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CNNdotCOM Tools: Healthy PCs

Disk defragmenter
A disk defragmenter analyzes and separates files according to how much you use them.  

(CNN) -- An unhealthy computer is an unhappy one -- making you the unhappy computer user. While you can resolve problems by contacting a technician or the manufacturer, there are some preventative steps you can take so you don't run into trouble in the first place. Patricia Miranda of CompUSA offered her expertise on the subject.

One of the most common mistakes computer users make is failing to perform regular maintenance. Like a car, your computer occasionally needs a tuneup. If you're a PC user, you'll find the ScanDisk and Disk Defragmenter programs in your System folder. ScanDisk performs housekeeping and puts files in their proper places, while Disk Defragmenter puts everything in use to one side and everything else to another. Once your computer determines what's in use, it runs faster.

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CNN's Mary Kathleen Flynn talks with Patricia Miranda of CompUSA about preserving your PC

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Running these programs on a regular basis ensures that your computer operates more smoothly. Set aside about 45 minutes to defrag your hard disk, a task you should perform at least once a month. You can also set a task manager to automatically perform these tasks for you.

Short of going out and buying a faster processor, you can make your computer run even faster by uninstalling any unnecessary applications. You can also sift through your hard drive, delete temporary files and empty your recycle bin.

Another key to a healthy computer is making sure you have enough memory before installing new applications. In addition, make sure you keep an eye on memory as you work, so you have an idea of how many programs you can run at one time.

If you don't keep your computer healthy, the worst thing that can happen is losing your hard drive. Sometimes a good technician can retrieve data from a hard drive by physically taking it apart and loading it into another machine. That's why it's important to adhere to the golden rule of computing: save, save, save. And make backup disks of your hard drive, just in case.



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