How to's - Computer Housekeeping

For preventative maintenance there are 3 basic operations that help keep your computer in tip top shape:

In the following sections, these steps are discussed individually.

Delete Temporary Files

What are temporary files?

Many programs, including WordPerfect, create copies of data files as they are created or modified to allow for undoing a change to the file. These files are normally deleted by the program when the program is exited. If the program is terminated in an abnormal manner, the normal exit procedure to delete the temporary files is bypassed. The presence of old, undeleted temporary files has a tendency to confuse the parent program, and can contribute to slowdowns or lockups of the system.

How do I remove temporary files?

Use either My Computer or Windows Explorer to browse the disk drive. Temporary files have a file extension of .tmp, and are normally located in the Temp folder in Windows or in the Temp folder under drive C:. Once you've located the temp files, mark them with the mouse and hit the Delete key.

In Windows 98, a new feature called Disk Cleanup is available from the My Computer window. By right-clicking on a drive icon, then selecting Properties, you get the Drive Properties window. Just below the pie chart showing drive usage is a button for Disk Cleanup. Disk Cleanup will, optionally, remove unneeded files from the Temporary Files folder, the Recycle Bin, the Temporary Internet Files folder, and the Downloaded Program Files folder.

Some programs maintain their own set of temporary files, including Netscape. To empty the caches in Netscape, click on Edit, Preferences, Advanced, Cache. Then click on the buttons to empty the memory and disk caches.

Run Scandisk (back to top)

What is Scandisk?

Scandisk is a program designed to read a disk, and to detect and correct problems with the data structure on the disk. It can also detect areas of the disk's surface that can no longer reliably hold data, and mark those areas so they are no longer available for file storage.

Why should I run Scandisk?

When a program is terminated in an abnormal manner, copies of files that were in memory are written to the disk without names or pointers to the File Allocation Table. These are called Lost Allocation Units or Lost Clusters. These tend to slow the system down, and should be removed.

In some cases, a file creation error can cause cross-linked files; where more than one file is referenced to the same disk location in the File Allocation Table. These cause incorrect or incomplete loading of files, which can cause program failures or lockups.

When should I run Scandisk?

You should run Scandisk anytime you suspect a problem of this type, and as a preparatory step before installing new software. You should also run Scandisk before running a disk defragmenting program, although most defrag programs will prompt you to run Scandisk if they detect lost clusters.

How do I run Scandisk?


(1) click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scandisk or
(2) click My Computer, then right click on the desired drive, click Properties, click the Tools tab, and select Error Correcting Status.

You may set Advanced Options if desired, but be wary of the option for automatic repair. This may cause unexpected results if you have not set the Advanced Options to handle repairs in the manner you prefer. As a general rule, you can delete any lost allocation units, rather than converting to files, since they are almost always copies of files already stored elsewhere on the drive. The default handling of cross-linked files is to make copies of each file elsewhere.

Standard checking is generally sufficient for normal disk checking at any time. Thorough checking tests a disk's surface for faults more completely, but requires significantly more time. It should be used for regularly scheduled maintenance rather than spur of the moment tests.

Run Disk Defragmenter (back to top)

To start out, simply open up the "My Computer" window and then right click on the hard drive you would like to defrag (if you only have one hard drive then it is most likely the "C" drive). From that window, go down to the very bottom and select the "Properties" button. When the properties window is displayed, click the "Tools" tab near the top of the window. Here there will be a button labeled "Defragment Now..." which you should now select.

The Disk Defragmenter screen allows you two options to begin with, Analyze and Defragment. Analyze will let you know whether the computer thinks it is time to defrag the hard drive, but if you haven't done it in a while then it is definitely time to do so.

Once you start the defrag process, you should basically leave the computer alone. This process uses up a lot of system resources and will slow the computer quite a bit. Although the defrag process can be paused or stopped, it is usually good to just leave the computer be for however long it takes (it can take up to a few hours depending on how much information is on the drive).

Defragmenting the hard drive will keep your hard drive running efficiently. This will help to speed up the computer as a whole and this process should be done at least once a month to keep the computer working at maximum efficiency.


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