Windows manager: Giving Windows a mild purgative

Windows manager: Giving Windows a mild purgative

Last week I described "Windows arthritis". This gradual decline in performance becomes so severe that some pros reformat their hard drives and reinstall Windows every six months to restore its original performance.

This week I'll detail several less extreme steps you can take to clear Windows' pipes.

Several of the Windows utilities described below are improved upon in packages like Norton System Works and McAfee Office 2000. If you like these utility suites, by all means use them instead of Windows' own.

Step 1. Perform a backup before taking any of the following steps. As with all fixes, try to change one thing at a time. Write down what you've done so you can reverse a change if one of your applications doesn't like it.

Step 2. Uninstall any applications you no longer need. A crammed disk can slow down the performance of Windows functions and applications.

Use the Control Panel's Add/ Remove Programs applet to uninstall programs. Don't just delete folders containing old programs.

Step 3. Restart Windows, if needed, to completely remove your deleted programs. Then see whether the "uninstalled" apps left behind executables that are still being started every time you run Windows.

There are at least four places to look:

The C:\Windows\StartMenu\ Programs\StartUp folderThe load= and run= lines near the top of the C:\Windows\ Win.ini fileConfig.sys and Autoexec.batThe Run key in the RegistryIn Windows 98, find the Run key by running regedit.exe and selecting Hkey_Current_User\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. Values in the right pane launch applets automatically.

Don't delete applets willy-nilly. Remove only those programs that you know are left over from incomplete, previous uninstalls.

Step 4. Clean your Registry with Microsoft tools or third-party utilities. Microsoft provides two free downloads for this.

RegClean 4.1a runs under Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0, as well as Windows 95 and 98. Do not run RegClean versions earlier than 4.1a, due to known problems. Read the following Web page to get RegClean: com/support/kb/articles/q147/7/69.asp.

RegMaid 1.1 cleans up after you delete OLE projects created with Microsoft Foundation Classes and Visual C++ (see com/support/kb/articles/q156/0/78.asp).

You can also use Norton WinDoctor or McAfee QuickClean to clean the Registry.

Step 5. Compact the Registry, again using Microsoft's or others' tools.

Windows 98 includes a DOS program called ScanReg. Every time you restart your PC, Windows runs a version of this program, scanregw/ autorun, to create a backup of your Registry. (Use Notepad to open Scanreg.ini to see the default settings for these backups.)The DOS version of ScanReg can be very useful. If you ever need to recover from a corrupted Registry, you can boot to DOS and run scanreg/restore. This permits you to overwrite your corrupt Registry with one of the five backups Win 98 keeps by default.

To compact the Registry, boot to DOS and run scanreg/opt. This reduces the size of your existing Registry files, improving your performance in many ways. Other tools for doing this include Norton Optimizer and McAfee Registry Wizard.

Step 6. Convert the FAT-16 file format to FAT-32 if you're using Win95 OSR 2 or Windows 98. (If you're using the NTFS file format under NT, skip this step.) FAT-32 enables better performance after the disk defragmentation described in the next step. In Win98, click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Drive Converter, Details.

Step 7. Defragment your drives. The Win 98 Disk Defragmenter (on the System Tools menu) does this and also rewrites Microsoft Office program files to reduce their loading times. The Norton and McAfee defragmenters are even better.

I'll have more advanced tips next week. Meanwhile, run the baseline benchmark I described last week, and e-mail me the results. Use "baseline" as the subject of your e-mail.

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