You floss twice a day. Have the oil in your car changed regularly. So what are you doing for your computer? If you're like most computer users, the answer is: Nada. But the truth is that your computer needs preventive maintenance, too. A little tweaking and some simple recordkeeping will help your computer -- and your business -- run faster and smoother.
-- Make a point to RESTART your computer every morning, even if you leave it on overnight. "This clears out all the memory," says Andy Efron, director of Everdream Corp.'s Solutions Center -- that's where Everdream's small-business clients call for tech help. "If you've got applications that failed to quit out completely, restarting your computer will quit them out." It's especially important to do this if you're still using Windows 98, says Efron, because that particular version of Windows has trouble with memory leaks.
-- Unless you're using a dial-up connection, CLEAN OUT all your temporary Internet files at least once a week. As you surf the Web, your computer is copying the Web sites you visit to this temporary file. When you visit a new page, your computer checks to see if it already has a copy before bringing the page back from the Web. As you add more pages to the temporary files, it takes more time for your computer to do this. So it's better to get the fresh page straightaway. If you're using Microsoft's Explorer you can clean out your temporary files by following the menu items labeled Internet/Options. Netscape users should choose Edit/Preferences/Advanced/Cache.
-- Clean out your SYSTEM TRAY. When someone sends you a bit of code that animates a funny e-mail, that bit of code tends to live forever in your machine. There's probably an icon for it in your system tray. "These things run in the background and clog the machine," says Glenn Ricart, chief technology officer with CenterBeam Inc. "These things can interact in strange ways." Get rid of these little programs by going to the control panel and clicking add/remove programs.
-- It's a good idea to LABEL ALL PLUGS on the cords connecting your office's computer and electronic equipment. Include phones, faxes, computers -- everything. Then draw a diagram showing where everything goes. That way, when you send something out to be repaired, you'll be able to plug it back in quickly and properly.
-- Finally, KEEP A LOG of computer crashes. Do this and you're likely to find that your computer woes tend to repeat themselves. You'll be able to fix the most common glitches by going through your logbook rather than waiting for outside help. By Kimberly Weisul in New York