Senior Computer Tutor
CheckDisk, Error Checking, Defrag, MSConfig, Disk Cleanup, Built-in PC Maintenance Tools
Windows comes with some built-in utilities which are essential for maintaining top PC performance.
They are CheckDisk or Disk Checking (ChkDsk) in WinXP, Vista and Win7, 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.
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.
Vista and Win7 users can type defrag into the Search box below the Start button.
Error Checking (aka Check Disk or chkdsk) Instructions:
While in this "Properties>Tools" area 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 Disk Error Checking 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 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.
Use MSCONFlG to Manage "Startup" Programs
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.
Another important thing to help improve Windows performance is to disable all the unnecessary "start-up shortcuts." These 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). Use MSCONFIG turn them off until you need them.
Click here for instructions on using MSCONFIG.
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