Owning a computer is fun, but you should take the time to perform some basic maintenance to make sure it runs at its best. Otherwise, the few minutes you save here and there could result in hours of unnecessary work in the future.
Let’s look at the Windows 10 maintenance tasks every PC owner should do regularly. Thankfully, there are some free PC maintenance tools that can make this easier.
1. Update Windows and Software
Windows 10 is great about updating itself, but you should still check in from time to time and make sure it’s not hung up on something. Head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates.
Windows will tell you if it finds any updates and should install them automatically. Some, but not all, updates require a restart.
While you’re installing updates, it’s a good idea to make sure all your installed Software is updated. Some programs do this automatically, like Chrome and Firefox. Other programs will prompt you for an update when you open them. You can check for updates on most software by visiting Help > Check for Updates or Options > Check for Updates.
2. Manage Your Email
Email piles up quickly if you don’t stay on top of it. When your inbox is full of automated flyers and junk you don’t want, finding messages that are actually important takes longer.
You should regularly reduce your incoming email by unsubscribing from newsletters you never read. Then set up email filters so only important messages hit your inbox. Your inbox will become such a much more pleasant place.
3. Back Up Your Data
Backing up data is usually a set-and-forget operation, but it’s wise to occasionally confirm your Backup is operational. Otherwise, you could be in for a nasty surprise if your PC fails.
Most backup software shows you the status and/or last backup time right on its home screen. Open your software of choice and make sure everything is working properly. If you use the File History backup in Windows, go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup and select More options to see the most recent backup time.
There’s no excuse for not backing up your data—if you haven’t set up a backup yet, now’s the perfect time. Check out our ultimate Windows backup guide for everything you need to get going.
4. Delete Unnecessary Files and Programs
Seasoned Windows users know how the OS builds up cruft over time. You can’t prevent some of this, but it helps to clean up old data that you’re not actively using. Freeing up space can also improve your PC’s performance if you’re running low.
Consult our step-by-step guide to cleaning out files and our checklist for cleaning for more details.
5. Perform Maintenance Scans
You should perform a few scans in Windows once in a while just to make sure there isn’t a problem you’re overlooking.
One of them is an antivirus scan. You hopefully use a solid antivirus that doesn’t nag you all the time, which should scan automatically. But it’s a good idea to get a second opinion from a dedicated anti-malware program once in a while.
Malwarebytes is still the best at this. The free version only lets you scan on-demand, but that’s all you need for an occasional check. Hopefully, it doesn’t find anything on your system, but it’s worth a look because it will find what other antivirus software doesn’t.
You should also perform an SFC scan occasionally. This command, short for System File Checker, is a Windows utility that checks for damaged system files and repairs them if needed. Type cmd into the Start Menu, then right-click it and choose Run as administrator. Enter the following line to start the scan, which might take a while:
6. Double-Check Important Settings
Windows 10’s regular stream of updates means that it’s always changing. While this results in lots of new features, it also means that Windows has more chances to introduce more options that affect how your computer works.
After you install a major update (like the Fall Creators Update), you should check the new options and make sure they’re set the way you want. And if you’ve never tweaked the default Windows 10 settings, definitely take a look at those.
Another setting you should check regularly is the startup items in the Task Manager. As you install more software, you’ll likely build up a ton of programs that run as soon as you boot. Check in on this sometimes and make sure it’s under control.
7. Clean Your Hardware
Nobody really enjoys cleaning their computer, but it’s an important step to keep it running at its best. Plus, it gets pretty gross over time. You should at least wipe down your keyboard and screen, and clean the dust out of your computer, a few times per year.
We’ve written a guide to cleaning your laptop and much of the same advice applies for desktops. While you’re under the hood, make sure your setup isn’t suffering from any mistakes such as poor ventilation.
Computer Maintenance Is No Fun, But It’s Vitally Important
We’ve reviewed seven important chores you should make a point to complete every once in a while. There’s no need to obsess over them, but neglecting these will lead to problems down the road. Keeping your computer in good repair saves you time and money, so you’ll be glad you kept up with these.
While you’re working on these, make sure you don’t make any big maintenance mistakes.