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Maintaining Your System Over Time

Written on June 22, 2017 by Samyntha Hubbard
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Nothing makes me more proud than hearing from a customer that has a system built by us that is 10 years old. Not to toot our own horn (toot-toot) but that is an entire decade that a system we built helped someone get their work done! That is remarkable.

Although we can’t guarantee that every system will last a decade, we can offer some tips for increasing your system's life-span.

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Backup your data and then back up your backup, regularly.

 

Okay, so I have to admit. This tip doesn’t exactly increase the longevity of the hardware in your system. However, it could prevent you from throwing your system out a window with frustration if your operating system becomes corrupt or if you have a hard drive failure and that, in turn, is evidence enough that this one belongs on the list. 
 
Backing up your data, in my opinion, is one of the most important things you can do as a PC owner. There is nothing worse than turning your system on, only to find out that Windows (or something malicious) has killed your installation, you have zero access to the hard drive and have never created a backup of your data. We call this, “being up a creek without a paddle” and let me tell you from experience, it is not a situation that you want to be in. Especially if you have loads of important data, an entire library of your favorite music and/or irreplaceable photographs stored locally on your system and only on your system. 
 
Data loss can be completely catastrophic, to put it lightly.  
 
To avoid being the victim of data loss, we suggest that you regularly backup your data. Out of good measure, it is also a good idea to backup your backup (you know, just in case). Typical rule of thumb is that you should have two separate places that you backup data to. This can be two separate internal drives (not your OS drive), two external drives or a NAS, or somewhere in the cloud. Backing up your data to one location and then duplicating that backup to another location will give you redundancy and ensure that you always have at least one good working backup at all times. 
 
Here at Puget, we get a lot of inquires on how to efficiently backup data. Please see the following link if you are interested in learning more about this topic:

 

https://www.pugetsystems.com/blog/2015/11/23/Windows-Backup-Options-740/

 

Dust out your system
 
Hey you. Yeah, you. See that small (or maybe large) hint of dust accumulating on the exterior of your system and lingering along the crevices of your case vents? If so, that is a clear indication that it is time to crack the case open and do some light “housekeeping” to rid it of dust. 
There are many little spaces within the interior (and exterior) of the system that can easily collect dust. An excess of dust can severely impact the airflow in your system and in turn, cause the system to overheat and potentially damage your hardware. We recommend dusting out the interior of your system at least once a year (more often if you live in a dry or “dusty” climate).
 
If you would like some advice for ridding the system of dust, here is an instructional video that we put together with some basic tips on how to go about doing that:

 

 

Replace failing fans

 

When your system was here being built and thoroughly tested, we strategically placed multiple case fans (and a CPU fan) within the system in order to maximize airflow and offer the best cooling possible for your particular configuration. Although the fans we use are built to last, overtime (like all mechanical objects), fans can wear out or stop functioning. Fans are a vital component to keeping your system cool. Therefore, keeping your system healthy means being proactive about replacing fans as soon as you notice they are failing.

 

If you are not used to working inside of the system, replacing a fan can sound like a very daunting task. However, replacing a fan usually only involves a couple of steps.

 

First, you must determine which fan is failing. This is usually easy to do just by observing the fans and listening for fans that may have loose bearings or screws. If a fan seems to be running very slow in comparison to other fans in the system or it is “noisy” these are usually good indications that a fan may be on its last legs and should be replaced.

 

Next, you will want to determine what model and size fan you need to replace the current fan model with and if it is still a model that is being manufactured. That part can be a bit more tricky so I would advise reaching out to us for assistance if you are unsure of the model/size of the fan you are replacing - we are always happy to assist! Once you have this information, go ahead and move forward with purchasing a fan replacement!

 

The last part of replacing the fan is to unscrew the four screws in each corner of the fan (if it is a case fan) or unhooking the bracket holding the fan to the CPU cooler (if it is the CPU fan) and then tracing the attached cable to where it is plugged into the motherboard and unhooking it. Then, follow the steps in reverse to attach the new fan. That’s it! You are now a fan replacing pro!!

 

Use a surge protector or UPS backup to protect your system from power surges

 

If your system is plugged directly into a wall outlet without a surge protector or UPS backup attached between the system and the wall, then I need you to stop reading this, shut your system down and go purchase one of those two items right away!

 

A surge protector (not a power strip, as those two things are different) provides outlets for the system to plug into but also protects the system in the event of a power surge (as its name implies).

 

A UPS, or by it’s full name, Uninterruptible Power Supply, is a bit more robust. It, too, provides outlets for the system to plug into and protection from a power surge but most of them also allow you to operate the system for a handful of minutes after a power loss to give you time to save your work and safely shut down the system. They also continually regulate the incoming voltage being delivered to the system during normal use. Therefore, protecting your system from inconsistent power input.

 

So which should YOU purchase - a surge protector or a UPS? Well, that is mostly up to you. However, general guideline is if you live in a geographical area that has a lot of electrically charged storms (A.K.A a lot of lightening) or you suspect that the power in your area fluctuates and is susceptible to brownouts or blackouts, I would strongly recommend purchasing a UPS.

 

If you don’t feel like any of the above items apply to you, than a surge protector should be sufficient. Just keep in mind that not all surge protector brands are created equal, so do a little research and make sure you are picking a brand that has great customer reviews and is built to last.

 

Keep Windows up to date

 

Keeping Windows up to date is an integral part of keeping your operating system functioning at an optimal level. I know, most of you are probably cringing because Windows updates don’t have the best reputation. Perhaps you have fallen victim to a post update crisis in the past or are dealing with an update headache currently.I know in the moment, those situations are not fun. However, I can assure you, if you don’t keep your operating system up to date you are likely to face worse consequences than the occasional update hiccup and you will be gravely sorry after the fact.

 

You see, software manufactures are constantly fixing software bugs, updating drivers for new devices, and making improvements on the software that you use everyday. While this may not sound like it's that big of a deal - it is, especially since the majority of fixes are implemented to patch security holes. Keeping your operating system up to date will not only improve security but it will also improve reliability and let’s face it, if you are going to make your system last a decade, you need it to be reliable during the process.

 

Keep your antivirus software up to date and run scans regularly.

 

Although we would all like to think that malware and viruses would “never happen to our system”, the truth is, we are all susceptible. In knowing this, the best you can do to protect your system is to put up a strong line of defense and be diligent about safe browsing, clicking and downloading. I would also like for you to keep in mind that it is not nearly enough just to have an antivirus program installed. In order to safeguard your system, you will also want to be sure that the antivirus software is regularly updating its definitions, that you run a quick scan at least once a month and that you are running extended scans at least once a month.

 

Never ignore a “CPU over-temperature” error

I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to customers (who are reporting that their systems are not booting) and they confess that they have been getting a “CPU over-temperature” warning for weeks. It happens often enough that I should not be shocked when hearing this but I always am. Why am I shocked, you may ask? Well, that is because a CPU over-temperature warning should never be ignored. It is true that the message can sometimes be a false reading but that is very rare and if you are getting messages that your CPU is overheating, you should definitely be concerned.

 

Every major component inside of your system produces heat. This is because the byproduct of electricity is thermal radiation and electricity is flowing through your system at all times, even to a small degree when the system is “shut-off” (although not nearly enough to be concerned about cooling the system while it is in the off state). If the fans or CPU cooling unit in your system is not providing sufficient cooling to the CPU (the brains of your system), the system will most likely shut itself off to protect it’s “brain”. The first few times this happens, you can usually let the system sit for a while and then it will turn on again for you. However, the more times you force your system to boot up and shut down due to overheating, the closer you are to frying your CPU and rendering the system unbootable.

 

If you are receiving a “CPU over-temperature” warning on boot up or suspect your system is overheating for any reason, please reach out to us right away so we can help you determine if it is, indeed, overheating and if so, why.

 

Moral of the story: Take care of your system and it will most likely take care of you for many years to come!

 

Tags: Preventative Maintenance, Reliability