How to Maintain a Windows Computer

Introduction

Computers have become easier and easier to use, with many common maintenance tasks being taken care of for you, thanks to modern software. But, there are a few things that relate more to personal preference you can review to make sure everything stays in tip-top shape.
Tools You'll Need:
  • Lint-Free Cleaning Cloths
  • External Hard Drive (for Backups)
Windows 10 System Maintenance

System Maintenance Overview

Computer maintenance on modern computers with the latest version of Windows is much easier and automated compared to older versions. No special software or tools are necessary, and involve more checking and changing settings, rather than starting and waiting for maintenance tasks and programs to complete.

This guide will take you through the settings you need to be aware of, ensuring common ares of computer use are tidy, updates are applied and working in the background properly, and safe ways to physically clean your computer.

1 Why Backups are Recommended

Data Backups

It is always wise to backup your computer's data. Data backups should be performed regularly. Even beyond the scope of malware or for the sake of security, it is always prudent to have frequent backups because hard drives can fail, systems can crash, things can break, "life can happen," so you're always better off safe than sorry.

Data backups, just like any type of backup, are a matter of redundancy. One backup solution is good, two or more is better.

Offsite backups (such as online data backup services) are always a good idea, especially as a secondary backup. That way, in the unfortunate event that a fire, flood, or theft happens, you have a copy of your data in a remote, offsite location to fall back on.

It is always prudent to set your backups to use a versioning scheme. When it comes to backing up data, versioning is like a saved history of your files. Versioning allows your backup service to record multiple copies (or versions) of your files in its system (how many depends on the service). You can use file versioning to go back and retrieve the version you need. That way if files are corrupted, infected, or locked, you don't have to worry about having only one backup which may be the bad version.

If you are using a local backup such as an external hard drive or flash drive, it is always a good idea to disconnect the drive when it is not in use. This is a safety precaution, as some forms of malware can encrypt or corrupt all of the data on any connected drive, so a drive that is no longer physically connected cannot be affected.

Windows Backups
We have a special guide dedicated to data backups.

2 Tidy Windows Desktop

Windows tends to slow down with more icons on the desktop, because it has to check and redraw them constantly. Also, the Desktop tends to turn into a 'default dumping ground' for many applications.

Having a clean, orderly Desktop with just the applications you use most frequently, and a few important files can lead to better performance overall for your computer.

Move Files to Appropriate Folders

Windows has built-in folders to help you organize your documents, pictures, music and videos. You can also create folders inside folders to help better organize projects and collections.

  1. Open Windows Explorer. The icon is usually on the task bar at the bottom of your screen.
    Windows Explorer.
  2. Select This PC on the left.
    Explorer with This PC highlighted.
  3. You'll see a series of folders on the right for your most common types of files.
    Explorer showing This PC with folders highlighted.
  4. To move a file to a folder, click on the file, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the folder you'd like it in, then release the mouse button.
    Dragging a file from desktop to a folder.
  5. To view files in that folder in the future, double-click that folder.
    Documents showing file.

Delete Unneeded Files

If you no longer need a file or shortcut you can delete it using one of three methods, depending on which you are most comfortable with.

Deleting With The Mouse

  1. Click on the file or folder, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the Recycle Bin on the desktop, then release the mouse button.
    Dragging a file to the Recycle Bin.

Deleting With The Keyboard

  1. Highlight the file you want to delete by clicking on it one time.
    Highlighted document.
  2. Press the Delete key on your keyboard.
    Keyboard with Delete key highlighted.

Deleting With A Right Click

  1. Using your Right mouse button, Right Click on a file. A context menu will open.
    Highlighted document.
  2. Select Delete.
    Right-click file menu with Delete highlighted.

3 Tidy Downloads Folder

One folder that routinely fills with files you may not use anymore is the Downloads folder. It's a good idea to check the Downloads folder, delete items you no longer need, and move files you wish to keep to other locations.

  1. Open Windows Explorer, and select Downloads under This PC.
    Windows Explorer
    Windows Explorer with Downloads highlighted.
  2. This folder contains items you have downloaded using your browser and other programs. Look through each item, and decide to delete, move, or leave files in here.

4 Uninstall Unneeded Programs

You may need to remove an app because you need the space or simply don't need it anymore. The following steps show you how to easily remove an app.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Apps.
    Apps Settings
  3. Select Apps & features on the left.
    Apps Settings with Apps and features highlighted.
  4. Select an app you want to uninstall, then select Uninstall.
    Apps and features with app and Uninstall highlighted.
    Carefully read any prompts in case there are special instructions. Proceed until the application is removed.
    Some applications may require that you reboot.

5 Check for Windows Updates

Windows 10 is configured to automatically check for updates regularly for your computer.

If you are using a laptop, make sure you plug it in to charge while updates run.
  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Update & Security.
    Updates and Security Settings
  3. Click Check for updates on the right.
    Check for updates
  4. Once the system has finished checking for updates, it will automatically download and install the latest applicable updates.
    Available Updates
  5. Some Windows Updates can't be made with the system running. Instead, Windows will ask to reboot to complete these updates. If prompted simply select Restart Now to complete the update process.
    Restart Now

6 Disable Unneeded Startup Programs

Disabling Start Ups can be a daunting process. You need to know what these items do before you take that dive into your Task Manager and start clicking things off. But if you do know what the items do and that you don't need them, disabling them can help boost performance or may even fix some issues.

  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Startup tab at the top.
    Task Manager with Startup tab highlighted.
  5. Look carefully through this list. If you see an item you do not want to startup whenever you turn on your computer, highlight it, and choose Disable at the bottom.
    Task Manager Startup with application and Disable button highlighted.

7 Recover Files From Recycle Bin

When a file is deleted from your computer, it first goes to the Recycle Bin. If left long enough, it will eventually be removed permanently from your computer, but this provides an excellent buffer for simple mistakes.

  1. Select the Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop, Windows Explorer will show you the items inside.
    Full Recycle Bin
    Windows Explorer showing Recycle Bin contents.
  2. If you see the file you want in the Recycle Bin, it's best to put it back where it belongs.
    1. Using your right mouse button, right click the file for the menu to open. Select Restore.
      Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
      Recycle Bin Contents with context menu open for file with Restore highlighted.
    2. The file will be put back where it came from. You can open it from that location by double-clicking on the file.
      Windows Explorer showing file restored.

8 Empty Recycle Bin

Once a file is deleted from the Recycle Bin, it is gone forever. Be sure to check the files in the Recycle Bin before proceeding.
  1. Using your right mouse button, Right Click on the Recycle Bin on your Desktop. A special menu will open.
    Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
    Recycle Bin.
  2. Select Empty Recycle Bin.
    Recycle Bin menu with Empty Recycle Bin highlighted.
  3. You will be asked to confirm you wish to empty the Recycle Bin. If you are sure you do not want the files any longer, select Yes.
    Empty Recycle Bin conformation with Yes highlighted.
  4. Your Recycle Bin will appear empty when there's nothing in it.
    Empty Recycle Bin.

9 Disk Cleanup

Windows needs about 2 GB free space, at minimum, to function. In order to properly update and perform other functions, around 5 GB free space is recommended.

A simple way to help free up space is to remove temporary files; files that were useful during an update or other working of the computer, but now simply take up space.

This will guide you through safely clearing those temporary files.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select System.
    System Settings
  3. Select Storage on the left, then select Temporary files on the right.
    System Settings with Storage and Temporary files highlighted.
  4. Place a checkmark next to each item, then select Remove files.
    Temporary files settings with each item checked and remove files highlighted.

10 Restart Your PC

Before you restart or shut down your PC, make sure to save all necessary work to prevent data loss.
  1. Select the Start menu, then select Power.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Power Button
  2. Select Restart.
    Windows 10 Power menu with Restart highlighted.

11 Basic Computer Cleaning

Keeping your computer equipment clean is an important aspect of ensuring continued, excellent operation. But, because there are many delicate electric components, it's best to keep in mind a few simple dos and don'ts so your machine doesn't get damaged.

Before performing any physical cleaning, make sure your computer is turned off, so a key is not accidently pressed or something else goes wrong!
Cleaning The Keyboard and Mouse
Keyboard and MouseIt's common for dust and debris to build up under the keys of your keyboard, as well as slightly sticky fingers to leave residue behind that can attract more. Over time, this build up can cause your keyboard to stop functioning.
Cleaning the Monitor
Computer MonitorYour monitor or display is how you see what's going on with your computer. Because of this, it tends to gather dirt and grime quite frequently from fingers and sneezes.

In most cases, your monitor is not covered by glass, but by a layer of special plastic. Using normal window cleaner on this surface can cause damage and yellowing over time.
Computer Tower
Computer CaseYour computer tower should be cleaned occasionally, because dust inside can cause the components to trap heat, and end up dying early.

If you do not feel comfortable opening your computer case, making sure the outside is dust-free, making sure nothing is blocking the fans, and using compressed air to carefully blow dust from those fans is sufficient.
Printers, Scanners, and Other Devices
PrinterBecause they aren't used as much, printers tend to become covered in dust.

A simple microfiber cloth with nothing on it tends to be enough to keep these clean, though making sure the paper isn't old or warped makes your life easier in the long run when you do need your printer.

For most peripherals, it's best to stick to the following items when cleaning:

Compressed Air
Compressed Air DusterIn most cases, a compressed air duster will help dislodge most debris and be all you need.
Lint-Free Cloth
Microfiber ClothsA microfiber or other lint-free cloth, commonly used for jewelry or glasses cleaning, can help for stubborn dust or smudges on your devices.
Cleaning Liquids
Computer Cleaning SolventsIn most cases, it's best to keep liquid as far away from your computer as possible, this includes when cleaning. But, for stubborn build-up, simple solvents can be used.
  • Never pour liquid on any part of your computer at any time.
  • Never spray liquid on any part of your computer at any time.
  • Use a lint-free cloth and lightly dampen a corner to do any major cleaning.
    • A mix of half white vinegar and half distilled water is exceptionally inexpensive and effective.
    • Another option is isopropyl alcohol.

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Computers have become easier and easier to use, with many common maintenance tasks being taken care of for you, thanks to modern software. But, there are a few things that relate more to personal preference you can review to make sure everything stays in tip-top shape.
Tools You'll Need:
  • Lint-Free Cleaning Cloths
  • External Hard Drive (for Backups)
Windows 10 System Maintenance

System Maintenance Overview

Computer maintenance on modern computers with the latest version of Windows is much easier and automated compared to older versions. No special software or tools are necessary, and involve more checking and changing settings, rather than starting and waiting for maintenance tasks and programs to complete.

This guide will take you through the settings you need to be aware of, ensuring common ares of computer use are tidy, updates are applied and working in the background properly, and safe ways to physically clean your computer.

Data Backups

It is always wise to backup your computer's data. Data backups should be performed regularly. Even beyond the scope of malware or for the sake of security, it is always prudent to have frequent backups because hard drives can fail, systems can crash, things can break, "life can happen," so you're always better off safe than sorry.

Data backups, just like any type of backup, are a matter of redundancy. One backup solution is good, two or more is better.

Offsite backups (such as online data backup services) are always a good idea, especially as a secondary backup. That way, in the unfortunate event that a fire, flood, or theft happens, you have a copy of your data in a remote, offsite location to fall back on.

It is always prudent to set your backups to use a versioning scheme. When it comes to backing up data, versioning is like a saved history of your files. Versioning allows your backup service to record multiple copies (or versions) of your files in its system (how many depends on the service). You can use file versioning to go back and retrieve the version you need. That way if files are corrupted, infected, or locked, you don't have to worry about having only one backup which may be the bad version.

If you are using a local backup such as an external hard drive or flash drive, it is always a good idea to disconnect the drive when it is not in use. This is a safety precaution, as some forms of malware can encrypt or corrupt all of the data on any connected drive, so a drive that is no longer physically connected cannot be affected.

Windows Backups
We have a special guide dedicated to data backups.

Windows tends to slow down with more icons on the desktop, because it has to check and redraw them constantly. Also, the Desktop tends to turn into a 'default dumping ground' for many applications.

Having a clean, orderly Desktop with just the applications you use most frequently, and a few important files can lead to better performance overall for your computer.

Move Files to Appropriate Folders

Windows has built-in folders to help you organize your documents, pictures, music and videos. You can also create folders inside folders to help better organize projects and collections.

  1. Open Windows Explorer. The icon is usually on the task bar at the bottom of your screen.
    Windows Explorer.
  2. Select This PC on the left.
    Explorer with This PC highlighted.
  3. You'll see a series of folders on the right for your most common types of files.
    Explorer showing This PC with folders highlighted.
  4. To move a file to a folder, click on the file, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the folder you'd like it in, then release the mouse button.
    Dragging a file from desktop to a folder.
  5. To view files in that folder in the future, double-click that folder.
    Documents showing file.

Delete Unneeded Files

If you no longer need a file or shortcut you can delete it using one of three methods, depending on which you are most comfortable with.

Deleting With The Mouse

  1. Click on the file or folder, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the Recycle Bin on the desktop, then release the mouse button.
    Dragging a file to the Recycle Bin.

Deleting With The Keyboard

  1. Highlight the file you want to delete by clicking on it one time.
    Highlighted document.
  2. Press the Delete key on your keyboard.
    Keyboard with Delete key highlighted.

Deleting With A Right Click

  1. Using your Right mouse button, Right Click on a file. A context menu will open.
    Highlighted document.
  2. Select Delete.
    Right-click file menu with Delete highlighted.

One folder that routinely fills with files you may not use anymore is the Downloads folder. It's a good idea to check the Downloads folder, delete items you no longer need, and move files you wish to keep to other locations.

  1. Open Windows Explorer, and select Downloads under This PC.
    Windows Explorer
    Windows Explorer with Downloads highlighted.
  2. This folder contains items you have downloaded using your browser and other programs. Look through each item, and decide to delete, move, or leave files in here.

You may need to remove an app because you need the space or simply don't need it anymore. The following steps show you how to easily remove an app.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Apps.
    Apps Settings
  3. Select Apps & features on the left.
    Apps Settings with Apps and features highlighted.
  4. Select an app you want to uninstall, then select Uninstall.
    Apps and features with app and Uninstall highlighted.
    Carefully read any prompts in case there are special instructions. Proceed until the application is removed.
    Some applications may require that you reboot.
Windows 10 is configured to automatically check for updates regularly for your computer.

If you are using a laptop, make sure you plug it in to charge while updates run.
  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select Update & Security.
    Updates and Security Settings
  3. Click Check for updates on the right.
    Check for updates
  4. Once the system has finished checking for updates, it will automatically download and install the latest applicable updates.
    Available Updates
  5. Some Windows Updates can't be made with the system running. Instead, Windows will ask to reboot to complete these updates. If prompted simply select Restart Now to complete the update process.
    Restart Now

Disabling Start Ups can be a daunting process. You need to know what these items do before you take that dive into your Task Manager and start clicking things off. But if you do know what the items do and that you don't need them, disabling them can help boost performance or may even fix some issues.

  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Startup tab at the top.
    Task Manager with Startup tab highlighted.
  5. Look carefully through this list. If you see an item you do not want to startup whenever you turn on your computer, highlight it, and choose Disable at the bottom.
    Task Manager Startup with application and Disable button highlighted.

When a file is deleted from your computer, it first goes to the Recycle Bin. If left long enough, it will eventually be removed permanently from your computer, but this provides an excellent buffer for simple mistakes.

  1. Select the Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop, Windows Explorer will show you the items inside.
    Full Recycle Bin
    Windows Explorer showing Recycle Bin contents.
  2. If you see the file you want in the Recycle Bin, it's best to put it back where it belongs.
    1. Using your right mouse button, right click the file for the menu to open. Select Restore.
      Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
      Recycle Bin Contents with context menu open for file with Restore highlighted.
    2. The file will be put back where it came from. You can open it from that location by double-clicking on the file.
      Windows Explorer showing file restored.
Once a file is deleted from the Recycle Bin, it is gone forever. Be sure to check the files in the Recycle Bin before proceeding.
  1. Using your right mouse button, Right Click on the Recycle Bin on your Desktop. A special menu will open.
    Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
    Recycle Bin.
  2. Select Empty Recycle Bin.
    Recycle Bin menu with Empty Recycle Bin highlighted.
  3. You will be asked to confirm you wish to empty the Recycle Bin. If you are sure you do not want the files any longer, select Yes.
    Empty Recycle Bin conformation with Yes highlighted.
  4. Your Recycle Bin will appear empty when there's nothing in it.
    Empty Recycle Bin.

Windows needs about 2 GB free space, at minimum, to function. In order to properly update and perform other functions, around 5 GB free space is recommended.

A simple way to help free up space is to remove temporary files; files that were useful during an update or other working of the computer, but now simply take up space.

This will guide you through safely clearing those temporary files.

  1. Open the Start menu and select Settings.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. Select System.
    System Settings
  3. Select Storage on the left, then select Temporary files on the right.
    System Settings with Storage and Temporary files highlighted.
  4. Place a checkmark next to each item, then select Remove files.
    Temporary files settings with each item checked and remove files highlighted.
Before you restart or shut down your PC, make sure to save all necessary work to prevent data loss.
  1. Select the Start menu, then select Power.
    Windows 10 Start Menu
    Windows 10 Power Button
  2. Select Restart.
    Windows 10 Power menu with Restart highlighted.

Keeping your computer equipment clean is an important aspect of ensuring continued, excellent operation. But, because there are many delicate electric components, it's best to keep in mind a few simple dos and don'ts so your machine doesn't get damaged.

Before performing any physical cleaning, make sure your computer is turned off, so a key is not accidently pressed or something else goes wrong!
Cleaning The Keyboard and Mouse
Keyboard and MouseIt's common for dust and debris to build up under the keys of your keyboard, as well as slightly sticky fingers to leave residue behind that can attract more. Over time, this build up can cause your keyboard to stop functioning.
Cleaning the Monitor
Computer MonitorYour monitor or display is how you see what's going on with your computer. Because of this, it tends to gather dirt and grime quite frequently from fingers and sneezes.

In most cases, your monitor is not covered by glass, but by a layer of special plastic. Using normal window cleaner on this surface can cause damage and yellowing over time.
Computer Tower
Computer CaseYour computer tower should be cleaned occasionally, because dust inside can cause the components to trap heat, and end up dying early.

If you do not feel comfortable opening your computer case, making sure the outside is dust-free, making sure nothing is blocking the fans, and using compressed air to carefully blow dust from those fans is sufficient.
Printers, Scanners, and Other Devices
PrinterBecause they aren't used as much, printers tend to become covered in dust.

A simple microfiber cloth with nothing on it tends to be enough to keep these clean, though making sure the paper isn't old or warped makes your life easier in the long run when you do need your printer.

For most peripherals, it's best to stick to the following items when cleaning:

Compressed Air
Compressed Air DusterIn most cases, a compressed air duster will help dislodge most debris and be all you need.
Lint-Free Cloth
Microfiber ClothsA microfiber or other lint-free cloth, commonly used for jewelry or glasses cleaning, can help for stubborn dust or smudges on your devices.
Cleaning Liquids
Computer Cleaning SolventsIn most cases, it's best to keep liquid as far away from your computer as possible, this includes when cleaning. But, for stubborn build-up, simple solvents can be used.
  • Never pour liquid on any part of your computer at any time.
  • Never spray liquid on any part of your computer at any time.
  • Use a lint-free cloth and lightly dampen a corner to do any major cleaning.
    • A mix of half white vinegar and half distilled water is exceptionally inexpensive and effective.
    • Another option is isopropyl alcohol.
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