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  1. Making a Case for Using Less Paper
  2. Moving into One World of Data
  3. Understanding the Technology of Electronic Organization
  4. Summary
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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Understanding the Technology of Electronic Organization

Understanding the basics of your computer system is important in order to organize your electronic data effectively. In today's office culture, IT staff are constantly backlogged helping employees and sometimes aren't always available. Knowing the basics of computer maintenance and troubleshooting can help you maximize your time and utilize your computer more efficiently.

To do list

  • Familiarize yourself with your computer’s type, size, and so on.

  • Determine drive and server allocations.

  • Learn about your system’s file management software.

  • Create a list of basic computer maintenance tasks, and plan to perform basic computer maintenance on a regular basis.

  • Learn basic troubleshooting tasks.

Things You’ll Need

  • Computer manuals and system summary information

  • Contact information for your IT department

  • System Tools utility for your operating system

  • Antivirus software

Getting to Know Your System

Whether you are attempting to fix a problem yourself or contacting the IT department for help, you need to know the configuration of your computer and system for the best results. Located on most PCs and Macs is a system Information window that provides information about your operating system, type of computer, and size of memory. Learn where your system summary is on your computer. On most Microsoft PC systems, select Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Summary.

Most office computers are networked to a central computer, usually called the server. Larger organizations sometimes have multiple servers to manage all their computers. Usually each individual employee, or department, has designated space to use on the server. Sometimes, the IT department creates the appearance of a separate drive, such as the H drive or I drive, to designate this space on the shared server system. The server computer systems are generally backed up daily by the IT department. Again, contact your IT department for this information, record the information, and keep it handy for future reference.

Each computer also has a separate hard drive, usually called the C drive. This C drive is where all software programs are installed and run. The C drive also can store My Documents, Internet favorites, and email attachments. The C drives of individual computers are usually not backed up by the IT department. If you are storing documents and information on your C drive, you need to find an alternative method of backing up your data. For more information, see the online chapter "Managing the Daily Data Deluge." This can be found at http://www.quepublishing.com.

Located on most computer systems is a standard file manager software, where you can view and organize all your files. On Microsoft systems, it is called Windows Explorer and is usually identified as the file folder icon with a magnifying glass on top of it.

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.2 Shown here in Windows XP is Microsoft Explorer open to a user profile file folder located under Documents and Settings.

In this program you can also locate system information. Click to highlight a drive name (a drive usually has an alpha letter next to it); then right–click to produce a pop-up menu of options. Select Properties from the menu and the Properties dialog box appears, containing information about that drive, including its size, function, and available space. If you right-click a folder and select Properties, the folder’s property dialog box shows you the size of that particular folder. File manager programs typically are the easiest places to find, organize, and access data. You don’t have to remember with which software a document was associated—you merely have to click the document you want. It automatically opens the software program.

Performing Basic Computer Maintenance and Troubleshooting Tasks

Sometimes a significant portion of your work day is spent trying to troubleshoot problems with your computer and other equipment. Knowing basic troubleshooting and maintenance techniques for your computer and other hardware devices can come in handy. Better yet, by performing basic computer maintenance tasks, you often can avoid problems altogether. Performing basic troubleshooting and maintenance saves you time, and thus serves as an important part of your work day organization plan.

Disk Cleanup

You should clean up your hard drive annually by removing nonessential files, such as temporary files, cookies, deleted files, and downloaded files. With Microsoft operating systems, you can clean up your hard drive by selecting Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools; then click Disk Cleanup. It automatically scans your C drive system for files that could be deleted. Review the Disk Cleanup options, recommendations, and files before clicking OK.


Defragmenting reorganizes the space in your hard drive and increases the efficiency of the system. It is important to defragment your hard drive monthly to increase the efficiency and speed of your computer.

To perform a defragmentation on Microsoft PC systems, select Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools; then click Disk Defragmentation. Click your C drive and click OK. Mac systems don’t usually have built-in defragmentation tools, so you must purchase one from a third party, such as Norton Utilities. Follow the directions for using your defragmentation tool, and be sure all your documents are closed when you perform this process. It can take up to an hour to perform a defragmentation, depending on your system.

Virus Scan

To help protect your computer from worms, Trojan horses, and other computer attacks, it is important to update your virus scan software weekly and run a full system virus scan monthly. Most virus scan software has an automatic schedule built in that performs a full system update and virus scan automatically. If you are not able to update your virus scan software, you might have to renew your monthly subscription to perform this function.

To date, most viruses do not affect Macintosh computers, though some do. Norton (http://www.norton.com) and McAfee (http://www.mcafee.com) are two well-known manufacturers of third-party antivirus software.

Troubleshooting Tips

Although everyone can benefit from learning a few basic troubleshooting techniques, this knowledge is particularly important for those who work at home (and don’t have the benefit of an IT department). Depending on your computer issues, here are a few basic troubleshooting techniques to try before calling in a computer technician:

  • Turn off your computer and reboot completely. If your computer is not responding at all, hold down the power button until it turns off.

  • Check all power cords and make sure everything is plugged in correctly. Sometimes, cords get slightly pulled out and cause a malfunction.

  • For PC systems, press Ctrl+Alt+Del (all at the same time) and click Task Manager. Highlight the program that seems to be malfunctioning and click End Task. This shuts down that particular program; then you can reopen it.

  • Update your virus scan software and then perform a full system virus scan. If your computer identifies a virus, call your computer technician immediately.

You can learn more by taking a computer class at your local community center or adult learning center. Also, take the time to find a reliable computer consultant who can assist you with computer issues and problems as they arise. Contact the Independent Computer Consultants Association (http://www.icca.org) or your local telephone directory to find someone in your area.

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