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[ The PC Guide | System Care Guide | Preventive Maintenance ]

Preventive Maintenance Schedule and Summary

In order for preventive maintenance to be useful, you have to remember to do it! This is not always as easy as it sounds. Most of us have equipment around the house that we know we should work on but we always forget if not reminded (I do). Something that can help is to create a preventive maintenance schedule.

As discussed here, some types of maintenance are really better done when they need to be done based on the condition of the system or device, instead of just doing them after a preset amount of time. This can be hard to gauge though, and it is easy to forget to do the maintenance work (or put it off indefinitely).

For this reason, I recommend that you set up a preventive maintenance schedule. This is simply a chart that shows various maintenance activities, and how often they should be done, to allow you to setup a calendar so you remember to do your PM work. You should alter this schedule when it makes sense, and also add extra instances of importance PM activities when they make sense. For example, you may normally only update the information on your emergency boot floppies once every few months, but you will also want to do it any time you upgrade your operating system, regardless of when you did it last before this event.

Once you have set up a schedule, you can translate it to actual dates to help you remember when to perform various preventive maintenance activities. Software procedures, which often should be performed daily, are best done using some sort of automated program scheduler. For longer-time-interval tasks, you can simply mark the activity down on a regular calendar. If you have appointment book software, such as Schedule+ from Microsoft, or Lotus Organizer (or similar) you can put reminders to do your preventive maintenance right in the software!

Below I have included a sample preventive maintenance schedule, which includes approximate recommended time intervals for performing the various procedures. The frequency with which you perform preventive maintenance really depends on what your system is, how you use it, and what is important to you. The numbers below are guidelines that should at least put most people in the right ballpark. You should determine what schedule makes sense for you by reading up on the various maintenance procedures and deciding what you think is most appropriate.

I have intentionally not made my schedule too aggressive; if the schedule is ridiculous ("check your surge suppressor daily!") then maintenance becomes a major drag and chances are that nothing at all will end up getting done. I have also made my recommended frequencies so that similar activities (where reasonable) are performed at the same interval. In particular, performing all the maintenance activities that require you to open up the PC at the same time makes sense, for obvious reasons. Having a single, annual "clean the PC day" allows you to keep your PC running at top form without having to open the dumb thing up several times a year.

Also note that backups should follow their own organized schedule. This is because even if you do backups daily (and you should), you may not back up the same items each day. See here for a discussion of backup schedules.

The sample schedule below is actually organized by recommended frequency (even though the activity itself is in the left-most column). It represents those preventive maintenance activities that I think make sense for most PC owners. The "Auto?" column contains the word "Yes" for those activities that can normally be set to run automatically using a program scheduler:

Preventive Maintenance Activity

Recommended Frequency

Auto?

Scan hard disk file systems for errors

Daily

Yes

Scan for viruses

Daily

Yes

Back up data

Daily

No

Clean CRT screen

Weekly

No

Defragment hard disks

Weekly

Yes

Scan for hard disk read errors

Weekly

Yes

Clean mouse

Monthly

No

Check for full hard disk volumes and remove unnecessary files

Monthly

No

Update virus definition files

Monthly

Sometimes

Check power protection devices to ensure they are still protecting the system

Quarterly

No

Check power supply fan for ventilation and dirt buildup and clean if necessary

Quarterly

No

Back up CMOS information

Quarterly

No

Update emergency boot floppies

Quarterly

No

Clean floppy disk drive internals and read/write heads

Quarterly (depending on use)

No

Check processor temperature, inspect heat sink and fan to ensure they are working

Annually (or whenever case is opened)

No

Check hard disk for temperature and vibration

Annually (or whenever case is opened)

No

Clean exterior of case

Annually

No

Clean exterior of monitor

Annually

No

Check and clean interior, motherboard and expansion cards if necessary

Annually

No

Check internal connections and cables

Annually

No

Clean keyboard

Annually

No

Next: System Care: Protecting Your PC


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