When's the last time you checked the tires, changed the oil or tuned the engine on your computer? Not literally, of course, but routine maintenance is just as important to your PC as it is to your automobile. On a regular basis, you should back up your work, scan the hard
disk for errors and insure that it's not fragmented. Windows
95 provides a few simple "tune-up" utilities to
keep your PC in tip-top shape.
These utilities, called System Tools, can be accessed in
Windows 95 by clicking the Start button, choosing Programs,
Accessories, then System Tools. Additionally, you can click
the right-mouse button on the C:\ drive icon, in the My
Computer window, choose Properties, then select the Tools tab
to locate these same commands.
Your very first step before each maintenance session is to
back up your work using the Microsoft Backup utility. This is
a "must do" in order to recover your precious files
in the event of some unfortunate mishap. Stuff happens!
It's only necessary to back up your entire hard disk once.
Later, you can backup only those files that have changed
since the last full backup routine. This is called an
"incremental" backup. From an Explorer-style
window, you can choose specific files and folders to include
in your backup data sets. These "sets" can be saved
to expedite easy backups in the future.
The Wizard guides you step-by-step through the process of
backing up selected files to either a tape drive or floppy
diskette. Critical data files should be backed up daily and
incremental backups should be performed every two weeks.
The ScanDisk utility identifies and repairs either
physical or "logical" errors on your computer's
hard disk. The hard disk is the primary storage location for
all your programs and data files and is very delicate.
Logical errors include lost clusters or cross-linked files
that Windows accidentally creates while physical errors are
actually damaged sectors or partitions on the hard drive.
Computers, like automobiles, periodically breakdown, and
ScanDisk can often troubleshoot these problem areas in
A "Standard" ScanDisk test should be run at
least weekly. This process usually takes only a few minutes
as ScanDisk peruses the hard disk and automatically fixes any
errors it encounters.
Monthly, you should run the "Thorough" test that
takes longer, but is more diligent as it scrutinizes the
surface of your hard disk, hunting for errors. Intermediate
and advanced users can achieve additional optimization by
tweaking the "Advanced" options, such as freeing
lost file fragments, as opposed to converting them to files.
The Microsoft Defrag utility optimizes the use of free
space on your hard disk. When programs and data are saved to
the hard disk, they take up residence at the most convenient,
available spot. It may not be the most ideal location for
your computer, but it's handy at the moment.
Defrag works like the game of Tetris, moving clusters of
data around your hard disk to accommodate open, unused areas.
When the hard disk is optimized, your files will open more
quickly. While Defrag is usually a safe utility, be sure to
back up your work before executing this operation, since it
literally reorganizes hard disk.
Each of the aforementioned utilities, Microsoft Backup,
ScanDisk and Defrag are all included with Windows 95.
Realize, however, these applets aren't nearly as
comprehensive as third party applications, such as Symantec's
Norton Utilities. Serious users prefer the extensive options
that Norton offers, but the bundled Win 95 tools are
certainly adequate for the average person. The upcoming
Windows 98 operating system will feature enhanced tune-up
features that alone will justify the upgrade.
System tools are no substitute for good file management
practices and disk housekeeping, which also promote PC
fitness. Empty the Recycle Bin regularly and check your hard
disk for extraneous programs and old files that can be
uninstalled or removed. Take an occasional peek at the
C:\WINDOWS\TEMP folder and delete all files with dates older
than one week.
Sort the files by date, and view the file details to
accomplish this task. Treat your computer system as you would
the other major appliances in your home or workplace.
Preventive maintenance and regular check-ups will insure a
healthy, long-lasting personal computer.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting
company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks
and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton,
CA 95201. She is on the Internet at:
http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here
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