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Windows maintenance
2 years ago

The most essential maintenance for your computer comes preinstalled with your Windows operating system and browsers. We'll review in this thread how to do basic maintenance on your computer using its own system tools. I'll focus on Vista since that is the operating system I have, and will discuss differences with XP.


Outline:


I. Accessing Windows maintenance.

II. Disk Cleanup.

III. Disk Defragmenter.

IV. Error Checking utility.

V. Clear browser cache and cookies.

VI. Cleaning Firefox.
a. Deleting the cache.
b. Deleting cookies.
c. Blocking cookies.

VII. Cleaning Internet Explorer.
a. Deleting temporary files and cookies.
b. Blocking cookies.

2 years ago

I. Accessing Windows maintenance.

Since operating systems (XP, Vista, 7) are different, I'm going to illustrate three different ways you can access your Windows maintenance utilities. All of these methods work with my Vista. The three primary ways are through the Control Panel, through All Programs, and through the Computer link:



First way: On your Control Panel, click System and Maintenance. Then, scroll down until you can see Administrative Tools and its subheadings:



There, you will see the links Free up disk space (Disk Cleanup) and Defragment your hard drive.

You could also click on Performance Information and Tools:



Here on the left panel you will see Open Disk Cleanup, and can click Advanced Tools to access an Open Disk Defragmenter link.

Second way: From your All Programs list, click to open the Accessories folder, and then (at the bottom of Accessories) click to open the System Tools folder:

 



This gives you links to Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter.

Third way: On your Computer window, right-click on your hard drive icons(s) and click Properties, and then click the Tools tab:



This brings up a Defragment Now button and an Error-checking - Check Now button.

2 years ago

II. Disk Cleanup.

As you use your computer, old files accumulate and clog up your system. Disk Cleanup is a way of getting rid of unneeded files that may be slowing down your computer. When you open Disk Cleanup (see above), you first get the question Choose which files to clean up:



I click My files only. It then calculates what it can delete:



After about a minute, this concludes and you'll get a list of deletion options:



You could just leave the selections as they appear. It wouldn't hurt much to delete any of the options, but some are best left intact. The Hibernation File Cleaner is required for your computer's Hibernation mode and might also be needed for the Sleep mode, so I do not check this. I usually check five of them: Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Offline Webpages, Recycle Bin, and Temporary files. I sometimes check others. After making selections, click OK. You're then asked a silly question:



Click Delete Files. You'll then get a window showing the progress:



It shouldn't take too long, and you've done your cleaning!

2 years ago

III. Disk Defragmenter.

Over time, the files in your computer become cluttered and spread about. Disk Defragmenter organizes your files so they can be processed more efficiently. When you open Disk Defragmenter (see above), it first analyzes your disk(s) to see if defragmentation is necessary:

 


 

Note: With XP, the Analyze button is optional.

 

When it finishes, you click the Defragment Now button:



A window comes up that asks which disks you want to defragment. You can leave all of them checked and click OK. It will then begin the process:



Note: With Windows XP, you would instead see a colorful Defragment window that looks something like this. The process is the same.

Defragmentation can sometimes take a couple of hours or more, though you can operate your computer while it's going on. Surprisingly, when it's finished there isn't any 'completed' message (at least, with Vista), just a return to the basic Defragment window you started with. It will just say Scheduled defragmentation is enabled (if it is) or Your file system performance is good or something. But don't worry, once the Defragmenting hard disk... message is gone, the process is finished. Your computer should now run more smoothly.

2 years ago

IV. Error Checking utility.

Error Checking is a way of checking for serious errors in your system. Unlike Cleanup and Defrag, Error Checking is just a test you should do once in a while, especially if you are having problems. You access it by the Third way illustrated at the end of section I.

After clicking Check Now, you'll first get a Windows need your permission to continue message. Click Continue, and you'll get the Check Disk options window:



To keep things simple, you might want to un-check the Automatically fix file system errors option. That way, with Vista at least, you won't need a re-start provided that no errors are found. If errors are found, you will afterwards be prompted to redo the procedure to fix them. Alternatively, you can leave this option checked and/or also check the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors option, which is a deeper search for errors. When ready, click Start.

If no re-start is required, then after about a minute you should get a progress window:

_

And after fifteen minutes to an hour it should complete:



...And you're finished.

If a re-start is required, then you should quickly get a message saying that you need to schedule the Disk Check for your computer's next re-start:



You should click Schedule disk check, and the process will continue the next time you re-start (reboot) your computer. It looks pretty odd if you haven't seen it before. Here is how the Disk Check appears on Vista:



Note: On XP, it should look more like this.

 

Again, the time it takes varies. On my computers, it only takes only about 10 minutes and then the computer continues its start-up. I would expect that if a problem is found, you'll be prompted to click a button to fix it.

2 years ago

V. Clear browser cache and cookies.

The cache and cookies of your browser are basically good, but like other good things in life you can get too much of them. They should occasionally be deleted and renewed.

The cache (temporary files) allows you to load pages that you have previously loaded very quickly, without having to download them again. This is especially valuable for a slow internet connection. However, like other computer files, they can get cluttered and develop errors.

Cookies allow your browser to communicate better with the sites you enjoy, facilitating your logins and interactions. But, unwanted sites deposit cookies as well, sometimes to track your activities, and these can slow down your browsing.

I will show how to deleted the cache and cookies on the two most popular browsers, Firefox and Internet Explorer.

2 years ago

VI. Cleaning Firefox.

Firefox makes it easy to delete the cache and cookies, and to view and delete them individually.

 

The easiest way to delete them wholesale is to click Tools on the Menu Bar and then click Clear Recent History. This brings up a nice menu of items you can select to delete:



When you've made your selections, click Clear Now.

 

Note that you can select a time range to clear - only the recent items, which can be a good idea if a problem has developed only recently and you want to keep most of your cache. If you want to clear all the files in the categories you select, then click Everything from the Time range drop-down list.

 

a. Deleting the cache.


The basic way to access the cache is by clicking Tools from the Menu Bar, then Options, then the Advanced tab, and finally the Network tab:



You can now click Clear Now to clear the entire cache.

Individual cache items: Your individual cache items can be viewed by entering about:cache into the address bar, but you cannot delete them there. To be able to find and delete individual cache items, in order to troubleshoot a specific problem without losing all of your cache, I recommend the small Firefox add-on CacheViewer.

b. Deleting cookies.

The basic way to access cookies is by clicking Tools from the Menu Bar, then Options, and then the Privacy tab.



The Firefox Cookies window allows you to view all your cookies on the list, and to select individual ones to delete by highlighting them and clicking Remove Cookie(s). You can search for cookies by typing key words into the search bar. Or, you can delete all of them by clicking Remove All Cookies.

c. Blocking cookies: You might sometimes want to just temporarily block cookies, so that a site will not recognize you, instead of deleting them. You can do this by un-checking the box Accept cookies from sites on the Privacy tab. This is sometimes useful to test whether a site has a problem with your account.

2 years ago

VII. Cleaning Internet Explorer.

While Internet Explorer is more secretive about temporary files and cookies (and passwords) than Firefox, clearing them all at once is easy to do.

a. Deleting temporary files and cookies.

IE keeps both settings on its Delete Browsing History window. You access the Delete Browsing History link from the Safety drop-down list, or by clicking Tools, then Internet Options, and then the Delete button underneath the Browsing history heading:



This window gives a number of options on what you can delete. You might want to check Preserve Favorites website data at the top, so that you'll keep the temporary files and cookies for your Favorites sites (if the problem lies elsewhere), though once in a while all your temp files should be cleared. After making your selections, click Delete at the bottom.

You'll briefly see a window like this while the files are deleting:



b. Blocking cookies: You might sometimes want to just temporarily block cookies so that a site will not recognize you, instead of deleting them. You can do this by first clicking Tools, then Options, and then the Privacy tab:



There is a 'meter' on the left side that determines how restricted the cookies are. You can change the setting by clicking on the meter marker and dragging it up or down, as shown. To temporarily block cookies completely, you can move the meter all the way to the top:



Individual temp files and cookies: With operating systems later than XP and browser versions later than IE7, Miscrosoft has hidden the cache and cookies so that individual ones cannot be viewed and selectively deleted - unless you do some fiddling with the system. I won't include instructions in this thread, but if you want to know, here is the info:

Internet Explorer 8 Folder Locations in XP and Vista
http://www.brighthub.com/computing/windows-platform/articles/50221.aspx

Where is the Temporary Internet Files folder located in Windows 7 or Vista?
http://www.winvistaclub.com/f11.html

2 years ago

I once cleaned out temporary windows files via method #2 above and, well, it was not a good thing.  Little annoyances went buggy so I did the proverbial restore to a previous time....

 

But other than that...

 

Restore to a previous time is a good option...has worked for me when something went awry....

2 years ago

That's strange, MsDeb. Clearing the Windows temporary windows files shouldn't affect the system files, and I've done it many times without a problem. Computers can be odd sometimes, though.

2 years ago

I thought it was, too, but, hey maybe BIOS will fix buggy things with it?  Who knows?   I also made a Windows System Repair disk at the beginning, although I don't really know what it does, as well as System Image disks (these were along with the recovery disks at the beginning...)...that's what I get for reading directions and Googleing making recovery disks.....

 

See, this computer is taking up my time...