In response to the first question, available hard disk space has everything
to do with printing and many other processes, since Windows reserves a
piece of your hard disk to swap tasks, such as printing, in and out of
memory. If you are running dangerously low on available storage space,
your system performance will drop to a snail's pace and one day the overburdened
PC will simply refuse to boot.
Don't confuse RAM or memory with hard disk space. RAM is your electronic
desktop where all computing tasks take place. It's completely empty when
your system is shut off, whereas the hard disk safely stores program and
data files regardless of whether the system is powered up or not. It's
very easy, however, to unwittingly accumulate extra files that can clutter
the hard disk and eventually bog down system performance.
The first step is analyze your hard disk and determine its total disk
capacity, used space and free space. In Windows 95, open My Computer and
click your RIGHT mouse button on the C: drive icon. Click the Properties
option you'll get you a colorful pie chart depicting your used disk space
and free disk space. If there's only a tiny slice of pink pie left, you've
got trouble brewing on the horizon.
To see which programs are taking the lion's share of disk space, open
the Windows 95 Explorer and click your RIGHT mouse on each of the folder
icons on the left side of the screen. Click the Properties option and you'll
see how many files are in each folder and the total bytes each folder is
consuming on your hard disk.
Don't be surprised if you see your Internet and E-Mail programs taking
up large chunks of hard disk real estate. You're web browser stores a portion
of every page you visit in a folder called "Cache", thereby allowing web
pages to load faster the next time you revisit them. To free up an overburdened
hard disk, you can "purge" the cache from within your browser software
and also set limits as to how much space the cache consumes.
Web pages also transfer "cookies" to your hard disk to store information
about you and your interests so that you are readily recognized the next
time you visit a particular website. If you find a cookie folder on your
hard disk, you can safely delete its contents while maintaining some anonymity
on the Web as well.
Another source of wasted disk space might be your e-mail folder. The
first time I checked my mail folder, I was shocked to see that it was occupying
80MB of hard disk space! I didn't have 80MB of text-based e-mail! I did,
however, neglect to "compact" the e-mail folders after I'd deleted old
posts. It's not enough to simply delete files from within your mail software
because phantom files continue to lurk around your hard disk.
The process of compacting folders sweeps clean all these phantom files
and reclaims the hard disk space that was previously occupied by ghosts.
You can usually find the Compact command under the File menu in most e-mail
programs. Be sure you compact your America Online files as well by choosing
Personal Filing Cabinet from the File menu and select Compact PFC as an
Did you know that when you open a file attachment from an e-mail post,
the file is usually saved to a Temp directory, either under the Windows
folder or perhaps under your browser folder? These files can accumulate
unnoticed until you've got a good chunk of byte space occupied by files
you'll never use again, so check these folders and clean them regularly.
You can always use the Save As command to save one of these attachments
to a working data directory when you first read them.
It's also a good idea to periodically check the Add/Remove Programs
option from the Windows 95 Control Panel. This dialog box lists all the
95 programs on your PC and provides the option of safely uninstalling unwanted
applications. This is an efficient way of dumping pre-installed software
that you're never going to use. Keep a special eye out for unwanted children's
programs and games since these are notorious byte hogs.
Keeping a diligent eye out for old and extraneous files will help keep
your hard drive at peak performance. Next article: Tools for maintaining
a clean hard disk.