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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

What is the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination and how to use it in Windows 10 and Windows 11

In the decades I have been using computers, one combination of keys on the keyboard has been the 'holy grail', the genuinely fool-proof way of regaining control of an unresponsive program or computer, Ctrl+Alt+Del.

What is the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination and how to use it in Windows 10 and Windows 11

As most of you know, I am a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, especially Windows Logo key shortcuts. But when it comes to personal computers, the single, most powerful combination of keys has to be Ctrl+Alt+Del (Control-Alt-Delete).

The history of Ctrl+Alt+Del, or the "three-finger salute" as it is more commonly known, was created by an engineer at IBM working on the original IBM PC project in the '80s as a way to execute a soft reboot. The keys were selected for their location on the keyboard so that it required both hands to press all three keys at the same time. That way, you could not accidentally reboot your computer.

The Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination is built into every IBM PC clone computer's BIOS (Basic Input/Output System). Even today, the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination will still reboot an IBM PC when it is started into the BIOS. And in Windows, Ctrl+Alt+Del has a couple of different uses.

The first use of Ctrl+Alt+Del inside Windows 10 and Windows 11 is to bring up the login screen. Typically, only users whose computers are connected to a domain will be required to use the "three-finger salute" to log on. Every day Windows users are only required to press any key to bring up the login screen.

The second use of Ctrl+Alt+Del inside Windows 10 and Windows 11 is the best and probably the most unknown use. When you are logged into Windows and press Ctrl+Alt+Del, it brings up Windows Security in full screen.

The Windows Security screen inside of Windows 10
The Windows Security screen inside of Windows 10

The Windows Security screen inside of Windows 11
The Windows Security screen inside of Windows 11

The Windows Security screen gives you five (5) options, including Lock, Switch user, Sign out, Change a password, and Task Manager. There are three (3) more options in the lower right-hand corner: Internet, Ease of access, and Power. Here is a list of all the functions.

Lock: This button will lock the computer and require the user who is currently signed in to log on again to unlock the computer.

Switch user: This button will allow another user to log on to the computer.

Sign out: This button will sign out the currently logged-in user. Note: If you have an unresponsive program or a program that you cannot close (like junkware), signing out will close all open programs and then log the current user off.

Change a password: As the name implies, it will change the user's password that is currently logged in.

Task Manager: This button will open the Task Manager. Task Manager has several functions, including managing the running tasks and monitoring system resources. Note: You can also forcibly terminate processes or programs that have become unresponsive.

Internet: With this button, you can select the network connection to use for the Internet.

Ease of access (Windows 10) / Accessibility (Windows 11) - This button allows you to turn on and off Narrator, Magnifier, On-Screen Keyboard, High Contrast, Sticky Keys, and Filter Keys.

Power: This button has two (2) options, Shut down or Restart.

Optimize searching for files in Windows 10 and Windows 11 using Indexing Options

Are you having problems finding files in Windows 10 or Windows 11? Are your searches not finding the data you are looking for? If so, you may want to look at the Indexing Options inside Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Optimize searching for files in Windows 10 and Windows 11 using Indexing Options

Have you ever typed in a query in the search box in Windows 10 or Windows 11 and not found the file or folder you were looking for? You know it is on your computer somewhere, but Windows just does not seem to find it.

Windows 10 and Windows 11 have a built-in index that contains the properties of specific files and folders. The special folders (Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos) are mainly indexed by default, but you can modify where and what Windows indexes.

And some files can have their contents indexed too. For example, if you have Microsoft Office installed, you can have the contents of Word documents, OneNote notebooks, and Outlook data included in the index.

In fact, many of the apps built into Windows use the index in one way or another. File Explorer, Microsoft Edge, and Cortana, to name a few. And the cool thing is it all just runs smoothly in the background, most of the time.

But there may be a time when you just do not feel you are finding all of your files or, in the case of Outlook, your e-mails. One of the most common issues I deal with as a computer technician is when users search inside Outlook for an item and the index does not find any matches. Yes, Outlook, by default, uses the index when searching for items inside of Outlook.

So let's look at the indexing options in Windows 10 and Windows 11. There is no difference between the indexing options in either Windows 10 or Windows 11, just the way you get to it.

How to get to the indexing options in Windows 10

  1. Bring up a Search Dialog box by either:
    • Left-clicking in the Type here to search box on the right-hand side of the Start button Windows logo
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo + S at the same time.
  2. In the Search Dialog box, type Indexing Options.
  3. In the search results, left-click on Indexing Options.

or

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Scroll down the list of apps and left-click on Windows System to expand the folder.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.
  4. On the upper right-hand side of the Control Panel, change View by: from Category to Large Icons.
  5. Double left-click on Indexing Options.

How to get to the indexing options in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. On the top of the Start menu there is a search field. Type Indexing Options.
  3. In the search results, left-click on Indexing Options - Control Panel.

or

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo key button to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Tools.
  4. Double left-click on Control Panel.
  5. On the upper right-hand side of the Control Panel, change View by: from Category to Large Icons.
  6. Double left-click on Indexing Options.

Configuring Indexing Options inside of Windows 10 and Windows 11

The Indexing Options main window in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Note: Changing the properties of certain features inside of Indexing Options will cause an immediate rebuild of the index. Rebuilding the index can take several hours to even days; it depends on how much data the indexing service has to process. Any searches performed while the index is rebuilding may be incomplete.

The Indexing Options main window displays the locations that are currently indexed. At the bottom, there are three (3) buttons: Modify, Advanced, and Pause. Clicking on the Modify button will bring up the Indexed Locations window.

The Indexed Locations windows inside of Indexing Options in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Here you can add or remove locations on your computer you want the indexing service to monitor. Tip: If you click on a location in the Summary of selected locations in the lower half of the window, it will open that location in the Change selected locations in the upper half of the window.

Clicking on the Advanced button on the Indexing Options main window brings up the Advanced Options windows. It has two (2) tabs: Index Settings and Files Types.

The Index Settings tab inside of the Advanced Options for Indexing Options in Windows 10 and Windows 11

File Settings

  • Index encrypted files - This option is only available if you use disk encryption, like Bitlocker.
  • Treat similar words with diacritics as different words - by default Windows recognizes diacritics according to the language version you are using. If you change this setting, all diacritics will be recognized.

Troubleshooting

  • Delete and rebuild index - There will be times when rebuilding the index is required. As noted before, if you decide to rebuild the index, please allow plenty of time for your computer to complete the task.

Index location

  • Displays the current location of the index. You can change where the index is stored by clicking on the Select new button.

The File Types tab inside of the Advanced Options for Indexing Options in Windows 10 and Windows 11

The File Types tab lists all of the file extensions currently registered in the index. You can add or remove a file extension or modify the properties of an existing extension.

How to create a recovery drive in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Computer problems happen when you least expect them. But having the software to repair your computer is essential. So here is how to create a recovery drive in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

How to create a recovery drive in Windows 10 and Windows 11

So what is a recovery drive? It is a bootable USB drive with all the system tools that normally appear in the advanced options menu. This is the menu that appears when your computer fails to boot correctly.

If you have not heard of a recovery drive, you are not alone. A good majority of Windows users do not know about this great device. Sadly, most learn about having a recovery drive only after their system has experienced a problem.

Now it is easy to confuse a recovery drive with a system repair disk, as they perform the same functions. But with a recovery drive, you can also reinstall Windows if you need to.
The recover from a drive option in the recovery drive boot menu
System repair disks have been around for decades, but recovery disks first appeared in Windows 8.

What is the difference between a recovery drive and a system repair disk? Essentially they are the same; the only difference is the media you use to create them. A recovery drive uses a USB drive, and a system repair disk uses, as the name implies, a CD / DVD. And with more computers coming without optical (CD/DVD/BD) drives, most people can only use a recovery drive.

The list of options is the same as if your computer did not boot correctly and you got the advanced options screen. Startup Repair, Command Prompt, Uninstall Updates, UEFI Firmware Settings, System Restore, and System Image Recovery.

How to open Recovery Drive inside of Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Accessories.
  3. Double left-click on Recovery Drive.

or

  1. Using the search box on the right side of the Start Windows logo button, type in Recovery Drive,
  2. Left-click on it in the search results.

How to open Recovery Drive inside of Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Tools.
  4. Double left-click on Recovery Drive.

or

  1. Left-click on the magnifying glass to the right of the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Search dialog box.
  2. In the Search dialog box, type Recovery Drive.
  3. In the list of results, Recovery Drive should be highlighted.
  4. Left-click on Recovery Drive.

How to create a recovery drive

The requirements for creating a recovery disk are pretty simple, a USB drive that is 16GB or larger. I would recommend 32GB just to be on the safe side. Note: The USB drive you use for the recovery drive will be erased and reformatted when you create it. Please copy or move anything on the drive you want to keep before creating the recovery drive.

I would also like to mention that the time it takes to create a recovery drive that includes system files can be long. It may take a few hours, so be prepared to allow your computer the time it needs to complete the creation of the recovery drive.

The first screen that appears when you open the Recovery Drive app is where you decide whether or not to include a backup copy of Windows.
Create a recovery drive screen in the Recovery Drive program
Since you would likely only be using this drive if your computer will not function properly, I recommend including the systems files in the recovery drive.

If you decide to include the system files, you will need to update the recovery drive periodically. I would update every six to twelve months; that way, if you do need to reinstall Windows from the recovery drive, it will be as current as the last time you updated the recovery drive.

The next screen asks you what drive you want to use for the recovery drive.
Select the USB drive screen in the Recovery Drive program
Select the drive and click on Next. One final warning screen appears.
Create a recovery drive warning screen in the Recovery Drive program
Just click on Create. Now just read some email or social posts because this will take some time. Once the recovery drive has been created, remove it and put it in a safe place.

How to fix no sound in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Did you just notice that you do not have any sound in Windows 10 or Windows 11? Not getting any audible notices when you receive a new email or delete a file? Here are 4 things you can do to fix no sound in Windows 10 or Windows 11.

How to fix no sound in Windows 10 and Windows 11

Losing the audio from your Windows-based computer can be really frustrating. One minute you hear a video playing in your browser, and the next minute you hear nothing. This problem is more common than you think. So here are 4 things you do to restore the sound in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Check to see if the default audio device has been muted

The most common problem I have seen is the default audio device gets accidentally muted. I have gone on several service calls for no audio, only to find the volume has been muted. A quick check can save you time and money.

How to check if the default audio device has been muted in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the speaker icon on the right-hand side of the Taskbar.
    Umute the audio device in Windows
  2. In the popup that appears, look at the speaker icon on the left side of the volume slider.
  3. If there is an X to the right of the speaker icon, left-click on the speaker icon to unmute the device.

Check the default audio device

This is the most common issue regarding the loss of sound in Windows. With more computers coming with a built-in sound card and graphic cards with HDMI and Display Port (DP) connections, you have to make sure you are using the correct device for audio.

If you connect your monitor to your computer using an HDMI or DP connection, you must ensure your monitor has speakers to playback audio. If your monitor does not have speakers built-in, you need speakers or headphones to hear the audio.

How to check the default audio device in Windows 10 in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the speaker icon on the right-hand side of the Taskbar.
    Select the default audio device in Windows
  2. Left-click on the audio device you want to use for sound.
  3. Move the volume slider left and right to hear a sample tone. If you do not hear the sample tone, select a different device and try moving the volume slider again. You have found the correct audio device when you hear the sample tone.

Run the audio troubleshooter

The Playing Audio troubleshooter is simple to use and can be extremely helpful when you are in a hurry. Once you select the device to test, the troubleshooter scans for any issues and offers recommendations on what you might try to restore your computer's audio.

How to run the audio troubleshooter in Windows 10 and Windows 11

  1. Right-click on the speaker icon on the right-hand side of the Taskbar.
    Playing audio troubleshooter
  2. Left-click on Troubleshoot sound problems.

Remove and reinstall the driver for your audio device

If you have tried all of the previous solutions, this will usually fix 99% of the problems with your computer's audio issues. There are two (2) different ways to remove and reinstall the drivers for your audio device.

The first way is to use the existing driver already installed in the Windows driver catalog. Often, the audio device configuration gets corrupted, and simply removing and reinstalling the driver with the device defaults will work to resolve sound problems.

The second way is to download a new driver package from the manufacturer's website. Most computers nowadays have sound cards built into the motherboard, but there are times when the user needs a more advanced sound card. That is when you find a separate sound card may have been installed.

Either way, you will need to find the make and model of your motherboard or sound card and go over to their website, and download the latest driver package. Here is how to remove and reinstall the drivers for your audio device.

How to remove and reinstall the driver for your audio device in Windows 10 and Windows 11

To remove the existing driver for any device inside Windows, you need to get to Device Manager. There are a couple of different ways to get to Device Manager, the first way is through the Start Menu, and the second way is using the Power User menu.

How to bring up the Device Manager in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Scroll down the list of apps and left-click on Windows Administrative Tools to expand the folder.
  3. Left-click on Computer Management.
  4. Under Computer Management (Local), left-click on Device Manager.

or

  1. Right-click on the Start button on bring up the Power User menu.
  2. From the context menu that appears, left-click on Device Manager.

How to bring up the Device Manager in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Windows Tools.
  4. Left-click on Computer Management.
  5. Under Commuter Management (Local), left-click on Device Manager.

or

  1. Right-click on the Start button Windows logo on bring up the Power User menu.
  2. From the context menu that appears, left-click on Device Manager.

Once you have Device Manager open, scroll down the list of devices until you get to Sound, video and game controllers. Double left-click on the Sound, video, and game controllers category to expand it.

Device manager open to sound devices

Find the audio device in the list that appears that you want to remove and reinstall. Right-click on that device and select Uninstall device from the context menu that appears. A dialog box will appear, warning you about uninstalling the device.

Make sure you check the box next to Delete the driver software for this device and then left-click Uninstall.
Uninstall sound device in Device Manager
Then restart your computer. Once your computer restarts, Windows will automatically reinstall the driver with the factory defaults. You should now have audio.

If you still do not have any sound, install the latest software package from the manufacturer's website. Once done, restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

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