Running Periodic Maintenance of Windows XP


Save Time By
Buying all the supplies you need in one fell swoop
Cleaning on schedule
Using common tools to get the job done
Ever lost ten minutes looking at a special can of computer monitor cleaner, wondering if you really need it? Ever open your computer to discover three inches of caked-on gunk clogging the air inlets?
Maintenance is a pain. It takes time, and you know if you let your teenager (or the housekeeper) try to clean something, it’ll take you a half hour to go back and fix it. Still, it has to be done. Otherwise, the inside of your computer will remind you with a bout of spontaneous combustion, and your mouse will start smelling like a dead rodent.
This technique takes you — quickly! — through the steps necessary to keep your beast alive.
Making Your Maintenance Shopping List
Everything you need to keep your PC in tip-top shape is listed in the following list.
Cotton swabs (Q-Tips or something similar) Little balls of cotton
Paper towels (good, thick ones — the kind that don’t fall apart)
Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol,  — they’re all the same thing)
Glass cleaner (Windex or something similar)
Diskette (just any old floppy diskette that’s lying around)
Stamp collector’s 6-inch round-tip stamp tongs (see the section, “Pulling out a stuck diskette,” later in this technique) — nope, tweezers and needle-nose pliers don’t work as well, unless they’re very long and thin
Compressed air
Small pocketknife
A small computer tool kit with screws, screwdrivers, jumpers, and all those little things that seem to get swallowed whenever you open the case.
CD lens cleaner (looks like a CD, but cleans the CD/DVD lens)
Make a copy of this list and run through it the next time you go shopping.

Weekly Cleaning

If you’re thinking of cleaning each component of your computer, one by one, you’re working too hard. Instead, use each cleaning tool once and move from component to component in cleaning phases.
Set up your computer-cleaning schedule to coincide with your regular house cleaning. That way you kill two — or five or ten — birds with one stone.

Here’s an overview of your weekly cleaning drill:

7. Vacuum
2. Dust
3, Clean monitor screens
4, Ungunk the mouse
5. Check the floppy drive
I discuss each of these tasks in more detail in the following sections.

Vacuuming strategies

Haul out your vacuum cleaner. (You do that to clean your office anyway, right?) Using the smallest attachment you can find — one of those crevice cleaners works great — vacuum the living daylights out of the following computer components:
Keyboard: Unplug the keyboard. Turn it upside down and shake it. Look for loose keys that might be consumed by the vacuum cleaner. If the keys are all hooked on, vacuum every nook and cranny. Turn the keyboard upside down again and repeat once or twice. Finally, shoot compressed air into all the corners and then vacuum again.
Monitor: If you have a traditional big monitor, turn it off. Vacuum all those holes in the case to get rid of the dust. Bonus points if you can get at the dust inside. You lose all points, and may go literally down in flames, if anything is obstructing the flow of air into and out of the casing. No, don’t open up the casing. Sheesh. You could get electrocuted. (LCD/flat panel monitors don’t need vacuuming.)
The computer itself: Shut down Windows and turn off the power. Then vacuum every single place you can reach. Use your hand to block the largest air intakes so you get maximum suck where you need it most. Finally, stick your finger in the diskette drive, push the little flap back or up (depending on the kind of drive), and vacuum like crazy.
Peripherals: Turn off your printer, scanner, modem, DSL box, UPS, power distribution bar, network hub, external drives, and everything else, and vacuum, vacuum, vacuum.
I’ve tried using many variations on the small vacuum cleaner, but I haven’t found anything that works as well as a plain, small, everyday household canister vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool.

Dusting tips

After you vacuum, pull out a cleaning rag and wipe off the plastic case on your computer, the back of the monitor, printer, the outside of your scanner, the tray on your CD drive that holds the CDs, and any other plastic that’s literally sitting around gathering dust. Don’t use any cleaners. If some gunk is stuck to a piece of hardware, use a little water and rub gently. If it’s still stuck, add a bit of soap and rub gently.
If it’s still stuck, get a universal solvent like Goo Gone ( shtml) and go for it. Yeah, I know you aren’t supposed to use solvents on plastic cases. But if you’re trying to get off tape residue, you don’t have much choice. If you use a solvent, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area, and make sure your Aunt Mildred doesn’t haul out a cigarette while you’re in the middle of cleaning.

Cleaning screens

How you clean your screen depends on whether you’re using an old-fashioned, full-sized, TV-style monitor or have a flat screen. The working end of a monitor is glass. The panel of an LCD screen is a special kind of plastic. They aren’t the same, and they don’t clean the same:
. Never touch a monitor — a traditional monitor, ) LCD flat screen, or portable screen — with your ‘ finger. Cleaning the smudgy oils in human skin isn’t always easy.
To clean a glass screen: Spray or pour a small amount of plain, old, everyday glass cleaner onto a good-quality paper towel.
Don’t spray the screen; the cleaner can fall into the electronics. Gently rub down the screen; then rub the glass with a dry piece of paper towel.
I know, I know. You’re supposed to use a lint-free cloth to clean a screen. Poppycock. I’ve been using paper towels for years, and I’ve never seen a scratch yet. In fact, I seem to get the best results with old newspapers. But I don’t have the guts to say that in a big topic like this. Heh heh heh.
To clean a flat-panel screen, including the screen on a laptop: Put a bit of rubbing alcohol (isopropanol) on a ball of cotton. Rub very gently, following quickly with a clean ball of cotton. That’s how the manufacturers clean the displays as they leave the assembly line.
On the other hand, I have scratched an LCD screen with a paper towel. Use cotton. And don’t use a commercial screen wipe unless it specifically says that it works with an LCD. I like to use alcohol preps, which you can buy for a pittance at any medical supply store.
To clean a scanner: Scanner beds are glass, just like monitors, and you clean them the same way. But you have to be excruciatingly careful not to let any of the glass cleaner leak over the edges. After the cleaner has dried on the underside of the bed, it takes a screwdriver and a lot of patience to clean things up.

Ungunking the mouse

Nothing drives me nuts faster than a jumping mouse. Cleaning a mouse involves four steps:
1 Clean the mouse pad.
People tend to overlook this vital first step. If your mouse gets dirty, where does the dirt come from? D’oh. Slick, shiny pads are best cleaned with your fingernails. (You can wash them if you must.) Bumpy mouse pads only need a shake. And if you use your desktop for a mousepad — yech. You eat there, don’t you?
2, Clean the gliders.
The gliders are those little plastic things on the bottom of the mouse that the mouse moves around on. Use your fingernails. If a recessed area is around the gliders, clean the gunk out of there with a toothpick or a knife.
3, Clean the working part.
If you have a roller mouse, unplug it first.
Flip it over, open the cover, and take out the ball.
Wipe off the ball with a paper towel and a little bit of water.
Set it aside to dry.
Inside the cavity, use a small knife to scrape the big crud off the metal and plastic rollers (the Microsoft IntelliMouse has two metal rollers and one plastic).
No need to scrape hard because the rubbing alcohol picks up anything that remains.
Flip the mouse over and pop it against the base of your hand to get the big junk out. Then clean all the rollers with cotton swabs, each dipped in rubbing alcohol. Make sure you rotate the rollers. Blow everything out, reassemble, and you’re back in business.
If you have an optical mouse, use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab or cotton ball to clean the eye.
4, If you have a wireless mouse, check the signal.
Each manufacturer is different, but to check the batteries in a Microsoft mouse, choose Start Control Panel Printers and Other Hardware Mouse, and then click the Wireless tab. You see icons for battery status and for signal strength. If the batteries are shot, replace them with cheap NiCads. If the signal strength seems poor, move the base around.
I have a fancy, expensive Microsoft wireless, | optical mouse, and I hated it. Why? It kept clicking those weird side-keys (Microsoft calls them “thumb” keys) for me, even when my fingers were miles away. So when I was working on a Web page and moved my mouse up and to the left, CLICK!, the mouse told Internet Explorer I wanted to go back to the previous Web page. I thought the mouse must’ve been dirty — even when it was new — so I spent ages trying to clean it. Nope. Ultimately, I disabled the thumb keys using the mouse dialog box, and now I can tolerate the mouse. Barely.

Checking the floppy drive

You can buy a floppy cleaning kit if you really want to, but few people use floppies frequently enough these days to accumulate much build-up on the recording heads.
Instead, floppies usually die from neglect. Air gets sucked into the PC through the floppy opening, dust builds up, and sooner or later you can’t put a diskette in or take it out.
That’s why I recommend that you simply stick an old diskette in the floppy drive every week, make sure you can read it (Start My ComputerO3)2 Floppy), and then take the diskette out.
If your diskette gets stuck, see the advice on recalcitrant floppies at the end of this technique.

Monthly Cleaning

If you keep up with the weekly cleaning, my recommended monthly cleaning comes easy:
1, Clean the CD/DVD lens.
You need a special lens cleaner for this, but you can buy one at almost any electronics place and many grocery stores. It’s just a regular CD with a brush (or brushes) attached to the shiny side.
Some manufacturers would have you believe that there’s a difference between CD cleaners and DVD cleaners. If there is, I sure can’t figure it out. Save yourself some time and money, and just get a cheap CD cleaner.
2, Clean the keys on your keyboard.
I use my keyboard hard. If you do, too, I suggest you remove the gunk from around the keys once a month. To do so, start with a handful of cotton swabs. Unplug the keyboard (or turn off your laptop, if you’re cleaning a laptop). Slowly, carefully, dip a swab in a little bit of rubbing alcohol. Clean around the keys.
Cleaning the keys is tricky (and time-consuming) because you don’t want to spill any rubbing alcohol down into the innards of the keyboard. But keeping the keys clean does prevent big globs of hair and dirt from falling into the keyboard, which makes it well worth the effort.
3, Clean the inside of your printer.
Every printer is different. Check the manufacturer’s Web site for details.
Fixing Components As Needed
Here’s what you need to know about fixing the other parts of your PC.

Cleaning CDs

If a CD won’t work and you have a CD cleaning kit handy, you have it made.
But what if you don’t have a cleaning kit handy? Here’s what I do:
Take your CD into the shower with you. Use a little bit of hand soap, lathered in your hands, lightly applied to the shiny side of the CD. When you get out of the shower, use a soft, clean towel and wipe the shiny side from the middle of the CD toward the outside. If you don’t have a soft towel, dry your hands and use toilet paper.
Works like a champ — on eyeglasses, too.
Recovering from spilled coffee or soda
Have you ever spilled a latte on your keyboard? Yech. What a mess.
If you have a run-of-the-mill cheap keyboard, and it stops working after you anoint it, throw it away. Isn’t worth the effort.
But if you have a good keyboard — good keyboards are worth their weight in gold — here’s how to try to bring it back to life:
1 Don’t panic.
2, Disconnect the keyboard.
3, Turn the keyboard upside down. Let it sit that way for a few hours.
4 Take the screws off the back of the keyboard and pop off as much of the plastic as you can — but leave the keys attached.
Taking them off is an absolute last resort.
5, Using a washcloth that’s been slightly moistened, clean up as much of the spilled junk as you can.
6, Pull out a handful of cotton swabs and, using rubbing alcohol, dig into the nooks and crannies.
7 Reassemble the keyboard and give it a go.
If you can’t get the keyboard to work, you may have to resort to pulling off all the keys. Here’s how:
7. Take a snapshot of the keyboard, or write down the location of all the keys.
It can save your hide. No kidding.
2, Take the screws off the back and pull off as much plastic as you can.
The less plastic, the easier it is to remove keys.
3, Remove each key cap carefully by pulling it straight up.
Use extreme caution when taking off the spacebar, the Enter key, and any oversized keys. Frequently, these keys have a spring or a lever that can’t be bent.
4 Clean the electronic contacts with cotton swabs lightly dipped in rubbing alcohol.
You don’t want to get them wet.
5, Clean the key caps in the kitchen sink and dry them thoroughly.
6, Carefully put the key caps back on the way you took them off.
I know. It’s much easier said than done.
7 Test the keys before you put the plastic back on.
Almost always, you’ll find one that doesn’t feel right. Figure out what’s wrong with it before the plastic gets wrapped around it.
8, Put the plastic back on and try it out.
The general procedure for a laptop is more drastic — but your chances of bringing a laptop back to life are slim indeed:
7. Turn the laptop off.
If it’s plugged into the wall, unplug it.
2, Turn it upside down — quickly — and pour off as much of the liquid as you can.
3, If you spilled anything but water into the laptop, take an amount of fresh water equal to the amount you spilled and pour it right on top of the original spill.
You need to rinse off the sugar, coffee, hops . . . whatever.
4, Turn it upside down again and pour off everything.
5, If it’s easy to take off the case, do so. If not, don’t sweat it.
6, Set the portable, upside down, on a couple of stacks of topics or magazines.
Make sure air can get all around it.
7 If you have air conditioning, turn it on.
(AC lowers the humidity in the room.) If you have a fan, aim it toward the laptop. If you have a hair dryer with a “No Heat” setting, blow it into every ventilation slot.
8, Let it dry for at least 24 hours.
9. Reassemble it, turn it on, and pray.
Remember that coffee can’t get into your hard drive, at least not very easily, so even if you lose your portable, you almost certainly haven’t lost your data. Unless your portable decided to go for a swim in the pool, of course. That could have a deleterious effect on your hard drive’s life expectancy.

Pulling out a stuck diskette

As your floppy drive gets older, it starts eating diskettes. The cause of the problem isn’t the drive, per se. The real problem is the piece of metal on the diskette that slides away, revealing the recording surface. If your drive gets a bit dirty, it probably has a hard time putting that slider back in place — and that’s why the diskette won’t come out.
There’s a tool that’s absolutely perfect for pulling stuck diskettes out of sticky drives. It’s called a stamp tong. Any kid with a stamp collection can show you one: Philatelists use tongs so they don’t leave dirt and oil from their fingers on their stamps. A good picture of one is at tongs.htm.

When a diskette gets stuck, you have to work the stamp tong down into the drive deep enough to release the pressure on the metal slider:

7. Shut down Windows and turn off the computer.
2, Push open the drive cover with your finger.
3, Work the stamp tong back and forth until you feel the diskette ease out.
How to find a stamp tong? Walk into any stamp shop (or most hobby shops) and ask for a round-tip 6-inch stamp tong. It should set you back about five bucks. Cheap insurance.

Pulling out a stuck CD

While getting a diskette out of a floppy drive is hard, removing a stuck CD is almost always very easy:
1 Shut down Windows and turn off the computer. 2, Take a paper clip and unbend it.
3, Stick the tip of the paper clip in the little hole at the front of the CD drive.
No, I’m not talking about the speaker jack. There’s a little hole that’s just big enough for a paper clip. Look harder.
That’s all it takes.

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