Here’s how to keep a PC or a laptop in optimal condition for your freelance work…

Microphones, headphones, telephones, scanners, printers…there are, of course, many different tools that can be considered essential to freelancers. One tool above all, no matter the work, is universally necessary: the PC (Personal Computer) or laptop.

Which one?

It really comes down to how much disk space you need, and how mobile you plan to be for your work. PCs traditionally have the most storage, and the large screens needed for certain sorts of quality assurance work. Yet, laptops have certainly caught up with PCs in the space department. Throughout my time as a freelancer, I’ve maintained both a PC and a laptop – neither one of which was particularly expensive.

I’m a big believer in using PCs and/or laptops for as long as they can reasonably last. Note that if you happen to be a big media sort of person – games, movies, music, you know what I mean, try to keep that separate from you work PC/laptop if it’s getting up there in years. There’s only so much that display drivers can take.

Note: the rest of this post is written from a Windows perspective.

Software…

If you tend to do a lot of quality assurance work or microtasks, then there’s a higher chance of your PC/laptop becoming infected with malware or viruses. You might have noticed that when you purchased your PC/laptop, it came with antivirus software already. Feel free to use that if you feel most comfortable doing so, but I found that it messed up firewall settings. Plus, after a free trial, it required a paid subscription. I looked for other free (and safe!) options, and here are my two recommendations:

  • AVG AntiVirus Free
  • SuperAntiSpyware Free

Both of the above have been great at catching any problems incurred through search engine evaluation work. Viruses have been quarantined, and spyware has been deleted. Remember to check the software (it’s easiest to just save it to your Desktop) at least once a week for updates.

Maintenance…

With Internet security being more questionable than ever, it might be a good idea to implement a bit of browsing privacy.

  • Internet Explorer: right-click on its icon and select “Start InPrivate Browsing”
  • Google Chrome: right-click on its icon and select “New incognito window”
  • Mozilla Firefox: right-click on its icon and select “New private window”

If you select one of the options above, you won’t have to clear your Internet browsing history. Some jobs need to be able to track locations, etc., so browsing privacy might not be an option anyway. Regardless, consider clearing your browsing history once per day, just as a precaution.

Then, there’s the issue of dust – your screen and keyboard shall not escape it. Let said dust build up enough, and it’ll be no surprise when you mistake particles for punctuation! Dust can accumulate under keys and considerably slow down typing speeds, too.

I use a Swiffer duster on my keyboard about once a week, as well as lung power to immediately dislodge a bit of noticeable dust. A cleansing wipe (that’s not dripping with solution) can also be good for screens – just be sure to follow that up with a tissue to prevent streaks.

PCs/laptops occasionally freeze, sometimes requiring a reboot without going through the usual shutdown process. The thing is, if this is done repeatedly, the hard drive suffers for it. So, definitely optimize/defragment your drives once a week if possible.

  • In older versions of Windows, go to Start and search for “Disk Defragmenter”
  • In newer versions of Windows, go to Settings and search for “Defragment and optimize your drives”

Another thing that’s important is freeing up disk space. I tend to do this once per day just before I turn off my PC or laptop; once per week would work, too.

  • In older versions of Windows: go to Start and search for “Disk Cleanup”
  • In newer versions of Windows: go to Start and search for “Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files.”

With responsible Internet browsing, suitable software, and regular maintenance, your PC/laptop should be a faithful freelancing companion for quite some time.

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