Since the majority of computer users run Windows XP, I made a checklist of essential maintenance tasks that should keep your machine running as smooth as possible. Mac and Linux users might also want to take note as they tend to be the ones being asked for help all the time :P
- Install the latest hardware drivers
If you’ve formatted your PC, be sure to install any audio/graphics/chipset drivers that came with it. Otherwise you might be missing out on potential system performance.
- Remove unnecessary software
Windows may install obsolete software such as MSN Explorer and Windows Messenger. You can remove them from the Windows Component dialog of Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.
- Run Windows Update
Microsoft continually releases hundreds of patches and security fixes for their buggy OS so be sure to update your system at least once every week.
- Use Firefox
There are far too many vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer so save yourself the headache and get a modern browser.
- Turn on Windows firewall
If you leave the PC connected to the internet for long hours, it’s recommended that you enable a firewall to avoid malicious web traffic. For advanced features, go for a third-party application.
- Install antivirus software
While Norton and McAfee are fine, I think they use up a tremendous amount of system resources. You can get yourself free antivirus software like ClamAV, Avast and AVG Free.
- Disable startup items
This is especially important for laptops when running on batteries. Prevent wasting memory and power on programs that can be manually run later, by emptying out the Startup folder in the Start Menu. As for other programs that appear on the system tray, you’ll need to dig into their preferences to remove them.
- Turn off unnecessary visual effects
On older hardware, you can improve Window’s responsiveness by changing the visual settings to Classic.
- Install anti-spyware tools
The majority of antivirus applications have already added spyware detection but you might want to use specialized software such as Ad-Aware and Spybot for added security.
If you’ve been noticing any slow-downs when opening files, consider defragmenting your hard drive. This will relocate the most commonly used files to a place where they can be accessed faster.