Holiday cleaning can boost speed of PCs

Sunday, 30 December 2007, 08:00 Hrs
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Hamburg: Most people have a little free time between Christmas and New Year. If you take 15 minutes to clean up your PC, you will probably be rewarded with a computer that runs faster and has space available for any new games you might find under the Christmas tree this year.

Checking your computer's pre-installed software is a good starting point when looking for ways to free up hard drive space. Many computers come with redundant versions of programmes - for example, several different photo processing programmes even though most computer users use only one.

Most computers that run on Windows-based operating systems also slow down over time as many programmes install themselves as automatic start-up functions and while they remain in the background, they still use up memory.

Many of these programmes are not easily removed, warns Jens Kock, an information technology expert at the Hamburg Adult Education Centre (VHS).

However, there are ways of tackling the problem. One is by using the "misconfig" command. On computers with the Vista operating system, a user accesses this by typing the command in the computer's search field. On computers that use the XP system, it's accessed under the "run" function in the "start" menu.

Starting misconfig allows the user to see all programmes in the automatic start-up menu. However, it's not advisable to remove all programmes from the automatic start-up list, especially ones responsible for virus scans and computer security, says Axel Vahldiek of the Hanover-based c't magazine.

De-fragmenting the hard drive is another possible fix for computers that have slowed down with time. On Windows XP systems, the "disk de-fragmenter" function can be found by first accessing "All Programs" and then searching "Accessories" followed by "System Tools."

De-fragmenting takes data that belongs together, but has nonetheless been saved on different parts of the hard drive, and pulls it back together. But the biggest chunk of computer junk comes from regular installation and de-installation of computer programmes.

Software leaves an entry in the computer's register every time it's installed. That entry is then checked every time the computer is booted up. But that registry data is not always removed during de-installation. That means the registry keeps growing and slows down start up times.

Nonetheless, neophyte computer users should probably let the registry be since poking can cause irreparable system damage.

"You really have to pay close attention," says Kock. Starting any programme creates temporary data, which is stored in the C:WINDOWSTEMP directory. Frequently, temporary data remains there after the programme is ended.

Vahldiek says these leftovers can be removed at the press of a button. By right clicking on the icon of the hard drive in question and choosing "properties", the user gets the option of "disk cleanup".

None of these steps is likely to remove the excess data permanently. Anyone with a little computer familiarity can usually recover deleted data, says the German Federal Office For Information Technology Security (BSI) in Bonn. To completely remove the data, the drive must be physically overwritten.
Source: IANS
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