Monday, February 24, 2014

TECH TUESDAYS -- KEEPING YOUR PC OR LAPTOP IN TOP-TOP SHAPE FOR WORK


A typical clan conversation in SpiRitZ_CC on Runescape whilst skilling

 As you can see by the above, I have a very busy life and do many important things, usually at the same time. The key to being able to being a successful multi-slack-er, uh, multi-tasking individual is making sure my computers are running happily along, with no hiccups. We addressed the downloading weasely programs problem last week, but just how often do you all clean out all those stupid *.tmp files, run Disk Cleanup (in Windows XP, Vista and 7) and defragment your disk?

Ideally, this should be done at least once a month, and with the newer releases of Windows, you have the option of transforming your file system from FAT (File Allocation Table) to NTFS (New Technology File System) and is run on all systems utilizing Windows 3.1 server and higher. The system is more robust and scalable, therefore more forgiving of errors on the hard-drive, where files are stored. In the past, FAT was the standard and a computer with Windows 3.1 client would have to have the *.tmp files deleted, and the disk would have to be defragged about once a week, to keep it running optimally.
So, now that the history lesson is behind us, here is what you can do to keep your little monster running at peak performance.

Start by making sure all programs are closed, including any browsers and chat windows. Go to your Windows Start in the lower left hand corner and select "All Programs". Then, select Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. You'll bring up a window that looks like this:




The Default Drive is C: unless you've partitioned your drives yourself. If this is the case, you don't need my help. Press "OK" to continue.


You can pretty much delete any files on this list, unless you have a burning need to look at the hex dump of your last application/system crash. Trust me, it makes for extremely boring reading. Select a bunch of boxes and click "OK".


This screen will give you a chance to get rid of "Crusaders from Outer Space" that you downloaded in 2011 for free and the kids played once. You will also probably find that stupid "Free Greeting Card" program that wasn't free and has been nagging you for the last 4 years. You can annihilate it from "Programs and Features" too, as well as from your Control Panel, which amazingly enough is called "Programs and Features". 

System Restore and Shadow Copies should be approached with CAUTION. Not all versions of Windows automatically create a new system restore, every time a change is made to your system, i. e., adding or removing a program. BEFORE doing anything here, if you're trying to free up space and speed up your computer, MAKE SURE you have at least one System Restore created, or your data backed up somewhere. Most PCs come with 2 drives; C and D. D contains the "shadow" drive which is the mirror image of your Windows program that was put there when the system was loaded. It does NOT contain your pictures of your kids, or cats, or receipts, videos of Grandma on her floaty in the pool, so approach with caution, or skip it, if you're not sure that you should remove ANY System Restores. Better safe than sorry!

Once you have all of your options click "OK". 


The computer goes off and does this "dancing baloney" thing, while the little brush swirls on top of the disk. I guess Bill Gates thought we were too dumb too figure out that if the whole bar is green, the bitch is done. Enough editorializing. At least, it's not "Bob the Paper Clip" from Word. He creeped me right the hell out!

Now, that that arduous chore is done, it's time to run Disk Defrag, or Disk Defragmentation. Briefly, when the computer is opening and closing files and performing operations, it "seeks" for information on your hard drive, analogous to an old 33 1/3 turntable. In the days of FAT, the "stylus" or "arm" would read the information and and write it to any available space, regardless of whether or not that space was contiguous to information that was similar to its neighbor. 

Think of waking up living next door to a family of people and coming home to find out that you live next door to a family of cats. It gets really bad when your home is moved across town to the city Zoo and you're cheek-by-jowl with a family of monkeys! But that is how data is picked up, used, transformed and saved, and not always in the same place. In time the files fragment and need to be neatly scooped together and made contiguous again. "Disk Defrag" does that. In XP, you can run a report first and I will say this: Windows LIES! Big fat LIES! Any fragmentation over 2% should be corrected. This will prevent a hard crash and damage to the drive itself.


I stand corrected. Windows 7 does have the ability to run a "report" but there are no statistics, percentages, or number of stacks, so I tend to not trust it; but then, I worked for IBM, so anything Microsoft is suspect. Did I mention Windows lies? Don't get me started on Apple.

So, in Windows, you got to Start > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defrag. If you are doing this for the first time, do it before you go to bed, or at a time when you do not have to use your computer for several hours. The last time I did this was on the 19th of February, 2014 and I think when it was done, it just went away, no message, no nothing. Typical Microsoft. So there you have it!

Next week, I'm going to look at some of the issues that plague users the most on Google and Chrome and see if we can't make some headway on some of the thornier issues that trouble users. If anyone has any ideas for future posts, or needs help, please feel free to comment, or drop me a line, here.


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