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PC Tune-up


NOTES:

  • All Italicized Links below REQUIRE Internet Access. All other links are internal to this web page.
  • The information below was gathered from Microsoft and HP.com.
 

Recommended PC Tune-up schedule

Your desktop PC is similar to your car. Both need to be cared for to keep it running well. But unlike your car, taking care of your PC is easy to do.

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After you setup your PC the way you want it, we recommend a few tasks to get the most out of your computer.  The following recommended tasks should be your first step in beginning a solid maintenance program.  Keep Microsoft Windows clean and updated!

 
Initial | Weekley | Monthly | Quarterly

» Initial tune-up

1. Install and Update your Antivirus software
It is critical that you use an Antivirus tool that you can trust and one that will reliably keep itself updated. Choose a WELL RATED software. This is not the place to take chances.
2. Install and update spyware detection/removal software Choose a WELL RATED software. This is not the place to take chances.
An EXCELLENT way to stop spyware from sabotaging your PC is to install and use WebRoot's Spy Sweeper. As with your Antivirus software, it is important to keep up with the most recent updates of your spyware detection and removal software.
3. Update your software and drivers
Avoid problems, add functionality, and improve system performance by checking to see if you have the most current software and drivers installed.
4. Defragment your hard drive
Defragmenting your hard drive is not as hard as it sounds and improves your computer's performance. As you install and uninstall programs, data becomes scattered across your hard drive. As a result your computer takes longer to find the correct data, degrading performance. This is true even after installing new software on a new PC.

Overview
Over time, your computer creates, deletes and moves many different-sized files on your hard drive. This normal usage of your computer will leave fragments of files separated and disorganized.
Disk Defragmenter consolidates fragmented files and folders on your computer's hard disk then rearranges them to increase available space. As a result, your computer works with the hard drive faster and more efficiently. HP recommends defragmenting your hard drive at least once a month.
About Disk Defragmenter
Before starting to rearrange and compress your files, the Disk Defragmenter will inspect your hard drive to identify whether defragmenting is necessary. By clicking the Analyze button, Disk Defragmenter estimates the amount of disk space that is used by fragmented files.
If a large amount of red bands are displayed in the illustration of the analysis, Disk Defragmenter will recommend consolidating these files into contiguous files. Green bands usually indicate files that Windows cannot move, like the files that make up the operating system.
Figure 1: Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP
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1 - The drive that has been selected for analysis and defragmenting.
2 - Red bands indicate fragmented files.
3 - Contiguous files are indicated by blue bands.
4 - The Analyze button.
5 - The Defragment button.
6 - Green bands indicate files that are unmovable.
7 - The View Report button.
Once Disk Defragmenter is completed, a detailed report of the quantity of fragmented files and the disk space that was made available can be seen by clicking the View Report button.
Start Disk Defragmenter
Using Disk Defragmenter is simple and once started will work without the need to supervise. Depending on the size of your hard drive and the amount of fragmented files it may take more than an hour to complete. Use the instructions below to start defragmenting your hard drive.
  1. Close all programs that are running. This includes background programs and screensavers.
  2. Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, then System Tools.
  3. Click Disk Defragmenter. Follow the onscreen instructions. If Disk Defragmenter starts itself over and over, then a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.

5. Create a Backup Strategy
A virus or software bug could wipe out data without any chance of recovery. Devise a strategy for backing up your files now. Any important data that you do not want to lose should be backed up regularly. This can be done in any of a number of ways.  Simply write the files to a floppy diskette, USB drive, or a CD-R. You might also consider using RecordNow!’s System Backup or Microsoft’s Data Backup to automate the backup process.

Backup basics

Getting started: What should you back up?

Published: October 6, 2004
Man using a desktop computer

There are many ways you can unintentionally lose information on a computer. A child playing the keyboard like a piano, a power surge, lightning, floods. And sometimes equipment just fails.

If you regularly make backup copies of your files and keep them in a separate place, you can get some, if not all, of your information back in the event something happens to the originals on your computer.

Deciding what to back up is highly personal. Anything you cannot replace easily should be at the top of your list. Before you get started, make a checklist of files to back up. This will help you determine what to back up, and also give you a reference list in the event you need to retrieve a backed-up file. Here are some file suggestions to get you started:

Bank records and other financial information

Digital photographs

Software you purchased and downloaded from the Internet

Music you purchased and downloaded from the Internet

Personal projects

Your e-mail address book

Your Microsoft Outlook calendar

Your Internet Explorer bookmarks

If you haven't already decided where you want to store your backup copies—external hard disk drive, CDs, DVDs, or some other storage format—and you want to know more about your options, you can read about the types of external storage available.

After you've decided what you want to back up and where you're going to back up, you're ready to learn how to back up.

6. Create a Restore Point

a Creating a restore point
a Restoring the computer to a previous point
a Restoring when Windows XP cannot start normally

Microsoft Windows System Restore is a useful program that can remember most of the files and settings on the computer at a given time. System Restore can replace all of the current files and settings with those of another time.
For example: After a new computer has been started for the first time, a restore point is made. Later, after several software programs have been installed, the system is restored to that original restore point. All of the programs are now gone and the computer operates as if it had just been started for the first time.
This document pertains to notebooks operating with Microsoft Windows Me and XP.

Creating a restore point

A restore point represents the computer's configuration at a given moment in time. Making a restore point allows you to reset the computer back to this same configuration at some time in the future.
  1. Click Start, Programs (or All Programs), Accessories, System Tools, then System Restore.
  2. On the Welcome to System Restore window, select Create a Restore Point, and then click Next.
  3. Type anything into the Restore Point Description field that helps describe the computer's current configuration and click Create.
    A new screen appears stating that a new restore point has been successfully created. The name of the restore point and the time and date appear in red.
  4. Click to exit back to Windows or click Home. Close to return to the main System Restore window.

Restoring the computer to a previous point

Use the following steps to restore a computer's configuration to a previous point in time:
  1. Click Start, Programs (or All Programs), Accessories, System Tools, then System Restore.
  2. On the Welcome to System Restore window, select Restore my computer to an earlier time, then click Next.
  3. On the Select a Restore Point window, click a date and a restore point, then click Next (see Figure 1).
  4. Click OK if a pop-up window about closing programs appears.
    A Confirm Restore Point Selection window appears.
  5. Click Next.
  6. The computer should shut down and turn back on by itself after the restoration completes.
    A Restoration Complete window should appear.
  7. Click OK.
    Figure 1: Selecting a restore point
    a

Restoring when Windows XP cannot start normally

Use the following steps when Windows XP is unable to start:
  1. Turn on the computer.
  2. At the first screen, press the F8 key repeatedly every half of a second until a Windows Advanced Options menu appears.
  3. Press the Down Arrow key until Safe mode-Command Prompt Only is highlighted.
  4. Press ENTER and continue through any informational screens that pop-up.
  5. When the command window appears, type: c:
  6. From the C:\> prompt type: cd c:\windows\system32\restore
  7. Press ENTER, then type: rstrui
  8. Press ENTER. The System Restore screen will appear.
  9. Use the steps in the previous section, Restoring the computer to a previous point.
   
 
Initial | Weekley | Monthly | Quarterly

» Weekly recommended tune-up

 

1. Perform a data backup
Any important data that you do not want to lose should be backed up regularly. This can be done in any of a number of ways. Simply write the files to a floppy diskette, USB drive, or a CD-R. You might also consider using RecordNow!’s System Backup or Microsoft’s Data Backup to automate the backup process.  See Backup Basics above.

2. Update your Antivirus software
Hopefully, you've chosen an antivirus software that keeps itself updated. Most programs these days will check for updates when Windows starts. REMEMBER to allow the program to do it update job and do not bypass the process.

3. Update spyware detection/removal software

 
Initial | Weekley | Monthly | Quarterly

» Monthly recommended tune-up

1. Update your software and drivers
2. Clean-up temporary and old files

Description

As a computer is used to access information on the Internet and additional programs are added, the computer's performance may begin to degrade. A combination of unintentional changes to the system configuration files and some poorly designed software, can cause the PC to run slowly and freeze up for no obvious reason.
Solution
Perform one or more of the following methods to help resolve issues and improve system performance. The methods include a mixture of operational diagnostics, software configuration changes, and hardware maintenance activities.

Method 1:
Use an antivirus program to remove spyware and adware
Adware is any program that displays advertising banners while it is running. This may include sometimes annoying pop-up windows. Spyware is any application that collects information from the computer and sends that information to another computer over the Internet.
These programs, as well as viruses and worms, can degrade the system resources. Set up a schedule to search for and remove these types of programs.
Install an antivirus and antispyware software and use the automatic update feature to keep the virus and spyware definition files current.

Method 2:
Close programs that are not being used
It is a good idea to save data and close program when the task is finished. Minimizing the window for a program does not stop that program from using the computer's processor and memory. Activities, like being connected to the Internet, listening to music, and running virus scans all use a lot of system resources. Schedule the use of virus scans and other system tools for a time when the computer is not being used. Work offline when convenient. Close unnecessary programs to help Windows perform more efficiently.

Method 3:
Empty the Recycle Bin
Deleting a file is a two-step operation. First the file is marked for deletion and temporarily stored in the Recycle Bin, then action is taken to empty the Recycle Bin. Files in the Recycle Bin take up disk space and can slow a program's operation. Do the following actions to empty the Recycle Bin frequently.
  1. From the Windows desktop, right-click the Recycle Bin, and select Empty Recycle Bin.
  2. Select Yes to confirm the deletion of multiple files.
    Windows will remove the contents of the Recycle Bin from the hard disk (C: is most common hard drive designation).
If there is a question about which files will be deleted, do the following actions to open the Recycle Bin and view the file names.
  1. From the Windows desktop, right-click the Recycle Bin, and select Open to view the contents of the Recycle Bin.
  2. Select any file that is mistakenly marked for deletion, then click File on the top menu, and click Restore.
    The file will be returned to its original location on the hard drive.
  3. After restoring any files, click File on the top menu, and click Close to exit the Recycle Bin.
Method 4: Delete temporary files and directories - Windows 98, ME, 2000, and XP
Windows uses several directories, such as the C:\WINDOWS\TEMP directory, to store files (*.tmp, *.spc) intended only for temporary use. Over time, the number of files can build up and slow the operation of programs, such as print spooling. For Windows 98, ME, 2000, and XP, do the following activities to delete these files to increase hard disk space and reduce the time needed to access the hard drive.
  1. Close all open programs.
  2. Click Start, select Programs, select Accessories, select System Tools, and then click Disk Cleanup (see Figure 1).
  3. When prompted, select the name of a drive from the drop-down list. (Drive C:\ is normally the hard drive on a PC. However it may be both drive C:\ and drive D:\ if there are multiple hard drives, or if hard drive is configured for multiple logical drives.)
  4. Place a check next to the types of files to be deleted. It is always safe to delete temporary files, Internet files, and recycle bin files.
  5. Select OK to begin the cleanup. When prompted, click Yes to confirm the actions.
    Figure 1: Disk Cleanup Window
    a
After completing this action, continue on to Method 6: Scan the hard drive for errors .

Method 5:
Delete temporary files and directories - Windows 95
In Windows 95, temporary files (*.tmp) are stored in the C:\WINDOWS\TEMP directory. There is no utility to safely remove these file.
Actions should be taken by experienced users only
To delete these files, it is necessary to open a DOS command window, use the CD command to change to the c:\ root directory, use the DIR command to verify what type of files in the temporary directory, and use the DEL TEMP\*.tmp command to delete the files.
WARNING: Running these commands incorrectly may delete important files and could cause the computer to stop working. Do not perform these activities if you are not experienced using these commands.

Method 6:
Scan the hard drive for errors - Windows 2000 and XP
The ScanDisk program checks the hard drive for file structure and physical errors. Do the following activities to run ScanDisk before running the disk defragmenter program.
  1. Close all programs including background programs such as virus scanners and screen savers.
  2. Click Start, then open My Computer.
  3. Right-click the hard drive's icon (usually C:\).
  4. Click Properties, and then click the Tools tab.
  5. Click Check Now.
  6. Place checkmarks in the check boxes for the Fix file system errors and Attempt recovery of bad sectors options.
  7. Click Start, and then click Yes to schedule a full disk scan when the computer is restarted.
  8. Restart the computer. The disk scan can take a very long time to complete.
  9. The results of the DiskScan testing is displayed. Click Close to exit program when finished.
Method 7: Scan the hard drive for errors - Windows 95, 98, and ME
The ScanDisk program checks the hard drive for file structure and physical errors. Do the following activities to run ScanDisk before running the disk defragmenter.
  1. Close all programs including background programs such as virus scanners and screen savers.
  2. Select Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and ScanDisk.
  3. Select the drive (usually C:\) and check Automatically Fix Errors.
  4. Select the type of scan to be done.
    Check Thorough to perform a complete scan of the hard drive. A thorough scan may take more than an hour to complete.
    If the PC is not often used, select the Standard scan to check only for errors in the files and folders.
  5. Click Start and follow the onscreen instructions. If the ScanDisk starts itself over and over, then a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.
  6. The results of the DiskScan testing is displayed. Fix or repair any files, if asked. Click Close to exit program when finished.
Method 8: Defragment the hard drive
The Disk Defragmenter program examines all the fragmented data and program files and reorganizes them into continuous storage places on the hard drive. The defragmentation process reduces the time needed to access files on the hard drive.
Do the following activities to defragment the hard drive. Depending on the size of the hard drive, it could take over an hour to complete the defragmentation process.
  1. Close all programs including background programs such as virus scanners and screen savers.
  2. Click Start, Programs or All Programs, Accessories, then System Tools.
  3. Click Disk Defragmenter.
    Click Defragment to start the program. If Disk Defragmenter starts itself over and over, then a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.
Method 9: Use MSCONFIG to prevent programs from loading - Microsoft Windows 98, ME, and XP
At start-up, many programs launch background processes that take up space in memory waiting for some system level action to be called. Most of the processes are not needed by every program or games. Removing these speciality programs from a normal start-up will improve overall performance.
CAUTION: This process will display lists of files with unique names. You should search on the Internet for definitions of the individual files and decide if each file is needed before disabling it. Disabling system critical items could cause the computer to stop operating.
Do the following activities to use MSCONFIG to selectively prevent items from starting when Windows launches.
  1. Click Start and then click Run.
  2. In the Open dialogue box type MSCONFIG and then click OK.
  3. Select the Startup tab (see Figure 2) and remove the checks from any tasks that do not contribute to the system and are unwanted. If a task is unknown, write the name down and research it on the Internet later. Do not remove a checkmark if the task is not known.
    Figure 2: Startup tab of the System Configuration Utility
    a
  4. After removing the checkmark from the unwanted files, click OK to accept the changes. Allow the computer to restart.
    NOTE: If Windows or other software stops working after a checkmark is removed from a task, restart the computer, go to the Startup tab and replace the checkmark.
After completing these steps, Windows will re-start using the Selective Startup option. This means Windows prevents the selected programs from starting automatically. To revert the original state, during the start-up process, un-select the Selective Startup option and reselect the Normal Startup.

Method 10:
Remove icons from the Startup folder to prevent programs from loading - Windows 95
When a computer starts, Windows 95 (and later) can automatically launch programs that might be needed later. Common programs that load at startup are virus scanners, display settings, and multimedia programs. These programs take up space in memory.
As the programs load, they usually display an icon on the systray bar (Figure 3). Increase system performance by stopping these tasks from loading, or by changing their settings.
Figure 3: Systray icons
a
Do the following actions to remove the unwanted programs from the Startup menu.
  1. Click Start, select Programs, select Accessories, and click Windows Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the Startup folder on the hard drive (usually C:\Documents and Settings\Start\Programs. The shortcuts to programs listed in this folder will start at startup.
  3. To prevent the program from automatically launching at startup, remove the program shortcut from the Startup folder.
    • To permanently remove the startup item, delete the item from the C:\...\Start\Programs\Startup folder.
    • To preserve the startup item for possible reuse, create a new folder in Programs folder and name it something other than Startup. Drag-and-drop the specific shortcut from the Startup folder to the new folder.
    Sample Folder Names:
    C:\...\Start\Programs\Startup
    C:\...\Start\Programs\NonStartup
  4. Restart the computer. Any items removed from the Startup folder will no longer load at startup but can be launched by clicking the desired item on the standard Start and Programs menus.
Method 11: Determine memory leakage
Memory leakage was a problem with Windows 98, Me, and 2000 operating system. When a program started, it reserved a specific amount of memory for its processes. When a program ended, it should have released all the reserved memory. Unfortunately, some programs did not always release all the reserved memory. As a result, less memory was available for the next program. This loss of available memory is called memory leakage. If the computer runs well when first turned on, but performs noticeably slower after several programs are opened and closed, there may be a problem with memory leakage. In most cases, the solution is to upgrade to a modern operating system like Windows XP SP2 and install the latest program upgrade. The only workaround is to restart the computer after using the program(s) with large memory leakage.
Memory Calculations
Do the following activities to identify programs that cause large amounts of memory leakage. The general diagnostic procedure is to determine and record the amount of available memory at three measurement points:
(A) ______ Before starting the program.
(B) ______ After starting the program.
(C) ______ After closing the program completely.
The available memory at measurement points A and C should be the same. To determine memory leakage, subtract the value at C from the value at A. If there is a large leakage, contact the software manufacture for current updates or patches.
Windows 98, ME, 2000
Do the following activities to view the amount of available memory and CPU usage for Windows 98, Me, 2000 operating systems.
  1. Start with a fresh session of Windows by shutting down and then restarting the computer.
  2. Right-click the My Computer icon on the desktop and select Properties.
  3. Select the Performance tab to view the available percentage of System Resources.
Windows XP
Do the following activities to view the amount of available memory and CPU usage for Windows XP operating systems.
  1. Start with a fresh session of Windows by shutting down and then restarting the computer.
  2. In Windows XP, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete.
  3. Select the Performance tab on the Windows Task Manager.
    Note the change in CPU Usage when the program starts and stops (see Figure 5).
    Record the amount of Physical Memory Available (Figure 4).
Figure 4: View System Resources - Windows XP
a

Method 12:
Determine hard drive usage
On older PCs with small hard drives, unused programs take up space that could be used for other processing activities. Windows uses space on the hard drive for different types of operations such as caching and virtual memory. If available free space is less than five percent of the total disk space, the computer's performance will degrade and the computer may become unreliably.
Do the following activities to verify how much disk space is available on the hard drive.
  1. Right-click on the hard drive icon, and click Properties.
  2. View the percentage of Used Space and Free Space on the General tab.
    If the percentage of Free Space is near or less than 5%, then files and/or programs should be removed.
Method 13: Remove unused files from the hard drive
One way to increase the amount of disk space available on a hard drive is to make a backup copy of the old data files onto a storage device and then delete the unused original files.
To simplify the process for backing up and restoring files, it is helpful to decide where files will be stored on the hard drive. By default, most Microsoft programs save the data files to the My Documents folder on the desktop. However, the programs allow users to store files in other directories. Having data files scattered across multiple folders makes it difficult to find and copy files. Choose some file organizing scheme and use it consistently.
Do the following activities to backup and delete data files.
  1. Open a Windows Explorer window, right-click the hard drive icon, and click Properties.
  2. Select Backup on the Tools tab, and follow the instructions on selecting files to be backed up.
    • Specify what directories and file types are to be backed up.
    • Specify where the files are to be stored. Backup files to a folder, multiple diskettes, burn files to a CD, an external drive, etc.
  3. After data files are backed up, move the original files from the hard drive folder to the Recycle Bin, then empty the Recycle bin.
Method 14: Remove unused programs from the hard drive
One way to increase the amount of disk space available on a hard drive is to uninstall unused programs. The unwanted program might be an old word processing program or a game that has not been played in months. You simply decide what is important. If you have the original disks, you can always reinstall the program if necessary.
Use the following activities to remove unwanted programs and increase hard drive space.
  1. Click Start, Settings, and Control Panel.
  2. Open Add/Remove Programs.
  3. Click the Install/Uninstall tab. Select programs that are no longer used and will not be used.
  4. Highlight the program name, and then click the Add/Remove or Change/Remove button and OK (see Figure 5).
    Figure 5: Select and Remove One Program At A Time
    a
  5. When the program is removed, a prompt might appear to restart Windows. Restart Windows, then repeat the above steps to remove any other programs.
  6. After removing all the desired programs, go to Method 8: Defragment the hard drive .
 

4. Defragment your hard drive

   
 
Initial | Weekley | Monthly | Quarterly

» Quarterly recommended tune-up

 

1. Remove unused programs and desktop icons

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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