Many, many computer problems, especially software problems, can be solved by typing your error message, exactly as it appears, into a good Internet search engine, such as Google! Usually, there will be a response from someone that has already had that problem, with a solution!
Rule Number One: Keeping Windows Behaved.
There are three steps to keeping your computer well mannered, these are presented in order of importance.
Step One: Anytime your system locks up, or reboots suddenly, or is not shut down properly by clicking START, SHUT DOWN, SHUT DOWN, you should run CHKDSK. If you suspect your system is having problems, run CHKDSK. If you think about it, and haven't run it in a while, run CHKDSK.
Why?? Let's examine what checkdisk does. The principal function of checkdisk is to scan the hard drive for lost clusters. What are lost clusters? Everything on your hard drive is stored in groups of information called clusters. A cluster may be anywhere from 4000 characters to 32000 characters, depending on what version of Windows you have, and how large your hard drive is. A very small file will occupy 4000 characters. A very large file may comprise many clusters. Suffice to say if the computer is not shut down properly, the operating system may not have an accurate count of the exact number of clusters a file SHOULD occupy, and some clusters may get LOST. Once this gets started, it can have a snowball effect, causing more files to have lost clusters. The advanced case of lost clusters causes different files to think they actually occupy the same space - these are called cross-linked files. SCANDISK will find lost clusters and report them back to you - in 99.9% of the cases, these files are worthless and should be DELETED. CROSS-LINKED files, should you be unlucky enough to ever have any, should be given copies of the same information. Remember, when in doubt, run CHKDISK!
1. Double-click My Computer, and then right-click the hard disk that you want to check.
2. Click Properties, and then click Tools.
3. Under Error-checking, click Check Now. A dialog box that shows the Check disk options is displayed,
4. Use one of the following procedures:
* To repair errors without scanning the volume for bad sectors, select the Automatically fix file system errors check box, and then click Start.
* To repair errors, locate bad sectors, and recover readable information, select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box, and then click Start.
You will receive the following message:
The disk check could not be performed because the disk check utility needs exclusive access to some Windows files on the disk. These files can be accessed by restarting Windows. Do you want to schedule the disk check to occur the next time you restart the computer?
Click Yes to schedule the disk check, and then restart your computer to start the disk check.
Step Two: Temporary file cleanup. In the old days of desktop computers, and software we used had to fit in the small amount of memory (RAM) we had available. Today's modern computer uses both RAM and hard disk space to run our software. When hard disk space is used, temporary files are created for this, usually in the (XP - Documents and Settings / <user name> / Local Settings / Temp, or Vista, 7 - Users / <user name> / Local Settings / Temp) folder. If you shut down your computer properly, most temporary files are removed. If not, they remain, and worse can have lost clusters. (See above) Periodically, you should check the TEMP folder for temporary files, and remove them.
The easiest way to remove files in Windows XP or later versions is to start by opening MY COMPUTER (find the MY COMPUTER icon on your desktop and double click on the icon.) Move your mouse cursor over the icon for the “C” drive, then using the right button of your mouse, right click on the “C” drive icon. This should open a menu. The last item on the menu should be “PROPERTIES”, left click on “PROPERTIES”. Look in the lower right hand section of the window that pops up, you should see a button “Disk Cleanup”. Click this button. You will see a list of various files that can be removed, and how much space (MB) those files occupy. Be sure that each box is checked if there are files. If you see a listing for "Compress Old Files", do NOT check this listing!! Then click the OK button to remove the files.
This will help, but will not remove all of the temporary files! Windows does a poor job of this when you use the Disk Clean. use the manual method as well, outlined above.
Step Three: Keeping our files "organized". Without going into a lot of detail, as we use our computer, files that we use on a daily basis can become fragmented, or broken up into parts. It is a natural process of the Windows operating system and cannot be avoided. When a file gets broken into parts, sometimes the computer has to hunt all over the hard drive to find all the parts of a file, and that can become a rather tedious process, right? (It's like looking all over the house for that thingy you just set down a minute ago!) There is a program designed to find all those parts, and assemble them back into one piece, so the computer has an easier time of finding them when you need them! It's called DEFRAG, and it is found by clicking on START, ACCESSORIES, SYSTEM TOOLS, DEFRAG. If defrag has not been run in some time, it may take hours to complete its task, but the overall result is a computer that will run a little faster for you, and will not have to work as hard!
You may have the program do what's called "Analyze" and then give you a report. Many times, even though Windows will say "You do not need to Defragment right now..." after looking at the report, you might decide to run DEFRAG anyway.
Dealing with Viruses, Spyware, and Other Malware
Anyone that uses a Windows based computer system to access the Internet, and does not have Virus/spyware/malware protection is asking for trouble, period. It has been reported that as many as 1 in 1000 websites are unknowingly infected with "drive-by" viruses or malware, meaning all one has to do is to view the site, and your system can become infected. Nine out of ten systems today cannot be properly "cleaned" without removing the system's hard drive, attaching the hard drive as a slave drive to a system known to be "clean" and scanning the "infected" drive with removal software. Today's infections can:
Cloak themselves so they cannot be discovered
Prevent cleanup tools from running
Disable anti-virus software
Alter key components of Windows, rendering the system unusable
Prevent access to the Internet
and many other problems
If you feel you have become infected, the time to clean the infections is NOW. We have seen systems with 15,000 infected files. those systems cannot be properly cleaned - they require a fresh install of Windows. Once infected, the infections can multiply rapidly.
Some research on the web will find that most technicians do not like Norton (Symantec) or McAfee products. They slow all but the latest computers down way too much. It also has been our experience that we have seen way too many systems using versions of McAfee provided by Comcast with infections. Our personal preference leans toward AVG, TrendMicro, or Avast. If you have a subscription you should keep it current, and make sure your AntiMalware software updates every day!