Spring clean your computer

By Colin Thornton, MD and founder of Dial a Nerd

We’ve all come across it. A once sprightly computer system that actually did something when you clicked on an icon devolves into a machine with a response time that makes a dial-up connection in the 90s look fast. But is there anything you can do to keep the ravages of time at bay on your system?

One thing to note is that before you do anything on your machine, you need to have backups in place of all your important files. We believe in the 3-2-1 Rule. That is you should keep three copies of an important file (the main file and two backups), use two different media types (such as a hard drive and CD), with one copy kept offsite or online (in the event of a disaster or break-in).

With the formalities out of the way, I’ll discuss a few tips that can help you put an extra spring in the spring of your computer.

The basics

We realise that performing system maintenance on your machine is about as much fun as doing taxes at the end of the year (with apologies to our accountant friends), but if you want a streamlined system there is a lot to be said for performing these menial tasks.

Uninstall any unnecessary software. Not only does it take up hard drive space, but it can also impact on system performance especially if the software runs automatically when your computer boots up and stays in its memory. You’ll be surprised at how much unwanted programmes you can install in a relatively short space of time. Depending on how often you install something, we recommend doing a virtual inventory of your software once a month.

Part of this is to use the handy Disk Cleanup feature of Windows or any number of the respected, freely available Mac equivalent programmes. It is as simple as removing your temporary internet files, emptying your Recycle Bin or Trash Can, removing temporary files and unused restore points you will not use. Ideally, you should do this once a week to keep the amount of unnecessary information on your machine to a minimum.

Next up is improving the time your computer takes to access data. There are plenty of analogies online about disk defragmentation, but this is quite a fun one.

Imagine there are thousands of boxes spread out on a field and you have hundreds of tennis balls to place in those boxes. If you just throw all of the balls (like a computer does with data when it writes to a hard drive) some might land close together and some might land far apart. When your operating system writes a file to the hard drive, it just scatters the data into sectors, and wherever the data falls, it stays. Even though you can see a folder with a collection of files, those files aren't located in the same sectors on the hard drive. As you use your computer and as your computer writes data to the hard drive, more information scatters across the hard disk and gets fragmented.

Now defragmenting organises the sectors so that the ones containing information for certain files are grouped together meaning the operating system can access it much faster than when they are scattered (or fragmented) all over the hard drive. It is best to defragment your drive every fortnight.

It is also surprising what a difference it makes to reboot your computer every few days. While I won’t go into the technical details behind this dark magic, suffice it to say your computer feels like a new machine when it boots up from scratch.

Keep your options open

While these are great quick fixes, it might be worth approaching an accredited computer support company when none of these have an impact.

Sadly, there comes a time when it is probably best to retire the old machine and invest in a sexy, new model but there are many more technically involved steps that a technician can rely on to extend the shelf life.

Not only can the technician help you set up your system properly but he/she can also install software that can monitor your system remotely and send a notification when there is a problem. This approach makes your computing experience so much smoother as the professionals can do what they’re good at while you get on about your business.


Dial a Nerd, Tel: 087-72-63737/087-72-NERDS , www.dialanerd.co.za,

For further information, please contact Theresa Gibbon on 082 820 8437 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.