Carl Earl gives tips on computer maintenance to Beach MUGs

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Carl Earl, a computer specialist with the Chinook Observer's parent company, led a one-night seminar for Macintosh computer users last week.

ILWACO - Carl Earl of the East Oregonian Publishing Company was the guest at the Beach Mac User Group (MUG) during their monthly meeting July 21 in the high school library.

Earl spoke on computer maintenance to the two dozen members and visitors present. A lively round of questions and answers followed the presentation.

"The number one rule when doing any maintenance on your computer is to back up your files. And rule number two is to follow rule number one," Earl suggested to emphasize the importance of storing data on a disk.

Earl explained that the Mac OS X system will maintain itself if you leave your computer on Sunday night into Monday morning. He said you could put the monitor on sleep mode, but must leave the computer running overnight. "That's about the simplest way to maintain the most up-to-date computers," Earl said.

He suggested that if you were going to leave your hard drive on longer than eight hours, it was a good idea to shut it off to avoid excess wear and tear on the tiny gears. Earl showed the MUG's how a hard drive works and how data is stored.

"There are sectors and some items like a letter only fill one sector while large and detailed pictures may fill several. When something is deleted on the older hard drives and a large file is later added it fills available sectors first and then moves to the outside of the hard drive," Earl explained. "The result is a file being fragmented, which may cause difficulties in reading it later."

Utility programs are used to de-fragment or optimize hard drives by re-assigning sectors in an orderly fashion. Items are also compressed to avoid blank sectors. "You don't want to de-frag during a storm," Earl cautioned. "If the power goes out your information may be lost - unless you remember rules number one and two, and have backed up your data."

Earl said if you lose data, utility programs can recover some data, but there are special places where almost anything can be recovered, but at a relatively expensive price.

Macfixit.com is a Web site Earl suggested the users to investigate to see what their computer might need to be maintained.

"If your computer is acting a little strange, unsuspected delays, anything like that, it's a good idea to check on maintenance."

When asked if you should run other programs while the maintenance is being done, Earl said, "It's a little like driving your car while the mechanic is working on it. It's not a good idea."

Another word of sound advice given by Earl was whenever you add a new printer, scanner, or other piece of hardware, go to the Web site of the company you purchased the item from.

"Install any drivers and updates the company suggests, even if the new hardware works fine. It will help you avoid compatibility problems down the line."

Since the close-knit Beach MUG members are interested in remaining compatible and having their computers work at optimum efficiency for years to come they hung on Earl's every word.

The next meeting will be at the IHS library Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome and dues are $12 to join for a year.

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