PC Main­te­nance

The dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal tools you need.

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents - DANIEL WILKS takes his span­ner out of the works.

You may have the tools you need to put a PC to­gether, but there are some others you should think about get­ting your hands on if you want to keep your PC run­ning smoothly. The es­sen­tial tools fall into two dis­tinct cat­e­gories: soft­ware and ac­tual phys­i­cal tools. While the soft­ware may re­quire up­dat­ing or re-down­load­ing ev­ery now and then, after you buy them they’re yours for­ever.


Autoruns is a free Mi­crosoft soft­ware pack­age that shows you ev­ery pro­gram that autoruns at Win­dows startup let­ting you know what is steal­ing cy­cles from your gam­ing and giv­ing you dif­fer­ent op­tions for how to deal with them. The lay­out is a lit­tle busy, and you can’t be too cava­lier about what pro­cesses you kill, but when it comes to free­ing up some mem­ory it works a treat.


Al­most every­one knows the pain and frus­tra­tion of los­ing a word doc­u­ment to a crash, or ac­ci­den­tally delet­ing a file. Recuva is free soft­ware that un­deletes files, re­cov­ers data from cor­rupted or dam­aged disks, re­stores un­saved word docs and so on. It also does the op­po­site, so if you’re se­cu­rity con­scious, you can use Recuva to per­ma­nently and se­curely delete files.


Du­pli­cate File Fin­der does what it says on the tin, scan­ning your drives by file name, cre­ation/mod­i­fi­ca­tion date and con­tent and give you a list of all the files that have been du­pli­cated al­low­ing you to free up some valu­able stor­age space. If you’re run­ning your OS drive on a smaller ca­pac­ity SSD the soft­ware is es­pe­cially use­ful as you need all the space you can get on your OS drive.

AVG TUNEUP Free/$59.99 an­nual sub­scrip­tion

Tuneup is an all-in-one suite of PC main­te­nance soft­ware that can free up disk space, boost boot speeds, au­to­mat­i­cally up­date all out­dated driv­ers, fix crashes and more. While none of the in­di­vid­ual parts are quite as good as stand­alone prod­ucts per­form­ing the same tasks, there’s an ease of use that is fan­tas­tic. Un­less you plan on using the soft­ware on all your de­vices (in­clud­ing tablets and phones) the free ver­sion is good enough for home PC use.


Clean Master searches your PC for any junk, giv­ing you the op­por­tu­nity to get rid of un­wanted files with ease. It can also scan for po­ten­tial pro­grams or apps that may be pri­vacy risks.

CPU-Z Free

CPU-Z is the eas­i­est and most com­pre­hen­sive way to get sys­tem in­for­ma­tion fast. The soft­ware dis­plays your pro­ces­sor name, num­ber, pro­cesses and cache lev­els, shows the mem­ory type, size and tim­ing, gives real-time feed­back on each core’s in­ter­nal fre­quency, load and the like, as well as giv­ing a run­down of the other hard­ware in the sys­tem. CPU-Z can also be used to stress test CPUs. A must for over­clock­ers.


An ex­tremely easy to use GPU overclocking and mon­i­tor­ing tool, Afterburner is your goto if you want to squeeze all the per­for­mance pos­si­ble out of your graph­ics card.


There are free driver up­daters out there (and Driver Easy has a free ver­sion), but this is a piece of soft­ware worth pay­ing for. Driver Easy keeps your PC up to date by scan­ning for new driv­ers for all your com­po­nents and pe­riph­er­als and ei­ther au­to­mat­i­cally in­stalling them or al­low­ing users to in­stal them with one click. The soft­ware also makes au­to­matic re­store points in case of bad driv­ers or in­sta­bil­ity, and can be used as an unin­staller if needs be.


A pow­er­ful and up to date mal­ware scan­ner and re­mover is in­valu­able. Mal­ware­bytes is con­stantly up­dat­ing with new threats and does an excellent job of hunt­ing down and get­ting rid of any nas­ties that may be on your sys­tem. A paid ver­sion is also avail­able with more func­tion­al­ity, but if you browse sen­si­bly, the free pack­age should be enough to keep you safe.


CCleaner is the ul­ti­mate PC clean­ing tool. Many things in one, CCleaner can act as a registry cleaner, deleted files cleaner, unin­staller (this should al­ways be used be­fore in­stalling a new video card driver), track­ing files and cookie cleaner, de­frag­ger, file recovery, and more. CCleaner is a one stop shop for get­ting rid of clut­ter.


While mod­u­lar screw­drivers are hands, a proper set of Phillips head screw­drivers is worth its weight in gold when it comes to putting to­gether or main­tain­ing a PC due to the sim­ple fact that they are solid and can’t fall apart. The var­i­ous lengths mean that you can com­fort­ably screw in com­po­nents no mat­ter how awk­wardly they are placed, or use a longer screw­driver to get some ex­tra torque to re­lease stub­born screws. Mag­netic heads are also in­valu­able, not only for hold­ing screws, but also for re­triev­ing the in­evitable screw that falls un­der the CPU cooler.


A good pair of nee­dle nose pli­ers can make build­ing or main­tain­ing a PC a breeze. The long jaws of the pli­ers al­low for fine con­trol for hold­ing com­po­nents in place, at­tach­ing finicky ca­bles or reach­ing into tight spa­ces, and the wire cut­ters built into most ver­sions are in­valu­able for clean­ing up un­needed ca­bles, short­en­ing ca­ble ties and the like.


While using straight iso­propyl al­co­hol as a cleaner is def­i­nitely a no-no as it can make plas­tic brit­tle or catch fire, most brands of mon­i­tor cleaner con­tain al­co­hol in some form to pre­vent streak­ing. We’ve found that best prac­tice for clean­ing a mon­i­tor is to turn it off and un­plug it, give it a gen­tle wipe down with a dry mi­crofi­bre cloth, then give the cloth a spritz of cleaner be­fore wip­ing it down again. There’s no real need to clean your mon­i­tor too of­ten if you take care, but a yearly checkup is al­ways ad­vised.


Un­less your com­puter room has ex­tremely bright lights and you cast no shadow, the best way to see ev­ery­thing in­side your case is with a head mounted lamp. Sure, they’re not what you would call cool, but they are a huge help when it comes to any job that has you crawl­ing un­der a desk or peer­ing into an open case.


Ex­tra ther­mal paste al­ways comes in handy if you’re look­ing to up­grade your cool­ing, or need to re­move your cooler to clean it. The paste that comes with a new cooler is usu­ally suf­fi­cient, but hav­ing ex­tra never hurts.


There is no better way to max­imise air­flow while mak­ing your PC tidy on the in­side than with some ca­ble ties. You can keep all your ca­bles neat, or­gan­ised and out of the way with just a few. They’re not just for the in­side of your PC ei­ther. Pro Tip: if you have a wheeled chair and you don’t want to scratch up a pol­ished wooden floor, put socks over each of the rollers and ca­ble tie them in place. No more scratches. As an added bonus, the chair will star in place on car­pet and not roll around.

CANNED AIR Ap­prox $20

Canned air is ex­actly what it says on the tin. De­press­ing the trig­ger re­leases a stream of gas, great for clean­ing key­boards, blow­ing dust out of fans and gen­er­ally dust­ing sur­faces. Be care­ful to only use can­ner air up­right. If used up­side down it could spray liq­uid (gasses are com­pressed into liq­uid in­side the cans) and dam­age your PC or com­po­nents.


A blower brush is a brush with a built in puffer/blad­der so you can gen­tly brush and blow dust from frag­ile or del­i­cate com­po­nents. They’re mostly used for clean­ing cam­era lenses, but they’re great for dust­ing parts of your PC you don’t feel com­fort­able wip­ing down with a cloth or blast­ing with some canned air.

if you have a wheeled chair, put socks over each of the rollers and ca­ble tie them in place

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