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 Practical Tips for a Healthy PC

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PostSubject: Practical Tips for a Healthy PC   Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:29 pm

You can probably think of a dozen things to do today, sure, and your boss probably has a dozen more for you. I'm going to add to the list and suggest some maintenance chores on your PC. They're painless, I assure you, and if you take the time, your system will run a little more efficiently.

Tips for a Faster Hard Drive

Okay, so maybe your hard drive won't actually spin faster. But there are things you can do so disk access by applications will speed up. For instance, my hard drive was yelling bloody murder because I hadn't defragged in months. Once I did it, my PC's performance increased. That's because even a fast, 10,000 rpm drive spends an inordinate amount more time looking for files it needs rather than accessing them. (I used to joke about spraying WD-40 onto floppies for faster access, but my editor was afraid some knucklehead would try it, so I had to stop.)

You need to defrag, too. To get started, read my just-posted Hassle-Free PC column.

As usual, though, I had a few more things to say and ran out of space in the column. And with a handful of early readers sending e-mail, I also need to clarify a couple of the tips.

Defragging Tips

Besides the tricks I mentioned in the column, you might also delete all but the most current Restore Points. Logon as Administrator, then go to the Start menu and select All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and click Disk Cleanup. Click the Options tab and select Cleanup in the System Restore dialog box.

Deleting ZoneAlarm's Big Files

I suggested using a batch file, an ancient programming language used by equally ancient old-timers. Too many of you youngsters have no idea what I'm talking about. Browse ComputerHope.com's Batch File Help page to get up to speed:

If you plan to download the zipped file I mentioned in the column, make sure to first copy the fie named " tvDebug.1" into the \Windows\Internet Logs folder.

If you're having trouble using the batch file, if you've got the ZoneAlarm firewall running, close it from the System tray, head for the \Windows\Internet Logs folder, and delete the TVDEBUG.log file. Once that's done, re-launch ZoneAlarm.

Don't have ZoneAlarm? You can download it from PC World.

Dig This: Imagine you're facing a big project (like writing this newsletter) and you need a diversion. No problem. Click over to the Neen site and check out samples of the artists' work: (Hint: Click on the numbers, not the names.)

Look at Those Duplicates

Getting rid of duplicate files can be tricky, even with Duplicate File Finder, the free program I mentioned in my column.

My strategy is simple (and relatively risk free): I take the time to examine the folders where each set of duplicates reside. I'm just looking for important hard drive wasters, such as duplicate video or image files. If one of the two files is located in the Windows folder, or any of the Windows subfolders, I leave it alone.

Looking Over Your Hard Drive

I like Windirstat, the free utility I picked as the Hassle-Free PC Tool of the Month.

But there are alternatives. SequoiaView uses a visualization technique called "cushion treemaps" to provide you with a single picture of the entire contents of your hard drive. You can use it to locate those large files that you haven't accessed in one year, or to quickly locate the largest picture files on your drive.

Dig This: Warning! Don't play with Fly Guy if you've got work to do. [With thanks to Harry M.] Hint: After you click, use your arrow keys. And be sure to head up to outer space.

Back Up Your Critical Drivers

Have you backed up your drivers recently? Yep, I know, all of you have a full and complete backup of your entire drive. But wouldn't it be handy to have just the critical drivers for, say, your mouse, graphics adapter, printers, and who-knows-what-other-devices in one spot?

Why would you want a driver backup? If you're reinstalling Windows, what better than to have all your drivers in one spot, ready for those pesky hardware devices ranting for their driver. Or if one hardware device goes kaflooey, say, your printer, Windows will pop up and try to reinstall the hardware's driver. If you don't have the original CD handy (or even if you do), it's much easier to aim Windows to your new "driver backup" folder to find the driver.

Drive Those Choices

WinDriversBackup finds all the essential hardware (and some software) drivers on your PC and backs them up. It works by creating a folder and copying all the drivers to individual folders with the name of the driver.

Just as good is DriverMax, also free, because it not only backs up all your drivers, it also zips them all into one handy file.

Of course, you're now a batch file expert. You might as well look at Lincoln Spector's batch file, which backs up all drivers to a folder.

Double-Check Your PC With Free Web Scans

Trust, but verify. It's a good motto to keep in mind when thinking about your antivirus and anti-spyware software. There's no harm in running an extra scan-- and who knows, it may prompt you to switch to a product that's more effective than the one you're using.
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