Web-Fu for beginners
I'll start with the manual and assume that Windows is the operating system you are most likely to be using. Click START, HELP & SUPPORT, or HELP on older versions of windows. These are the Windows Help files. Believe it or not, it's a very powerful resource that will tell you much you may need to know about working and maintaining your PC.
Now maintenance. Your car needs maintaining. You put oil and water in the engine, air in the tyres and screenwash in the resevoir. Or you should. It's the same with your PC. STOP! Put down that oil can and step away from the back of the computer. What I mean is that it needs maintaining. Every week you should perform a virus scan as a matter of course. You should always keep your virus scanner and Firewall up to date. Many (if not all) have an automatic update option. What I actually do is have mine tell me when an update is available and then do it manually. I might be playing a game online at the time, and the download may cause it to lag (I'll talk about lag in later posts). At the very first opportunity I get it sorted though. I'd only have myself to blame if I didn't and something went wrong. If you don't have a virus scanner and/or Firewall stop reading this right now and go get them. [understatement] It's important [/understatement]. There's several freeware ones available, and I may take a look at a few in the future. You should consider the option of a router or gateway when you accept an internet connection from a provider. These can act as firewalls and can be very good, depending on suppliers, prices etc. but it should be noted that the Firewall that comes within Windows is only the most very basic you can get (in service pack 1) or a particular pain in the rear (service pack 2) to use. Check it's turned off if you have another Firewall installed. That's another thing you need to keep up to date as well. Windows itself. Make sure you regularly check for updates from Windows update.
Other applications you need are some sort of anti-spyware and anti ad-ware. Although these are the same things you want a couple of them as they are amongst the most up-do-date forms of maliciousware or invasions of privacy out there. Personally I use Ad-Aware and SpyBot with no problems. What one doesn't get, the other does. There are reasons for this that I'll go into in more detail at a later date. Keep them up-to-date and do regular checks. Once a week or less if you frequent some of the more questionable places on the net.
Next is error checking and defragmentation. If you have Windows XP there will be less of a need for this but I'd still say once a week perform these tasks. It doesn't take that long and may well improve performance and free up hard drive space otherwise being wasted. The order is important, do the error check first and the defrag after.
Click START, HELP & SUPPORT to open the help files. Then type "error checking" in the little white box in the top left-hand corner. You should get something like this. Simply follow the instructions given and you should have no problem.
Defragmentation is in the same place as error checking as is a facility to back up your files. Regular back-ups are a good idea too to avoid data loss but if you maintain your system, hopefully you won't suffer a catastrophic failure and be forced to use the back-ups you made, hardware failures, lightning strikes and floods notwithstanding. If possible, put them on a seperate drive that isn't used daily, or back up to a DVD or CD. Always verify these back-ups and if the data is important do two or three verified copies, never rely on only one copy.
Regular maintainence may well see you preventing potential problems instead of having to deal with them as they arise. Hopefully this will enhance your game playing and all round pc experience.
Many thanks to FatBob & Wes for valuable help with this article.