Computers, like people need a bit of tender loving care every now and again, a chance to repair any damage that may have been done in the past. Unfortunately, unlike humans whose immune system automatically repairs any damage, machines tend to need a bit of a push in order to fix themselves.

What I’m going to write now isn’t something that should be done optionally; the stuff I am about to write should be stamped in big writing on the side of every computer case manufactured for all users to read!

These are very basic tools, but failure to run them can often result in data loss, slow performance and random crashes, just 10 minutes every couple of weeks can keep your computer in good working order.
Unfortunately not all of what I cover here will be available for everybody, for example a number of the programs that I am to mention may not come as part of Windows 95. Therefore I’m going to assume that everybody reading this article has Windows 98 or above, however if there is a Windows 95 option for anything mentioned, I will outline that too.

I’d just like to take this opportunity for a small disclaimer - Any information I give to help maintain or repair your system should cause no problems whatsoever. However, you use the contents of this article at your own risk and neither the Herald Express nor myself can be held responsible for the outcome of those actions. Rather than just reading this article by itself, I recommend that you sit down in front of the computer and run through the steps one by one in order to properly understand the information given.

Okay then, to kick off, start your computer up and click on ‘Start’, then go to ‘Programs’, ‘Accessories’ and then ‘System Tools’. Finally, click on ‘System Information’. This should bring up window displaying a summary of the hardware and software on your system. This information can be extremely useful when trying to troubleshoot problems with your computer, especially when on a technical support line.

If you are having a problem so severe that you find your computer won’t even start up properly and therefore you can’t get into System Information at all then please do the following - Start your computer and wait until the point where the computer says ‘Starting Windows’, at this point quickly press F8 and then choose ‘Safe mode’. Your computer will then start up in a minimal version of Windows, which should allow you to run these utilities so that you can get your computer to start up normally. Now follow the steps above in order to get into System Information.

Once in System Information, click on tools and you will see a number of Windows System Tools that are available to help diagnose and maintain your computer. I’ll go through them in the order they appear on my screen, the available options may differ depending on your computer set-up.

Firstly, ‘System File Checker’ is a good program that should be used if you encounter any errors or crashes when starting up or running your PC, it shouldn’t really be run for the sake of it. This program will check all your main system files for integrity. If any appear to be corrupt, the program will then give you the option of copying a working version of the file off your Windows CD-ROM.

Another program on the list called ‘Scandisk’ is probably one of the most useful pieces of software that you could run on your computer on a frequent basis. For Windows 95 users, this utility is available by clicking on ‘Start’ then ‘Run’ and type in Scandisk. This program looks for any problems on your hard disk, many of them caused by not shutting down the computer properly or by your computer crashing.

Once you have Scandisk up and running, you will be presented with a window which gives you the option of which drive to scan and whether you would like to do a standard or thorough examination as well as whether you’d like the program to automatically correct any errors it finds. To start off with, select drive C, do a standard examination and tell the program to automatically correct any problems it finds. Click on start and then the program should go through the motions and show a progress indicator to let you know when it expects to finish, you might see this as a nice time to go away and make a cup of tea until it finishes.

You will also find that closing down any programs that are currently running in the background and not trying to use your computer while Scandisk performs these checks a good idea as it gives the program a chance to accurately find any problems there are with your hard drive. When you find that you have an hour or so to spare, possibly by leaving the computer running overnight or while at work, try performing a thorough scan - Just start it off and then leave the computer unattended until it has finished. This program can also be used to check any other hard drives on your system or any floppy disks for errors.

I have tried to cover as much as possible in this one article, and we will continue this subject on to next week, where we will also start to look at tuning up your computer and some of the other system tools available to check your system for problems.

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