choke the life out of your system. Check all the intake grills and remove any layers of dust that you find.
Check your power strip and battery backup and remove any old power cords that are no longer in use. Often old devices that are no longer in use have power transformers that still use power even if the device itself isn't plugged in.
Power up your computer and check the startup routine. If you have a whole row of icons that show up next to the clock and the system takes forever to boot up then run MSCONFIG (for Windows 8 use the Start Up tab in Task Manager to manage start up tasks) and uncheck everything in startup except your antivirus.
Which brings us to the antivirus - make sure it's up to date! If your antivirus has been flashing at you that its subscription has run out and you have been ignoring that for the last six months, now's the time to deal with it. Go to www.avast.com, click the "Home" link and install Avast free. It's doesn't cost anything, does the job and keeps itself updated.
Get in the habit of checking these things and you may just avoid an expensive service call sometime in the future.
Having trouble with something? Give me a call and I'll be glad to help.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).