After forking over your hard-earned cash on a new gaming PC, you want to make sure it stays in ship-shape. In this article I look at some good practices for minimizing damage and unnecessary wear on your PC. Also some good internet security DOs and DON’Ts.
1. Good PC ventilation
First, keep it properly ventilated. This cannot be overemphasized, an adequately ventilated PC case is a must if you want optimal performance from your components. The faster our new hardware becomes the more heat it generates. Some of this is dealt with well with heat-sinks and fan-air – this is the case with your central processor and graphics processing unit.
But despite the revolutionary designs of these heat-sinks and fans, heat still will reside inside the case and cause the core temperature to heat up. The hotter the inside of your case is, the hotter the components inside will be.
Ideally what you want is 4 case fans:
- 1 at the front that sucks cold air in and spreads it over the components
- 1 side-case fan that pulls air in and blows it on the graphics card, processor and ram
- 1 fan at the rear of the case that pulls the hot air out the back
- 1 fan at the top of your case that also sucks hot air out the top.
Your case too should be well designed to maximize heat dissipation. This will effectively help your fans reach their full potential in getting out the unwanted heat from your case. I would highly recommend the Cooler Master High Air Flow (HAF) 932 Full-Tower PC case. This is what I’ve chosen for my upcoming rig. It will easily handle all your air-flow needs and more. It has all the important fans I mentioned above and has ample space to host any and all hardware peripherals, with lots of room and cut-outs for good cable-management.
2. Prevent the buildup of dust in the keyboard and casing with compressed air
Here is another potential heat issue. Most modern PC cases come with dust-filters, but even with these on your case dust can easily get inside and wreak havoc on the hardware. Over time dust build-up can get in the way of fan circulation and serve to block vents from releasing hot air.
To unsure a dust-free case, or at least as dust-free as possible I would recommend you open your case up about 3-4 times in the year to make sure that dust build-up is to a minimum.
All you will need is:
- 1 canister of compressed air
- 1 dust mask
- Some cleaning fluid
- A well ventilated room
- 1 full canister of elbow-grease (available in most people if you look hard enough)
Make sure when you’re cleaning it out, to first ensure the computer is powered down, and that you don’t apply too much pressure to any one of the components. All you want to do is make sure you remove any residual dust and be sure all areas of ventilation are free from dust-buildup.
3. Keep a decent amount of free space on the hard drive
You may notice that after you install Windows on your hard drive for the first time, everything seems to run well. Programs open with lightening-like reflexes and there’s generally a much more responsive feel to the PC. But over time, with an increased number of applications installed and an over-abundance of digital photography, music and office documents strewn about the sectors on the drive, it soon starts to lose that pep and begin to operate more like an arthritic limb.
One of the reasons for this is hard drive fragmentation. What this basically means is over time your hard drive will shuffle pieces of data around to different sectors in order to accommodate incoming information. Your hard drive then has a harder time finding this information as it needs to read from different locations and generally takes longer to get the stuff you’re looking for. This is happening when:
- You open up your browser and you’re starting to get angry at the PC as it’s making you wait an inhumane amount of time.
- You launched a game .exe seven hundred years ago and the little clock-timer is still ticking.
- Your PC is taking increasing longer to boot up.
- Keep some free space on your hard drive at all times. About 15% is a good figure to aim for.
- Run Windows Disk Defragmenter regularly. I would say once every 6-8 weeks is sufficient. This ensures the files on your disk are consolidated and it is easier therefore for your hard drive to find what it is looking for and thus, what you’re looking for.
And so on so forth, you could fill in the blanks yourself. A few easy maintenance practices can ensure that you minimize the chance of this sort of sluggishness from your rig.
In windows 7 simply open up My Computer from the start menu, find the drive your operating system is on (usually C:), right click the drive and select properties. You then need to find the tools tab and from there click on defragment now.
Defragmenting a hard drive can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Be sure to do this when you don’t plan on using the computer for a little while. Defragmentation of a hard drive is very taxing on any system and it is advisable to give your processor all the power it can have. So leave it going and get a bite to eat or go for a walk and when you come back and it should be done.
4. Even gamers are vulnerable to viruses, shape up or break down
The internet has changed so much over the past 10 years. These days threats from phishing scams, and virus attacks are common-place and the unfortunate reality for anyone connected to the world wide web is that they have to take responsibility for their computers safety.
Viruses are so insidious these days they can cause you more than a few headaches. Most modern viruses can:
- Steal your credit-card information
- Steal passwords from your web browser
- Hijack your start-up page
- Send a version of itself to all your friends via your contacts list
- Cause detrimental instability and poor performance to your computer
The list goes on and on. You get the picture. The internet is a great place for communication, information and leisure but you must ensure your PC is adequately prepared for the net’s ugly side.
First if all you should have at a minimum:
Windows 7/Vista and XP Service Pack 2 all come with a firewall built in. A firewall simply monitors communication made from your PC (via any programs installed) to other PCs on the internet and vice versa. A firewall can detect any unauthorized activity on your PC and potentially prevent a harmful virus from doing more damage. They can also prevent port-sniffers from even seeing your PC World Wide Web by hiding (or stealthing) your computer’s service ports.
The history of antivirus software on PCs is a sordid affair of sluggish performance and regret. Some antivirus suites (I’m looking at you Symantec) can really bog your PC down with bloated and often unnecessary services. This can be a real issue for anyone who uses their PC for gaming.
Fortunately though, in recent years Microsoft has gotten off its gluteus and taken security much more seriously, thanks in part to people like Steve Gibson and a host of others. Redmond now offers its own brand of antivirus software called Microsoft Security Essentials. Frankly the name doesn’t roll off your tongue but don’t be put off by the overabundance of syllables. This is an extremely good-performing AV program that doesn’t hit PC performance. It’s very light with a minimal install and a minimalist approach to user interface and configuration.
Microsoft Security Essentials is an absolute must-have for any Windows user. Best of all it’s free to download from Microsoft’s website. No more paying subscriptions to unscrupulous corporations that prey on Windows insecurity like a pack of starving Hyenas.
5. Good Internet Practices
Even with an up-to-date PC with all the latest patches and decent AV software, your best line of defense is prevention. The key to not getting your PC infected with a nasty virus or internet worm is good internet common-sense. Your AV should be your last line of defense.
Lets go over a few simple DOs and DON’Ts:
Never click on links in emails, unless you are either expecting them or know for sure they are what they appear to be. When you see a link in your email hover your mouse pointer over it and make sure the address matches up to what you see in your email. Many phishing emails appear to be from A but when clicked on they take you to B, so B-ware.
Look out for dodgy PayPal links in your email. I don’t even trust genuine PayPal emails anymore. Phishing scams have become so sophisticated that people will send you emails that look identical to genuine PayPal emails and can trick the untrained eye into sending cash to scammers. One way to decipher the real from the fake is by looking at the address of the email. When you get one from PayPal it will be from the paypal.com domain and not offshoreaccountants.ng.
Don’t use file sharing programs to download software. Apps like Kazaa, limewire etc host a myriad of infected and dangerous software just waiting to enter your PC. PC software is not too expensive, and a lot of the more useful programs are often free and open-source. So there’s really no need to be using these programs. You just don’t know what you’re getting. Not to mention that you should be paying for the software you use.
Beware of links in Instant Messenger clients like Yahoo Messenger, Steam, Windows Live, Skype etc. Just like the email you can never be sure where these links will take you. Often you will click on a link that takes you to a website that looks like one thing but beneath the surface it is running a script and infecting your PC. Be very careful of this and only visit sites that you know and trust. Also never accept a friend invitation from someone unless you know who they are.
If a website asks you to install something, get out of there unless you’re sure it’s a genuine plugin like Quicktime, Flash or Silverlight. But even then just go to the official sites and get them from there – you really cannot be too careful. Browsers like FIrefox and Chrome have a good line of defense against this sort of thing, but if you willingly ignore a site’s warning about software installations you let down your guard. Be vigilant, your browser can only do so much to protect you.
Leave Windows update on. Without this option you might as well throw in the towel. A system’s ability to defend itself from internet threats is only as good as the user’s diligence and how up-to-date your machine is. I know it can be annoying when the Windows Update icon appears in the taskbar, especially when you’re in the middle of something. But frankly I’d take that interruption over my credit card info being stolen, or my computer completely compromised by an internet thief. In the world of internet security, a few comforts need to be sacrificed and Windows Updates is too important to ignore in this day and age. Do so at your own peril.
Well there you have it folks. I barely scraped the surface when it comes ot internet security and good PC maintenance, but covered the basics. If you follow these practices you should see a long life span from your hardware and also ensure you don’t fall prey to internet scams, viruses and other nasty online threats.
I would be very interested in hearing any stories you have of dodgy viruses. Or having to fix your Grandma’s PC after she got infected with some nasty worm. We’ve all been duped or at least know someone who has. Many of us have helped the PC illiterate among our friends and family overcome some internet ordeal.
Please leave a comment and let me know of your internet woes.
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