Computers Need Caregiving Too

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Tantrums! They aren’t just for two year olds, that’s for sure. Eleven year olds can throw them. Teenagers can throw them. Grownups can throw them. Even computers can throw them! What’s a Sandwich Generation-er to do? Well, I’m afraid I’m still learning on the people tantrums, but I do have a few suggestions for the computer version.

Wondering why I bring this up? Because I am sitting between two computers who are both throwing tantrums at the same time. I’m not sure if a new update did it or a new software product (I’ve been experimenting with several things over the last couple of weeks.) I suspect it is just pure coincidence since the symptoms are quite different for each. But as I type on this computer while waiting on my iTunes backup on my older computer, I’m reflecting on some steps I did take and other steps I SHOULD have taken to hopefully avoid this.

When you add new software, you should always turn off any antivirus protection software you have running. I must confess, I’m really bad about that and usually I get away with it. I’m thinking that this time it is a possible cause for at least one of my problems.

Stay on top of regular good maintenance. You should defragment your software on a regular basis, regularly clean up temporary files, and keep your desktop free of too many icons (I really blow it there. I work best when I can see all my files on my desk, and that is true on my computer desktop too!). Make sure you have a good antivirus protection software or a complete firewall program and keep it updated. Use spyware software regularly as well. I use Norton for PCs AND for Macs.  My computer still throws its tantrums as it is doing today, but Praise God, I have never had a virus succeed at getting in my computer.

Regularly degunk your computer . One of my favorite computer books is called Degunking Windows, by Joli Ballew and Jeff Duntemann. I’ve used it many times, both for regular maintenance and for trying to troubleshoot a computer throwing a tantrum. It goes into great detail helping you clean, weed, and degunk your Windows computer in order to tame it into submission. The copyright on this book is 2005 but since it only covers computers up through XP that hasn’t been a problem for me. From the research I’ve done, Vista is supposed to have been built to fix all these regular maintenance issues on its own. How well it’s really doing at that I’m not so sure. I have one XP and one Vista and I’ll take my XP any day. Then again, it’s the one that’s really acting up so…

Reading the chapters in Degunking Windows gives you a good idea of where you’ll be going as you work through this book . Getting rid of files that shouldn’t be there, uninstalling programs you don’t need and tweaking those you do, organizing your remaining files and folders, tweaking your desktop and start menu, preventing spam gunk, cleaning up email gunk, cleaning and tweaking the registry (I personally leave that up to Norton SystemWorks), optimizing your hard drive and startup system, and  installing upgrades for your system. These are all things we should be doing at least a couple of times a year, more if you use the computer as much as I do. But in between elderly caregiving, grandchild caregiving, and life in general, it’s not that easy or feasible. This book helps me to know what to do and how to do it. It even has a great section at the very beginning showing what to do if you only have 10 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, three hours, or half a day. It follows that with 20 ways to degunk your computer in your spare moments. Hmmm, I wonder if the writers are caregivers. It sure sounds like it is made to order for us!

By the way, in researching for this posting, I discovered Joli Ballew has also written the book, Degunking Your Mac, for all you Macintosh owners. I’ll have to grab one of those for my Mac loved ones since I help them with their computers as well.

Practice safe computing. Be cautious when opening email. I never open attachments unless I know who sent them and even them I often won’t. They could have been infected without realizing it. I almost never open any attachment in a forwarded joke or fun email.

Backup, backup, backup! I have seen grown men cry when their hard drives failed and they lost vital information. I didn’t cry but I was sure mad at myself last year when my hard drive crashed and my last good backup was about ten months old! You can lose a lot of valuable things when you lose ten months worth of documents, emails, etc. I would suggest a minimum of monthly backups, and if you are in business, weekly or even daily backups are essential. Whether you do a computer backup to an external hard drive or online backups, just make sure you back up. It’s best to keep a copy on hand and another copy at another location in case of fire, theft, etc. That’s something I need to work on but I do email myself anything really vital. I send one copy to my second computer and one copy to my online email account where it sits in limbo until and unless I need it.

Nuke that baby! Even when you are really careful and do most of the right things, computers can get slower and slower with time and age. Sometimes, the easiest solution is to just do a complete reinstall of everything and take it back to the way it was when it was fresh from the store. REMEMBER, BE VERY CAREFUL THAT YOU HAVE MADE A COMPLETE COMPUTER BACKUP OF ALL DOCUMENTS! This will wipe out EVERYTHING! Also, be prepared to spend hours rebuilding your computer. Make sure if you do rebuild it that you not add back any software you haven’t been using. That will safe you space on your machine.

Well, hopefully you will learn from my mistakes and not have any problems with your computer. In the meantime, I’m going to go do some heavy nuking! Have a great and computer-woe-free week! 

P.S. As you can probably tell, this article was written many years AND many computer versions ago. The links to Norton are current and it’s still my fave product, along with the basic tips. But some of the books are no longer applicable for newer machines. HOWEVER I know many friends and loved ones with older pcs so I’m leaving that info here just for them and you, if that matches your needs as well.

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