Is your computer a little problematic? Slowing down? And you’re not ready to call in expert help? Try these tricks. As always, back up important data first. 1. A surprising number of computer problems—inexplicable system crashes, random program shutdowns, “not enough memory” errors—are caused by faulty RAM chips. These errors are normally hard to diagnose by yourself, but on Windows, the free program Memtest86 (http://www.mem test86.com) makes it easy. On Macintosh OS 9, use RAM Check 2.1, which can be downloaded at http://ftp.traffictrak.com/RAMCheck21.sit or http://download.digidesign.com/support/digi/mac/utilities/ RMCheck210.sea.hqx(.) You can also try Techtool Pro for OS 9 or OS X. 2. Four big demons of computers are dust, heat, moisture, and static. You can take some preventive measures, like covering your CPU and monitor when they’re not in use and protecting your computer by drinking your coffee away from the computer, but demons will strike no matter what you do, and they manifest their presence in odd ways. The most common is disk corruption, which shows up as disappearing or corrupt files and folders. Regular disk maintenance is important to keep these demons at bay. The most well-known tool for repairing disk drives is Norton Utilities (http://www.symantec.com), which is included in Norton System Works. You can use it to diagnose and fix already corrupt files, but it is most useful for preventive maintenance. Using these utilities to optimize or defragment your hard drive on a regular basis makes individual files as contiguous as possible, which can increase the speed at which files and programs are opened. However, Norton Utilities can sometimes cause problems of its own, particularly on older computers, if it is installed to run in the background. If you open System Works and click on Options, Norton Utilities, and then the Startup tab, you can uncheck the boxes that would instruct the program to start whenever you boot up. Then it’s up to you to decide how often you need to activate it, perhaps somewhere between once a week and once a month.
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