Computer maintenance and stability

Do not install software that advertises that it will speed up your computer or that it will magically repair and clean up your hard drive. Most of those programs do more harm than good.

If you want to increase the speed of your computer the safest and cost effective methods are:

  1. installing an SSD instead of an HDD.
  2. increase the memory up to at least 8GB RAM.
  3. removing bloated software and reduce number of background processes as much as possible.

If your computer does work without any recurring problems, you don’t have to do anything specific to verify that it is in stable condition. You can (and should) skip this article.

However, if your computer repeatedly freezes, crashes or suddenly slows down for no reason then something is wrong with it and you should not ignore it. It is essential that you find and fix any existing problems before you setup any development environment. If you don’t have critical data in your computer but your system is not stable and especially if your system has been infected by a virus, formatting and reinstalling the operating system may be the fastest, easiest and safest way to go.

Note that the most common problem on slow laptops is not hardware related but it is software related: the operating system has been bombarded with bloated software.

Here are a few guidelines.

Regarding the software

Here are some simple rules you can follow:

  1. THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE: take frequent backups of sensitive data to multiple separate locations. You should not trust your computer. It will unavoidably fail at one point.
  2. install only the programs you need. Uninstall programs you have not used for more than 3-4 months. Uninstall software if it is not being used.
  3. do not install more than 1 antivirus
  4. do not install any speed-up or clean up software
  5. do not install cracked software. If you have no other choice (e.g. because of an assignment during your studies), you should use virtual machines.
  6. do not clutter your desktop with millions of shortcuts (yes it will slow it down)
  7. watch the taskbar, keep as few programs running as possible
  8. disable as many notifications as you can
  9. update your operating system and all the development kits you are using.

Regarding the hardware

Here are some simple guidelines regarding the hardware:

  1. after the guarantee expires, you should clean (literally, from hair and dust) your computer approximately once per year. It can be easily done by following instructions in youtube related to your specific laptop model. Desktops are more resilient and you could delay cleaning (perhaps every 3 years), but laptops (especially cheap ones) tend to accumulate dust at the fan sockets pretty fast. Cleaning your computer will increase it’s life expectancy drastically.
  2. Every 2 to 3 years you should replace the thermal paste on your CPU. Use high quality products. They will last longer.
  3. if your computer overheats, solve the problem as soon as possible. Overheating may easily damage your CPU or/and your motherboard which are the most expensive parts of your computer.
  4. if your laptop case cracks, solve the problem as soon as possible. Delaying it may create bigger problems and increase the cost of repairing. If the case cracks, there is a high chance there is an underlying condition (maybe some screws are loose) so it’s better to repair it to a certified repair center.

Testing the hardware

Here are some programs that you might find handy:

1) Verify the memory works flawlessly.

You could install memtest86  to a bootable USB or a CD/DVD.

Boot from it and run the tests. Leave the computer running until the tests are done. If memtest86 reports no problems you can be pretty sure the memory is okay.

2) Verify the CPU/GPU works flawlessly.

You can use OCCT stability test tool or Prime95. For GPU you can use Furmark but it is rarely needed for a development computer.

You can read more details at this article

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