Auto Mechanic

If you want your PC’s hard disk to stay in tiptop condition for a long time to come, here’s how to automate an effective disk maintenance routine in less than 10 minutes...

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  September 1, 2006

|~||~||~|Factors such as a large collection of temporary files, disk errors and tons of fragmented files can slow down your hard drive’s performance and could over time even cause it to fail. So how do you stop these problems in their tracks? The answer is simple: you employ Windows hard disk cleaning tools. Not only will these help de-clutter your hard disk, they will also speed up your PC and help prolong your hard disk’s life. Windows XP provides three great cleaning tools to help keep your hard drive humming along smoothly; Disk Cleanup, Disk Defragmenter, and last but not least, Check Disk. Don’t have the time (or the will) to run all these apps regularly? The best solution is to let XP’s Windows Scheduler Task Wizard do all of the work. Just set Scheduler up for each tool and you’re good to go! Task 1: Clean up your hard disk Your PC amasses a lot of temporary files over time. These files can come from any number of sources, however the web is often the biggest culprit. After a while, these temporary files can slow down your computer or even cause it to freeze or crash. Disk Cleanup, as its name suggests, simply deletes these performance hungry files. Set-up Disk Cleanup to run automatically: • Go to Start/Run, type control and hit OK • In the Control Panel pane, double-click ‘Scheduled Tasks’ • Double-click ‘Add Scheduled Task’. When the Scheduled Task Wizard appears, click ‘Next’ • You'll now see a list of apps. Scroll down this until you find ‘Disk Cleanup’. Highlight this and click ‘Next’ • Select how often Disk Cleanup will run. We recommend 'Weekly: Hit ‘Next’ • Select the best day and time for the tool to run. (In other words, a time when your PC will be turned on but not in use) • Enter your username and password so the tool will run even if another user is logged on. Click Next • Click ‘Finish’ and XP will automate the task. Task 2: Defragment your disk Whenever a file is too huge to store in a single location on your hard disk, your PC breaks that file into parts (a.k.a fragments). However, as fragmented files accumulate on your hard disk, your PC’s performance becomes gradually slower. While there’s nothing you can do to prevent this, Disk Fragmenter can help. This app rearranges fragmented files, resulting in increased free space. Set-up Fragmenter to run automatically: • Navigate to the Scheduled Task Wizard • Disk Fragmenter isn’t available within the scroll-down list, so you’ll need to select it manually. Click ‘Browse’ and navigate to windows\system32\defrag.exe. Select defrag.exe and click ‘Open’ • Set Defragmenter to run on a monthly basis • Now that you’ve chosen a monthly time frame, define what months and what day of the month this task should run. Keep all months selected, and pick a day • Select a start time that differs from your other scheduled tasks. That way, you won’t have multiple tasks starting at exactly the same time • Click ‘Finish’ and XP will automate the task. Task 3: Check your disk for errors If the program you’re using crashes, errors such as lost clusters (i.e. data that’s not been written properly to the hard disk) can be created on your hard disk. These eventually slow down your PC to a crawl. Fortunately, Windows XP’s Check Disk can fix these lost clusters and re-write this data properly to the hard disk. Set-up Check Disk to run automatically: • Navigate to the Scheduled Task Wizard • Check Disk isn’t available within the scroll-down list, so you’ll need to select it manually. Click ‘Browse’ and navigate to windows\system32\chkdsk.exe. Select the file and click ‘Open’ • From this point, repeat the same steps outlined in task 1. • Select how often Check Disk will run. We recommend ‘Weekly: Hit ‘Next’ • Select the best day and time for the tool to run. (In other words, a time when your PC will be turned on but not in use) • Enter your username and password so the tool will run even if another user is logged on. Click ‘Next’ • Click ‘Finish’. That’s it! ||**||

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