Maintaining One's Computer

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New mobo/cpu, RAM, case, power supply, Windows XP user here. Hard drive is a
few months old.

Windows XP seems slow when switching tasks on the internet. E.g. from
Outlook Express to my Fidelity account page to pages.

Several folks at the newsgroup indicate the probability is
high my new computer setup is already chock full of viruses. They suggest
that the latest viruses in particular target Win XP. The net has some
support for these claims.

I am trying to understand what my computing life is going to be in the
coming years. I would like to know what folks here do daily and weekly to
maintain their computer in top running condition, particularly with regard
to virus protection.

I have no virus protection software, because
-- I use a modem and I always thought the risk was lower with a modem
-- I am very careful about downloads. Nothing from email is downloaded. From
web sites, I download PDF files and now and then software that someone at a
computing newsgroup vouches for.
-- it seems to me that the virus protection software can monkey with my
settings and slow things down. So the sofware deals with one problem but
then causes another.

I need a maintenance philosophy here. If I am stuck with having to spend an
hour each day maintaining my computer (or paying someone to do it), then
okay. But I want to know if that's where things are at with MS Windows,
internet use, pretty simple application software (MS Works Suite, Kodak
photo sharing software, Adobe, Java) and no gaming.

Also, can I take my 2001 Gateway system Win ME restore etc. diskettes and
use them to install Win ME on another hard drive for use with my new
mobo/cpu/RAM? I am getting the feeling Win ME may be preferable to Win XP,
though crashes will happen more with Win ME.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

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first off,
you do not want to use's not terribly stable.
you should have a virus checker as a precaution...
you can use a free one such as AVG or Avast.

chances are that you don't have a may have adware or spyware

here is the link to a free adware remover /

to speed you computer up you may also want to do a disk clean up...
defrag from time to time and maybe even turn off animations

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

Elle wrote:

Maintenance advice?  I'm doing basically what you're doing without any
difficulties.  I spend perhaps an hour a month on maintenence, if that.

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The system restore disks may not even work on your new PC.  Some gateway
installers check the bios ID to make sure its installing to the
"original" PC.  Legally, OEM software is tied to the hardware it was
purchased with, so you should not install it on another machine even if
it will work in practice.

 > I am getting the feeling Win ME may be preferable to Win XP,
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Windows 98se is preferable to Windows ME, but it would be a hard sell
for you to convince me that either is better than XP.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

Grinder wrote:
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... snip ...
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It is very simple.  They avoid the atrocious EULA that goes with
W2000 and WXP.  If you want to avoid giving Bill and Co. full
rights to invade and destroy your machine, avoid those systems.  

 Some informative links:
   news:news.announce.newusers /

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

Thanks for the input, Philo, Grinder, and CBFalconer. I am going to take a
day off from this and then try this totally new approach (for me) of
downloading antivirus etc. software, per what you all have described as well
as what some at one of the microsoft.windowsxp have suggested (strongly as

I will get to all the links people gave. Take care.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

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I just read the 4 messages in this thread, and I don't see that anyone has
given you a coherent "approach". Could you please summarize what you think
they've told you?

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

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I conflated some of the advice from the windowxp newsgroup with what was
posted here and also didn't word the above very well. Several people at the
microsoft.public.windowsxp.basic support newsgroup  urged downloading
various virus protection software packages (providing links). I am not going
to try to use Win ME (also consistent with what people said at the other
ng). Lastly, what Grinder said about the maintenance not taking much time is
what folks there indicated, too.

This is a radically different approach to the way I have maintained my
computer. In short, I never took virus protection seriously.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

Yeah just use two things -- -anti virus and anti spyware.

The 4 things I always do or try to:

1) use AV software and spyware detection and uninstall crud that I no
longer use.

2) You should also defragment your HD once in a while. Which I often
dont do sort of like the next one.  

3)Back up your important data. And its nice to have a backup of your
installed win to make it easier but thats up to you. Another thing
many of use pontificate about but many dont do.

Back ups of your system.  Its easier if you partition a small
partition on your HD say 16 -20 gigs or larger depending on how many
apps you install and then have the rest for data and less important
apps. That way you can back up your whole system --- the important
stuff with only 16 -20 gigs , and have that separate from your data
backups. But thats up to you. Many have external HD backup systems so
it may be just as easy to back the WHOLE 120 -200 gigs up for them. A
matter of preference.  

4) When worse comes to worse I reinstall Win XP every once in a while
because theres so much crud installed and uninstalled I just like
reinstalled it fresh which often helps.

Whats important here is to have your WIN XP disks of course and a list
of very crucial stuff you will install right away which I burn to a

a) Drivers - controller though this is less crucial now as MS WIN
seems more able to work with lots of controllers now where before it
wasnt even recognized without the drivers though this isnt always the
case.  And drivers for LAN or modem connection to get the latest

b) Power Desk -- I have to have this as I always use the WIN FILE
Explorer type file management and cant stand WIN FILE explorer.
d) Other stuff -- Anti virus software , Spyware , etc  A lot of this
you can get from the net once you have a connection including the
latest drivers.

Its more the spyware that can really slow your system down even if you
are careful cause lots of legit sites will install it onto your

Heres AVG Free edition anti virus

SPYWARE -- one warning. Lots of weenies on the net have FREE spyware
detector so that when you do a random search for it tons of sites come
up for this Spybot search and destroy and other FREE spyware. If you
go to the site its some other spyware that they charge for or they
install ironically TONS of spyware sometimes totally screwing up your
WIN install. This happened to me once. Make sure you go to the RIGHT
site. Preferably CNETs site for downloading Spybot search and destroy.

Heres a good spyware detector and cleaner Spybot search and destroy

Heres another one people mention but Ive never used it. Ive used the
above. The problem with lots of free software is they dont tell you
about limitations and many so called FREE software is severely limited
or trial versions that stop working after a month or so. I dont know
if the below is like that. /

Other stuff for diagnosing your PC when messed up:

a) Go to Hard Disk manufacturers site --- they also give you a copy on
CD when you buy the hard disk usually , and get their branded HD
diagnostic software that will check it out.

b) get memtest86 --- do a search its a free diagnostic download to
test memory. Test it for a few hours or so or even overnight if you
really suspect your chips and nothing comes up.

c) Motherboard monitor or Speed Fan --- free downloads that will
monitor your CPU and systems temperature. Speed fan also has SMART
MONITORING which supposedly gives you an idea of the condition of your
hard disk but I have no idea if its accurate or not. Sometimes Speed
Fan will hang a system. Its generally worked with mine but it suddenly
started hanging my system so I took it off.  It also supposedly lets
you control the speed of the fans to make them quieter but better not
mess with that and it doesnt always work anyway.


Re: Maintaining One's Computer


I've seen enough of you say get on top of the AV and spyware software that I
am now convinced. Also, one of my relatives said similar. Will do.

I do defrag and scandisk a few times a month.

I do back up files (not that there are many of them; less than 5 gigabyte
easily) like crazy these days. As I think I mentioned recently, this of
course has been greatly facilitated by the discovery (doh!), abetted by
discussions here, that backing up from one hard drive to another is
super-fast. Love it.

Naturally I am delighted to read that you too think re-installing one's OS
every so often is a good idea. A lot of folks say that's overkill, but to
me, it's peace of mind that I'm starting fresh. I do have a system (written
down in an arguably anal but nonetheless effective loose-leaf notebook) now
where I know exactly what applications and drivers to install after a fresh
re-install of the OS.

I am putting your comments in the notebook.

Thanks for your help yet another time in this adventure. I still have much
to learn but every week I feel like I'm on my way to more computing sanity.

(Some days I think: If I could just get in and manipulate the code the way I
used to when writing Fortran programs a bazillion years ago... that would
fix everything. Uh huh... )

Pride goeth before the fall.   :-)

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 snip for brevity

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

On Mon, 27 Feb 2006 02:15:14 GMT, "Elle"

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I took a C programming class on whim at night a local college one
summer mainly as discipline since Im completely undisciplined and was
learning it by myself I was curious how it was taught. They talked a
lot in the 90s about former Cobol and Fortran programmers who were
trying to learn C way back in the 80s cause times were radically
changing then.  Of course later it was C++ and Java and webdesign that
was hot after C and who knows now - C# ?  They say the life of a
programmer is brutal things change so fast.

Heres a favorite tool some people use. Its an image of a bootable CD.
You just download which will take forever with a dial up and burn the
iso with NERO etc to a CDR.

And you set your bio screen to FIRST BOOT UP DEVICE to CDROM.
Then you dont need a floppy.

A DOS menu comes up and you get to pick between several utils - one
group is  for processor burn in and memory testing and includes two
versions of memtest86 and other memory testers.

It also has hard disk utils including most of the diagnostic routines
for the major makers like Seagate and WD and maxtor etc.

But like I said you can get the latest diag for a HD maker at their
site free and memtest free at lots of places so you might want to get
it that way but this combines them all on a bootable CD image.

You can make your own bootable CD too of course but this is already


Re: Maintaining One's Computer

Elle wrote:
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Elle, this is a bit off-topic for this newsgroup but have you tried SyncToy
(Google, sorry) from MS (a free download for XP users) for backing up files?
I use it and am *very* pleased. LOL, probably the best software MS have
written in ages. After setting it up with which files you want to backup and
where to it's only a couple mouse clicks each time you want to back up /
mirror / echo all your selected files after that.

A breeze to use.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

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I didn't see much mention of using a proper firewall. At this site,, you can download a free version of ZoneAlarm. It'll nag
you for about 2 weeks (if I recall) about upgrading to the fancier version,
but the basic one is all you need. Works with Win9x, WinME, Win XP. Replaces
XP's firewall, which, sadly, is missing half the functionality a firewall
should have.

Some people who've used ZoneAlarm do not like it. Take it all with a grain
of salt.

Finally, this site has some terrific recommendations for security. Just
advice, and links. They sell nothing.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

Doug, thanks for the input.  A relative of mine said almost exactly the same
about the firewall. Also, some others at the windowsxp ngs IIRC said
similar. I finally found evidence of the basic firewall that came with Win
XP (under Control Panel, Security Center). I'll look into the firewall you
understand is better, as well as the site with the security tips below.
Thanks again.

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Re: Maintaining One's Computer

What ZoneAlarm does that's different (from the Windows firewall) is watch
for OUTgoing activity. There have been viruses which want to live in your
computer and then make contact with the outside world. ZA "notices"
everything going outbound, alerts you to the activity, and gives you the
option of allowing or disallowing it. Once it "learns" which outbound
programs are OK (like your browser), the nagging stops. The learning process
is quick.

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Re: Maintaining One's Computer

On Sat, 25 Feb 2006 20:02:37 GMT, "Elle"

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It would be good to list the system components again... each
thread should be self-sufficient containing all potentially
relevant details.

Without this information, it could be something like
insufficient memory.  Check Task Manager to see what the
memory load (Commit Charge, Total) is, and (Commit Charge,
Peak), then compare to the "Physical Memory, Total".   An
ideally optimized system should have enough Physical Memory
to come very near (if not exceed) the Commit Charge Peak
value, and always more than the average (from checking Task
Manager several times) Commit Charge Total.  A well-endowed
system, given today's reasonable memory prices, would do
even better, have at least a few hundred MB more Physical
Memory Total than the Commit Charge Peak, as additional
memory is used as a file cache which can significantly speed
up the system, especially after it had been running long
enough to cache many of the files on the HDD into main

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It is an overly generalized statement that could be true,
but not substantiated yet by any information you have
provided.  Perhapas you have left out some of the info
posted to these groups so we cannot assess the validity of
their responses.  If you have an unusually high Task Manager
memory load per the apps you're running, if your task
manager Processes list includes mysterious things that
shouldn't be running, or there is an unusual, unaccounted
for use of CPU time (task manager performance tab), these
questionable things should be given further scrutiny.

In general, some XP files are OS-related and should not be
disabled unless you are sure they can be (some will even
prevent system from booting or running) but with 3rd party
software/files, the ultimate goal is control over what is
running, not having anything running that you don't
specifically recognise and know the function of.  This can
take some investigation, it is easier to note these things
when the system is newly installed and after further
applications are installed (such as antivirus or a printer,
whatever), then you can see the corresponding things each
installation adds to your list of Processes in Task Manager.

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Virus Protection is about keeping the vulnerabilities
patched and following safe computing practices.  Don't open
unknown emails, especially with attachments.

Use more secure browser and email client instead of OE and
IE.  Install an antivirus program and update it regularly.
Visit and get the latest patches.

Google for "online antivirus scan" and use some periodically
as a suppliment to your preferred realtime scanner- no
scanner is perfect and redundant use of mutliple scanners
may cath more things.

Periodically scan with spyware/malware/etc type scanners
such as Spyware Search & Destroy, Adaware, use other similar
tools such as Spyware Blaster, maintain a HOSTS list (Google
for some and directions), disable insecure browser features.

Maintain a full system backup, so in worst case scenarios
you do not depend on finding ALL viruses should you ever
become infected, rather than being able to wipe the drive
and restore to a known clean state.  This can be made easier
by not installing everything on a single HDD partition but
rather segregating user data (and sometimes applications)
from the OS files on the boot partition.  With some rare
exceptions (like MS Office viruses), usually a virus will
reside on the OS partition and if you can restore the OS
partition the data and applications on another partition
will not need this done... though your OS partition backup
would have to be made after the applications were installed
as so many these days depend on files placed on the OS
partition or at least Windows registry entries.

The above is not a comprehensive list, Google searching for
security related practices is a good start, and security is
a continually evolving set of practices that must adapt to
each new threat when seen in the context you made... over
time, years of use.

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Due to lower bandwidth of the modem your risk is reduced,
but in general it is not a reduction in risks, you are as
vulnerable in many ways.  Some common mistakes in user
configuration of yesteryear are now more often avoided (such
as being sure not to bind File & Printer Sharing to a
dial-up internet adapter) but being on dialup, you do still
have most of the potential infection points.

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One of the more common modern threats is "drive-by"
hijacking of the browser.  It can be reduced by not visiting
unknown or questionable websites, but even running a fully
patched version of Internet Explorer, it is quite possible
to become infected through simply browsing the web, not
choosing to install anything.  At any given moment, there
are usually IE vulnerabilities as yet remaining unpatched
but known to crackers (I generally avoid the term "hackers"
as it has other non-nefarious meanings) who seek and
actively aim to use such exploits, as they are prime
candidates for exploit being as yet known as unplatched.
Even so, playing odds these are eventually added to
antivirus detection definitions and all security is based on
tradeoffs between security and system functionality.

In short, the topic is too broad to address here, and why
there are numerous websites devoted to such things.

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No an hour a day would be excessive for a general purpose,
even most systems.  If you had an hour to spend I would
suggest using it to make incremental full systems backups.
Otherwise periodic scans for malware and a realtime
antivirus as well as periodically checking for windows
updates should be sufficient until you identify any specific
areas you need to focus on more based on your particular
usage of the system.

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No you cannot install The Gateway system restore onto
another (different) system.  The system restore (most
likely) checks the system bios so that it only installs on
one of a few select Gateway systems of that era.  It might
technically be possible to plug-n-play migrate the
installation to another system but this is in breech of the
Eula, you are only licensed to use it on the original (or
evolved, as you make minor changes to the hardware) original
Gateway system.

WinME can be configured to be quite usable,  with many of
the additional features (beyond what Win98SE has) disabled,
it becomes like a more-patched version of Win98SE, even with
similar stabilty (for better or worse- better than WinME
started out but worse still than Win2K or WinXP).  However,
much of the instability comes down to drivers and software.
People all too often blame WinME or 98SE for faults in these
apps or drivers, when even Win2k or XP was subject to
problems with bad apps or drivers and just as Win2k or XP
got better with more modern apps and drivers,
ever-more-modern were the apps and drivers later for 98SE or
ME.  Genearly speaking, use of 98SE or ME successfully
depends a lot on this, getting the most modern drivers and
apps available today.  You still have most of the related
security issues though, and some limitations with ME such as
resources available.  If you have ME running fine there is
no reason to switch but if a specifc reason presents itself,
it could be you need a more modern OS.  Only you can make
that call, ME can be used fine within it's limits.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

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Understood. FWIW at this point:

mobo - Microstar International, PM8M-V
CPU - Celeron D, 2.13 Ghz, with fan etc.
RAM - Kingston 512 MByte (Circuit City did indeed replace fairly promptly
the first stick of RAM I bought from it and found defective)
Hard Drive - Seagate 100 Gbyte
Power Supply - Antec 350 KW, with fan etc.
Case - Antec, two more fans

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At the moment:
Commit Charge Total (k) = 141000
Commit Charge Peak (k) = 162000
Physical Memory Total (k) = 457000

So I think I'm in good shape, memory wise. As importantly now I know
something else to check when problems arise...

snip for brevity
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Okay, I will be watching this task manager window more often. A lot of
processes are listed, but most are using no CPU. Like you indicate, I need
to monitor and investigate all these processes and will slowly do so.

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I will look into this. I can get my earthlink email via the web (if that
makes sense) instead of OE. Both methods have some protection settings that
I can use.

I'll look into using something other than IE.

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This is a little over my head but I think John said similar. I'll start
reading up on how to do this.

With some rare
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Okay. I'll work on incorporating this into my computer operations routine.

snip but all comments notebooked
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Sounds good. I am visualizing an intense week here, but then a monthly or so
routine to follow, subject to adjustment.

snip but again all comments noted

I appreciate your sharing your time and experience in what would otherwise
be one annoying experience.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

Elle wrote:
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Firefox ver1.5 is great to use. After using IE for ever (until six months
ago) and then Firefox I'd never go back. I tried Opera for a while but it
doesn't do anyting that Firefox doesn't and Firefox is faster and better
written. I especially like the search window on the far right, being able to
add my own search engines is great. I use Isohunt, Mirriam-Webster on-line
dictionary and IMDB regularly. It's great. Not to mention adblock. That
feature alone is worth switching over for.


Re: Maintaining One's Computer

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Misfit, thanks for the suggestion, and I will throw it in my notes. I am a
little overwhelmed at the moment with all that I have to do to have a
reliable system (even if it's brand new :-(  ). I have started a list of
downloads, per all the suggestions people kindly posted, and I reckon I'm
going to spend an hour or two a day for the next two weeks trying to get
organizes and have a grip on all this. One item on my list of things to do
is to figure out what browser to use in lieu of Internet Explorer.

Also, per your other post, I haven't tried synchtoy. The best method for
backing up files is not high on my list of priorities now, because for one
thing, I am juggling two hard drives pretty easily; for another, I'm
purposely keeping my personal files low (and so printing out important
emails or financial statements or word processed drafts, etc.); for a third,
I do not have a read/write CD rom drive. I really don't want to purchase one
right now, either (knock on wood), especially with the second hard drive
working fine.

Regardless, your comment is in the archive, and maybe in a few months, when
the dust has settled more, I'll revisit the synchtoy. I appreciate your
taking the time to post.

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

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Disgusted with how long it was taking not only just to switch Internet
Explorer windows but also how long loading a new IE window was taking, and
taking a cue from the many folks who said abandon IE, I searched for a
Firefox browser site a little while ago, found one (or it, at ), downloaded it (~ 20 mins.), and installed
it (coupla minutes). The difference in speed is immediately noticeable. It
is much faster and seems sleeker. I am able to switch windows very quickly
now. (That's so darn weird that I couldn't do this with IE, clicking and
waiting repeatedly, in great contrast to my old Windows ME's Internet
Explorer.) Earthlink's web site builder (by Trellix) appears a little
different than with IE (the preferred browser for it, so says Trellix) but
making changes to my web site is also quicker.

I feel darn near totally re-empowered. Thanks, ~misfit~ and others saying to
abandon Internet Explorer.

I am looking over some of my computer settings (per all the helpful hints I
have received recently re checking memory, processes, connection speed,
etc.) now that Firefox is running, and studying what all is different. I
have no idea what's different. :-) It works way better.

To interested newbies thinking, 'What's all this about giving up Internet
Explorer?", all I can say is, 'Do it now.'

Re: Maintaining One's Computer

On Tue, 28 Feb 2006 06:37:00 +0000, Elle thoughtfully wrote:

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Misfit was right on the money.   I love Firefox tabbed windows, ctrl-t or
see something in tomshardwaregroup highlight it, then middle mouse
button (or what ever you use for middle button) to get another page or
search page for the highlighted reference.   Visit Firefox's extensions
site to get some niffy addons.  

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