Get your computer ready for future data disasters

Reformatting and restoring a PC is not fun–in the way spending 2 hours in the dentist’s chair is not fun. You have to back up all your data (and pray that you haven’t forgotten anything), reformat the hard drive, install Windows, track down missing drivers, find and reload all your software, restore your data, and pull out clumps of hair over the things you inevitably neglected to save. (Firefox plug-ins, anyone?)

Definitely not fun–yet it’s something that most PC users end up doing at least once. When your machine becomes so sluggish, flaky, malware-infested, or ill-behaved that no optimisation utility can help, sometimes the only remedy is a full system-wipe and restore. Hopefully from the restore partition!

If you’re smart, however, you’ll look upon this as an opportunity–not only to return your PC to its former out-of-the-box glory but also to make it better than it was before. I’m talking about implementing a bulletproof backup system to thwart future disasters, cutting performance-clogging security software to a bare minimum, and making sure that if you ever need to reformat and restore again, the process will go a lot easier.

Set Up an Automated Backup System

No more excuses! Your data has survived this far, but you’re computing on thin ice. A devastating malware attack or hard-drive failure might be just around the corner. The time has come to start making backups on a regular basis, just as you always promised yourself you would.

Webster Consulting recommends online backup tool such as Carbonite or Mozy to save your most crucial data (Office documents, financial records, etc.) to the cloud.

Slim Down Your Security Measures

A lot of PCs suffer from security overkill and now most people have more than one. Standardise on one Internet-security suite  Webster Consulting currently recomends Kaspersky Internet Security.

Resist the urge to overprotect your PC that way again. Instead, take a simplified approach to security, one that starts with Windows 7 itself. (Sorry, XP users–your OS is a leaky bucket.)

Believe it or not, Windows 7 has almost everything you need to stay safe online:

Install a Better Uninstaller

If there’s a program you no longer use, uninstalling it makes sense, right? You’ll free up disk space and help Windows run more smoothly. That’s the theory, but in reality many uninstalled programs leave behind traces of themselves–configuration files here, Registry entries there, and so on. That’s just the kind of thing that makes Windows sluggish over time.

What you need is a better uninstaller, a program that will remove every last vestige of any application. The  tool of choice is IObit Advanced Uninstaller, which offers a few more perks over others. One of them is batch uninstalling: You can select multiple programs to be removed instead of having to hit them one at a time. That feature is a great timesaver during those spring-cleaning sessions when you want to clear out several months’ worth of unwanted apps. Plus, IObit’s program is tiny (just 700KB) and portable, requiring no installation. And you can’t beat the price: It’s free.

Keep Your PC Booting Quickly

It’s an unofficial (but undisputed) law of nature that over time Windows boots more and more slowly. Blame software: Every program you install seems to insist on loading a piece of itself when you boot the machine. It’s like an onrush of traffic trying to merge onto an already crowded  motorway.

Put freeware utility Soluto on the job as your traffic cop. The tool analyses the software and services installed on your PC, and then gives you the option of eliminating them, delaying their startup, or leaving them alone. Even better, it offers recommendations, complete with statistics on what other users have done; it’s like a crowd-sourced startup manager.

It works better than any other startup manager I’ve ever used, too. If you’re concerned about the fate of your fast-booting machine, Soluto is the solution.

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