For the past three weeks, I have described "Windows arthritis". This problem causes Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT to decline gradually in performance.
Some people reformat their hard drives and reinstall Windows every six months in an attempt to restore the original, snappier feel. I hope this can be avoided by the series of steps I recommended in the past two weeks. By removing unneeded applications, cleaning the Registry with special utilities, using NT File System or FAT-32 instead of FAT-16, and defragmenting your hard drives, you should be able to improve the performance of your Windows machine.
I'm happy to say that readers who tried my procedure and ran my baseline benchmark have reported positive results. On one well-used system I tested, I clocked a reduction of more than 33 per cent in the time required to run the simple test I devised. Most readers have reported improvements between 10 and 15 per cent. This is enough to be noticeable when opening and closing applications, menus, and documents.
Two readers reported that the benchmark ran 1 to 2 per cent slower on their machines after using my cleaning procedure. These results, within the normal margin of error, reflect no real change in performance and may indicate that these readers' systems were clean in the first place.
Several readers reported that they have institutionalised the Reformat and Reinstall Theory. Once they have a stable installation of Windows, they copy their Windows folder and subfolders to another storage device. They then periodically wipe out their working Windows folders, replacing them with the backups using a "ghost" disk-duplicating utility.
If you like to do this, fine. But I feel this procedure fails to cure the underlying problems of fragmented hard drives and inefficient swapfile use. It also requires you to once again set up any applications or configuration changes that occurred since the backup, which my procedure doesn't.
As usual, my readers had a variety of helpful ideas about other simple ways to speed up Windows' performance.
"I've found in my experience that clearing out *.tmp files can solve a world of problems that otherwise are very solution-elusive," wrote reader Larry Niland. "Microsoft products are the most notorious in leaving these files around."
To find temporary files that can hinder performance, search for *.tmp in Windows 98's Start, Find, Files menu or click Tools, Find, Files in Windows Explorer. After the search is complete, press Ctrl+A to select all files, then press Delete. One PC in my office had 2127 *.tmp files. These files slow down Windows every time it accesses the Windows\Temp folder.
Clearing the Temp folder and clearing Internet Explorer's cache are two steps used by reader Dave Rosenbaum.
"A consistent problem is that Microsoft's 32-bit operating systems slow down over time, then begin crashing within applications," Rosenbaum wrote. "A solution that always seems to resolve both problems is to purge the Internet Explorer cache." To do this, click View, Internet Options in Internet Explorer and then click the Delete Files button. (You can delete the contents of the Temp folder manually, but you should use IE to delete IE's temporary files.)Reader David Sura alerted me that the RegClean utility I recommended was missing from Microsoft's Web site for a time. It seems to be back now at support.microsoft.com/support/kb/ articles/q147/7/69.asp.
Finally, I don't want anyone to think that I approve of the steps harried users must go through just to get acceptable performance from the various flavours of Windows. I'm happy to share my findings with you, but I wish we didn't have to do this kind of tinkering just to keep Windows healthy.
Reader Alexander Auerbach said it best when he wrote, "Can you imagine a Car and Driver column on how to deal with a car that loses power every six months, a Consumer Reports article on ways to cope with a refrigerator that gets a bit warm after six months, or a medical journal report on an EKG machine that after a while just happens to miss some heartbeats?"
Microsoft, are you listening?
Niland, Rosenbaum, Sura, and Auerbach will receive a free copy of Windows 98 Secrets for being the first readers to report tips I used.
Second Edition and Office 2000
Some readers say they don't buy new Microsoft products until I write about unpublicised bugs and how to fix them. To avoid depressing the economy, therefore, I promise to print the best findings you send me about the new Windows 98 Second Edition, especially its Internet Connection Sharing, and Microsoft Office 2000. Use "Second Edition" or "Office 2000" as the subject line of your e-mail.
Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 98 Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to brian_livingston@ infoworld.com. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions