10 essential monthly maintenance tasks for Windows PC

Keep the PC running smoothly with these essential maintenance tasks

To keep your Windows PC running smoothly and problem-free, there are some essential maintenance tasks that should be performed. Are you doing them or are you heading for PC problems?

Computers are generally reliable and often work for many years without problems, but this is not always the case and small issues can grow into big ones that can then become serious. A few simple maintenance tasks can avoid problems and stop minor issues from becoming worse.

Let’s take a look at the tasks you should be performing each month to keep your Windows PC running smoothly.

1 Check the disk for errors

Disk drives are more reliable than they used to be and errors are less frequent. Don’t get too complacent though, check the disk once a month to make sure minor problems are fixed before they grow worse.

  1. Open Explorer and select This PC in the sidebar
  2. Right click the C: drive and select Properties on the menu
  3. Select the Tools tab and click Check
  4. Scan the drive even if it says you don’t need to

2 Optimize the disk

Defragmenting the disk is automatically run in the background by Windows and should require no action on your part. However, if you have a laptop computer and always use it on battery power, especially with Battery Saver mode on or power saving mode, maintenance tasks like defragging may be put off and never get done. Run it manually once a month.

Repair or optimize the disk in Windows

  1. Open Explorer and select This PC in the sidebar
  2. Right click the C: drive and select Properties on the menu
  3. Select the Tools tab and click Optimize.
  4. Select the C: drive and click Optimize.

Solid state drives do not need optimizing and there is no benefit. Windows should refuse to optimize them anyway, so don’t even try.

3 Clean up the disk

Junk, temporary and unnecessary files build up on the drive over time and may affect the speed of old-style mechanical drives. They don’t slow down Solid State Drives (SSDs) but they do use up space and space is sometimes limited on SSDs. A few budget Windows laptops have 32 or 64 GB SSDs that are easily filled, so clean up the junk once a month.

Windows 10 has introduced features that automatically clean up the disk, but they do not do as good a job as a manual cleanup. Sometimes several gigabytes of space can be saved, mostly by emptying the recycle bin and deleting old Windows updates.

Disk Clean-up utility in Windows

  1. Open Explorer and select This PC in the sidebar
  2. Right click the C: drive and select Properties on the menu
  3. Click Disk Clean-up on the General tab (check the free space while you are here and make sure the disk isn’t full)
  4. When the Disk Clean-up window appears, click Clean up system files
  5. When the window reappears, select everything and click OK

4 Check automatic maintenance

Windows automatically runs maintenance tasks at periodic intervals, but for some unknown reason, this feature can become disabled. Check that automatic maintenance is running.

Windows automatic maintenance task settings in the Control Panel

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. In small icons view, click Security and Maintenance
  3. Expand the Maintenance section and check the date under Automatic Maintenance
  4. If it has not recently run, click Start maintenance and use Change maintenance settings to set a time for daily maintenance

5 Scan for malware

Windows Defender or whatever security software you are using has real-time protection that checks files as they are written to or read from the disk. However, it is still useful to run a thorough check of every file on the disk once a month.

Whatever your security software, open it and run a thorough or deep scan. If a quick scan is available, avoid it and do a thorough scan instead.

Malware scan option in Windows Defender

If you use Windows Defender:

  1. Right click the Defender at the right side of the taskbar (it may be hidden in that pop-up tray)
  2. Select View security dashboard.
  3. Click Virus and threat protection in the sidebar
  4. Click the link, Run a new advanced scan

It could take an hour or more to complete and the PC will run slowly while it scans, so do it when you don’t have anything important to do.

6 Check Windows updates

It is hard to stop Windows 10 from updating these days and it automatically checks for updates, downloads them and installs them, sometimes at inconvenient times, but that is another story.

Although updates should be happening, are they or are they stuck? Sometimes one or more updates will not install or the same one keeps trying to install every day or every week and failing.

  1. Press Windows+I to open the Settings app
  2. Click Update & Security
  3. Select Windows Update on the left
  4. Make sure that the last update check was fairly recent. It should check every day.
  5. Click the View update history link
  6. Check that each update has installed successfully

If there are any failures, they need investigating and Windows Update may need repairing.

This isn’t the place for a full description of Windows Update fixes, but a good place to start is Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot. Run Internet Connections and Windows Update troubleshooters.

7 Back up the disk

Backups are essential and you should not assume that a computer will work perfectly forever. It won’t. If you are lucky, it will work until you decide to replace it with a new one, but sometimes computers fail and you should be prepared for that day.

Backups are best with a USB disk drive. It is possible to back up online, but USB drives are speedy and cheap in comparison.

Open the Control Panel and click File History. This backs up files in your personal folders – Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos. These usually contain irreplaceable files and Windows and applications can be reinstalled if necessary.

File History backup utility in Windows 10

Don’t rely on a file backup like File History alone. At least once a month, perform a full system backup using backup software like Backupper or EaseUS Todo Backup. Free versions are available, so it won’t cost anything.

They create an exact image of the disk and provide an alternative way to start the computer (CD or USB thumb drive) if the disk drive fails. It can restore the original disk contents to a new drive or the old drive after it has been repaired or formatted.

8 Clean up your email

There are many tempting offers on the web that can be obtained in return for providing your email address, including newsletters, free software and services and so on.

Go through your email inbox and unsubscribe from anything you do not need or read. At the bottom of email subscriptions there is nearly always an unsubscribe link and it nearly always works. Use it.

9 Uninstall unused apps

If you often download and install software from the web, you should open Programs and Features in the Control Panel and see if there are any applications that you don’t use. Uninstall them.

Uninstall software using Programs and Features in the Control Panel in Windows

Windows 10 apps on the Start menu can be uninstalled by right clicking the tile or the Start menu item.

The free version of IObit Uninstaller is a useful tool because it cleans up leftover files and registry entries when software is uninstalled.

10 Check Windows files

Windows has a built in tool that checks that all files are present and correct. It is useful to run it once a month just to check that everything is OK rather than wait for a major problem to occur and then try and fix it.

  1. Click Start and enter ‘command prompt’
  2. Right click it in the search results and select Run as administrator
  3. At the command prompt, enter sfc /scannow

It takes many minutes to complete, so be patient. It will automatically try to fix any problems it finds.

 

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