Nextech Named 2024 Best in KLAS: Ambulatory Specialty EHR

«  View All Posts


PC maintenance checklist: How to prevent unnecessary computer lag

By: Nextech | August 7th, 2015

PC maintenance checklist: How to prevent unnecessary computer lag Blog Feature

We’ve had a lot of discussions on this blog about how to keep your practice’s computers safe and secure. While performing regular cybersecurity tasks (such as keeping your antivirus software up-to-date) is undoubtedly important, there are also some other routine PC maintenance tasks that you should be performing in order to keep your practice’s computer running smoothly and efficiently.

Have you noticed your computers run slower as time goes on?  Does your internet browser take way too long to load a new webpage?  Has it gotten so bad that you’re considering tossing out your PCs and replacing them with new ones?  Well, don’t go burning a load of cash on new gear just yet.  In all honesty, the real problem might be that either you or someone on your staff has not been performing regular maintenance tasks.

I fully realize that this article might seem pretty basic to some of you.  For those of you who are already doing all of these things, good for you… you get a gold star.  However, people have varying levels of tech knowhow.  This article is for folks on the lower end of the tech-savvy spectrum.

Case in point.  I was actually inspired to write this article after discovering that my significant other, who owns a private practice, had never performed hardly any maintenance tasks on any of her computers (neither at home nor at her practice).  And yet, she wondered why they always seemed to run at such agonizingly slow speeds. 

So, I had her run a few simple maintenance tasks and (lo and behold!) they started working efficiently again.

Are You Deleting Your Browser History?

Anytime that you do anything on your internet browser (run searches, visit websites, check your social media, etc.), your computer saves a record of it… all of it.  This record is referred to as your “browser history,” but it’s actually a collective of various file types—mostly temporary internet files and cookies, which store such things as what sites you’ve visited and when, login details for websites on which you have accounts (this is how you “stay logged in” on Facebook), and other information you may have transmitted online (such as your name, home address, phone number, etc.).

From a cybersecurity standpoint, allowing your browsing history to build up unchecked may not be a great idea… it’s not really that serious of an issue if you have encryption, but it’s still not recommended.  Keep in mind, though, that you’re also making all of the abovementioned information available to other people who may have legitimate access to the same computer.  And, of course, there is always the possibility of a stolen computer (again, not as much of an issue if it’s encrypted… but still).

Even more than creating a cybersecurity issue, not regularly deleting your browser history means your computer is writing new entries to the bottom of an ever growing list every single time you visit a new website.  This information has to be saved somewhere, and it will begin to eat up a ton space on your hard drive if left unchecked.  An unnecessarily long list of history files forces your browser to work far harder than it should need to in order to locate the proper images and files to display in the window.

When it comes to how often you should delete your browser history, the general rule is at least once every 2-4 weeks.  However, you should always and immediately delete the browser history after either using a public computer (such as at a library or hotel business kiosk) or anytime you do not want other people to be able to see a history of what sites you visited and/or online searches you made.

The method for deleting your browser history depends on which internet browser you’re using (usually Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox).  Also, and this is very important—if you have more than one browser installed on a computer, deleting the history from one will not delete it from the other.  Also, deleting the history from one computer in a network will not delete it on the others.  In any case, here are the basic instruction for deleting your browser history:

  • Internet Explorer (all versions): First you’ll need to open Internet Explorer. Then select the “Tools” menu in the taskbar near the top of the window.  Next, select “Internet Options” from the dropdown menu.  A new window will open. Select the “General” tab (if not already selected), find the section labeled “Browsing history” and click on the “Delete” button.
  • Mozilla Firefox: Open the Firefox browser and click on the “Firefox” button at the top of the screen. Next, select the “Tools” menu (in some versions, it’s the “History” menu).  Lastly, click on “Clear Recent History.”

Now, you need to realize some things… deleting your browsing history means you’ll no longer be automatically logged in when you visit certain sites. However, all you have to do is log back in on these sites and it’s fixed.  No big deal. 

Are You Defragmenting Monthly?

The data on your hard drive is physically stored on spinning platters, placed in different spots all over the surface of said platters.  When the computer writes data to the drive, it does this in “blocks” that are sequentially ordered from one end of the disk to the other.  Whenever the files get split up onto blocks that are separated from one another, this is called “fragmentation.”  Because of the distance between the blocks, too much fragmentation can make it take longer for the computer to read some files because the reader head is forced to visit multiple spots to read a single file.  In order to remedy this, you need to “defragment” your hard drive from time to time.

Defragmentation takes the data stored on separated blocks and reshuffles them into a more condensed and sequential order, increasing file reading speed.

To be honest, fragmentation is not nearly as big of an issue on newer computers (those made within the last 3-4 of years).  In fact, most new PCs automatically defragment on their own.  If your PC is more than five years old, however, chances are you will still need to run defragmentation on your own. 

The best way to know is to look at the Operating System (OS).  If the computer is running Windows 7 or Windows 8, you should be good to go since both of these versions run on a set defragmentation schedule that does not require user actions.  And Windows 10 should not be any different.  If you just want to check to make sure it’s working, open the search window and type in the word “defrag.”  Select “Windows Disk Defragmenter” from the results and check to make sure it ran a fragment check within at least the last month or so.

If the computer is running an older OS version, such as Windows XP, then… well, then I envy you because I loved that OS.  But seriously, you’ll need to run defragmentation on your own.  Luckily, it’s still fairly simple to do:

  1. Open “My Computer” from the desktop
  2. Select the “Tools” tab
  3. Optional: If desired, click the “Check Now” button to see if a defragment is needed
  4. Click the “Defragment Now” button
  5. Repeat as needed (Sometimes it’s a good idea to run the defrag twice, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve done it)

I would recommend running a defragmentation check at least once a month, and performing a defrag if needed.

Are You Regularly Installing Updates?

If you’re running an older version of Windows, you probably still have “Windows Update.”  Newer versions have “Microsoft Update,” which is an expanded update solution that works for all Microsoft products (not just Windows).  Updates tend to be organized into the following categories:

  • Security: These fix issues related to security flaws. Enough said.
  • Critical: These fix major software issues or “bugs” that cause unexpected behavior.
  • Software: These are fixes for minor, non-critical issues
  • Service Packs: These are large bundles of patches or fixes for a specific piece of software or OS code, and they often include feature changes

Running and installing updates is very important, but doing so can also be easily overlooked.  These updates aren’t provided for the heck of it, after all.  They are created to prevent you from running into security and/or operational problems, some of which could be serious.  While people tend to bellyache about updates (and, yes, sometimes they do not go according to plan), they are more likely to help your computer than hurt it.  Updates fix newly discovered security flaws, exploitable software vulnerabilities, critical bugs that can lead to crashes, and other terrifying things that we are probably better off not knowing ever existed.

I get it… you don’t want to run automatic updates because they’ve been exploited by hackers in the past.  And that’s fine.  If you’re going to disable automatic updates, at least run them manually once a week.  For Windows 7 or newer versions, just go to the search window, type in “Updates,” and select “Check for updates.”  After that, just follow the prompts.  For older versions… well… I have some bad news—you probably won’t find any updates even if I told you how to find them.

Why? Because Microsoft has probably discontinued their support for your OS.

In fact, I take back the “probably” part… they have.

Hopefully, the information in this article will help readers remember to run regular maintenance on their computers in order to keep them all running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

And remember… only YOU can prevent unnecessary lag.