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TIPS FOR A HEALTHY COMPUTER

Disclaimer - The actions to perform the hints in these documents reflect the steps you would take to accomplish the action in Microsoft Windows 98. The steps vary slightly for Windows 95, Windows ME, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Microsoft seems to change the location of these tools with each operating system.

Editing the registry is for those that KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. Guardian Geek takes no responsibility should you decide to edit the registry and screw things up.

A LITTLE HOUSEKEEPING - REMOVE THE CLUTTER
Many programs, such as Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer create temporary files on your hard disk. Unfortunately, these programs do not always delete these files after they are done with them, contributing to disk clutter. If you were to look, you would find many megabytes of useless files on your hard disk. To eliminate them takes only a small amount of work, but you do have to go looking for them.

SEARCH AND DESTROY
Use Disk Cleanup to remove unneeded files. It can be accessed from the properties menu of any disk partition - just right-click on the disk, then select Properties. There you will find a button labled Disk Cleanup.

If you have Windows 95, which doesn't have Disk Cleanup, use the Find Files and Folders on the Start Menu to search for files with the following extensions: *.old, *.bak, *.tm? You can type all of the extensions listed above, separated by commas, in the Find box and hit the Enter key. When the files have been listed, you can highlight them and delete them, but make sure you don't delete any temporary folders, only files. Remember, if in doubt, don't delete.

To run Disk Cleanup, go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup.

Internet Explorer temporary files can also be removed from the Control panel. Double click on Internet Options, and on the General tab, click the Delete Files button. When the dialog box pops up, make sure the Delete All Offline Content box is checked. Then click the OK button. Click the Clear History button and click on OK in the dialog box. Finally, click OK to close the Internet Options control panel. You can also run Internet Options from the Control Panel.

HARD DISK HEALTH
Weekly maintenance of your computer's hard disk will keep your computer in good running order. The following tips will maintain optimum hard disk health.

USE THE TOOLS YOU ALREADY HAVE
If you have a Windows computer, you already have the basic tools to keep your hard disk in good running order. Here are the two most important techniques to keep it humming along.

CHECK FOR ERRORS
Each week you should use disk-checking software, such as Microsoft Scandisk to check the disk for errors. As time goes on, areas of the disk surface may develop errors. Scandisk can check for and correct common hard disk errors. Regular use will decrease the likelihood of serious problems, such as lost data.

To run Scandisk, go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Scandisk.

SPEED UP ACCESS TO YOUR DATA
After checking for (and correcting) any errors, defragment your hard disk. Disk defragmenting increases the speed at which your computer loads programs or data. As time goes on, the files on the disk become fragmented - that is, they are broken up and scattered over the hard disk. When a fragmented file is loaded, the hard disk heads must travel over large areas of the disk surface to locate all the pieces of the file, which takes time. By reorganizing the files into contiguous areas on the disk, disk defragmenters speed up access to your files. Microsoft includes Defrag with the Windows operating system for just this purpose.

To Defragment the hard disk, go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter.

AUTOMATING HOUSEKEEPING TASKS
You say, "OK, this is all good and fine, but I don't have the time to do this every week." Fair enough - we can make this more convenient. To automate these tasks, Microsoft included the Task Scheduler with Windows. With it you can define tasks, such as the disk tasks above, to be run at specific times - like when you won't be using your computer.

The Task Scheduler can be configured to run many tasks. The biggest consideration is how long a task will take to run to completion - you don't want the tasks to overlap. I have set my computer to perform 3 tasks once a week, on the same day. We typically set our computers to run Disk Cleanup, then Scandisk followed by Defrag. To avoid conflicts, we scheduled 1 hour for each task to complete.

To run the Task Scheduler, go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Scheduled Tasks.

Most of these programs can be run from the command line or the Run box. Just go to Start > Run and type one of the following into the dialog box and press Enter:

scandisk to run Scandisk.
defrag to run Disk Defragmenter.
cleanmgr to run Disk Cleanup.

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