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Five things you can do to maintain your Windows 10 or Windows 11 computer

We all want to keep our computers running smoothly, but to do that, we need to perform maintenance periodically. So here are five (5) things you can do to keep your Windows 10 or Windows 11 computer running smoothly.

Five things you can do to maintain your Windows 10 or Windows 11 computer

If you are anything like me, you expect your computer always to be running at 100%, ready to work at a moment's notice. And it is possible to get that level of performance, but it does require regular maintenance.

I use all of the procedures outlined in this article on average of once a month, and I will usually perform these tasks at the end of the workday or on the weekend. That way, I minimize the loss of production time.

Check for corrupt system files

This is the first thing I do when I notice a system not running normally. If fact, this is one of the first things we do when a Windows-based computer comes into the shop. With the number of system files Windows uses, file corruption is quite common.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

How to check and repair system files in Windows 11

Check for drive errors

The next thing I do is check for errors in the file system. Just like scanning for corrupt system files, checking the rest of the files and folders on the drive is essential. A quick check every month is excellent preventative maintenance.

How to check your drive for errors in Windows 10

How to check your drive for errors in Windows 11

Clean up unnecessary Windows folders and files

Now that we have checked for system/file errors on the drive, let's start cleaning up the unnecessary files that accumulate. A couple of different programs built into Windows can do a great job of cleaning up Windows 10 or Windows 11.

Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

Clean up your Windows 10 computer using the Storage feature

Clean up Windows 11 with Storage Sense and Disk Cleanup

Clear out your browser cache

Once we clean up all of the miscellaneous Windows files, we need to clean up our browser(s). Internet browsers, like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, use a cache of websites they have visited to speed up browsing.

But the problem is the browsers do not empty the cache automatically, so left unattended, a browser cache can become extremely large. Periodic clearing of your browser cache is highly recommended.

There is a benefit to cleaning out your browser cache; you will be removing any old website data. This can help if you have difficulty logging into a website, as any saved website data will be purged.

How to clean up and reset Google Chrome

How to clean up and reset Mozilla Firefox

How to clean up and reset Microsoft Edge

Defragment and optimize your drive

And finally, after checking for errors and cleaning up files, we need to ensure that the files and folders are in their correct location. If you use the advanced way of running Defrag, you can optimize the boot performance.

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 10

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 11

How to check and repair system files in Windows 11

When it comes to repairing Windows-based computers, I always do one thing: check for corrupt system files. Corrupt system files can cause all sorts of problems, so here is how to check and repair system files in Windows 11.

How to check and repair system files in Windows 11

Repairing system files is not complex, but it can be time-consuming. Going through all of the steps outlined in this article can take several hours. Once you start a scan, you will have to allow it to complete, so be prepared to watch your computer work. And all of the links included in this article will open in a new window.

We first need to check the drive's file structure that the operating system is installed on. It is usually drive C:. For this, we will use the disk error checking program built into Windows 11.

There are a couple of different ways to run it (standard and advanced), but the most thorough way is by using the advanced method (see link below). It may take some time to run, but it is the most thorough error checking you can perform.

How to check your drive for errors in Windows 11

Now that we have checked the drive for errors, we must check for corrupted system files. For this, we will use the built-in System File Checker (SFC). Like most of the programs in this article, this program has to be run from an Administrative Command Prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 11

SFC has multiple syntaxes and parameters you can use with it. Here are all of the syntaxes and parameters with examples of their use.

SFC [/SCANNOW] [/VERIFYONLY] [/SCANFILE=<file>] [/VERIFYFILE=<file>] [/OFFWINDIR=<offline windows directory> /OFFBOOTDIR=<offline boot directory> [/OFFLOGFILE=<log file path>]]

  • /SCANNOW - Scans integrity of all protected system files and repairs files with problems when possible.
  • /VERIFYONLY - Scans integrity of all protected system files. No repair operation is performed.
  • /SCANFILE - Scans integrity of the referenced file, repairs file if problems are identified. Specify full path <file>.
  • /VERIFYFILE - Verifies the integrity of the file with full path <file>. No repair operation is performed.
  • /OFFBOOTDIR - For offline repair, specify the location of the offline boot directory.
  • /OFFWINDIR - For offline repair, specify the location of the offline windows directory.
  • /OFFLOGFILE - For offline repair, optionally enable logging by specifying a log file path.

Examples:

  • SFC /SCANNOW
  • SFC /VERIFYFILE=c:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll
  • SFC /SCANFILE=d:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll /OFFBOOTDIR=d:\ /OFFWINDIR=d:\windows
  • SFC /SCANFILE=d:\windows\system32\kernel32.dll /OFFBOOTDIR=d:\ /OFFWINDIR=d:\windows /OFFLOGFILE=c:\log.txt
  • SFC /VERIFYONLY

System File Checker running in an Administrative Command Prompt inside of Windows 11
We want to check all of the Windows 11 protected system files, so type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

SFC /SCANNOW

System File Checker results in an Administrative Command Prompt inside of Windows 11
Now four (4) possible results can appear when SFC is done scanning. They are:

Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.
All system files are acceptable, and you are good to go.

Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation.
There may be another program preventing SFC from running. In this case, boot the system up into safe mode and run SFC from there.

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them.
All system files are now correct, and you're ready to go. Just restart your computer to finalize the repairs. If you want to view the repair details, type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

It will create a text file on your desktop named sfcdetails.txt that has all of the details of the repaired files.

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.
If you received this message, you will need to repair the hidden Windows image. To do this, we will need to run the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) program.
Deployment Image Servicing and Management running in an Administrative Command Prompt inside of Windows 11
To restore the health of the Windows image, type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

DISM /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth

Once DISM finishes, run SFC /SCANNOW again. This time no integrity violations should be found. If, after several attemps at automatically repairing the corrupt system file(s) fails, you may have to fix them manually. To view the details of the files that could not be automatically repaired, type the following into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

It will create a text file on your desktop named sfcdetails.txt. You will need to search through it and find what file(s) could not be repaired

How to manually repair corrupt system files

Note: To replace a corrupt system file, you must have a known good copy of the file(s) in question. A good file source is another computer or virtual machine running Windows 11. Since I do computer repair for a living, I have all of the versions of Windows that are still supported by Microsoft running inside virtual machines.

The first thing to do is note the location (path) and name of the file(s) that need to be replaced from the sfcdetails.txt file. Once you have another copy of the corrupt file(s), you will need to take administrative ownership of the file(s). To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

takeown /f path\filename

Example: takeown /f C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

Next, you will have to grant administrators full access to the file(s) being replaced. To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

icacls path\filename /grant administrators:F

Example: icacls C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll /grant administrators:F

The third thing to do is copy the new file(s) and replace the corrupt one(s).To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt and press Enter.

copy path\filename path\filename

Example: copy C:\Temp\FileToBeReplaced.dll C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

How to repair the Windows 10 Start menu apps

When it comes to using Windows 10, the Start menu app tiles are a popular way to open some of your favorite programs. But what happens if the app tiles stop functioning correctly? Here is how to repair the Start menu apps.

How to repair the Windows 10 Start menu apps

The Start menu apps are not standard desktop Windows programs; they are Universal Apps, UWP (Universal Windows Platform), to be exact. They are designed to run on all Microsoft devices, including Xbox, Surface Hub, and HoloLens. Microsoft has set quite a few of them as default apps in Windows 10 for opening photos, videos, music, etc.. So when they stop working, it can be a significant problem.

The steps outlined in this article should be taken in the order listed. Remember to restart your computer between each step so that changes have a chance to take effect. The links to the blogs referenced in each stage are highly detailed and will open in new browser tabs. That way, you don't have to worry about trying to get back to this article.

Reinstall the Start menu apps

This step is one of the most straightforward procedures and should fix the Start menu apps most of the time. All you have to do is copy a string of text and paste it into an Administrative PowerShell console.

There are several ways to open an Administrative PowerShell. Here are a few of the most popular

  1. Open an Administrative PowerShell using one of the following procedures.
    • Bring up the Start menu by left-clicking on the Start Windows logo button.
    • Scroll down to the Windows PowerShell folder and left-click on it.
    • Right-click on Windows PowerShell and select Run as Administrator on the context menu that appears.
    or
    • Bring up the Power User menu by right-clicking on the Start Windows logo button.
    • Left-click on the Windows PowerShell (Admin) link.
    or
    • In the search box to the right of the Start Windows logo button type PowerShell.
    • In the right-hand column of the search results, left-click on Run as Administrator directly below Windows PowerShell.
  2. You will get a prompt stating Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your device? Left-click on Yes.
  3. Copy and paste the following text into the PowerShell window.
    Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}
  4. When the script is done running, close the PowerShell window by typing exit and press enter.
  5. Restart your computer.

Don't worry if a couple of errors are generated while running the PowerShell command. It happens even on a clean Windows 10 installation. If numerous errors are generated, then you may need to proceed with the following steps.

I once had a system that the Start menu apps would not reinstall because the Windows Security Service would not start. I had to repair it before I could get the Start menu apps working again. Remember that once you complete any of the following procedures, restart your computer and rerun the PowerShell command.

Check the drive for errors

There is a possibility that the Start menu apps are not functioning correctly because there are errors on your C:\ drive. Running a quick standard disk check may be just the thing your computer needs to get the Start menu apps running again.

And even if it doesn't fix the problem with the apps, it is always an excellent procedure to do before the next step. Here's how to run a standard drive check in Windows 10.

  1. Open File Explorer using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the File Explorer icon (manilla folder) on the Taskbar.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + E at the same time.
    • Use the Power User menu by right-clicking on the Start Windows logo button and selecting File Explorer.
  2. In the left-side column left-click on This PC.
  3. In the right-side column right-click on the drive you want to check and select Properties.
  4. Left-click on the Tools tab.
  5. Under Error checking left-click on Check.
  6. Left-click on Scan drive.

If you get an error when trying to run a standard drive check, you may have to perform an advanced check. Here are all of the details on how to do it.

How to check your drive for errors in Windows 10

Check system files for corrupt or missing files

Now some of the files the Start menu apps require to operate correctly may be missing or gotten corrupted. Windows 10 has a utility called System File Checker (SFC) that can detect and repair problems with files required by Windows 10 for properly operation.

Let me forewarn you that you may have to run SFC more than once to fix some of Windows 10 files. You may even have to start your computer in safe mode to get SFC to repair Windows 10. Here's how to run a basic SFC scan:

  1. Open an Administrator Command Prompt using one of the following.
    1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo button.
    2. Scroll down the program list and then left-click on the Windows System folder to expand.
    3. Right-click on Command Prompt.
    4. On the context menu that appears, hover your cursor over More and then left-click on Run as administrator. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    or
    1. In the search box next to the Start Windows logo button, type Command Prompt.
    2. In the list of results, the Command Prompt should be highlighted.
    3. In the right-hand column under Command Prompt, there is an options menu. Left-click on Run as administrator. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  2. Type sfc /scannow into the Admin Command Prompt and press enter.

And in the worst-case scenario, you may have to replace a corrupt file or two manually. Luckily there is a way to determine what files SFC repairs and what ones it cannot. The following article has all of the details on how to go about using SFC to its fullest potential.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

Perform an in-place upgrade of Windows 10

The next step to getting the Start menu apps to working again involves doing an in-place upgrade of Windows 10. Even though it sounds kind of scary, it is relatively simple.

When performing an in-place upgrade, your documents, pictures, and videos stay perfectly safe. And you can keep all of the installed programs too. The only downside is the default programs for specific file types revert to Windows 10 defaults. To me, that is no biggie. The following article gives all of the details on how to do an in-place upgrade.

How to repair Windows 10 by doing an in-place upgrade

Reset Windows 10

This step is the completely last resort to fixing the Windows 10 Start menu apps. I defiantly don't recommend it, but I do have to suggest it (reluctantly) as an option. With resetting Windows 10, you can keep all of your documents, pictures, and videos. But all of the programs that did not come with Windows 10 will be gone. The following article gives all the details on how to reset Windows 10.

How to reset Windows 10

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

Updated July 7, 2020

When it comes to repairing Windows computers, there seems to be a couple of problems that I get a lot of help requests. One of them is when a computer cannot get updates to Windows. So here are a few of my favorite resources for fixing Windows Update.

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

There are several reasons why Windows Update can fail. There could be corrupted files or folders; the different services that Windows Update requires are not starting, registry errors, etc. The following is a list of some of the procedures I use to repair Windows Update.

Remember to always restart your computer after running any of these procedures before trying Windows Update again.

Windows Update Troubleshooter

This is probably the easiest and most common way to repair Windows Update. Microsoft has a Windows Update Troubleshooter for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 online. Just follow the link below and then click on Update Troubleshooter for Windows 7 and Windows 8. You can either run the troubleshooter or save the file. I recommend saving it to your hard drive. That way, if you need to rerun it, you will already have it ready to go.

Windows Update Troubleshooter

Windows 10 has several troubleshooters built-in, including one for Windows Update. All of the Troubleshooters are located in Windows Settings. There are a few different ways to get to Windows Settings.

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and left-click on Settings (the gear icon)
  2. Right-click on the Start Windows logo menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo + X and select Settings from the Power User menu
  3. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + I

Once you have Windows Settings open, select Update and Security, then Troubleshoot in the left-hand column, then select Windows Update in the right-hand column.

So if the Windows Update Troubleshooter (repair) did not fix the issue, you could try resetting all of the Windows Update components. The following link has a PowerShell script for resetting the Windows Update components automatically. It also has instructions on how to reset the Windows Update components manually. I recommend using the PowerShell script unless you are comfortable with going through all the manual procedures. When prompted to run or save the script, I recommend that you save it to your hard drive, just in case you need to rerun it.

Reset Windows Update components

There is another way to reset the Windows Update components. The Reset Windows Update Tool is s script-based application that performs the same functions as the script above. Along with resetting Windows Update components, it can run Secure File Checker (see below), repair invalid registry keys, and repair the Windows system image using DISM (see below).

Reset Windows Update Tool

Check your drive for errors

If you have run both of the Windows Update troubleshooters (repair/reset) and Windows Update is still not functioning correctly, it's time to do some general system checks. Sometimes there can be an error(s) with the file system that does not allow the troubleshooters to fix the issue(s). I have had this problem many times before. Nothing worse than feeling like a dog chasing his tail. At this point, I recommend checking your hard drive for errors by running checkdisk.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 10

Once you are done with a checkdisk, go ahead and rerun the Windows Update Troubleshooters. First, run the repair troubleshooter and try checking for updates. If it doesn't fix it, run the reset troubleshooter. If Windows Update still won't work, then it is time to check to system files.

Check system files

SFC

Windows has a built-in program called System File Checker (SFC) to check system files for corruption and incorrect versions. SFC is run inside of an administrative command prompt. Just follow the link below for your version Windows for instructions on how to bring up an admin command prompt.

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows Vista / Windows 7

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 10

SFC is the same in all of the currently supported versions of Windows. Here is the link to the most detailed instructions for SFC (Windows 10).

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

Once you are done running SFC and have corrected any problems it may have found, try running Windows Update. If it still doesn't work, try running the troubleshooters (repair/reset) one at a time, running Windows Update in between. If you again cannot run Windows Update successfully, it may be time to run the most advanced system corruption repair tools.

DISM (Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10) / SUR (Windows Vista, Windows 7)

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) and System Update Readiness tool (SUR) are the complete way of checking for file corruption in Windows. The link to the instructions on how to run both is below. DISM and SUR are meant to be used by advanced users, so if you don't feel comfortable running either one of these programs, please contact a local computer repair shop like Geeks in Phoenix for assistance.

Fix Windows Update errors by using the DISM or System Update Readiness tool

After running either DISM or SUR, check again to see if Windows Update will work. If Windows Update still does not work, it may be time to reset or reinstall Windows. The instructions on how to do this can be found online. If you require assistance with this process, please contact a local computer repair shop like Geeks in Phoenix.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

Updated July 20, 2020

I was thinking the other day about what program I use the most in doing computer repair. The one program I use the most on Windows computers would have to be System File Checker (SFC). SFC checks for system files that may have gotten corrupt or replaced with incorrect versions. Here's how to check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

SFC has been included in every version of Windows since Windows XP. You can also build it into the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). There is no shortcut or link to SFC in Windows 10, as it runs inside an Administrative Command Prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

SFC running inside of Windows 10 Administrative Command Prompt

The following is the syntax and switches for SFC. The most commonly used syntax/switch is: sfc /scannow.

SFC [/SCANNOW] [/VERIFYONLY] [/SCANFILE=<file>] [/VERIFYFILE=<file>] [/OFFWINDIR=<offline windows directory> /OFFBOOTDIR=<offline boot directory>]

/SCANNOW (Scans integrity of all protected system files and repairs files with problems when possible.)
/VERIFYONLY (Scans integrity of all protected system files. No repair operation is performed.)
/SCANFILE (Scans integrity of the referenced file, repairs file if problems are identified. Specify full path <file>.)
/VERIFYFILE (Verifies the file's intergrity with full path <file>. No repair operation is performed.)
/OFFBOOTDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline boot directory.)
/OFFWINDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline windows directory.)

Examples

sfc /scannow sfc /verifyfile=c:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll sfc /scanfile=d:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll /offbootdir=d:\ /offwindir=d:\windows sfc /verifyonly

Once SFC is done scanning the system files, it will give one of four possible results:

  • Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.
    All system files are fine, and you're good to go.
  • Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation.
    There may be another program preventing SFC from running. In this case, boot the system up into safe mode and run SFC from there.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them.
    All system files are now correct, and you're ready to go. If you want to view the repair details, see below.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.
    If you get this message, SFC found a file or files that it couldn't repair. The next thing you will need to do is find out the name of the file(s). Using the Find String utility, you can filter out the SFC results with only the scanned components and create a text file with that information on your Desktop called sfcdetails.txt. Just copy the following code into an Administrative Command Prompt:

findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

Manually replacing a corrupt system file in Windows 10

Note: To replace a corrupt system file, you will need to have a known good copy of the file(s) in question. A good source for files is another computer or virtual machine running Windows 10. Since I do computer repair for a living, I have all of the versions of Windows that are still supported by Microsoft running inside of Oracle VirtualBoxes.

The first thing to do is note the location (path) and name of the file(s) that need to be replaced from the sfcdetails.txt file. Once you have another copy of the corrupt file(s), you will need to take administrative ownership of the file(s). To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

takeown /f path\filename

Example: takeown /f C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

Next, you will have to grant administrators full access to the file(s) being replaced. To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

icacls path\filename /grant administrators:F

Example: icacls C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll /grant administrators:F

The third thing to do is copy over the new file(s) and replace the corrupt one(s).To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

copy path\filename path\filename

Example: copy C:\Temp\FileToBeReplaced.dll C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

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Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

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