Computing Myths #2

Last week I started a list of my most hated computing myths and began setting the record straight.Unfortunately there were simply too many of them to fit into a 600 word article so we’re back again this week to hopefully complete the list.

Unnecessary Screen Savers

Screen Savers have been redundant for many years now but yet many users still insist on having them on their machines.The idea of a screen saver stemmed from the days of monochrome monitors; these had a tendency to suffer an incurable ‘burn in’ if a still image was left on the screen for an extended period of time.Fortunately modern monitors, especially TFT’s, don’t suffer from this affliction so there is absolutely no reason to have your screen saver turned on.A better idea would be to have your PC automatically switch the monitor to standby mode after a set period of time as this would save power and extend the life of the monitor.To activate this feature head to control panel, double click on the power options icon and then select how long you would like the PC to wait before the monitor is switched in to standby when it’s not being used.

If you don’t ‘stop’ a USB device before unplugging it from a PC you’ll mess it up.

If you unplug a USB device before stopping it correctly from within Windows then it will most likely make a violent sound often followed by your Operating System scolding you for removing the device without disconnecting it first.Whilst it is true that if you do this with a device such as a flash drive or USB hard drive whilst it is juggling data around that some real damage can be done there is no real reason that unplugging a printer, scanner, camera and so on without first stopping it will cause any damage to the device.

Overzealous Defragmenting

I have covered defragmenting before in Click but very briefly I’ll quickly recap for those who are unsure what I mean by this term.A computer will not always write a single file in a continuous space on the hard disk but will often write the file in several pieces on the drive in whatever space is available.Over time this can lead to the drive becoming ‘fragmented’ which results in the computer working harder, and as a result taking longer when accessing the hard drive as the data has to be read from several different areas of the disk, rather than being read in one continuous stream.

A defragmentation program, such as the one provided free in Windows, is used to reorganise the files of the hard drive so that, where possible, a file is always stored in one piece rather than scattered across the drive.The problem is that these programs can become addictive and often lead to an obsessive desire to have every file on your hard drive defragmented.I know people who run these utilities several times a week and the simple truth is that there is nothing wrong with a fragmented drive.Modern Operating Systems attempt to keep fragmented files to a minimum and even alarge amount of fragmentation will make a relatively small difference to your overall system speed.

Whilst we’re on the subject, it is worth noting that it’s quite normal that some files cannot be defragmented; this is because they are being used by Windows and as such they can’t be moved around.There are ways to get around this but since this space is more often that not occupied by temporary virtual memory, it really isn’t worth worrying about.

I can’t argue with the fact that if your hard drive is genuinely very fragmented then running a utility such as Windows Defrag can result in some modest speed increases but please, don’t get in to the habit of doing it more than a couple of times a year.Every so often someone will tell you about how they spend two hours a week defragmenting their hard drive and the vast difference it makes but please, ignore them.



About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.