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In addition to the system tools available in the Administrative Tools folder, Windows has a series of system tools accessible through Start > Programs > Accessories. Many of these are helpful for the proper operation of a computer.
This comes with all versions except XP Home. For more information on backing up and restoring data using Backup, see Chapter 11. However, on 2000 and XP Pro, there are more pertinent uses for this program, such as the emergency repair process and the Recovery Console, which we also cover in Chapter 11.
Included in System Tools and in other locations are tools for maintenance and repair of hard drives, including those we discuss next.
Disk Cleanup is a simple applet that facilitates deletion of unnecessary files. Call it up, select the hard drive(s), and let it find files to delete. Temporary Internet files are always good to delete. Make sure that the user doesn't need to save any of the files already in the Recycle Bin before deleting them for good. Run this before running a defragmentation program (covered next).
As files and folders are added, created, and deleted from a hard drive, they tend to get fragmented; that is, they end up in pieces spread out all over the drive. This causes slow performance, because the hard drive heads have to move all over the drive just to read one file. Run this applet to put all fragments back together in order on the disk and increase performance. There is one interface for 9x and another for 2000/XP, but both are user friendly. A badly fragmented drive could take hours to defragment. It is best to run Defrag in Safe Mode, or at least shut off all screen savers and other programs, including those in the system tray. Advise users to run this monthly, or after deleting large amounts of data or uninstalling large programs. Running this more frequently causes unnecessary wear and tear on the drive.
There are also third-party utilities that perform defragmentation. Diskeeper® from Executive Software (execsoft.com) claims to defrag drives three to five times faster than "built-ins." It also has the capability of scheduling defrag jobs and performing continuous defragging to prevent a drive from ever becoming fragmented. Executive has a Lite version, which does not have the scheduling or continuous defragging capability, and a full-featured trial version with a limited operating life.
Our tests show that the Windows 2000/NT defrag utility works similarly to Diskeeper, but the 9x defrag utility will arrange files much differently than Diskeeper does, at least when 9x's "Rearrange my files so that my programs start faster" check box is selected.
These are applets that can solve certain hard disk problems. Windows 9x comes with ScanDisk. Anyone who has ever had a lockup or a power failure on a Windows 9x machine causing the computer to be powered off without shutting down Windows first will be familiar with ScanDisk, because it starts automatically during boot after such an incident. For general maintenance of Windows, however, you can run ScanDisk from System Tools. There are three check boxes in the interface: Standard, Thorough, and Automatically fix errors. Standard looks for problems with files, and Thorough adds a scan of the disk surfaces for errors. Always leave the "Automatically fix errors" check box selected; it would be pointless to run ScanDisk without it. Running in Thorough mode can take hours.
If a 9x computer won't boot and gives a hard drive-related error message, this often means that a file needed for Windows is on a damaged sector on the drive. Boot to DOS (covered later in this chapter) and run ScanDisk by typing scandisk from a command prompt. After it runs its standard file scan, it will prompt you to run a surface (Thorough) scan. Do so, and follow the subsequent prompts to fix the problem.
In 2000 and XP, you have two choices: Chkdsk and Error-checking. To run Chkdsk, open a command prompt or the Run dialog and type Chkdsk /f /r (/f sets Chkdsk to automatically fix errors it encounters, and /r sets it to attempt to recover data from bad sectors). To run Error-checking, right-click the drive you want to check, click Properties from the menu that appears, click the Tools tab, and then the Check now button in the Error-checking section. Neither will be able to accomplish much right away if there are open files such as when Windows is running on the disk being checked. In this case, you will be prompted to schedule the program to run the next time you start Windows. Do so, and then reboot. You have 10 seconds to cancel Chkdsk by pressing any key, but if you don't, you'll have to wait for Chkdsk to complete its tasks. When run after rebootings, there is no difference between Chkdsk and Error-checking. In fact, the only difference between the two is that when run in Windows, Error-checking uses a Graphical User Interface (GUI), and Chkdsk uses a command prompt.
There is a version of Chkdsk available on Windows 9x, but it's not particularly useful. Use ScanDisk instead.
We discuss other system tools in subsequent chapters.
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