PC Maintenance

 Unclutter your hard disk

Spring cleaning your PC is more than just shooting compressed air through the mouse or wiping off the screen. Undoubtedly, your hard disk has accumulated files that are no longer needed, a build-up that requires some judicious spit and polish.

No matter how sophisticated a PC or an operating system becomes, one basic truth holds firm: Regardless of its size, a computer will always operate more efficiently if it contains less data. So a good seasonal practice is to get rid of everything you donít need, including applications and the ever-annoying temporary files.

Use it or lose it

A rule of thumb: If you havenít used a program in four or five months, have it removed. If you feel comfortable removing unused files and programs, you can do it yourself. Similarly, if you havenít referred to a particular document in a year, back it up to a storage disk, tape, removable drive, or another drive in the system, other than your primary (boot) drive, or trash it. Another gauge for hard disk space: When new, your computer should be 20 percent or so, full and should fill by 10 to 15 percent each year. If your hard disk is reaches 50 percent or more full, you should start keeping a closer eye on what programs you really need and what data files you can move out. If your hard disk reaches 70 percent full, you need to purge some files. If you canít free up at least 20 percent, itís time to upgrade your hard disk. Hard drive real estate is at an all-time low in cost. There are exceptions to the use-it-or-lose-it rule. Some utilities you may use only a couple times a year, but thereíll still useful to have on hand.

In most cases, though, youíre better off deleting programs that remain dormant. Youíll want to be sure ahead of time that youíre not going to use a program again and most importantly, that you still have the original installation disks and know where they are.

Get rid of those temp files

As for temporary files, most of them are removed when you shut down the system or when you quit applications. But nevertheless they always seem to gather - for instance if the machine hangs due to an unruly program or through other anomalous events. It helps to remove them manually every once in a while using the following process, for users of WinNT4 or Win95.

Keep in mind that using Windows Explorer to randomly excise data or erase entire directories is the wrong way to approach spring disk cleaning. Even if you see unknown files scattered throughout your hard disk, itís better to leave them alone than to delete something and discover you need it later.

So if you want your system to provide all the performance it promised when you spent those hard earned dollars - meet your system halfway and "Give it room" to work for you.

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