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Real Computer Maintenance

We have all read hundreds of articles on how to make our computers run faster, how to tweak the operating system, or how to secure them. The one thing you don’t see many of are articles on simply keeping your computer stored and cleaned properly.

We all seem to know how to clean our homes, and we can recognize the dust layer on the table or dust bunnies under the couch. Well you must understand that if you have to clean your house once a week to keep the dust and dust bunnies out then you must do the same for your computer. Your computer is even more at risk down there….in that little computer desk cubby hole….underneath everything!

The easiest way to make sure your computer collects as little dust as possible is to insure it is in a well ventilated area. Air circulation as well keeps your computer from over heating. Even with ventilation any computer will require cleaning internally. Over heating can cause a computer to lock up unexpectedly, shutdown intermittently and even cause slow performance.

Cleaning your computer is not as complicated as most people might fear. All computers have an access panel. Some OEM manufacturers hide them as well as they can to prevent users from accessing internal components, but don’t worry…..it is there.

All you will need is a can of compressed air (Which you can pick up at your local computer store) and ten minutes of your time. Please remember to unplug your computer when doing this, because if for any reason you dropped a screw or anything metallic on the system board while it was plugged in or turned on it could be catastrophic.

There are a couple of areas you will really want to focus on. Not that you should ignore the rest of the computer.

The CPU heat sink and fan– Very important to clean as this component keeps your CPU cooled.

Fans– Any system fans should be blown out as they draw in cold air or push out warm air.

The power supply– The power supply may or may not contain a fan internally that needs to be cleaned, but it should still be blown out regardless.

A good overall spraying of the system board and any other hardware is a good idea as well.

Now that your computer is cleaned (And it cost you all of what? three or four dollars for the can of air.) you will have the peace of mind that it wont over heat.

So how often should you do this? Well that depends on many things that I cannot address here, but in general take a look at your computer at least every 30 to 45 days to see if it might need your attention.

 

PC VS Mac

According to some recent benchmarks the Mac hardware out performs PC based systems when running Windows. Consider they use almost identical hardware it makes you wonder why this is.

Well for starters the Mac does not have the x86 memory limitations. In a Mac when you have 2gigs of memory that is exactly what it sees; whereas a PC has the 640k limit in which it must break up the 2gigs worth of memory. Thats not to say Mac’s dont have their issues with memory.

The main benefit I believe comes from a standard hardware set. If you have a set type of hardware then you can test that hardware for a more efficient design of the overall computer. Unfortunately with the typical PC based OEM system hardware is not picked by best performance, but rather the lowest bidder. This is where you can run into trouble. I know I have experienced issues with PC based systems having compatibility issues between hardware devices.

PC based systems might reap the benefits of atleast somewhat standardizing the equipment (atleast between models), and before you say it; yes I understand the impact it would have on the hardware industry, but maybe performance is atleast one cause for the increase in market share that Apple is enjoying.

Windows xp sp3

Although xp has been proven to be one of the better operating systems written by Microsoft there of course are updates and changes which still need to be addressed.

Some of the changes included in xp sp3 have been implemented in there own individual update packages previously, but are now included in the encompassing sp3 pack. This will provide a one time update solution for those who are like me on many of Microsofts’ patches.. a little weary.

I most curious to test the latest service pack to see how performance compares with Vista sp1; which at least with xpsp2 the xp operating system has proven to out perform Vista.

The service pack has been released on TechNet and made available in an admin pack, but has yet to be released on the Windows Update site.

Of course many of you know my feelings on jumping out there and immediately grabbing the latest updates. This isn’t to say I will not grab it for testing. I’m just always the cautious one when implementing in a production environment. This does include you individual users……at least those who consider their data valuable.

Considering this I have as well fallen into a comfort zone when it comes to the xp operating system and my confidence in it, even still I will muster the strength to be patient.

Of course right now the big buzz is being generated by all the sites guessing when the service pack will be made available to the update service. I will not even venture to even guess. Besides I am more interested in the buzz it will create after the release. Yes that was me chuckling in the background!

Windows Vista Sp1 Released

You may or may not have read my previous article over Vista sp1, but as a quick refresher I will outline a few entries.

The below portion is pulled from my previous post on the Sp1 subject. I just wanted to keep this information fresh in your mind if you are thinking of downloading Sp1 before other people have had a chance to feel the pinch (Beta testing). 

The word on the street (and in other articles) is the fact that Windows xp is faster at more operations than Vista sp1. According to Principled Technologies Inc. (Whom performed the testing at the request of Microsoft) Windows xp is faster than Vista sp1 at 61% of the operations grouped in a consumer test suite and in 46% of the operations in the business-oriented in a head-to-head competition on duplicate computers.

Aside from the performance factors another issue to consider is Microsofts’ service pack track record. Once again any admins will understand where I am coming from. It is not often Microsoft puts an extensive service pack out that doesn’t cuase issues with compatability.

Let it ride for a while! What I mean is you should allow others to install it first: then watch the forums for issues that have been discovered by other people after implementing Sp1. I can gurantee you feel a whole lot better knowing you weren’t effected. I’m not saying that you should never install Sp1, I am just saying you should wait a while. As with many service packs and patches provided by Microsoft they are there to plug holes that intruders may use to gain access to your computer.

If I could I would wait, unfortunately I have to endure the pain to find out if there are any compatability issues that need to be reported to clients. Thank goodness for my test bed of computers.

Windows Vista Update SP1

According to the buzz Windows Vista sp1 is soon to be released. This may be a blessing or a curse only time will tell.

I am a little apprehensive to say the least. I know what your thinking “Oh come on can it really be that bad?”. Well that really depends on Microsoft does it not? I’m sure we have all had our experiences whether good or bad with service packs. If you are an IT admin you know exactly where I am coming from.

Maybe just maybe Microsft has learned from past experience with the release of service packs how simple mistakes can effect users and they wont leave anything to chance.

The word on the street (and in other articles) is the fact that Windows xp is faster at more operations than Vista sp1. According to Principled Technologies Inc. (Whom performed the testing at the request of Microsoft) Windows xp is faster than Vista sp1 at 61% of the operations grouped in a consumer test suite and in 46% of the operations in the business-oriented in a head-to-head competition on duplicate computers.

These facts do not deliver much hope for improved performance for Vista when it comes to the sp1 update. The best bet will be to let everyone else test it first. Once most of the issues have been resolved….Well then it will be my turn.