Windows

Five preventive maintenance tools for Windows

Keep your Windows machines optimized and healthy with the help of these five tools.

The PC is the single greatest tool for getting your work done. And out of the box, that PC works great. But over time, it can become bogged down and buggy. Fragmentation, hard-disk issues, bad memory, viruses, filled caches, and registry errors can cause computers to act flaky or even stop working all together. This doesn't have to be the case. With a bit of preventive maintenance, you can keep those machines running in tip-top shape.

But what tools to use? With so many available, it can be tricky to find the best combination of tools to keep those machines running smoothly. Let's take a look at five such tools.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: MemTest

MemTest (Figure A) is a simple test that determines whether your computer can reliably store information in its RAM. With this tool, you can define how much memory to test and then run the test (with all applications closed). If an error is reported, your RAM is suspect. The only drawback to MemTest (and most software memory testers) is that it can't pinpoint which memory chip is bad. But if you're looking for a memory tester that can be run while Windows itself is running, MemTest is your tool.

Figure A

MemTest

2: CCleaner

I am a big fan of CCleaner (Figure B), from Piriform. CCleaner can help you with preventive maintenance via two tools to help keep the "bad" out of your machine. Not only can CCleaner keep your disk cache clean, it can keep your registry free of errors. Both of these issues can, over time, result in a computer running less than efficiently or, in worst case scenarios, not running at all. Using CCleaner regularly will go a long way toward keeping your machines running well.

Figure B

CCleaner

3: HDD Scan

HDD Scan (Figure C) is a free hard disk diagnostic tool that supports standard drives, RAID arrays, Flash USB, and SSD drives. With this tool, you can scan for errors (bad blocks and bad sectors), show S.M.A.R.T. attributes, and change a limited number of HDD parameters (such as AAM and APM). By regularly using this tool (not just when there seems to be an issue), you may avoid a catastrophic disaster. The storage device tests include:
  • Verification in linear mode
  • Reading in linear mode
  • Erasing in linear mode
  • Reading in Butterfly mode

Figure C

HDD Scan

4: Belarc Advisor

Belarc Advisor (Figure D) is not so much a maintenance tool as an auditing tool. It gives you a clear look into installed software, hardware, network inventory, missing Microsoft hotfixes, antivirus status, security benchmarks, and much more. Just download this free application, run it, save the report as an HTML document, and you're good to go.

Figure D

Belarc Advisor

5: Defraggler

Defraggler (Figure E) is one of the best defrag programs available. It will defrag an entire hard disk as well as individual files or folders. You can specify what you want to defrag and how you want to defrag it. Defraggler also offers a portable version, so you don't have to install the tool on every machine you touch. But I recommend installing Defraggler and setting up regularly scheduled defrags to keep every machine on your network running smoothly.

Figure E

Defraggler

Health benefits

A little preventive maintenance and information can go a long way to protecting your costly investments. You want to get the most out of your PCs, but you don't want to have to constantly be repairing or maintaining them. With the help of a few tools, you can do the right amount of preventive maintenance and have healthy systems to keep your business running smoothly.

More on maintenance

What works for you?

How do you keep your Windows systems in tiptop shape? Share your favorite tool(s) with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

7 comments
Zoey11
Zoey11

I am using Registry Recycler System Utilities and pretty much impress with its performance.Great thing about this software is it is free.

ejmfoley
ejmfoley

I would substitute SIW (System Information for Windows) for Belarc Advisor. Also free, and more comprehensive.

newstrak
newstrak

CCleaner is a must, especially if you fail to clean various browser caches. I back up its registry cleaner with Glary Utilites and then run the Glary registry defrag. I was a devoted fan of Defraggler, but the latest release has issues with the app's service continuing to run after use and then it sits there using up resources until it cause a system bog down or crash. So I have switch to IObit's Smart Defrag v2. Be sure to use the Boot Time Defrag to get the system files defragged.

TNT
TNT

On Vista or better systems I prefer Komodo over CCleaner. I think it does a more thorough registry clean. On Win XP it can cause odd behavior (if monitoring is turned on) and even brick a PC if you use the advanced registry clean option. Also, do not use a defragger at all if you have an SSD drive. It will significantly reduce its life expectancy.

dqfritzke
dqfritzke

Can you explain why it will significantly reduce its life expectancy?

mikef12
mikef12

The "cells" used to store data are said to be rated for a certain number of writes/deletes/rewrites that are low enough to be affected by frequent defrags. I haven't researched this, so don't know whether it's a problem or not.

meronbar
meronbar

Just my guess. I suppose that scheduled (i mean often) defrag of SSD media was bad idea. They have less rewrite cycles compared to HDD, and actually doesn't read faster after defrag, because they not affected by search/positioning time as HDD one.

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