Binary Guy’s Maintenance Guide to Basic System Utilities

Here is your very own Guide of very basic tools that any novice user can understand and help keep their system clean and running smoothly. For further information, please check in with our website, address listed in bio at the bottom.

First, become familiar with what you already have. This is the single, most prominent failure of many users. They don’t even know that their system is quite capable of taking of of it’s own basic needs.

Defrag. This process is a must with Windows-based systems. Defrag is important because of the way Windows handles files.

Hang tight, here comes some techie information.

Windows stores files in a ‘logical’ manner and not in a ‘practical’ manner. For example, if you had a 5-page document that you put into a filing cabinet, you would store it all in one folder. Windows sometimes does that but rarely. Windows will break the file up and store it where there is space it can fit into. Meaning, 2 pages of your document are stored in one place, one page in another, and the last two in yet a third place. The file is now ‘fragmented’. While this may seem fairly inefficient (and for the most part it is) there is some logic in that Windows attempts to use your hard drive space more efficiently. The downside of this is that in order to retrieve that file any time you want to look at it, Windows has to read the hard drive three times for all three places the file is located in. Now, if that file was stored in one place, it would only have to read the hard drive once and the document would open faster. This is a really simplified explanation but is essentially true to form.

This is where Defrag comes into play. Defrag looks at all the files that are fragmented, then tries to organize them so that they are all in one place together. Why Windows doesn’t do this on the fly is beyond me
but good thing the utility is built in for you to use.

Defrag is located in you System Tools folder.

For Windows XP/2000/98 – Click the following:

Start/Programs(All Programs)/Accessories/System Tools
If you are the type of Geek that leaves your system on all the time, like me, then you can setup a scheduled event to run Defrag automatically for you. This saves you a lot of time. Mine runs 3am every Monday morning.

If you are wondering why even bother going through his hassle, then give this a try and see the difference in how your system performs. If you have never done this before, don’t be surprise if this process takes 4 hours or MORE. I’ve seen this run as long as 6 hours once. Now, once this is done, it shouldn’t run more than 10-15 mins the next time, depending on the speed of your hard drive and you’ll love how the system suddenly starts running faster too!

Ideally, you do not want any programs running (even in the background) because it could cause Defrag to run longer. It is best to run Defrag in Windows Safe Mode. If you do not know what this is, do not worry, e-mail me and I’ll gladly explain it. [email protected].

Temporary Internet Files and Cookies

When you browse the Internet, each page you look at has multiple files and are temporarily stored on your computer to make the page load faster. The files stay on your hard drive until a default limit is reached, then they are recycled with the new pages you go to. The problem is, if you don’t clear out these temp files, your system will start to slow down because it has to sift through them all to see if you already have them stored. Sometimes a web page may have been updated but the name of the file has not changed, so you may be

seeing an outdated page and missing out on important content. Deleting them will free up some hard drive space as well as keeping your browsing time a little quicker.

While in Internet Explorer, click on Tools/Internet Options/Delete Temp File. Be sure to place a check mark in Delete all Off line Files as well.

If you are running FireFox, then you probably don’t even need this entire document. FireFox is an alternative to Internet Explorer and a better one in my opinion. Feel free to download it and give it a shot.

You will be surprised.

These are the very basic maintenance items that everyone should be aware of and make use of on a regular bases. Failure to do so can result in multiple system problems such as slowness, blue screens of death and all out crashes.

Updating Your System

By simply clicking on Start/Help and Support/Pick a Task/Windows Update, (Windows XP), you will get all the latest patches and security fixes that plague Windows. Alternatively, you can type http://update.microsoft.com in your browser. This will take a lot of patience because after each major update, you have to restart Windows. This is truly a tedious process, but an unfortunate necessary one.

Important note: Microsoft has recently instituted a program that verifies the authentication/legality of your copy of Windows. What this means is that only Certified True copies of Windows will be eligible for all the updates. Those that either fail or chose not to verify their copy of Windows will only get certain security updates.

Also keep in mind that Windows Updates includes Driver Updates for your devices. Most of the time updating your drivers is a good idea but

be prepared should an update really mess something up and you have to Roll Back your driver. Roll Back is another Windows XP feature. Please make sure you have copies of your old drivers before updating to new ones. For more details, check your Windows XP help files or e-mail me at [email protected].

Protecting Your System

Anti-Virus

Everyone should be aware of Virii and what they can do. Because of their prevalence, everyone who has Windows needs an A/V program of some sort. I personally recommend AVG from Grisoft.com. This is a free program for home users. I am quite impressed with the program as it has saved my system a few times as well as Client’s machines when their own programs could not.

If you are a business and looking for an A/V solution, please contact me for licensing details as AVG is not free for businesses.

Common A/V programs available are Norton Anti-Virus, and McAffee. While they do an adequate job, in my books, they miss the mark more often than they hit. Besides having to pay for using it, virus writers tend to target them because they are so popular. I also find them rather inefficient in regards to system usage.

Firewalls

If you have a high-speed/broadband Internet connection, a Firewall is a MUST for your system. Even on dial-up I recommend it. Windows XP has one built in. What I can say about it is that it is barely adequate. It is normally turned on by default. There are others that are superior and free too.

Zone Labs make a product called Zone Alarm. ZA is their free version,
they have ZA Pro which has more features and offers more protection. ZA is an excellent program and fairly easy to use. See http://www.zonealarm.com/ for more info.

Kerio Personal Firewall is another free program. A very simple Firewall but the last version I used had one annoying feature; it always informed you every time it blocked an intrusion. While this may seem great but after the 20th time in 5mins, I can tell you it loses it’s cuteness very quickly, this may have changed now. See http://www.kerio.com for more info

One Firewall I would never recommend, Black Ice Defender (type Black Ice in the search box). I read a review in a magazine and it sounded like a great product. So I went out and bought a copy, installed it and ran it. It seemed fine until I came across GRC.com. They have a very comprehensive Firewall “Leak Test”. This basically tests how secure your firewall is against attacks/probes. GRC’s Test found a hole in Black Ice Defender. Black Ice issued a patch for the hole. What is interesting to find out was that all the patch did was block GRC’s Leak Test! Suffice to say, I was unimpressed. So out went the software and in went Zone Alarm Pro at that time. I don’t take kindly to shady business practices.

Spyware!

Lets talk about one of the many nasty things on the Internet (next to Spam & and Virii). Spyware will get you anything from pop-ups, to system slow downs to making your system dial pay-per-call numbers on it’s own! It’s truly shocking how these things can work. Right now I am using SpyBot Search & Destroy, which is another absolutely free program for home users that works very well. Ad-Aware is another well-known program. I actually run both, and I recommend it, but if you only want to run one of them, then run SpyBot. See http://www.spybot.org and get it now!

Here are a few useful sites if you want to know more, or simply want to understand what you already have:

[http://GRC.com] – Gibson Research Corporation. Lots of good techie info, some very useful free tools and more.

http://arstechnica.com – Ars Technica. Another techie site to hang out and learn.

http://www.howstuffworks.com – How Stuff Works. This site goes beyond computers but a great place to start to get basic understanding and then some.

http://www.tomshardware.com – Tom’s Hardware Guide. A cool source of info on the latest and greatest computer hardware on the market.

http://www.download.com – Download.com. Various software that you can download. Freeware, shareware as well as commercial programs. You should always make sure that you Anti-Virus program is up to date and scan every file that you ever download/receive in an e-mail attachment.