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June 9, 2005, 12:46 am
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June 7th, 2005
Answer Line: Let Windows Handle PC Maintenance
Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector
What maintenance routines should I run regularly, and how often? Can I
automate the process?
--Chester Knapp, Cincinnati
There are three critical maintenance chores for the PC: backing up
your data, scanning for viruses, and defragmenting your hard drive.
The last thing you should do every workday is create a backup of your
data. Here's our list of the best free backup programs:
Although most backup utilities let you schedule backups ahead of time,
you're better off getting into the habit of running yours manually.
That way, you can insert the media (DVD, external hard drive, or
whatever) and remove it afterward, which is safer than leaving your
backup in or attached to your computer.
Scan for Viruses
Scan your hard drive for viruses, Trojan horses, and other forms of
malicious software at least once a week.
Scan and Defrag Your Hard Drive
Click Start, Programs (All Programs in XP), Accessories, System Tools,
Disk Defragmenter. Select the disk or partition you want to defragment
(if necessary), and click Defragment. To run ScanDisk in Windows 98 or
Me, select Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, ScanDisk.
Choose the disk you want to check, select Automatically fix errors if
you prefer not to verify each one, and click Start. In Windows 2000
and XP, right-click the drive you want to scan in Explorer or any
folder window and then click Properties. Click the Tools, Check Now
button under "Error-checking." If you check "Automatically fix file
system errors" in the next dialog box, you may be told that you need
to restart to complete the test. Otherwise, click the Start button and
then click OK twice.
You can automate maintenance by using Windows' Scheduled Tasks
program. In 98 and Me, open ScanDisk, click Advanced, and select Never
in the "Display summary" section. Click OK. In the main ScanDisk
window, select Thorough, check Automatically fix errors, and click
Start, Cancel, Close (don't do the scan now). In Windows 2000 or XP,
open Notepad or your text editor. Type y, press Enter, click File,
Save, and name the file c:\y.txt. Scheduled Tasks won't run in Windows
XP without a log-on password. If you need instructions for creating
one, read "Synchronize Important Folders on Two Computers":
Windows 2000 users must download the free AutoDeFrag utility; store
this small program in your C:\winnt folder:
Now you're ready to open the Scheduled Task Wizard: Select Start,
Programs (All Programs in Windows XP), Accessories, System Tools,
Scheduled Tasks, Add Scheduled Task. Choose anything when asked to
pick a program; you'll change this later. Give the task an appropriate
name, and set it to run monthly at an appropriate time. On the last
page of the wizard, click Open advanced properties.
When the wizard finishes, a dialog box will open. Click the Tasks tab
and change the Run field to one of these strings:
* To defrag a disk in Windows 98 or Me, type defrag /all /noprompt /f.
* To defrag in 2000, type autodefrag.
* To defrag in XP, enter defrag c:.
* To scan in 98 or Me, type scandskw /n.
Create separate entries for your scan and defrag. (Defrag after you
scan.) Then sit back and let Windows do the work.
For more tips on keeping your operating system working well, visit our
Info Center on Windows:
Send your tips and questions to:
Read Lincoln Spector's regularly published "Answer Line" columns:
"In the future, my private life will be expressed solely through art."
-- Britney Spears
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