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Posted by: Kim_Hamilton on 05/04/2012 09:42 AM Updated by: Kim_Hamilton on 05/04/2012 10:23 AM
Expires: 01/01/2017 12:00 AM

Computer Tune Ups – The Reason to Be Thorough (Emptying the Glitch Bucket)~by Blair Wiley of Wiley Computer Works

When your computer runs slowly, this can be caused by several different things.

1) Even if nothing bad happens to a computer, it will still run more slowly after some time, not because it wears out or runs down, but simply because the world around it changes and these changes work their way into the computer through updates. I’m sure you’ve seen them – LOTS of updates. This is necessary in order for the computer to remain working with the changing world and to protect it from new threats like modern viruses. (This is why, when purchasing a new computer, you might want to consider how “future proof” it is based on the quality of its parts, which affects how long it .....

will last in a changing world. But that’s another story.) Many of the updates in Adobe Reader and in Java are simply to combat avenues of virus attacks. In Windows, there are often updates to the updates, eventually, that help the computer run better. It’s worth installing these, and only some of them update automatically. There are also a few updates you shouldn’t install, so it’s better not to go looking for them and then clicking on all of them. You’ll wonder where these new, annoying programs came from, and if your computer is older, this will slow it down.

2) When the computer was new, it was probably right for the times. But over the years, the programs you used on it grew bigger. Plus, your email files are likely now much large than the designers foresaw. And you might simply be running more programs simultaneously than before. Your computer could now be overtaxed with modern software and work load. Turning off unnecessary start up programs can help, along with adding RAM if necessary. The amount of RAM is like the size of the desk on which you work. RAM is the computer’s work space. Trying to do too many projects on too small of a desk slows you down. That’s why you move to your dining room table to do your taxes. It gives you more space to work. It’s like getting more RAM. A computer wants enough space to work, too, and that increases with the years.

3) Bad things really do happen to computers, just like with your car and with your body. They feel run down, they catch diseases, they break bones, they blow a gasket. Computers are complex systems, practically living machinery. But they don’t heal themselves like your body can. They don’t change their own tires. They eventually need human intervention to get rid of a virus or fix a network connection or find an update that’s not automatic.

4) There are advertisements that find there way onto your web browser or into your email or that ride along with legitimate updates. Or you might hear about it from a “cocktail party expert”. These say that you can get this program that will keep your computer in top-running shape. But most of these cause more problems than they solve. There are far more bad programs than good programs available on line for computer maintenance. How do you think a company can afford to give you something for free? The good ones rely on popularity and advertising. The bad ones make money off of you in other ways, usually through spyware and then through downloading other programs you didn’t ask for. Some will even charge you, and then they have your credit card info. You’re walking in the dark without a flashlight, here, putting yourself in likely danger. There are more booby traps than oases. It helps to have an expert guide through the territory.

5) A common scam these days is that you receive a phone call saying your computer is sending out viruses, and these guys have been alerted and have to alert you and need to fix it right away. They tell you to go to your computer right now and turn it on and then let them log in and fix it. Then they charge you about $200 on your credit card. When you get this call right about the time that you think something might be wrong with your computer anyway, that makes it seem legitimate and you’ll be likely to comply. Even the most careful person will fall for it at a time when it seems to correspond with their computer’s issues. Call your bank immediately. They see this a lot and can likely reverse the charges if you call soon enough. On the last one I dealt with, the bank said the company was based in France.

6) The computer’s designers know for a fact that there will be glitches over time. This is simply nature’s way in the materials used to make chips. There is a given probability that one of the millions of electronic bits will spontaneously change state from a 0 to a 1, or in the other direction. There’s no telling in advance which bit it will be. So electronic systems like computers are designed with this in mind, sensing when one bit in a set has changed to what’s called an “illegal state” in the computer. The computer can be designed to recover automatically from illegal states that were foreseen. But they can’t foresee them all, especially not the occasional multi-bit flips, and sometimes the computer just has to be restarted, which gives it a quick nap and helps it wake up feeling better again. Sometimes, however, the glitches get into the software or onto the hard drive and it requires a bit more clean up.

Thus, computers are designed to expect problems encountered along the way. For a long while, you won’t know this is happening. It’s like the grease pan under your BBQ. It just sits there catching drips automatically while you focus on cooking. But when the drip pan fills up and overflows, then you’ve got a problem, and you’ll find out about it very quickly.

There are two ways you can fix an overflowing drip pan.

a) You can quickly skim off the top so that it no longer overflows. Then it might last through a couple more rounds of BBQ. Or,

b) You can clean the drip pan all the way to the bottom, taking the time to empty it completely. Then it will serve you for a nice, long time again.

One can think of computers as having a “glitch bucket” that catches problems automatically for you even before you’re aware of this happening. It’s when the glitch bucket overflows that it becomes noticeable to you. So how do you fix it? You can either skim off the top layer for a short term fix, or clean it out all the way to the bottom for a long term fix. I think the latter is better for a computer, with the degree that you rely on it and while it’s getting proper attention anyway. Otherwise, if it was a car, you’ll get a front end alignment but will put up with a sputtering car until the next tune up, and that’s frustrating.

If a computer’s updates are allowed to become too far out of date, it will simply begin to develop even more problems more quickly. Not every update has to be run right away, but when too many of them are put off for too long, the world has left it behind and it will need attention.

You can perform a certain amount of self-maintenance on your computer, and if you know the basics well, that can save me a little time and allow me to get right to the complex issues. But to be honest, this is a rare skill for a typical computer user, and it’s a bit like messing with your car’s engine. It’s complicated and you can only know so much about it unless you work on them frequently as a hobby or as a job. If it scares you, don’t do it because you might cause more problems than you solve. It’s best to treat your computer like your car – let a mechanic keep it running well, and then all you do with it is get in and drive.

For help with your computers and your networks, I can be reached at (209) 768-2354.

Blair Wiley
Wiley Computer Works

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