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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 get to and use the Advanced Boot Options inside of Windows 11

Have you ever needed to boot Windows 11 into Safe Mode? Or maybe restore Windows 11 using a Restore Point? You can do all these and more with the Advanced Boot Options inside Windows 11.

How to get to and use the Advanced Boot Options inside of Windows 11

Many people have never heard of the Advanced Boot Options in Windows 11. The Advanced Boot Options have been inside of Windows for several versions now. In Windows 7 and earlier versions, you could press the F7 key at boot to get to the Advanced Boot Options.

But starting with Windows 8, Microsoft changed how you get to the Advanced Boot Options. You can either get to the Advanced Boot Options inside of Windows 11 or when you log in to Windows 11.

So why would you want or need to get to the Advanced Boot Options? Some features can only be accessed through the Advanced Boot Options, like Safe Mode and UEFI / BIOS Settings.

Note: Accessing some of the features in the Advanced Boot Options may require a username, password, and a BitLocker decryption key. The BitLocker key is saved to your Microsoft account, so you may want to get the key before you attempt to access the Advanced Boot Options.

How to get to the Advanced Boot Options when logged in to Windows 11

How to get to the Advanced Boot Options when logged in to 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 Settings.
  4. Left-click on the System category in the left-hand column.
  5. Scroll down the right-hand column and left-click on Recovery.
  6. Under Advanced startup, left-click on Restart now.

How to get to the Advanced Boot Options when logged out of Windows 11

How to get to the Advanced Boot Options when logged out of Windows 11

  1. At the login screen, left-click on the Power icon in the lower right-hand corner. This will bring up the power options.
  2. Hold down the shift key while you left-click on Restart.

The following is a list of features you can access from the Advanced Boot Options.

The Windows 11 Choose an option screen

  • Continue - Exit and continue to Windows 11.
  • Use a device - Use a USB drive, network connections, or a Windows recovery disk.
    The Windows 11 Troubleshoot screen
  • Troubleshoot - Reset your PC or see advanced options.
    • Reset this PC - Lets you choose to keep or remove your personal files and then reinstalls Windows.
    • Advanced options
      The Windows 11 Advanced options screen
    • Startup Repair - Fix problems that keep Windows from loading.
    • Startup Settings - Change Windows startup behavior.
    • Command Prompt - Use the Command Prompt to perform advanced troubleshooting.
    • Uninstall Updates - Remove recently installed feature or quality updates from your computer.
    • UEFI Firmware Settings - Change settings in your computer's BIOS (Basic Input/Output System).
    • System Restore - Use a restore point on your computer to restore Windows.
    • System Image Recovery - Recover Windows using a system image file.
  • Turn off your PC - Turns your computer off.

For more on the Windows 11 Advanced Boot Options, check out our video on YouTube.

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.

Increase the performance of your Windows 11 computer with ReadyBoost

Is the performance of your Windows 11 computer not up to par? Do you have a spare CF card, SD card, or USB flash drive? If so, then you may want to try to increase performance using ReadyBoost in Windows 11.

Increase the performance of your Windows 11 computer with ReadyBoost

ReadyBoost is a disk caching component of Windows that works as a cache between your system drive and the Random Access Memory (RAM). ReadyBoost increases the system's read time from the hard drive and improves your computer's performance.

Now ReadyBoost is meant to work with computers where the primary system drive is a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and is disabled on computers with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as a primary drive. So if your computer boots to an SSD, you will not be able to use ReadyBoost.

Typically, you want to dedicate whatever drive you decide to use to ReadyBoost; that way, you can set it up and let it go. SD cards work better for laptops as they usually do not extend out of the card slot as much as a USB drive.

Here are the requirements for ReadyBoost in Windows 11

  • Minimum free space per CF card / SD card / USB drive: 1 GB
  • Maximum free spade per CF card / SD card / USB drive: 32 GB
  • The maximum amount of ReadyBoost devices: 8
  • The maximum amount of ReadyBoost storage: 256 GB
  • Minimum transfer rate: 3.5 Mbit/s.
  • The flash drive/memory card format: NTFS
  • The recommended ratio between ReadyBoost and system memory is 1:1 to 2.5:1

How to set up ReadyBoost in Windows 11

To set up a device for use with ReadyBoost, you will need to access File Explorer.

  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 use with ReadyBoost and select Properties.
  4. Left-click on the ReadyBoost tab.

At this point, File Explorer will test the device for compatibility.
ReadyBoost device check inside of Windows 11
If the device passes the test, you will be presented with the ReadyBoost options.
ReadyBoost device options inside of Windows 11
Here, you can choose between Do not use this device, Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost (recommended), or Use this device. Select the desired setting and left-click on Apply.
ReadyBoost configuring the cache inside of Windows 11
ReadyBoost will now configure your cache.

If you decide that ReadyBoost is not working for you, you can turn it off by going back into File Explorer and changing the device's ReadyBoost settings to Do not use.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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