03 May 2006

"Sudden catastrophic failures" are never sudden and don't have to be catastrophic

Our mechanic in Ann Arbor impressed on us a very important fact: "There is no such thing as sudden catastrophic failure in an automobile engine." After Amy and I began following his advice, we soon discovered that we were saving money on repairs and our 10-year-old cars were running like new (except for the suspension problem in the Corolla that we were monitoring).

After another round of computer problems this last weekend, we started thinking: "There shouldn't be any sudden catastrophic failure in a computer, right?" So, with this post, Amy and I are asking for your help. What kind of regular computer maintenance routine will help us prevent future computer emergencies? Naturally, problems will occur, but we'd like to be able to plan for and budget for them (rather than being surprised by the need to, say, replace our motherboard).

Here are the maintenance options/software that we already have on our computer.
  • McAfee Anti-Virus software (scans everytime the computer boots and every Friday afternoon)
  • Ad-Aware
  • Spybot
  • Disk defragmenter utility
  • Disk cleanup utility
  • CheckDisk utility
  • Windows Update automatically downloads any new stuff from Microsoft when it's released
  • And, of course, we back up everything once a month.
But, how often should we run these? Is there anything we're missing that we should have?


At 3/5/06 15:45, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's what you are missing: A Mac. I just got my second one, which I love. My relationship with my computer is one of love because I don't have to do any maintenance or buy any special software. This is the fourth apple between Mike and me and none of them have ever given us any problems. In fact, we give our old ones to family members who have gone through many PCs for the same thing you mention. The Mac is the toyota of computers! If you wait until Sept they usually have a deal where you can buy a mac and get an ipod for free!

At 3/5/06 16:07, Blogger amy7252 said...

You are definitely right about the superiority of Macs in terms of maintenance and lack of viruses. I finally gave up because you can't find software for it, and every time I opened a Mac file on a PC, the formatting was all wacky. Besides, this computer is only a year old (barely). As it turns out, the problem was minor and our friend Doug fixed it. (Thank goodness) But, I'd love to get another iPod so that Colin could have one! :)


At 3/5/06 17:57, Blogger Joe said...

We were having problems like this with our last computer. I did some research and found that Adware and Spybot are themselves Spyware and really don't catch the nastiest Spyjunk. So I ditched those two programs and switched to Norton Internet Security. It is specifically designed for heavy internet usage. (MacAfee might have a version of this too?) It is about $20 more than the standard level, but well worth it. After I did all this, the computer started running fine. I do the same thing with this laptop (which I got around the same time you did, I think?) and I haven't had any problems. (Knock on wood.) Also, don't rely on Windows Automatic update. I've noticed that it sometimes misses things. So I randomly go to the Windows update page to see what has been missed. The same is true with Office updates. I have it set to automatically do so, but just last week I found a critical update for Outlook that it had missed.

And as for Macs, I just read somewhere that viruses et al. may be catching up to them very soon. (I don't think it was written by Bill Gates.)
I hope this helps.

At 4/5/06 08:11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check cnet.com for useful downloads that will help your computer. A couple that I really like are: CCleaner and the FreeRAM XP. CCleaner does a lot of stuff for free that Norton will charge you for. One thing that I like is that it cleans out your temporary internet files, temp files, cookies, and other assorted junk that builds up and slows your system down. It also repairs problems with your registry and fixes a bunch of other stuff. FreeRAM is a utility that monitors your memory useage and will free up some memory if your computer starts slowing down or acting weird. I really don't like Norton products at all because they seem to take up a lot of memory and system resources and cause problems of their own. I loaded McAfee on Lisa's computer and it works much better and I use the free AVG anti-virus software on mine...it catches everything.

You guys probably know about this already, but if you start having problems with your computer, you ought to look at your error log by right clicking your My Computer and choosing Manage then selecting Event Viewer and then choosing System. You can scroll through and see any errors that are occuring on your system and often there is a link that takes you to a Microsoft page that identifies the problem.

Hope this helps. -Ryan

At 4/5/06 22:58, Blogger Julia said...

What type of catastrophic failures are you getting? If you see the blue screen of death regularly, you might try to catch what some of the error messages are. What I recently discovered with my computer is that all the devices hooked up to my USB hub were playing havoc with the computer and regularly crashing it (throwing up a USB etc. message of some sort). Now I keep only my keyboard and my printer hooked up to my usb port (and I keep my printer turned off unless I'm using it) and hook up other devices after I turn on the computer, and my crashes have (and I do hate to say this but it is at least true up til now) disappeared. Anyway, this just to say that it is sometimes useful to pay attention to hardware and device drivers as much as to the software on computers - especially since you guys seem very diligent about your software and data maintenance. Good luck!


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