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Check Disk, Defrag, MSConfig, & Disk Cleanup (Scandisk for pre-WinXP PCs)

Windows comes with some built-in utilities which are essential for maintaining top PC performance.

They are CheckDisk (ChkDsk) in WinXP, (ScanDisk in Win95/98/ME), and Defrag (in all versions of Windows).

CheckDisk and ScanDisk can scan your hard drive and repair all kinds of errors, including ones you don't even know you have.

Defrag will "Defragment" your hard drive and eliminate "gaps" that may have been left where files were deleted or moved. It will realign all the files on your hard drive, making it more quickly and efficiently accessible.

Another tool that helps keep your PC running smoothly is Disk Cleanup.

Double-click My Computer and then right-click the C: icon. Choose Disk Cleanup and follow the prompts to get rid of all kinds of unneeded temporary files that are just taking up disk space.

Windows XP Defragmenting Instructions:

Go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. Click the Analyze button, and then click Defragment after the analyzing has been completed.

Alternatively, you can click the Defragment button first, whereupon you'll be told your disk is being "analyzed," after which defragmentation will begin.

Another approach is to go to Start, My Computer, and right-click Local Disk C. Click Properties>Tools and you'll find buttons for Check Now and Defragment Now. You can then run Defrag as described above.

Check Now (CheckDisk) is a little trickier. Click on Check Now and a dialog box will appear with two additional options: "Automaically fix file system errors" along with "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors." Checkmark both of these options.

Click Start and you'll be told this program can't run without rebooting your computer, and asked if you'd like to run it the next time you restart. Click Yes and do a normal Restart.

Be aware that Check Disk can take several hours to completely scan your disk. I usually do this when I plan to be away from the computer for quite a while. Defrag, however, usually takes less than an hour to do its job.

Some additional notes on ScanDisk and Defrag in pre-WinXP computers.

You may get error messages when trying to run the programs in Win95/98/ME. The main thing that keeps these utilities from running successfully is having other programs running in the background, including your ScreenSaver and Anti-Virus program. Turn off the former by right-clicking your Desktop and choosing Properties. Go to ScreenSaver and choose None.

Turn off your Anti-Virus software by right-clicking its icon (on your Taskbar near the digital clock) and choosing Disable. It will come back on the next time you restart your computer.

Finally, press your Ctrl, Alt and Delete keys simultaneously and look at the window this brings up. You'll see a list of programs, including Explorer. The others, with the cryptic names, should each be clicked, followed by clicking End Task. When Explorer is the only file left, exit this window and run ScanDisk or Defrag in any of the modes described above.

Use MSCONFlG to Manage "Startup" Programs

Another important thing to help improve Windows performance is to disable all the unnecessary "start-up shortcuts" found in the System Tray. The icons seen near the digital clock in the Windows Taskbar are "shortcuts" which have told various programs to start running when your computer is booted (on the theory that you'll be able to get into them more quickly when you need them).

But what if you don't need them? Should they be running in the background and using system resources? Why not turn them off and just launch them when you need them (except for your anti-virus program, as mentioned above)?

Click on Start, Run and type in MSCONFIG (upper or lower case letters optional). Click OK and then click on the Startup tab. Finally, UNcheck all the shortcuts you don't need.

So how do we know which ones are needed when so many have such strange, cryptic names? Click here to learn more about this.

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