Technology is great—when it works. A few simple maintenance tricks can help you avoid problems that would bring your system to a halt. On a weekly basis, you should run each of the following programs:

ScanDisk (not present on Windows 2000 and XP)—Checks for and repairs errors on your hard drive before they become serious.

Disk Cleanup—Identifies unnecessary files that are taking up space on your hard drive and eliminates them.

Disk Defragmenter—Over time, your files become fragmented. Parts of a single file may be spread over a variety of sectors on your hard drive. Disk Defragmenter rearranges the files on the hard drive so that all parts of a file are together.

Updating Virus Definitions—When you buy a virus program, the program protects you from the viruses that were known when that program was produced. It will not protect you against all of the new viruses which are released daily. As new viruses are written, the manufacturer of your virus software will release patches via their website. The process of getting those patches is known as updating your virus definitions.

To perform any of these maintenance routines, you will go to “Start” and choose “Accessories” from the “Program” menu. You will look for “System Tools.” There you will see each of the options we have discussed.

On Windows 2000 and XP, ScanDisk has been replaced with “CheckDisk.” CheckDisk is not even on the menu. To run it, go to Start>Run, and type chkdsk followed by pressing “enter.”

The real beauty lies in the fact that you can set your computer to run these routines automatically. One of the items on that same menu is called “Scheduled Tasks.” There, you can tell the computer when to run each of the maintenance routines. Generally, you would want to run them at night when nobody would be using the computer. (Again, chkdsk is something you will simply have to do on your own.)

My suggestion is to pick one evening of the week and have all of the routines run then. All you have to do is remember to leave the computer on overnight that particular night each week.

The time you spend setting up these routines will be saved many times over by the problems you will be preventing from happening with your computer.