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Windows desktop maintenance checklist for the holidays

With the holiday season upon us, IT pros may have some extra time on their hands. Here are a few Windows desktop maintenance items to take care of while the office is mostly empty.

The holiday season is a great opportunity for IT admins to catch up on Windows desktop maintenance.

At many organizations, employees use technology assets less intensely around the holidays. Company parties, people taking time off, or just a decrease in the din and bustle of business give desktop administrators a rare window of opportunity to complete some of those Windows desktop maintenance tasks that they need to do. Up until now, you may not have found the time to do them without interrupting critical business processes.

Let's look at five ideas for getting caught up on Windows desktop maintenance during this holiday window, and perhaps they'll inspire you in other areas.

1) Run defragmenter software. During the year, it's easy for desktop computers in particular to get plugged up. People save content to their desktops, to the root and subfolders of their C: drives, and so on. They most likely download music and videos and delete and install/uninstall loads of plug-ins and software.

While folks are away from their desks for the holidays, it's a great time to schedule a defragmenting process to run on all of these desktops. It's a long process the first time you use it. If you haven't done it enterprisewide yet, the lazy week -- particularly this year, with a full traditional work week between Christmas 2011 and New Year's Day -- is an excellent time to make sure all hard drives are optimized.

2) Update antivirus and endpoint software. In the past 12 to18 months, new versions of just about every endpoint security program have come out. All of the major vendors, such as Microsoft, Symantec and Trend Micro, have made improvements to their endpoint products, including better heuristics for detecting dynamically based attacks, lighter footprints and, in general, enhanced protection.

Start 2012 with a better security footprint than you had this past year by getting all of your clients on the most updated endpoint protection product possible. These updates are typically covered under volume-license contracts, so in most cases, no extra budget is required for this -- just time.

3) Distribute new software and purge outdated software at the same time. Been planning to update Office 2007 to Office 2010? What about deploying those new shortcuts to your Remote Desktop Services or Terminal Services or Citrix implementation? Now is the time to set up targeted software deployments and manage these installations across desktops in your environment. Most installations of major software suites, like Office, can run unattended with no problems.

A related Windows desktop maintenance task you can do at the same time is to clear out software that's no longer used, such as deprecated instant messaging clients, unused line-of-business software, old plug-ins and pilot deployment applications. Seize the quiet time to do some of this pruning.

4) Find unpatched systems and bring them up to date. Your patch management system probably gives you a lot of information about systems that it can't touch or machines in which it encountered difficulty installing or removing updates. If these systems aren't laptops and stay on your network, now's a perfect time to remotely access, diagnose the problems and correct the patches.

During this week of low utilization, you can also ferret out machines that aren't getting updated -- perhaps there's a problem with a network connection, a management agent isn't installed, or someone has overridden reboot settings. Find these nagging issues, and repair them while everyone's away. No one will complain about their work being interrupted with the tinkering.

5) Rationalize printers and printing setups. Think about how your printers are currently set up, located, shared and secured. Which users are always complaining about printers? Which printers are heavily used, and which are hardly used at all? Are color printers needed in one location but deployed in another? Are your employees printing only to the printers they actually need, or are they authorized to send jobs to any printer on your network? The holidays are a great time to bring your printer services down for a complete rationalization.

With the holidays coming up and commotion in the office winding down, take advantage of this opportunity to catch up on some of the Windows desktop maintenance tasks you've been meaning to do, but haven't gotten around to.

Jonathan Hassell
is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, N.C. His books include RADIUS, Hardening Windows and, most recently, Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual.

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