Some system problems can begin subtly. If you can catch them when they're small, you may be able to fix them more easily than when your system is in (figurative) flames. Therefore, run system diagnostics at least quarterly, and before and after any major system change. If something changes for the worse inside your system and your system performance starts to suffer, you may be able to pinpoint and correct the problem sooner and far more easily than if you wait for a major failure to happen.
8) Flesh Out Your Toolbox
While searching resources like the Listening Post and Usenet, and when seeking testing tools (above), keep an eye peeled for other tools and utilities that can make your system-maintenance work much easier than otherwise. Many times, you can find free tools that match or exceed what's available commercially from the major software vendors. Other times, you can find tools for a relative pittance that will repay you in convenience far more than their modest price suggests. For a good "getting started" list, see The Coolest Windows Tools.
9) Don't Forget The Mechanical Parts, Too
Listen ... hear that fan whirring inside your PC? Since the day you first turned it on, that fan has been sucking tiny dust and dirt particles through your PC's air intakes, and depositing them inside the case. Over time the dust and dirt build-up can affect airflow and lead to overheating or shortened life of your system's components.
From time to time, turn the system off, remove the cover, and carefully clean the accumulated junk from inside the system case. (Use caution; you don't want to cause a static electric discharge anywhere inside the case.) While the case is open, take a moment to ensure all cards are seated firmly, all cables are tight, and any socketed chips are solidly and evenly set in their sockets. Make sure all cables to your peripherals are also tight, too. Before you turn the system back on, take apart your mouse and clean the ball and the rollers inside the housing.
You may be surprised how much crud accumulates inside your hardware!
10) Keep Your Shields Up We've entered a digital plague era, rife with an astonishing number of virulent, fast-replicating worms and viruses. Windows is the most vulnerable, but no operating system is fully secure. In the highly connected world we now inhabit, it's permanent open season on us all.
Protect yourself with good online defenses, including a desktop firewall and a good antivirus application, and keep them current. For a fuller discussion, see How Much Security Is Enough? and Good And Bad Online Security Check-Ups.
What Are Your Resolutions?
Well, that's my 10 suggested resolutions. Did I leave out something important, or overemphasize something not worthwhile? How would you improve my list? What are your New Year's computing resolutions? Join in the discussion!