Something feels wrong and you’re wondering, “How do I check my PC?” This question is too open ended to be answered easily. If your computer is slowing down, it could be due to memory issues or fragmentation of the hard drive, or even fragmentation of or obsolete entries in the registry. A high speed Internet connection that seems to be going too slow could be a piece of malware or an incorrect network setting. Each possible issue has a different way of checking to determine the problems.
In the following paragraphs, I’m going to walk you through the steps I use to check my PC for various issues. Screenshots that appear are taken directly from the applications I will be mentioning in the text. We’ll take a look at disc fragmentation first, then at finding and removing malware. Finally, we’ll run a test on the memory subsystem to make sure everything is working properly.
How I Check My PC for Hard Drive Fragmentation
Hard drive fragmentation is where files aren’t stored together. The Windows NT platform, which has been the basis for all Microsoft operating systems since Windows 95 came out, is known to be terrible when it comes to managing file fragmentation. Thankfully, there are a few very reliable programs (they’re called defrag utilities) that can be used to control this.
But what exactly is fragmentation you ask? Imagine you’re looking for a large file, but since it’s so big, the person that put it into storage broke it up into smaller sections to make storing it easier. Your operating system does the same thing when it stores a large file. It will break the large file up into smaller pieces and put those pieces where they fit.
I use a program called Diskeeper twice a week to control drive file fragmentation. It’s not free, but it has been the best product available for managing file and drive fragmentation issues. It’s easy to install, configure, and run. Diskeeper is the most reliable and probably the easiest defrag utility there is.
What I Use to Check My PC for Malware
This one is actually a multi-fold answer. I don’t just rely on a single tool for making sure my PC stays free of malware. Running all the time is ESET’s Smart Security. I pay for this program, since my security is definitely worth the $60 a year they charge for daily updates to the software. ESET Smart Security monitors all of my traffic and lets me know if it encounters problems such as unwanted intrusions or software I don’t want. You just have to make sure you keep the database up to date.
Twice a week, I check my PC with a program called Spybot Search and Destroy. This program digs into the file system and scans it for matches to certain strings in the code that match a database of known malware products.
When the scan completes, you’re given a set of options for how to deal with anything the program found. Again, you just have to make sure you keep the database up to date.
My final weekly check for malware is with a Microsoft tool. The two programs listed above are unable to catch every single piece of malware. There are some, known as Trojans and rootkits, that are able to disguise themselves from most commercially available malware scanners.
The one tool I’ve found that detects and can clean almost every bit of malware that the other programs missed is the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool. This is one that you need to download once a week, since they change it to include newly discovered rootkits and Trojans.
Check Your System Memory
When my computer experiences lockups, slowdowns, or just plain acts funny, I check my PC by running a memory test utility. Hands down, the best of these is MemTest 86+. I’ve been using for quite some time and have never been dissatisfied with it. Running the program will cause your computer to boot into DOS and run the program. It takes up to 30 minutes to check up to 8 GB of memory, so now would be a good time to grab some coffee.
These aren’t the only programs around for running the tests I use them for, but they are what I personally consider to be the best available at the price — except for ESET Smart Security-free. Spybot does come with a paid option, but it just gets rid of the nag screen and some ads, it doesn’t deliver more functionality.
These programs are also easy to use, just like our “Internet Speed Test.”You can put them all onto a single DVD/CD and take them with you when a friend or family member asks you to, “Check my PC , please!”