Computers deteriorate with age (what doesn’t?) but not all of this deterioration need occur early or permanently. In this section we look at ways to lengthen the life of your equipment and ensure the equipment is operating at its best even as time passes.

Disk Defragmentation.

Is it easier to read a book if its pages are in order or out of order? In order of course, otherwise you have to search for each page before you can read it. A similar concept applies to disk defragmentation. For various reasons over time the “pages” (portions) of the “book” (file) become disorganized. Using a defragmenter reorganizes the portions of the files to make them quicker to access. Not only does defragmentation make the process of opening and writing files quicker it can also help prevent errors as they increase as a drive becomes fragmented.

Windows includes a basic disk defragmentation application which is better than nothing. There are also several popular commercial defragmenters including Diskeeper, PerfectDisk, and O&O Defrag.

For those on a shoe-string budget, Piriform offers Defraggler, which has a lot of great features and is freeware.

Disk Error Checking.

Disks over time have errors occur on them. Sometimes this is at a hardware level – when portions are physically damaged. Sometimes this is at a software level – when portions of a file are corrupted. There are several applications which can help with these disk error issues:

  • ChkDsk – A Microsoft command-line application that checks for disk issues. You should use the /r and /f switches to perform the repair. You will need to restart your computer and allow it to run the application before booting back into Windows.
  • Consistency Checks – RAID duplicates data on multiple disks, a consistency check application is specific to the hardware manufacturer or the RAID controller (or software controller). It ensures that the data is correct in both locations.

Deleting Temporary Files.

Some programs are better than others at cleaning up after themselves. Still over time, large amounts of unused and unnecessary files can pile up. Windows has a built in Disk Cleanup utility, but I prefer CCleaner by Piriform. I’ve used it on a number of computers and servers and it always does an excellent job without harming anything.

Registry Cleanup.

Microsoft uses the registry in Windows to define many settings in Windows and various applications. Third-party applications also use this registry. Unfortunately, much like temporary files, some programs don’t do a good job of cleaning up after themselves, thus occasionally running a program such as CCleaner which finds outdated registry entries can be useful. I’ve never had CCleaner take out anything important, unlike many other applications of a similar nature.