As you may remember last week we discussed the use of Scandisk and System File checker as tools to keep your computer in healthy running order. This article will continue on from where we left off last week.

For those of you who missed the first part of this series, there were some very useful hints and tips and although all the information given here can be used by itself, I would recommend that you read last weeks article in conjunction. If you don’t have an old copy of the Herald, then please e-mail me and I will send a copy of the article on to you.

As with last week I would like to say that all the information given here 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 and that rather than reading the article by itself I recommend that you sit down in front of your computer and follow the points made step by step.

To kick off, we are going to free up a bit of disk space - this process applies to those using Windows 98 or higher only. Start off by clicking on ‘Start’ and then to ‘Programs’, ‘Accessories’ and then to ‘System Tools’ and finally click on ‘Disk Cleanup’ then it will start up a small program which will run through your hard drive and pick up any files that can be safely deleted from your hard-disk. These consist of files such as Temporary Internet Files, Temporary Set-up Files, file stored in the Recycle Bin etc. Once the program has finished scanning, you can decide which of these files you want to delete from your computer. For more experienced users, there are also options in a separate menu to remove parts of Windows that you don’t use and to remove old programs you don’t need anymore.

Once you have freed up as much space as possible using this program, it is time to properly organise your hard disk. If you click on ‘Start’ and then to ‘Run’ and type in ‘Defrag’ you will start up a program called ‘Disk Defragmenter’ which we will use to speed up the time it takes to load programs and information from your hard drive. If you select drive ‘C’ to be defragmented and then click on ‘OK’, I will explain what the purpose of this program is while the computer runs the utility.

As you know, the hard-drive is the device inside your computer that is used to save and load programs and information that you use on a day-to-day basis, very much like a big filing cabinet. To use a real life example of how the hard drive works, imagine that every time you take a file out of this filing cabinet, you put it back wherever you like, but make a note of where you put it, for example - Taking ‘January 1999 expenses’ and putting it into the file marked ‘Recipe ideas’, and then to write down in a big table that you did this. As you can imagine, over a period of time you would get to a point where all the information was so inefficiently organised that it would take you much longer to find the information that you needed. Therefore you would go about putting all records back into the most efficient places so everything would be where it should logically be. Now when using the computer, we have to use a program such as Disk Defragmenter to sort out all the information we have saved put on to the disk in the past in to a sensible order that allows the computer to load things from it’s ‘virtual filing cabinet’ in the shortest time. One would just think that the computer should just keep itself organised as it goes, but due to the way the PC works, this is technically impossible.

While you are running Disk Defragmenter, you will find that closing down any programs that are running in the background and not trying to use the computer while it is running a good idea as otherwise whenever the contents of the hard-drive are changed, the program will have to restart from the beginning. Because Disk Defragmenter can take so long to complete, it would be beneficial if you were to run the program over night or while you are at work, not shortly before you want to use the computer.

Unfortunately, I have run out of room to conclude this set of articles on System Maintenance, and so I will continue next week by explaining the inbuilt Windows Maintenance Wizard and how to really increase your system speed by reducing the amount of unnecessary programs that start up when you first turn on your computer. This advice is especially important when running utilities such as Scandisk and Disk Defragmenter and follows a number of readers comments that after following my example last week about running Scandisk to check for disk errors, the program would never complete because the programs that started with Windows kept writing to the disk, forcing it to restart.

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