Routine is a dangerous way to maintain your tech

Posted: May 20, 2011 in backup, computers, hardware, Mac OSX, software, technology, Windows
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Routine, noun, 1. A prescribed, detailed course of action to be followed regularly; a standard procedure.  2.habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.

Basically, doing something the same way each time until it becomes second nature.  Routine is putting my iPhone, keys and wallet always in the same place so I don’t have to think about where they are the next time they are needed.  That may be fine for some things, but its also the same reason people get into car accidents or get hurt in other ways because they are not paying attention.   Routine and complacency can contribute to many mistakes and accidents.

So why then would you want to get into a routine when it comes to maintaining your tech?

We all do it.  We get into the habit of relying on certain things to protect us or do things for us without ever giving it a second thought afterwards.  When it comes to computers, one way to mix things up a little is to use an online virus scanner, just as an additional check of your current antivirus protection.   One I like to use is Panda Security’s ActiveScan.   Its free which is important since you may or may not already be paying for your current AV protection. (check it out here) The free version may not get rid of your viruses if it finds any, but at least it will alert you to a problem that you can then rectify using other software.

Another thing to do is to verify your backups. Its great that you are doing backups (you are aren’t you?) but have you ever stopped to check if they are actually working? The easy way is to restore a few random files. That won’t prove everything is backed up, but odds are a few randoms restores should at least prove some of your info is backed up correctly. Especially if you change the files you restore when you check each month, which is the frequency I would recommend performing this check.

While on that subject, have you ever stopped to check your SMART status of your backup drive? (SMART stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) If it is an internal drive, it is easy enough to check its status, but if it is external aka a USB or Firewire drive, then it gets a bit trickier.   The reason for this is that the info may not pass correctly thru the drive adapter or cable.  Getting back to the internal drive.   With Mac I use a free program called SmartReporter that just runs all the time and checks the SMART status, reporting in a graphical manner if there is a problem, and will even email me if a problem arises.

SMART Status on Win7 PC - it is buried in their pretty deep

In Win7 you can see it yourself by opening the Computer Management utility and browsing down thru to System Tools/Performance/Reports/System/System Diagnostics and you will see your PC and probably more info about it than you ever wanted to know. But in that big long list is Basic System Checks which has Disk Checks inside it. (refer to the screensnip) Finally – there is the info about your drive. It passed so all is good.

You can and should check the integrity of your drives once in a while too.  In your Windows PC you will see the info in Computer Management, under Storage/Disk Management, you can right-click on the drive in question and in the Properties under the tools header is Error-Checking.  This can’t be done while the disk is being used, but you can click start and schedule it for the next time you restart if you are trying to check your primary partition, otherwise it will just run in the background and report any problems.

On a Mac open up Disk Utility and run Verify Disk on the drive in question. (You can also see the SMART status of any internal drives here too)

Another application that should be used more

Don’t forget to keep on top of updates too.  Not only are they there to address bugs, but more often security holes, and sometimes they even help to speed up your computer. Speed is a good thing.  I’ve yet to hear someone say that their computer was too fast, could it be slowed down?

One last little piece of “housekeeping“. Dust.  Its a bad thing but it happens to everyone.  Any time you have air movement you will have dust, (unless you are working in a clean room that is) and inside your computer are fans to help keep it cool, but they also bring in lots of dust with the air they push thru your system.  This dust collects on every surface inside your computer, not just the fans and intakes but also the components.  Shutting off the computer, disconnecting from power and opening the case and carefully using canned compressed air to blow all the crap out is a good way to help with this.  It may not be for the average user or the feint of heart, especially if it is your laptop you are trying to open and clean, so you can always take your PC in to your neighbourhood PC repair shop and ask them to do it for you.  Heat is a bad thing when it comes to electronics, and dust creates an insulating layer that keeps the heat in instead of letting it dissipate the way it was intended, so yearly cleaning is a good idea.

Many people don’t want to think about maintenance of their computers, and thats fine, but remember there are a lot of moving parts inside those boxes that you are relying on each and every day.  You wouldn’t just drive your car into the ground without ever doing periodic maintenance would you?

Drives fail. Files get lost or overwritten. Basically, bad things happen, but with a little forethought and preparation you can minimize the problems and maybe not spend all your time and effort trying to fix the issues when they eventually occur.

The old adage of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure definitely applies to technology.



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