Regular Oil Changes for Your PC?

By Delfino, Erik | Online, March-April 1998 | Go to article overview

Regular Oil Changes for Your PC?


Delfino, Erik, Online


Well, no, but ... I've noticed lately that no one talks about computer maintenance anymore. One reason, I'm sure, is that we've been conditioned for years now to consider PCs as disposable products. Newer, faster machines appear so quickly that conventional "wisdom" says you'll need to replace your PC every two or three years. Attitudes toward PCs are similar to those about cars--people aren't keeping them as long as they used to; they "trade" them in for the latest model more frequently. Since everybody is strapped for time and resources, why bother to put any effort into maintaining something that won't be around that long?

Well, even a leased car needs some regular maintenance: an oil change every three thousand miles at the very least. The same is true of computers. Recently I've been just as guilty as the next person of neglecting this issue, both in my job and in these pages. So this month I'd like to correct that. Here are some tips and suggestions for keeping your system in top working order.

MAINTENANCE: POLICIES AND POLITICS

If you have more than one or two computers in your organization it is a good idea to develop a maintenance policy. This can be a simple statement as to what kind of maintenance needs to be done, how often, and who is responsible for doing it.

As with a data backup policy, explaining such a statement to staff can serve to focus attention on the issue of computer care. Of course, such policies can be difficult to implement, especially if your organization does not have a separate computer support staff. Performing maintenance takes time, and management must be committed to giving staff the time needed to do it properly.

One may need to be creative in order to get everybody to participate. An annual spring cleaning "event," for instance, where everyone stops at the same time and sets aside a few hours to tidy their office and attend to their PC, can be a fairly painless way to get maintenance done, as well as to provide a change of pace for the staff. The time spent is an investment, and the payoff in the long run is less downtime, fewer repair calls, and lower repair bills.

SAFETY FIRST!

When embarking on a maintenance project, it is important to remember a few safety rules to avoid personal injury.

* Before doing any kind of cleaning or maintenance, make sure the computer is turned off and unplugged from the wall outlet. The only exception to this important rule is when you are cleaning the heads of tape and floppy disk drives, which requires you to have the computer running. Read and follow instructions carefully.

* Never use a liquid cleaner on a computer that is turned on; you can get a very nasty shock.

* Do not let cleaning liquids drip inside the PC or monitor case.

* Do not open the casing of the PC system unit. Although dust collects inside the PC system unit, the process of cleaning between boards, chips, and other components should be done only by experienced personnel; casual PC users should not open unit casings.

* Never open the casing on a PC monitor, or the PC power supply, for any reason. These are high voltage units and should be serviced only by properly trained repair technicians.

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

Whether they are serving us by day, or sitting idle at night, computers can be adversely affected by their environment. Dust, smoke, heat, humidity, static electricity, even stray magnetism--they all take their toll. The moving parts of a PC (keyboard, mouse, disk drives) are especially prone to the wear and tear of everyday use. Preventive maintenance can mitigate these problems. Here are some of the environmental problems that maintenance helps to control, with some suggestions on how to care for PCs.

Power Protection

One of the first steps toward safeguarding your PC from its environment is simple and "passive": Use a surge protector. …

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