Have you tried turning it off and on again? Some things don’t seem to change with evolving technology, and this is generally as far as computer users get in terms of maintaining and repairing their devices.

The reboot is in fact an extremely useful (as well as user-friendly) tool and an excellent first line of defence against technical difficulties. But computers are often complicated, and turning a device or programme off and on again is by no means a cure-all.

When a restart doesn't help, you will need a few different tips and techniques to fix your computer. Here are some of the most useful, as well as some precautions to help mitigate serious problems before you call in the professionals.

Disc defragmentation

Commonly known as a defrag, this process can help when your computer is running unusually slowly. For Windows systems, you can find the command in the Control Panel, in the System and Security section. First, analyse the disc to see if defragmentation will help: a system that is over ten per cent fragmented will usually benefit from a defrag.

Defrags aren’t normally necessary for Apple computers, but there is a variety of software available to help remove duplicated files. This can have a similar effect to a defrag, just on a different system.

System updates

The release of a new operating system (OS), or updates to an existing one, can sometimes seem like a hassle. The downloads are often large, and can take a long time to install. However, it’s essential to keep on top of them, as an old OS can quickly become incompatible with new software. Also, updates to an OS generally include bug fixes, which can improve your computer’s performance.

These tenets are equally applicable to Windows and Apple systems, so keep them in mind.

Hard drive backups

An external backup for your hard drive is an essential for keeping your files safe in case of disaster. You can subscribe to an online backup service, generally known as the cloud, or purchase an external hard drive to plug into your computer.

Some technical experts recommend having multiple backups, so you may wish to consider using both methods to ensure your data is as safe as possible.

Either way, the process needs to carried out regularly, as the backup can be used to recover precious files, such as photos, if your computer suddenly breaks down. While it is sometimes possible to repair seriously faulty computers, the process often involves wiping all the data from the hard drive, making backups even more essential.

If you choose to use a physical backup disc, there are a few extra considerations to take into account. Make sure the external hard drive has twice the storage space of your computer’s hard drive, and always keep it in a separate place to the computer when not in use. This is so that if the computer is stolen or damaged, the backup stands a better chance of survival.

The backup command can be found in the Control Panel, under System and Maintenance for Windows, and the Time Machine programme for Macs, which is generally in the dock as a default.

© Axonn 2015