Many PC users do not think about maintenance as long as their system is running as intended. The issue here is that they might be able to resolve future issues, or mitigate them at least, if they would run a set of tools regularly on their PC. The following guide looks at some of the recommended programs – my recommendations – that should be run regularly on a PC. Not all are maintenance related though, you also find security and privacy programs in the list for instance.
Windows PCs these days are better protected than they were ten years ago. Microsoft is for instance shipping additional security software with newer versions of the operating system, and providing free downloads of tools such as Microsoft Security Essentials. Most users run at least an antivirus software on their system, others may have added firewalls, anti-spyware tools or sandboxing programs to that list. That’s a solid setup, provided that the programs get updated regularly.
But even if your PC is Fort Knox, I’d suggest to run additional on-demand software to make sure the system has not been compromised.
Kaspersky TDSSKiller – Detects rootkits that other security software may have missed. Can disinfect a system when rootkits have been discovered in the scan.HiJackThis – Recently turned into an Open Source application. The program, that checks various system locations for adware and manipulation.Dr.Web CureIt! – A free on-demand scanner that can check your system directly and without installation.CurrPorts – Scans your system for open ports. Display process names that are responsible for the open ports. Ideal for closing down ports that do not need to be open.Process Explorer – Use the program to verify the processes that are running on your system. This way you may catch malicious or unwanted processes.Update Checker – Checks the system for software that needs updating. Alternative: PSIEaseUS Todo Backup – Backups are important, as they may be your only way to access your data if your system crashes, or your PC gets stolen or destroyed. Alternatives: Cobian Backup, Free Backup Software List
Privacy is all about making sure that you do not leak information or data out in the open. On PCs, this usually comes back to removing temporary or deleted files.
CCleaner – It seems everyone knows the program. I suggest you install CCleaner Enhancer on your system to make it even more effective. It can delete your browsing history, cookies, information about files you have run or your web searches. Alternative: BleachbitEraser – This program overwrites the free space on your system so that deleted files and data cannot be recovered anymore with file recovery software. Keep in mind that this only works on platter-based hard drives, and not the newer Solid State Drives.
Maintenance ensures that your system runs as smoothly as it did on the first day of operation. Even if you are a light user, operations eventually will take their toll on your system.
Autoruns – Applications that are started automatically when the system boots, can slow down the PC. While it makes sense to keep some, the antivirus program for instance, you might not need the Office or Adobe Reader Quickstarter to be started with the PC, especially so if you are not using the programs regularly (or if you do not mind waiting a few seconds on first program start).Defraggler – Fragmentation basically happens when a file needs to be saved in different locations on the hard drive. This may slow down the time it takes to open it on the system. A tool like Defraggler defragments the hard drive to correct the situation. This is only necessary for platter-based hard drives and not for Solid State Drives. Alternative: MyDefragRevo Uninstaller Free – If you need to uninstall software, you should use a program like Revo Uninstaller and not the default Windows applet to do so. Revo scans the system for leftovers after the default uninstaller to make sure that all traces of the program have been removed from the hard drive and system registry.
Some hardware related issues can be detected before it is to late. This includes hard drives that will likely stop working in the near future, or overheating issues of the built-in video card.
Speedfan – Displays hard drive temperatures and S.M.A.R.T. values among other things. Can be used to make sure that the system temperature is in acceptable levels, and that hard drives are not likely to die in the near future. Alternatives: Core Temp for processor temperature readings, Real Temp, CPU ID
It is not really necessary to run all the tools all the time. Others can be scheduled to run them completely on the system without user interaction.
Do you think an essential tool is missing? Post your favorite tools in the comments.