These weekly, monthly, and yearly computer maintenance tasks help remote workers keep systems running smoothly. Add them to your calendar.
The rise of remote work also means that more people than ever rely on computer systems to work from home. If you work from home, your internet connection, Wi-Fi network, laptop, and printer are likely in regular use.
Unfortunately, however, your technical setup does not necessarily hold. Although you can set some things to happen automatically, such as updates, your systems will run more reliably with a bit of regular maintenance.
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I suggest you set aside time on your calendar for each of the following basic weekly, monthly, and yearly computer maintenance tasks. Allow about 30 minutes (in total) for weekly and monthly tasks. Yearly tasks can take longer, so schedule them for a non-busy time in your year.
Technical maintenance tasks to be performed weekly
Allocate at least 30 minutes per week to complete the following technical tasks (Figure A). Generally, I suggest you do them in the middle of your work week, rather than at the beginning or end of a week.
Check for updates. Check for system and app updates at least once a week. Installing all operating system and application updates is one of the easiest ways to keep your system secure and running smoothly. (See How to Reduce Your Organization’s Security Risk in 6 Steps for details on installing OS and application updates.)
Turn off your devices, then turn them back on. Simply turning off a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop system and then turning it back on can fix a variety of issues. This process closes active applications, allows the operating system to restart, and may refresh your device’s Internet connection. On some systems, this process may also prompt the system to install important patches and updates.
Clean your installation. Use a cloth to remove dust and fingerprints from every monitor, laptop screen, tablet, and smartphone in your setup. While Apple sells a polishing cloth approved for all of its systems, most microfiber cloths will work well. Clean your webcam, too, so smudges don’t smear your image during web meetings. Dust and wipe down keyboards, desktops, and your office or workspace, while you’re at it.
Technical maintenance tasks to be performed monthly
I suggest you perform each of the following tasks once a month (Figure B). Some people who get paid monthly use their pay date as a reminder: “Get paid? It’s time to do monthly technical tasks. Alternatively, you might plan to complete these tasks during the last full work week of each month.
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Refresh your internet connection. Unplug your router, and if you have a separate device, unplug your modem as well. Wait a minute, then plug in the modem. Wait another minute, then plug your router back in. This process can help clear caches, speed up background firmware updates, and can fetch a new internet address from your internet service provider.
Check accounts. Go to Have I been pwned to check whether your email addresses or phone numbers have been part of a known data breach. The site maintains an up-to-date database of compromised accounts. When you enter an email address or phone number, the system returns a list of data breaches where your information may have been leaked. Change your account password on each hacked site. Of course, whenever possible, enable multi-factor authentication.
Check backups. Take the time to back up important information, such as accounting and financial data and other important active files. Check that whatever backup system you’re using (e.g. cloud-based backup, network storage, or an additional external drive) works.
Technical maintenance tasks to be performed each year
Document, review and reconsider your systems annually (Figure C). Since this process can take some time, schedule these tasks for a part of the year when you are less likely to be busy.
Revise and rstretch systems. Review and uninstall apps and accounts you no longer use— and don’t forget to cancel subscriptions you no longer need. Similarly, examine your hardware to determine if devices need to be removed, replaced or if an entire workflow could be reimagined.
Document your setup. Detailed records of your devices can be useful not only for accounting and planning replacements, but also for insurance purposes in the event of a claim or loss. Take a photo of each key piece of equipment and note the device model (eg Apple, Dell, HP, Google, etc.), serial number and key configuration data (eg. year, RAM, storage, etc.). A Google doc or spreadsheet can help you track this information over time.
What is your recommended technical task schedule?
You can set each of the above activities as a recurring task in your reminder system (eg Microsoft To Do, Apple Reminders, Google Tasks, etc.) or on your calendar. Alternatively, if you’re part of an organization’s IT team, you can create a dedicated maintenance calendar (e.g. Google calendar) with each task for the coming year added as a scheduled event, then Share the calendar so that people in your organization can access it.
In addition to the above, what other standard technical maintenance tasks do you perform? If you work in IT within an organization, how do you and your team help people who work from home maintain the systems? Let me know what additional tech maintenance tasks you recommend remote workers implement, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).