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: MemTestMemTest (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.
2: CCleanerI 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.
3: HDD ScanHDD 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
4: Belarc AdvisorBelarc 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.
5: DefragglerDefraggler (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.
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
- Five tips for maintaining a healthy Windows system
- Five tools for getting rid of duplicate files
- Five uninstallers that really work
- Five apps for crapware cleanup
- Five tips for freeing up PC hard disk space
- Five tips for improving a new PC
- Five tips for using Ccleaner to degunk your system
- The five best Linux file system cleaning tools
- Seven maintenance tips to optimize Mac performance
- 10-step checklist for tuning up your virtual environment
What works for you?
How do you keep your Windows systems in tiptop shape? Share your favorite tool(s) with fellow TechRepublic members.
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 jackwallen.com.