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Five Tips for PC Health

Working on a slow, disorganized computer can be frustrating—and it happens to the best of us. These tips will give you some easy-to-follow guidelines on how to keep your computer on the right track.

1. Organize your folders
We all know how easy it is to dump files into the wrong folder when we're in a hurry. But one way to make sure you keep your files organized is to remove the clutter with a filing system that makes sense for the way you use your computer. This includes removing files you no longer need and organizing the ones you use most often.

2. Clean up your hard disk
Now that you've organized your files and folders and cleaned up your desktop, you can organize the data itself. Windows includes two utilities—Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter—that help you free up more space on your hard drive and help your computer work more efficiently. It's up to you to decide how often to run these utilities, but it's a good idea to do so at least once a month.

3. Use System Restore
System Restore is one of those programs that can be a life-saver when you've been the unfortunate recipient of unstable software, a badly timed power outage, or a damaging thunderstorm. System Restore records important documents, settings, and preferences on your computer. If the unthinkable happens and your computer files are damaged or inaccessible, you can use System Restore to restore your computer to the same state it was in before the data was lost.

System Restore creates restore points daily and whenever you install device drivers, automatic updates, and some applications. But it's a good idea to get into the habit of creating a system checkpoint (called a restore point) when you're about to install new software or take any action you suspect might make your computer unstable. Then, if there's any conflict at all, you can restore your computer to the point just before you began the installation.

4. Keep Windows and Microsoft Office up-to-date
Computer programs are continually improved based on customer feedback and regular product testing. As problems are resolved, you should benefit from those improvements. By checking Microsoft Update often, you can make sure you've got the most recent Windows and Microsoft Office improvements available to you.

5. Run antivirus software and a spyware detection and removal tool
Updating your Windows software is just the first step in keeping your computer safe. Next (if you haven't already done so), you'll want to install antivirus software from a reputable vendor, such as Microsoft, AVG, Norton, or McAfee. As is the case with Windows, it is critical that you keep your antivirus software up to date. Free antivirus software comes preinstalled on many computers, but after the trial period expires, you'll be exposed to new and emergent threats. Be sure to renew your subscription or to secure alternative virus protection.

If your computer seems sluggish or if you begin to see lots of pop-up advertisements, even when you're not surfing the web, your computer may be infected with spyware, adware, or other unwanted software.

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