Tech – for Everyone

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

Monthly maintenance for faster machine: a reminder

This is a Holiday Edition of Tech–for Everyone. It has been much more than a month since I have reminded my readers of this chore (and, reminded you to back-up your data). This article tells you how to set your machine to defragment itself –automatically. It first appeared 6/12/07–

I am continuously surprised at how many PC users have let a year or more pass since their last defrag, or never have defragged at all. “Why is my machine slower than it used to be?” That is a very common question. It is a question with no single, or simple answer. Yet there is a single, and simple, step you can take which will improve the speed at which your machine reads and writes data, and which, if done regularly, will keep it at near the speed it had when it was new–it’s called “defragging” (short for defragmentation). Defragmentation remedies file fragmentation, which occurs, invisibly to you, over the course of time.

Tip of the day: It is commonly suggested that you run a defrag at least once a month. I recommend that you schedule your (monthly) defrags to run automatically using Windows Scheduled Tasks tool. Set it and forget it, as the old saying goes. Here are the steps to do it:

1) Start>Control Panel, click Performance and Maintenance and then click Scheduled Tasks.
2) Double-click Add Scheduled Task to open the Scheduled Task Wizard, and then click Next.
3) Follow the wizard to set a schedule for when to run the defragmentation program (I recommend running it late at night, as it can take a while to complete), and be sure to supply a password for the account on which you want the task to run, and mark the checkbox “wake the computer to perform this task.”
4) Check the box for Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish. On the Run line, add the drive letter for the drive to be defragged (typically “c:”). For example, %SystemRoot%\System32\Defrag.exe c:

(This example is for XP, but you can do it in earlier–all the way back to Win 95–versions as well)

Another thing you can do is get rid of the files on your hard drive that you no longer need: such as emptying your Recycle bin and deleting your temp files (a quick, safe, and simple way is Windows Disk Clean Up tool) and there are some nice applications to automate and/or simplify this for you, such as today’s free link. Also, use Add/Remove Programs to remove applications you no longer use. Go to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs and wait for the list to “populate”. Click on those programs you are certain you have no more use for and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: CCleaner CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused and temporary files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster, more efficiently and giving you more hard disk space – cleans your Registry, and has a good Unistall tool (to help clean the trialware from your new machine)

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 22, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , | Leave a comment

More than you wanted to know about the Disk Cleanup Tool

In a recent post I referenced the Disk Cleanup Tool. This simple and handy tool has been a part of Windows since Windows 95. In the process of writing about one topic, I guess I just sort of assumed that everyone is familiar with the other. I apologize for that… and to make it up to you, I am going to demonstrate how to use it, and explain why you should.

Tip of the day: Use the Disk Cleanup tool to — in a single step — free up disk space, empty your Recycle bin, “compress” old files, and remove the “temporary” Internet files that your machine picks up while browsing and downloading (improving your privacy/security); and, optionally, remove unused Windows “components” and installed programs.

If that sounds like lot a lot, it is. And it surprises me that Microsoft buries this useful tool under a series of menus — it would make sense to me to have a “one-button clean up” icon in Quick Launch, or on the desktop,.. or in the Start Menu.
As with most Windows items, there’s five or six different methods for getting to the same place, but the route I take is to open My Computer (just “Computer” in Vista) which is usually found by clicking the Start button.
mypc.jpg
Locate, and right-click on your hard drive icon, which typically is labeled “Local Disk (C:)”, and then click on the “Properties” menu selection as shown above.

Now the hard drive’s Properties window will open to the “General” tab, which regular readers of this series will recognize, as shown below.
props.jpg
Click the “Disk Cleanup” button, and a window will open that shows the progress as the tool scans your drive for files that it can safely remove for you…
calc.jpg

When the scan is finished, Disk Cleanup will present you with a list of the results –by category — which will show you the amount of space you can recover. This list of categories is selectable via checkboxes, and some are selected for you by default. 
dc_opts.jpg
Accepting the defaults and clicking “OK” is fine, but you can modify it for greater space savings. This list includes all the files Windows says it’s safe to remove, and so, conceivably, you could place a check in all the checkboxes without hurting your machine or deleting important “system” files. But, I recommend that you do not select “Hibernation files” (if it appears on the list) nor “Catalog files for the Content Indexer”.
In the screenshot above, I have clicked on “Offline Webpages” and placed a check in its checkbox, because I don’t use offline Webpages. (Note the “View” button: this allows you to see what is going to be removed.. if you’re the curious sort.)
When you’re finished making your selections (or, going with the defaults), click “OK”.
rusure.jpg
Don’t let this scare you. Click “Yes”. .

prog.jpg
Disk Cleanup will briefly show you that it’s working, and then return you to the hard drive Properties window. In my case, I will have cleaned 117,472 thousand bytes of useless files from my machine. The general rule of thumb is that you run this tool once a week (and defrag once a month) for good hard drive health.

You are now done removing and compressing. But the Disk Cleanup tool allows you to get rid of more stuff you don’t use. There is a second tab, called “More Options”.
moreopts.jpg
Here you can click links (buttons) that will allow you to remove Windows “components” (such as IE, and the fax service), installed programs, and System Restore Points.
My advice on the last — System Restore — is to not save disk space here. Let System Restore itself handle removing the oldest Restore Points, which it does automatically.
The middle button takes you to Add/Remove Programs. Unless you are a downloader/try-it-out-er type, you probably do not have installed programs that you never use.. but if you do, this is one way to uninstall them.
The Components button takes you to a sub-menu of Add/Remove Programs. Again, you probably don’t need to fool around here… so my General Advice is to ignore the More Options tab; but, it won’t hurt you to look around, and I’ve fulfilled the promise of the title of this article.

Today’s free link:if you are a downloader/try-it-out-er, or just like getting useful computing tools for free, the first place to look around is Open Source software, and the place to start seeing what’s available is SourceForge.Net. This collection of over 150,000 programs is searchable by category, and every type/level of computer user can find some helpful item here.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 7, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , | 9 Comments

Monthly maintenance for faster machine: a re-minder

Business obligations will keep me on the go for the next few days, and it is not feasible for me to construct a fresh article and post it in a timely fashion. It is a very good computing practice to defragment your hard drive once per month to keep it running well. It has been much more than a month since I have reminded my readers of this chore (and, reminded you to back-up your data). This article tells you how to set your machine to defragment itself –automatically. It first appeared 6/12/07–

I am continuously surprised at how many PC users have let a year or more pass since their last defrag, or never have defragged at all. “Why is my machine slower than it used to be?” That is a very common question. It is a question with no single, or simple answer. Yet there is a single, and simple, step you can take which will improve the speed at which your machine reads and writes data, and which, if done regularly, will keep it at near the speed it had when it was new–it’s called “defragging” (short for defragmentation). Defragmentation remedies file fragmentation, which occurs, invisibly to you, over the course of time.

Tip of the day: It is commonly suggested that you run a defrag at least once a month. I recommend that you schedule your defrags to run automatically using Windows Scheduled Tasks tool. Set it and forget it, as the old saying goes. Here are the steps to do it:

1) Start>Control Panel, click Performance and Maintenance and then click Scheduled Tasks.
2) Double-click Add Scheduled Task to open the Scheduled Task Wizard, and then click Next.
3) Follow the wizard to set a schedule for when to run the defragmentation program (I recommend running it late at night, as it can take a while to complete), and be sure to supply a password for the account on which you want the task to run, and mark the checkbox “wake the computer to perform this task.”
4) Check the box for Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish. On the Run line, add the drive letter for the drive to be defragged (typically “c:”). For example, %SystemRoot%\System32\Defrag.exe c:

(This example is for XP, but you can do it in earlier–all the way back to Win 95–versions as well)

Another thing you can do is get rid of the files on your hard drive that you no longer need: such as emptying your Recycle bin and deleting your temp files (a quick, safe, and simple way is Windows Disk Clean Up tool) and there are some nice applications to automate and/or simplify this for you, such as today’s free link. Also, use Add/Remove Programs to remove applications you no longer use. Go to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs and wait for the list to “populate”. Click on those programs you are certain you have no more use for and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: CCleaner CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused and temporary files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster, more efficiently and giving you more hard disk space.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 5, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , | Leave a comment