Renew Your Hard Drive: Here are the Simple and Easy
Ways to Cleanup your Hard Drive
by Steven Presar
this site: August 18th, 2004
You know that a regularly scheduled simple maintenance may help keep your computer
in shape. There are plenty of third-party programs to help you keep your computer
in peak form.
However, Microsoft Windows provides you with a solid toolbox
of built-in programs to help you keep your computer in shape. Check out the Windows
START menu, through the PROGRAMS area, then ACCESSORIES, will reveal a group of
computer hard-drive helpers called SYSTEM TOOLS.
Backing Your Computer
One of the System Tools is the Backup program. Backup may not
be part of your default Windows installations. If is not installed on your computer
system, it may be found and installed from your Windows system CD-ROM.
it will not recover personal files like email or spreadsheets, the Microsoft Windows
SYSTEM RESTORE tool may restore files for individuals who have accidentally deleted
vital system files or tinker so much that their computers fail to operate properly.
Windows Restore creates a series of backup points at regular intervals that the
user can roll back to in an emergency.
Backing up your computer's data on
a regular bases, including bookmarks, e-mail folders and personal documents, is
an important task if you want peace of mind about your computer system.
you start the Backup program, click on the files you want to copy -- or pick one
of the other options Windows offers, including backing up all of your files --
and then choose where you want to save the files. If you lose a file, you can
also restore it from the Backup program.
Your computer system can be backed
up by a variety of other devices: this may be an external tape, CDs, anther hard
drive or removable-cartridge drives like the Iomega Peerless. Regardless of what
method you use, making a backup of your files that matter the most can save you
aggravation or despair in the event that something happens to your computer.
Your Computer Hard Drive
Once you have backed up your important system
files, you should delete the files that you no longer use. Windows users can remove
old unused software with the Add/Remove Programs function (from the START menu,
then SETTINGS, then CONTROL PANEL). Or you may use commercial software to safely
remove old software.
Commercial utility software will not only uninstall
old programs but can also clean up unintentional clutter around your hard drive.
Temporary files, bits of previously viewed Web pages, disconnected shortcuts,
browser-history files and other digital detritus hog space that you can safely
The Windows DISK CLEANUP tool in the System Tools menu does a good
job deleting unneeded files, but commercial utility oftware like LIUtilities'
WinBackup, Norton CleanSweep or McAfee QuickClean may do a more thorough job.
Your Computer System
If you have ever suffered a crash while working
in Windows, you are probably acquainted with ScanDisk. The ScanDisk utility is
run after an "unscheduled" computer system interruption. It checks the
hard drive for file system errors, cross-linked files and other problems. ScanDisk
can do a lot more to your hard drive. It can seek out and find bad spots on the
drive where data cannot safely be stored, and then prevent Windows from using
the damaged space and possibly losing data.
ScanDisk is standard with all
recent Microsoft Windows operating systems. ScanDisk may appear automatically
in times of your computers failure. It may also be launched from your System Tools
menu (unless you use Windows XP). ScanDisk offers two testing options: Standard
and Thorough. The Standard test checks for file and folder errors, and checks
the hard drive's surface as well. If you choose the check the Automatically Fix
Errors option, you may want to find something else to do while ScanDisk does its
job. It takes a while to run fix options.
If you have Windows XP, you may
check your hard drive by going to MY COMPUTER, clicking on the drive in question
and then going to the FILE menu and selecting PROPERTIES. Under the TOOLS tab
is the error-checking utility. Many commercial utility software packages provide
a variety of disk-checking and repair tools. LIUtilities' SpeedUpMyPC and Norton
SystemWorks suite by Symantec are two of the more popular utility packages.
Your Computer System
Once the computer has been checked out and cleaned
up, a good defragmentation session can tune it up further. Operating systems tend
to fragment and scatter files around the hard drive as they are used, causing
slower performance over time because the system has to look all over the drive
for those file parts. Defragmenting the drive puts everything back together.
has a built-in Disk Defragmenter program on the SYSTEM TOOLS menu, and many of
the non-Microsoft utility programs mentioned above also provide a defragmenter
option. If you find that your computer keeps starting the process over and over,
try booting your computer in "Safe Mode" to turn off all programs before
trying to run the Defragmenter again.
Microsoft's Safe Mode is a Windows
diagnostics mode. When you start the computer in Safe mode, only the specific
components that are needed to run your computer's operating system are loaded.
Safe mode does not load software applications automatically and does not allow
some functions, such as connecting to the Internet. Under Safe Mode, you are running
your computer's Windows operating system at its most basic level.
Microsoft's Safe Mode, power-up your computer. Watch for a blank black screen.
When you see "Starting Windows," immediately press the F8 key. Windows
then proceeds to start in Safe Mode.
If you are running under Windows XP,
Click START, and then click RUN. A RUN dialog box appears. Type "msconfig"
(do not type the ") and then click OK. The System Configuration Utility appears.
Check the "/SAFEBOOT" option, and then click OK.
The time needed
to perform all of these system checks and cleanup procedures will vary, depending
on the size of your hard drive and the amount of data stored on it. Each task
could take just 10 minutes or so, but it is not unheard of for it to take several
hours to complete all of them. If you would rather be sleeping or playing softball,
you can automate many of the cleaning chores with the Maintenance Wizard or, in
some later versions of Windows, the Scheduled Tasks function. Both are found in
the System Tools area.
Here are three most important steps that you must
do to protect your valuable computer files:
- Regularly Backup Key Files:
Save valuable computer data on a separate drive, CD, or
disk, such as a Zip(R) disk. After files are backed up,
remove the disks from the computer and keep them in a safe
place removed from your computer.
- Install and Update Anti-Virus Software:
Make sure any anti-virus program runs from the start menu
and updates the program on a regular basis.
- Carefully Review all email Attachments:
Don't open e-mail attachments unless you know the source.
Also, to minimize the potential impact of an email attachment
to your hard drive, transfer attachments to a CD or Zip(R)
disk before opening.
Taking care of your computer with a
little regular maintenance may just pay you dividends down the road.
Copyright Steven Presar
Steven Presar is a recognized small
business technology coach, Internet publisher, author, speaker, and trainer. He
provides personal, home, and computer security solutions at www.ProtectionConnect.com.
He provides business software reviews at www.OnlineSoftwareGuide.com.
In addition, he publishes articles for starting and running a small business at
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