Computer Maintenance

Computer maintenance: a reader asks…

I have a Windows 10 computer (Dell desktop PC) at home that works reasonably well, so I’m going to keep it until such time as Microsoft stops supporting that operating system version. What do I need to do to keep the computer maintained?

Since Microsoft is planning on supporting Windows 10 until October 2025, you have a few years of routine maintenance ahead of you. Please note this is no different advice than for anyone using a computer. All computers and operating systems require routine maintenance, but the list below is customized for your particular situation. And I will say up-front that keeping your computer up-to-date is the easiest and best way to keep it running well for its full service life, and is fundamental to good computer security practices.

First, if you don’t already have automatic updates turned on, you should do so. Start > Settings > Update & Security > scroll down and click Advanced Options. Make sure that the first item is selected (the slider is set to On), as well as Update Notifications. If the Update & Security page shows that Updates are paused, click the Resume Updates button.

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I like to schedule a day late in each month to perform maintenance on my computer, and set aside an hour or so to do this. Most often it will take less time, but sometimes it will take longer. I do not try to rush this, as sometimes Windows can take a long time to complete major updates and isn’t the best at keeping you notified of actual progress.

At least once a week, you’ll want to restart your computer. Nowadays most computers are left running 24/7, and you need only shut down the computer when you’ll be away for an extended period, such as leaving for vacation. Restarting your computer is also the first step to resolving any computer problems you might encounter.

At least once a month, you should open Windows Update, check for updates and apply any that appear. Most of the required updates will install automaticallly, but there may be optional updates you’ll want to install. If you see the “You’re up to date” and there’s no updates below that with a Download & Install button, you’re done.

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If you have 3rd party software installed, you should check those apps for updates once a month as well. In this day and age, outdated software is a huge security risk, as hackers and scammers are constantly finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in software and operating systems – this is why there’s a steady stream of updates issued by the developers of said software and operating systems.

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Perhaps once every six months or so, or anytime your computer is not operating normally, you’ll want to do a disk check to find and repair any errors, and a check to make sure that the Windows operating system files haven’t become corrupted. My article Windows 10 Using DISM lays out this procedure, which is pretty straightforward.

Also about every six months or so, you should check with the computer manufacturer for updates to the “firmware”, BIOS or other updates to the computer system. Dell makes this easy for you to use either the Dell Update or Dell Support Assist applications (one or both of which should be installed on your system).

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Depending on whether your home has pets or not, you may want to clean out the PC from dust and such at least once a year (more often if you have pets). Shut down your desktop PC, unplug all the plugs, take it outside, and use a can of compressed air to blow dust out of the inside. If you’re not comfortable removing and replacing the side cover, you can just blow air in any openings front and back.

It’s also a good idea to take a microfiber cloth to clean your screen at least once a year or so, more often if you notice it getting lots of spots. Same for the keyboard and mouse. It’s ok to slightly dampen the microfiber cloth with water, but don’t use any cleaner solutions at all.

That’s about it, if anything goes seriously wrong with your computer between now and October 2025, you can assess whether it’s worth it to try to have it fixed, or just replace the computer with a new one (running Windows 11). Computer repairs can be cheap or expensive and it can be impossible for you to know which in advance. My rule of thumb is that a new computer for the most part will cost you less than $1,000 (or $500 if your needs are modest), and repairing your older computer shouldn’t cost more than a quarter of that. More than that and you might as well just buy a new computer.


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