PC Maintenance: Cleanups, Reloads, and Replacement

There comes a time in every PCs life where performance has slowed down to the point that the system is no longer usable. The causes are varied. One common cause is that when programs install or update themselves they carry with the shared files to keep each program from reinventing the wheel. The problem is that not every update is backwards compatible. Updates and new installs aren't the only cause. A computer that hangs or crashes from an existing bug can cause a trickle down of problems, much like a slow leaking faucet.

While this is normal wear and tear for your PC, you don't have to just sit and take it. Depending on the severity of the problem three options are open to you:

Cleanup
By pruning the startup items on your PC you limit how many programs are running in the background, slowing things down and creating new conflicts when they trigger updates. Hand in hand with this, a good virus and ad scan can give a machine new life with minimal cost.

You can also free disk space by using the Disk Cleanup Utility included as part of windows. Contrary to popular belief, some of these cleanups can slow your performance when web browsing.

Reload
Reloading a PC is much like rebuilding the engine on a car. All data must be first backed up, because the second step is to completely wipe your computer's hard drive clean. This removes all data, programs, and settings. Because programs cannot be backed up or transferred, original CDs or downloads must be used to get the PC back to its original set of programs. Finally, data is put back in place and major settings, (like e-mail accounts and passwords), are put back in their places. This procedure results in major changes to the look and feel of the computer as all programs revert to their original installed toolbars and layout. The bright side is that the reload returns the computer to its initial performance. Walkthroughs by OS can be found here. You may also need help locating drivers

Replacement
When the age of a computer merits replacement, or a computer is struggling with expensive, intermittent, or hard to diagnose hardware issues, it's often cheaper to Replace rather than to Reload. This carries all of the ups and downs of Reloading, but significantly increases costs, while resetting the clock on hardware problems. Be careful when replacing to make sure you're not making a poor choice on your new Operating System.

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