Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

The Strange Case of the Missing Icons*

Folks, another crazy day. The following re-posted older article is not relevant to those of you on Vista or Windows 7. (Those folks may want to scroll down to the “today’s free link” section though…)

A rather upset person called my shop complaining that their machine had “a virus”, and they wanted me to “fix it”.

There was nothing terribly unusual about that, but their answer to one of my basic questions was unusual– what is happening that makes you think your machine has been infected?
A: “When I turned on my machine, several of my icons were gone.”

That answer (and a few others) told me that, yes, my client’s machine had been altered, but not by a hacker unusedor spyware or virus infection. Their machine had been altered by a “helpful” Windows XP feature called the Desktop Cleanup Wizard.

The Desktop Cleanup feature keeps track of your usage of the icons on your desktop and periodically (every 60 days) offers to remove the icons you have not recently used. Sometimes it will run when you aren’t looking.. which is what happened to my caller.

The icons are not deleted, they are moved to a folder and you can put them back on the desktop if you want. The folder is C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\Desktop\Unused Desktop Shortcuts.
It will also place a shortcut to that folder on your Desktop, as shown.

Tip of the day: Turn off the automatic aspect of the Disk Cleanup tool, and avoid those pop-up balloons and “missing” icons.
1. Right-click a blank spot on the desktop, and then click Properties to open the Display Properties dialog box, click the Desktop tab.
2. Click Customize desktop to open the Desktop Items dialog box.
3. Click to clear the Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days check box.
Click OK twice to close the dialog boxes.
unchk

* To run the Wizard manually, click Clean Desktop Now on the Desktop Items dialog box. You can perform a manual cleanup at any time, even if you have disabled the wizard.

Today’s free link: Rick Robinette over at What’s On My PC.com turned me on to this: Your icons on the computer screen, over the life of the computer, will start to war with each other. Watch what actually can happen – Click here for a video capture of icons who thought their owner wasn’t looking. [The video is in Adobe Flash]

* This question has come up twice this past week, so I decided to repost this article. It first appeared 8/25/08.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

January 4, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, tweaks, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Four Vital Tools You Already Have…

But Might Not Know About

Revitalize and Protect Your PC With Windows’ Utilities

Computers get slower with age. And as we add programs and updates, sometimes little ‘quirks’ develop. The older our machines get and the more we use them, the worse these things become.

Largely, this is simply due to how our machines read and write the 1’s and 0’s to our hard drives, and various “clutter” that builds up. (But some of it is our fault. We humans are curious creatures and we like to install new programs and try them out, and then we just leave them there, unused…)

Windows gives us four tools – called “utilities” – to help us keep our hard drives clean, happy, and running smoothly (sometimes called “optimized”) which you might be unaware of, (or use often enough) as you have to right-click to find them. (Out of sight, out of mind, right?)

These are:
● Disk Cleanup Tool
● Error Checker
● Tool Defragmenter
● Backup

To get started, click on Start >Computer (or, “My Computer” in XP/older).
Comptr
Now right-click on the drive you want to “optimize” (usually, that will be “Local Disk (C:)”, but each drive [“volume”] will have this. C: is your main one), and a context menu will open — click on “Properties”.

gen tab

A new window will open to display the drive properties, and by default it will open to the “General” tab.

On this tab, we’re interested in the Disk Cleanup button. Disk Cleanup is a safe way to “take out the trash” and remove clutter from your disk.

My super-ultra-deluxe article on the in’s-and-out’s of this tool is here, More than you wanted to know about the Disk Cleanup Tool, but the short version is: click the buttons, answer “yes” and let it do its job. I recommend doing this once a week.

Now we dig down one layer, and this is hard work, so you might want to put on your gardening gloves, click on the next tab over.. the “Tools” tab.

———————————————————————

disk propts

Here you find the other three utilities buttons.

The top button is the Error Checking tool. Running this tool is a good way to eliminate those odd ‘glitches’. What it does is, it examines the physical surface of your hard drive looking for “potholes” and marks those areas as “bad” so that the computer won’t try to put your files there.

It also examines your file allocation table (FAT) and makes sure that all your internal roadsigns are pointing at the right streets. Um.. maybe a card-catalog-at-the-library analogy might work better — it makes sure all the index cards are in the proper order and all the Dewey Decimals are correct.
This tool is for use as a repair, and not a maintenance, so use it as needed and not on a schedule.

Next up is the defragmenter. I remind my readers to run this once a month, and to set an automation schedule for it (Vista and Win 7 already have that) in articles like, When was the last time you “defragged”?
Keeping your disk “defragged” is the best way to keep it running like when it was new. (Be sure to run Disk Cleanup tool before the defrag.)

The last — Backup — isn’t an optimizer or age-fighter, but it is probably the most important feature in Windows. I have written probably 30 different articles on just how important making backup copies of your files, photos, records, etc., is, and why you really, really, really want to do it. See How To Use Windows Backup Tool.

I don’t really know why — for all these years — Microsoft has not put these utilities right under our noses and in plain sight as separate entries under Start >Programs… But now that you know where they are, you can use them and get that PC of yours into a more “like new” performance state. Aka, “optimized”!

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

May 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments