A few years ago, an overly caffeinated computer magazine editor referred to me as a Luddite because I was not suitably awed by the latest press release he'd received from a large software company. (For those who--like me--have forgotten their history of the Industrial Revolution, Luddites were a group of people who destroyed "newfangled" machinery because they felt it diminished employment.)
The reason for my tempered enthusiasm is not because I loathe or fear technology, but because the computer press is filled with hype. It's easy to spend a lot of money and waste a lot of time with "bleeding edge" hardware and software. A computer is just a tool, and I say let the experts jump on the latest bandwagon. I've got work I need to get done. I think the key to getting your work done more effectively is not about upgrading, but rather about keeping the system you've got stable. So, to keep your system running smoothly:
- Run Scan Disk Regularly: Scan Disk checks your hard disk for errors, fixes errors, and marks sections of your hard disk that can't be repaired as bad, so no data will be saved in those locations. Assuming it was installed when Windows was set up, you can find Microsoft's Scan Disk program in the System Tools section of your Start Menu.
- Defragment Your Hard Disk: When a computer saves files, it sometimes saves one part of a file in one place and another part in another. Defragging rearranges the data so each file is stored in one continuous block of space, which makes your system run faster and reduces the likelihood of data corruption. This program is also found among the System Tools.
- Clean out the Temp Folder: The Temp folder is Windows' dumping ground. While you are working in Windows, it stores its working files there (usually C:\windows\temp). But when Windows crashes, it frequently leaves a mess of open files in the Temp folder, which often cause trouble later. Any files with a date earlier than the current date and that start with a tilde (~) or end with .TMP can safely be deleted.
If you perform these tasks regularly, you'll be rewarded with a system that runs more reliably, and consequently, a computing experience that's less stressful.