Down & Dirty Cleanup

How many programs have you installed, updated, uninstalled, and reinstalled in the last year? Does your computer run smoothly, or does it
occasionally crash or freeze for unknown reasons?

Sure, you might well be able to say that your computer runs fine, thank you very much, and you haven't done any software or hardware maintenance in years. Which is all well and good, but if you carry that philosophy over into the world of auto maintenance, you'd be like the guy who never sees the need to change his oil or check his hoses–until, of course, the dashboard lights up in the middle of some Kansas cornfield and you slowly roll to a stop alongside an unknown highway.

In this short article, we'll come up with a list of maintenance tips you should be following on your Windows editing computer, in order to keep things running smoothly so your system won't fail on you when you're rendering effects or cutting together long sequences of footage.

Keep it off the Internet

Probably the worst thing you can to for your video editing computer is to hook it up to the Internet and let everyone in the family browse the Web with it. Best scenario: get an inexpensive computer to use for simple Web browsing duties, and keep your video editing computer off the Internet. If you must use your video editing computer for everyday browsing, make sure you have the proper security settings in place to keep the viruses and/or adware off your computer. These include disabling Java and installing a firewall.

Defrag Your Hard Drive Regularly

As you use your computer, the files on the hard drive have a tendency to become fragmented. Luckily, Windows computers come with built-in defragmentation software that you can use to put things back in order. As a rule, you should defrag the drives you use to save video every time you begin a new project.

For more robust defragging and other system utilities, there are a number of inexpensive products on the market that take your maintenance chores a step or two beyond what the built-in Windows defragger can provide. (Note that Mac OS automatically defragmentats its file systems, which means that you generally don't need to use a third-party defragmentation utility except in extreme cases.) Check out titles like Diskeeper, Raxco PerfectDisk, O&O Defrag, Golden Bow Systems' Vopt, Iolo System Mechanic, VCOM SystemSuite and Symantec's Norton Utilities.

Invest in a Separate A/V drive

Keeping all of you're A/V files on a separate, dedicated drive is a great way to keep things running smoothly on your computer. As you complete each project, you can easily wipe the drive clean and start fresh. Nothing helps A/V performance like a nice, clean slate to write your media files onto. When looking for an A/V drive to enhance your system, be sure to purchase a drive that will a) deliver fast performance and b) have enough capacity to store more video and audio clips.

If All Else Fails, Reinstall the O.S.

Unfortunately, today's computers are not capable of operating indefinitely without error. In any computer system, chaos will inevitably creep in, and at some point, system crashes, screen freezes, and Blue Screens of Death begin to increase their pace. (And this is before you attempt to edit video with your computer.) As a general operating rule, you should regularly back up all of your important data (documents, etc.), keep a fresh set of install disks handy, and don't be surprised if you find yourself wiping the C: drive clean and re-installing from scratch now and then. This may seem drastic the first time you have to do it, but this old grizzled video veteran has resorted to such measures dozens of times. It ain't pretty, but it works, and chances are, you'll have to do it sooner or later.

Joe McCleskey is a multimedia producer and freelance writer.

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