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Maintain your PC Wiki

This is a Wiki. Please feel free to Add, Delete or Amend entries and in fact you are encouraged to do so.

This Wiki is a basic ‘how to’ to help maintain your PC/Win Laptop and help keep it functioning well. There are a number of programs that will do similar/same operations as ones that are mentioned in here. Use them if you are more comfortable with them and perhaps add a note or entry about them here to help others.

If you are well acquainted with Macs or Linux it would be great if you could also create a Wiki for those users.

There will be a number of sections so please scroll down to find them all.

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Create an Emergency Boot Disk

These come in handy when you can’t get into your computer. They allow you to try and recover from Startup problems, they allow you to try and Reset and Restore your drives and they also allow you to run commands from a command prompt. Every version of Windows from XP onwards allows you to create them. Instructions vary for each version. For your version look up on the web the way to create them for your PC.

Using a Boot Disk you can also recover from a lost logon password if you are using Windows 7 onwards. If you have encrypted files using Bitlocker or similar that is linked to your logon password you may lose access to them.

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Backing up your PC:

This task is often overlooked but is perhaps the most important one to carry out regularly. A proper backup can save you from losing important data due to accidents or hardware failures, recover from virus and ransomware attacks, and ease transferring data to a new computer.

What do you need?

You need a good backup program.

There are many programs around and some are free to use if for personal/home use, others are paid for regardless of usage. You will hear many opinions about which is best/better but you want one that does a complete backup (full backup)/image, and also allows for incremental or differential backups and scheduling. Some names to look for are Acronis, Easeus, Paragon & Genie.

Incremental (Inc) means that after your first backup which is a full backup every backup after is what has changed from the previous one eg 1st Backup is all the data, 2nd is what has changed since the 1st one, the 3rd is what has changed since the 2nd and so on. This creates ongoing smaller backup files + the initial full backup. This form of back up uses the least amount of space and time to backup but requires the longest time to recover from. This is because you require the full backup + every Inc backup file to be processed to recover your data.

Differential (Diff) means the 1st backup is a full one like the Inc, 2nd one is what has changed since the full one (and at this point is the same as the Inc), the 3rd one is what has changed since the full backup, the 4th is what has changed since the full backup. To recover using a differential backup you only need your full backup and the last differential one. This is less time consuming to recover from than Inc but takes longer to do the backups. It also uses more space on your recovery media than Inc.

Full backups are everything on your PC/Disk and take the longest time and most space to backup but is the fastest way to recover your data from as you don’t need to read any other backup files to complete the recovery. Images are the same thing as full backups and they contain everything needed to recover your system in the event of a failure.

You can also backup just your important data such as your documents, photos, contacts, and similar but you have to remember you will need to re-install all the programs and operating system if your PC is lost or irrepairable.

Backup Media

This is what you store your backups on. These can be tapes, USB Sticks, external hard drives, DVD/CDs, network locations and the Cloud. For most home users external hard drives have become relatively inexpensive and depending on your PC storage you may be able to get several full backups or a mix of full and Inc or Diff backups on a drive.

You should keep three copies of your backups on seperate media, with one being stored offsite (Cloud, friend’s house, bank or some other secure and safe and easy to get to place). The reason for this is to ensure you always can find a copy if burgled, or a fire or something else destroys your home.

How often?

To be relatively secure you should do a full backup every day but this becomes cumbersome so try for a full backup at least once a week with Inc or Diff every other day (your choice of either). Once you have two full weeks of backups then after the third time you can delete the first week’s set. You just repeat this every third time.

Anything else?

Yes, you need to test your backups to ensure they work. The simplest test is to try and restore a file or some files from your backup. You don’t have to restore to the same location just restore for example a document to a new folder and check it is correct, if it is good then you can delete the new folder and restored document. This is not a perfect check but is reasonable. If it isn’t a good restore then you should do another backup and see if this is good, if it is then you can delete the bad one/s.

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Cleaning your Hard Drives of old junk:

Junk files do have a different meaning on the Web and mean files placed on your computer by manufacturers that are really a waste of space for many. In this section we are just talking about files that accumulate as you use your PC and there are several ways to clean them up.

Before you do a backup it is useful to clean out any old junk and temporary files from your PC. Windows has a built in tool to do this, it is called Disk Clean-up. In Windows 8/8.1 and 10 it is found in “C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Administrative Tools” (quotes added for clarity) but is easy to get to. In Win 8/8.1 or 10 click the search bar/Cortana and type in Disk and on the list of choices Disk Clean-up should appear, click that choice. If using Windows 7 or earlier it can be found by entering the Start menu then going to Accessories then to System Tools and clicking Disk Clean up in that menu.

When the program opens you will see a choice of drives in a drop down box to choose from (if you only have 1 hard drive you will only see C: drive).

When you click OK you will be taken to a new screen that has choices about what you want to try to clean.

Choose at least Recycle Bin and Temporary files from the list, you may choose any others as well if you like. Click OK after your choices and the program will clean those files out.

If using Win 10 or 8/8.1 and have upgraded there maybe hidden folders that contain the older version of that Windows. To get rid of these don’t click OK yet, first click “Clean up system files” you will again be presented with the Drive choice menu, select C: and click OK. When you get to the Options to choose from you will see some new entries among which may be Old Windows Installations and Windows Update Clean-up. If you choose these you can free up to about 15 GB of space. Please be aware that cleaning these up will make it that you cannot roll back to the previous version (if more than 30 days have passed since the upgrade this loss of rollback will not matter).

Once you have cleaned up C: you can redo the clean up task and chose other hard drives if you have them. You shouldn’t need to do the System file clean up choice.

If you don’t want to use the Windows tool you can choose from several other programs that do a similar task. One of the most popular and safer ones (if not the most popular) is CCleaner from Piriform (download link https://www.ccleaner.com/ccleaner/download/standard). It has lots of choices of what to clean and the basics should be for browsers their Internet caches and Internet Temporary files and under System to empty Temporary files, Recycle Bin. There are many other choices you can make (some will affect how your browsers respond) and if unsure ask on this site or look on the web about them. If unsure let it choose the default entries.

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Defragment and Trim:

If you have a hard drive that has rotating cyclinders/platters you will benefit from running a defragmentation on the drive every so often, particularly if you change/add/remove programs a lot or put a lot of new data on your drive. Defragmenting is when the parts of files that are spread over the drive are pulled together to make the file pieces consecutive. This helps speed up the reading of the files.

If you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) it should never be defragmented (this will decrease it’s lifespan drastically). It instead should be Trimmed (this mostly is regularly & automatically done). From Windows 7 onwards the Operating System knows about SSDs and adjusts it’s behaviour to not defragment SSDs (if in RAID you must ensure not to defragment the drives and get a special program to Trim the drive). If using Win XP or earlier and have an SSD you must ensure it is never defragmented and most SSD manufacturers provide special tools/programs to Trim these drives.

To Trim just means to mark a memory location as free to write to. Using TRIM helps the lifespan of the drive.

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Chkdsk:

This is a Windows command that can help fix disk errors. From the Microsoft Technet site comes this explanation:

"You should periodically use the Check Disk tool to check the integrity of disks. Check Disk examines disks and can correct many types of common errors on FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS drives. One of the ways Check Disk locates errors is by comparing the volume bitmap with the disk sectors assigned to files in the file system. Check Disk can’t repair corrupted data within files that appear to be structurally intact, however. You can run Check Disk from the command line or through a graphical interface.

You can run Check Disk from an elevated command prompt (Administrator) or within other tools (eg Powershell). At the elevated command prompt, you can test the integrity of drive C by typing the following command:

chkdsk C: (replace C with the drive letter of any other disk you would like to check)

Check Disk then performs an analysis of the disk and returns a status message regarding any problems it encounters.Unless you specify further options, Check Disk won’t repair problems, however.To find and repair errors on drive C, use this command:

chkdsk /f C: (again replace C with any drive letter you want to check)

When you use this command, Check Disk performs an analysis of the disk and then repairs any errors it finds, provided that the disk isn’t in use. If the disk is in use, Check Disk displays a prompt that asks whether you want to schedule the disk to be checked the next time you restart the system. Click Yes to schedule this check. "

If using a rotational drive (Don’t use /r on SSDs) you can also use this command which locates bad sectors and recovers readable information (implies /F) :

chkdsk /r C: (again replace C with any drive letter you want to check and again DO NOT USE on SSDs)

How to get an Elevated Command Prompt:

(From the Lifewire site https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-open-an-elevated-command-prompt-2618088)

How to Open an Elevated Command Prompt in Windows 7 or Vista:

Locate the Command Prompt shortcut, usually in the Accessories folder in the Start Menu.

(Or in Win 7 and Vista it's faster to enter "command" or "cmd" (without the quotes) in the search box at the bottom of the Start Menu and then right click Command Prompt when it appears in the results.)

Once you find it, right-click on it to bring up its pop-up menu of options. 

From the pop-up menu, choose Run as administrator. Accept any User Account Control messages or warnings. 

An elevated Command Prompt window should appear, allowing access to commands that require administrative level privileges.

How to Open an Elevated Command Prompt in Windows 8/8.1 or 10:

Open Task Manager. The quickest way, assuming you're using a keyboard, is via CTRL+SHIFT+ESC 	

Once Task Manager is open, tap or click the File menu option, followed by Run new task.
If you don't see the File menu you may first have to click or tap on the More details arrow at the 			bottom of the Task Manager window to show a more advanced view of the program, including the File 	menu. 

In the Create New Task window you see now, type the following in the Open text field:

cmd

Check the Create this task with administrative privileges box.
If you don't see this box that lilkely means that your Windows account is a standard account, not an 		administrator account. Your account must have administrator privileges to be able to open an elevated Command Prompt this way. 

Now click or press on OK. Follow any User Account Control requirements that might appear next. 

An elevated Command Prompt window will appear.

Close Task Manager. It is not needed to remain open to use Command Prompt.

In Win 10 if you Right Click the Start Menu it will have either a listing of either Command Prompt or Powershell (both a regular and Administrator choice). Left click the Administrator choice.

Another way to get an Elevated Powershell Box in Win 10 (if not on the right click Start Menu choice):

To open an elevated PowerShell prompt, in the taskbar/Cortana search, type powershell.

Now find the result Windows PowerShell which appears on the top. 

Right-click on it and select Run as Administrator.

The UAC prompt will ask you for your consent. Click yes, and the prompt will open.

An elevated PowerShell prompt will display Administrator: Windows PowerShell on the top in the prompt’s border.
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System File Checks and repairs:

Sometimes system files get corrupted/damaged. From Win 7 onwards there are some steps you can take to check for and perhaps repair the damage.

First one is System File Check:

From an Elevated Command or Powershell prompt type:

SFC /scannow

If using Vista or Win 7 and you get a message about corrupted files that can’t be fixed, try running the tool in safemode first. If this doesn’t fix the issue it may be better to reset or restore your PC. This is where good backups help a lot.

If using Win 8/8.1 or Win 10 you can run the next command from an elevated Powershell prompt:

Repair-WindowsImage -Online -RestoreHealth

This can take several hours to complete, but typically takes around 20 minutes but depends on the level of corruption.

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Good Housekeeping:

Cleaning:

Even in the cleanest of homes PCs still get dusty insides, so buy a can of compressed air and give the inside a good dusting with the air. Don’t touch the motherboard or other components just make sure they get a good blast to clean the dust off.

If there is a lot of dust that won’t move take the PC to a good repair person to have them clean it out, however if dusting is done regularly enough, build up shouldn’t ever get too bad.

Antivirus:

Run a good Antivirus product, there are many, some free and some do cost. Look at reviews on good sites to check before you choose. Once you use one make sure to keep it up to date.

Updating Software:

Check regularly for updates to both your operating system and the other software you use.

There are some decent programs available that help you keep up to date but are not necessary. Most don’t check everything but most do check the very common ones.

Some examples of ones that come from reputable companies are Avira Software Updater (free and paid versions) (https://www.avira.com/en/avira-software-updater). Personal Software Inspector from Flexera (https://www.flexera.com/enterprise/products/software-vulnerability-management/personal-software-inspector/). FileHippo App Manager from FileHippo (https://filehippo.com/download_app_manager).

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Have boot (recovery) media

Amen to that. Make sure your recovery disk or USB stick is the same version as the operating system. This gets tricky if you have done a major version upgrade. Your old ver 8 USB stick will not recover ver 10. If relying on media from your vendor you may have to pay for what was previously a free upgrade (that has expired) as they can only supply the version they sold you without additional charge.

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You can download Windows versions from Microsoft at no cost . Of course you need the key / license to use the installation media files. Another handy web site is here.

What is missing are any vendor specific drivers, bloatware, and nagware supplied with your PC. Those drivers can usually be downloaded directly from the vendor support site.

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Updating Drivers:

Drivers for your hardware can change over time. Mostly this is to support new hardware, fix issues, and possibly speed up the device interactions.

Windows can and in some cases does update device drivers.

In Win XP run Windows Update, it is what is installed initially you can also run Microsoft Update (either work). When the Update process has finished checking, select Drivers from the left hand side menu and click the drivers (if any) you want to update. Then click the update button and let Windows do it’s magic :slight_smile:

Vista, Win 7 again it is much the same process.

Win 8/8.1 and Win 10 automatically check for driver updates, if you don’t want that you can change the setting to stop that. To check this setting or change it follow this:

From the Search Bar/Cortana type Control and select Control Panel from the choices

In Control Panel select System

When the System panel appears choose Advanced system settings from the left hand menu

From the System Properties panel select Hardware from the top tabs then click Device Installation Settings

On the panel you will see two choices the default settings is Yes (which means Windows will download and install drivers. No will stop device drivers being automatically downloaded and you will have to update drivers yourself.

Third Party Device Driver updaters:

There are many out there but for a read of some see the following:

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Does that mean such a download will do a repair or just a clean install that deletes all data and apps?

Will it also recognise all forms of keys?

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It is the standard installation media that can be used for clean installation, upgrade, or repair. The download is used to create a bootable media.

Whichever key is required for the version of Windows is the one required and recognised.

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Good Housekeeping continued:

Only install software that you use. Uninstall software that you no longer need or plan to use.

Often computers are full of software which is installed possibly to have a look at and not subsequently removed. Software may also be installed OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), such as non-essential software or duplicate software to what one usually uses (e.g. antivirus software bundled with a new PC but user installs a different AV).

Unnecessary software takes up additional disk space and can also use RAM is software components are loaded into RAM on startup. They also can install drivers/files in the system directories and additional keys in the registries.

It also can increase likelihood in software conflicts where one software (or its drivers) conflict with another software.

It also means more checking to see if the software is up-to-date and bug free/does not have any security issues.

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That can be a two edged sword but is getting better as time goes on. Some uninstallers do not properly clean up and leave artefacts in the registry, drivers and files that can be problems in their own rights. Utilities like CCleaner tidy up registries, are popular, but can also break things or make the Windows PC unstable.

Sometimes you cannot uninstall something because of dodgy uninstallers. I recently tried to uninstall a Creative Wrath wireless headset package after giving the headsets away. It would not uninstall; the uninstall process appeared to be looking for the wireless dongle that was no more, could not find it, so unceremoniously aborted!!! A good uninstaller is the Revo Uninstaller that has a free version, and removed all traces of it, if that makes a point.

If it isn’t broken leave it alone is a safe approach for the less technically oriented.

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The other shoe is to really think about any software before installing it…is it to use once or just to have a look…then maybe don’t install.

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Apple Mac Wiki
Turn computer on. Use at will. Keep updated :slight_smile:
(Sorry, couldn’t resist)

How To Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive (Emergency Boot Disk) (from https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/help/4026852/windows-create-a-recovery-drive)

A recovery drive can help you troubleshoot and fix problems with your PC, even if it won’t start. To create one, all you need is a USB drive.

From the taskbar, search for Create a recovery drive and then select it. You might be asked to enter an admin password or confirm your choice.

When the tool opens, make sure Back up system files to the recovery drive is selected and then select Next.

Connect a USB drive to your PC, select it, and then select Next > Create. A lot of files need to be copied to the recovery drive, so this might take a while.

When it’s done, you might see a Delete the recovery partition from your PC link on the final screen. If you want to free up drive space on your PC, select the link and then select Delete. If not, select Finish.

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Create Windows 10 installation media
In case you need to reinstall your Windows 10, or if you need to repair your installation.

Go to https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/software-download/windows10
Find the section that says ‘Create Windows 10 installation media’. Where it says -
“To get started, you will first need to have a licence to install Windows 10. You can then download and run the media creation tool. For more information on how to use the tool, see the instructions below.”
Down load the tool
Run the tool
Select create installation media (USB Flash Drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC
Using the media creation tool to re-install Windows 10 Pro for Workstations
Select the
. Language you require Windows 10 to run in
. Edition that you want (if options are provided)
. Architecture you want to use [32bit or 64bit or both]
Select Next
Choose the Media to you want to use “USB Flash Drive” or “ISO File”
Decide the location to save the media, either USB or DVD
Select Next
Wait…

When finished take it out of the USB and reinsert it. Make sure it works.
If it does, file it away and hope you never have to use it.
Remember to update it after any major updates to Windows 10.

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A site that has some great software tools is

https://www.oldergeeks.com/

Two that are recommended by one of the contributors for the AskWoody Newsletter are

“Windows Repair Toolbox” & the “Antivirus Removal Tool”

" Freeware Spotlight — Antivirus Removal Tool

By Deanna McElveen

One of the lesser-known causes of poor PC performance is the detritus left behind by uninstalled anti-malware programs.

Our shop regularly receives PCs whose owners have removed antivirus programs properly — but services and processes for those apps are still running !

Most anti-malware vendors offer free tools for cleaning out leftover bits and pieces. But why should we have to take this extra step? Why not include a complete uninstall process right from the start? It’s really annoying!

As you probably know, I love independent software developers who make things easier for us geeks. One of those talented coders — who goes by the name “Alex C” — has given us the indispensable Windows Repair Toolbox. I can’t imagine not having WRT in my diagnostic toolkit (on a flash drive, of course).

Now Alex gives us the Antivirus Removal Tool, a free utility that you can also run from a flash drive. It has the 29 most common antivirus-removal tools built into one utility. Here’s the list:

Adaware

Avast

AVG

Avira

BigFix

Bitdefender

Comodo

Dr.Web Emsisoft

eScan

ESET

F-Secure

G DATA

K7 Computing

Kaspersky

Malwarebytes Max Secure

McAfee

Microsoft Security Essentials

Norton

Panda

Symantec Endpoint Protection

Trend Micro

Total Defense TrustPort

VIPRE

Webroot

WinPatrol

ZoneAlarm

Now here’s the cool part! You don’t need to know which antivirus apps were previously installed — Antivirus Removal Tool (ART) will find them for you.

Grab a copy from our OlderGeeks website] and unzip it to your PC or flash drive. Right-click the executable and run as an administrator (that’s important).

When ART opens, you’ll see four simple sections on the single ART window:

1) Find current AV applications: The utility automatically scans for working anti-malware applications and displays those it finds.

2) Find the leftovers: Click the Search button; ART scours the system for remnants of previously installed AV products and then lists what it discovers.

3) Try the traditional Windows method: If ART locates pieces of “uninstalled” AV apps, you then have two choices for removing them. Clicking the Open Windows “Add/Remove Programs” button in Section 3 (see Figure 3) lets you try Windows’ built-in uninstall system. But since it probably didn’t do a complete job previously, what are the odds it’ll do better the second time around? :joy:

4) Use the right tool for the job: If there are pieces of an AV app left on the system, you’re better off trying one of the custom removal tools listed in Section 4, Run the specialized uninstaller (see Figure 4). ART should automatically select the right cleaner. But if it doesn’t, simply click the dropdown box and pick the appropriate tool from a list of AV products.

To complete a cleaning, click the Run button and follow any prompts. Figure 6 shows the working tool for removing the McAfee product.

The program comes in eight languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish). And as always, ART is free of charge and free of junkware. And it’s portable. Everything we love!

Happy Computing!"

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