IT support tasks: System spring clean

You know the saying ‘look after your equipment and it will look after you?’ This is very relevant to computers. If you look after your laptop, desktop or server, it can continue serving you for much longer than if you left it alone. So this week’s IT support post is all about spring cleaning your computer to extend its operating life.

Whether you’re a home user or a business user, the more you use your computer, the more you should look after it. In this context, spring cleaning means both cleaning the physical computer and the software inside it. It will take around an hour but can have a serious impact on the longevity and usability of your machine.

In our experience, a regularly maintained computer works faster and breaks down much less often. That makes spring cleaning a tasks that returns your effort many times over the operating life of your computer.

Our IT support team regularly perform these tasks on client machines. You should try it too.

Take backups before anything

While most of the spring cleaning we do is non-intrusive, we always take a backup of a computer before we do anything with it. Whether it’s our own computers in the store or a client computer on their site, we back up everything. It is one of those IT support tasks that could save you time, money, effort and tears. In that order!

Make sure to create a Windows restore point or backed up to Time Machine on a Mac. If you can, also take file backups to the cloud outside your usual backup location.

Physical spring cleaning

You will need a clean cloth, a can of compressed air or a lot of patience do properly spring clean a computer or server. These steps obviously do not apply to laptop or tablet users.

Once you have backed up your computer, it’s time to get down and dirty. Switch off your computer at the mains but leave it plugged in. Take off the case to expose the innards. You will likely see lots of dust everywhere and we need to remove it. Take the front off the computer case to expose the intake fan. If the fan has a cover, remove it and remove the dust. Remove dust from the fan blades too. Repeat for all fans on the system.

Using the can of compressed air, blow dust off the computer internals trying to catch as much of it as possible with the cloth. Do this for the whole interior of the computer case. The more dust you can remove, the better. If you have a small vacuum, you could have that suck out the dust you blow with the air.

Pay particular attention to the CPU and GPU coolers and remove as much dust as you can.

Dust is not a good conductor of heat and the more dust you have in a computer, the warmer it operates. By removing as much dust as possible, we ensure good air flow and maximum cooling. This can seriously improve the operating life of your machine.

Once the interior of the computer is dust free, do a manual check of all cables to make sure they are in good condition and are connected firmly. Then check the cables to see if they get in the way of air flow. Typically, air is taken in from the front and expelled at the rear. Try to keep all cables tidy and out of the way of this airflow to ensure maximum possible cooling.

Put the case back together and restart the computer.

Spring cleaning the operating system

Apple Mac and Linux are both very efficient operating systems that can manage themselves pretty well. Most software spring cleaning is performed on Windows computers so the following is based on Windows 10.

  1. Right click on the Windows Taskbar and select Task Manager.
  2. Select Start-up and double click any program with startup enabled to stop them loading with Windows.
  3. Select Settings from Windows and Apps.
  4. Work your way through all listed apps, click ones you don’t need and select Uninstall.
  5. Select Update & security and Windows Update.
  6. Select Check for updates on the right and install all that are relevant to your machine.
  7. Select Devices from the Settings menu and scroll down to Device manager. Click it.
  8. Right click and select your graphics card, network card, audio card and input devices in turn. Select Update driver software, Automatic and let Windows find any new drivers.
  9. Select This PC in Windows Explorer.
  10. Right click a hard drive, select Properties and Disk Cleanup. Select any entry that takes up significant disk space and allow Windows to clean it up.
  11. Select Disk Cleanup again and select Clean up system files. Again, select any entries that take up significant storage space and clear it out.
  12. Download and install CCleaner.
  13. Select Tools then Uninstall and select any programs not listed earlier and uninstall them.
  14. Run Disk Analyzer from within the Tools menu to see if any files are taking up too much space. Delete any you don’t need.
  15. Run Cleaner from the left menu, select Analyze and Run Cleaner when complete.
  16. Select Registry from the left menu, select Scan for Issues and Fix selected issues when complete.

Finally, reboot your computer to make sure everything works properly. Then set aside a time overnight where your computer can run without being disturbed and without disturbing you.

  1. Update your antivirus to the very latest version.
  2. Run a full antivirus scan overnight to make sure nothing lurks in the operating system.
  3. Download and install Malwarebytes and run a full malware scan too.

Take care to remove anything suspicious from the results of either the antivirus scan or malware scan. Then reboot your machine back into Windows.

Many of these actions can be performed on Apple or Linux machines too but are not usually necessary. If you do run either of these, make sure you use antivirus, firewall and a malware scanner to keep them protected.

There you go. That is what our IT support guys would consider a system spring clean. We not only ensure your hardware can keep cool, we also make sure Windows is running well, all your drivers are up to date, your registry is tidy and those other tasks. Now your computer should run faster and more reliably than ever!