Maintaining Your PC

There are a few things you need to do at least once or twice a month (depending on how much you use your computer and how often you surf the net) to keep your PC humming along.

Under Windows 95 -- or higher -- starting up into safe mode is the best way to do these maintenance steps. By going into safe mode you not only put Windows into a general "fix-it" state, but it also loads only the minimal components. Some of these components can interfere with the maintenance process, including the Screen saver which you must disable manually if you have set up this option to start after a short period of time.

To get into safe mode power up your system (turn it on) and right after the memory count-down (where that "Green" monitor logo is seen on some systems) press the F8 button. You may need to press it several times. A menu will come up -- select item #3, which says: Safe mode.

Once your desktop comes up, go to the START menu, select ACCESSORIES, then SYSTEM TOOLS. From this sub-menu find: Scan disk.

Scan disk checks your drive for errors. There are two options: Standard and thorough. If you've never done this process before set aside a few hours and do the thorough scan. This checks your hard drive surface for disk errors. You need to do a thorough scan about twice each year and a standard scan at least every month.

Before starting scan disk, press the button marked advanced which is on the lower right. For the Cross-linked files option select: Make Copies. For Lost File Fragments select: Free. For the Thorough scan press the Option button and select System and data areas. You are now ready to press Start and do the scan -- which will take minutes for a standard scan and most of the day for the thorough scan.

After scan disk has finished, go back through the same menu process (START - ACCESSORIES - SYSTEM) and this time select: Disk Defragmenter.

This process takes all your file fragments and arranges them into a solid, continuous area. Doing a "defrag" can improve start up time, free up several megabytes of drive space and help prevent file reading errors.

It takes as long to do this step as it does to do a thorough scan of the disk, so set aside several hours for the whole process. You can adjust the parameters using the Settings button. Putting a check mark into "Rearrange my files so my computer starts faster" will take the longest amount of time, as this arranges your files in priority from start to finish. Leaving this box unchecked will not arrange the files into an order, it only combines the lost fragments together at the current location of the file (this is a faster option if you are pressed for time). Putting a check into Check the hard drive for errors is a good idea. Also select: Every time I check my hard drive as the option of choice instead of Just this time.

The final thing you need to do is an option: Virus checking. Since this type of program is not included with Windows you will probably have to either buy a copy or download one from the internet (sometimes a virus checker is included on many set-up disks, including the Windows PLUS pack or those set-up disks for some hardware items found on your system, so check all your set-up disks for such a program -- the two most common virus checkers include versions from Norton or McAfee). You will probably have to re-boot the computer (re-start it) and run in normal mode to do the virus check process, as the components required to run most virus checking programs probably didn't get loaded in safe mode.

Doing a virus scan every month and updating the virus data base is extremely important if you surf the web a lot and especially if you use Outlook Express for your mail tool! Most of the serious viruses are aimed at Outlook and they can wipe your drive clean or turn you into a virus "spammer" by automatically e-mailing infected files to all the users in your address book.

Keeping a virus scanner active all the time, downloading upgrades from your supplier and doing a scan of all files (not just programs) including compressed files on a regular basis can be vital to your computer system!

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