Friday night topic: Basic PC triage and tune-up

— 6:49 PM on November 17, 2006

After years of reasonably solid service, the latest revision of the Kitchen PC has developed some problems, most of them involving the system failing to go into standby mode or failing to come out of it. The fans are also making more noise than they used to, and the Wi-Fi card sometimes stops working, as well. No Windows Event Log errors seem to accompany any of these problems. Overall, after much neglect, I think this system may just need a bit of a tune-up. I've already done a couple of driver updates on it, checked for a newer BIOS revision, installed Firefox 2.0 as the new default browser, updated the antivirus software, and cleaned out a metric ton of dust from inside the box.

I'm not sure I'll solve the thing's problems this way, but I will have a better sense that the issues aren't caused by musty or corrupt driver files, bugs in old software revisions, dust and heat, or other such things. I'll probably do more updates and make some additional tweaks before I consider the tune-up complete.

I'm wondering: what do you do when confronted with a friend or relation's older PC that's experiencing some problems or just needs a tune-up? What tools (hardware and software) to do employ in doing a PC overhaul? (I sometimes remove any Norton AV/Security suites and install Avast!, among other things. Heh.) What issues do you refuse to touch with a ten-foot pole? And how do you decide when to draw the line and tell the PC's owner to give it up and buy a cheap new system?

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