Here's part of "The Secret Guide to Computers," copyright by Russ Walter, 29th edition. For newer info, read the 32nd edition at www.SecretFun.com.

Maintenance

These tips will help keep your computer in good shape, so you’ll have fewer problems and need fewer repairs.

 

Temperature

If possible, avoid using the computer in hot weather.

When the room’s temperature rises above 93 degrees, the fan inside the computer has trouble cooling the computer sufficiently. Wait until the weather is cooler (such as late at night), or buy an air conditioner, or buy a window fan to put on your desk and aim at the computer, or use the computer for just an hour at a time (so that the computer doesn’t have a chance to overheat).

Another problem in the summer is electrical brownouts, where air conditioners in your house or community consume so much electricity that not enough voltage gets to your computer.

 

Moving your computer

Some parts inside the computer are delicate. Don’t bang or shake the computer! If you need to move the computer to a different location, be gentle!

Before moving the computer, make backups: copy everything important from the computer’s hard disk onto floppy disks. For example, copy all the documents, spreadsheets, and database files you created. Unless you’re using Windows Me or XP (which are solid), you should also copy AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, and COMMAND.COM.

Transporting by hand

If you must move the computer to a different desk or building, be very gentle when you pick up the computer, carry it, and plop it down. Be especially gentle when walking on stairs and through doorways.

Transporting by car

If you’re transporting your computer by car, put the computer in the front seat, put a blanket underneath the computer, and drive slowly (especially around curves and over bumps).

Do not put the computer in the trunk, since the trunk has the least protection against bumps. If you have the original padded box that the computer came in, put the computer in it, since the box’s padding is professionally designed to protect against bumps.

Transporting by air

If you’re transporting your computer by air, avoid checking the computer through the baggage department.

The baggage handlers will treat the computer as if it were a football, and their “forward pass” will make you pissed.

Instead, try to carry the computer with you on the plane, if the computer’s small enough to fit under your seat or in the overhead bin. If the whole computer won’t fit, carry as much of the computer as will fit (the keyboard, monitor, or system unit?) and check the rest as baggage. If you must check the computer as baggage, use the original padded box that the computer came in, or else find a giant box and put a lot of padding material in it.

When going through airport security, it’s okay to let the security guards X-ray your computer and disks. Do not carry the computer and floppy disks in your hands as you go through the metal detector, since the magnetic field might erase your disks.

For best results, just tell the guards you have a computer and disks, Instead of running the computer and disks through detection equipment, the guards will inspect your stuff personally.

To make sure your computer doesn’t contain a bomb, the guards might ask you to unscrew the computer or prove that it actually works. If your computer’s a laptop and you need to prove it works, make sure you brought your batteries — and make sure the batteries are fully charged!

Since airport rules about baggage and security continually change, ask your airport for details before taking a trip.

Beware of theft. Crooks have used this trick:

A crook waits for you to put your laptop on the X-ray conveyor belt. Then the crook cuts in front of you and purposely gives himself trouble going through the metal detector (by having keys in his pocket). While he delays you and distracts security guards, his partner grabs your laptop off the conveyor belt and walks away with it.

Transporting by mail

Computer companies have discovered that FedEx handles computers more carefully — and causes less damage — than the post office and UPS.

Parking the head

If your computer is ancient (an 8088 or an early-vintage 286), it might have come with a program called SHIPDISK or PARK.

That program is not part of DOS; instead, the program comes on a floppy disk called “Utilities” or “Diagnostics”.

That program does an activity called parking the head: it moves the hard drive’s head to the disk’s innermost track, where there’s no data. Then if the head accidentally bangs against the disk, it won’t scrape off any data.

If your computer came with a SHIPDISK or PARK program, run it before you transport the computer. After your journey, when you turn the computer back on, the head automatically unparks itself and reads whatever data you wish.

If your computer did not come with a SHIPDISK or PARK program, don’t worry about it.

Modern disk drives park the head automatically whenever you turn the power off. For older disk drives, handling the computer gently is more important than parking the head. In any case, do not borrow a SHIPDISK or PARK program from a friend, since somebody else’s program might assume the hard drive has a different number of tracks.

Repair shops use an extra-fancy PARK program: it tests the hard drive, determines how many tracks are on it, and then moves the head to the correct innermost track.

 

Back up your work

When you’re typing lots of info into a word-processing program (or any similar program), the stuff you’ve typed is in the computer’s RAM. Every 10 minutes, copy that info onto the hard disk, by giving the Save command. (To learn how to give the Save command, read my word-processing chapter.)

That way, if the computer breaks down (or you make a boo-boo), the hard disk will contain a copy of most of your work, and you’ll need to retype at most 10 minutes’ worth.

Don’t trust automatic backups If your word-processor is modern, it has a feature called “automatic timed backup”, which can make the computer automatically save your document every 10 minutes. Don’t trust that automatic feature! It might be saving your latest error instead of what you want.

For example, if you accidentally wreck part of your document and then automatic timed backup kicks in, you’ve just replaced your good, saved document by a wrecked one, and the good one is gone forever. Give the Save command manually, so that you, not the computer, decide when and what to save.

Split into chapters If you’re using a word-processing program to type a long book, split the book into chapters. Make each chapter be a separate file. That way, if something goes wrong with the file, you’ve lost just one chapter instead of the whole book.

Make extra backups Besides saving your work in the hard disk’s main folder (which is typically called “My Documents”), make extra copies of your work also, in case you or colleagues wreck what’s in My Documents accidentally— or an enemy or virus wrecks it maliciously.

While writing this book, I made several copies of it, to make sure I wouldn’t lose what I wrote:

I copied it onto paper (by telling the computer to “print” the document).

I copied it onto a floppy disk (by right-clicking the document’s icon, then clicking “Send To” then “3½ Floppy”).

I copied it onto a CD (by doing the “Send to CD” procedure on pages 99-100).

I copied it into a folder called Safety (by creating that new folder and then dragging the document’s icon into that folder while holding down the Ctrl key).

I saved the document under a second name (by doing this procedure: while viewing the words in the document, click “File” then “Save As”, invent a second name and type it, then press the ENTER key).

I did that copying each time I was at a good “resting point” (when I was confident of what I’d written so far but less confident of what I’d be writing next).

The easy forms of copying I did frequently (at many “resting points”). The harder forms I did less frequently (just at the “major resting points”).

Copying is important Computers work as you expect, 99.9% of the time. They’re so reliable that you start to believe they work always, and you think backups aren’t necessary. Then you don’t bother making backups anymore. But someday, your document will eventually get wrecked (by a hardware failure or software error or your stupidity or a virus or other maliciousness). Then you’ll feel devastated and swear you’ll never forget to make backups again… but you will forget, and you’ll be sorry again! It’s human nature.

 

Create disk space

Make sure your hard disk isn’t full.

If you’re running just DOS without Windows, make sure your hard disk has at least 2 megabytes of unused space. If you’re running Windows 3 or 3.1 or 3.11, make sure your hard disk has at least 10 megabytes of unused space. If you’re running  Windows 95 or later, make sure your hard disk has at least 30 megabytes of unused space.

If your hard disk is too full, some of your programs might act unreliably, because the programmers who wrote those programs were too lazy to check whether the programs would work on a hard disk that’s so full. Some of those programs try to create temporary files on your hard disk; but if your hard disk is nearly full, the temporary files won’t fit, and so the computer will gripe at you, act nuts, and seem broken.

 

Overly fancy software

Avoid buying and using software that adds many lines to your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files.

The longer and more complicated your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files are, the greater the chance that something will go wrong with them, and your computer will refuse to boot up.

To squeeze more data onto your hard disk, you can use a compression program, which stores your data as a compressed code that consumes less space.

The most famous compression programs are Double Space (which is part of DOS 6 & 6.2), Drive Space (which is part of DOS 6.22 and modern Windows), and Stacker (which inspired the others). Those programs are dangerous: if you accidentally erase them (or erase or modify the CONFIG.SYS file that mentions them), you won’t be able to use any of the data on your hard disk! Avoid using them.

DOS 6, 6.2, 6.21, and 6.22 include two other dangerous routines: Mem Maker and Smart Drive. Avoid using them.

Mem Maker modifies your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files so specific programs get put into specific places in RAM. It’s supposed to make your computer run better but causes this headache:  each time you buy another program that modifies CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT, you must warn Mem Maker; if you forget to warn Mem Maker, the computer has a memory conflict and screws up.

Smart Drive tries to make your hard disk seem faster, by making part of your RAM be a disk cache, which holds a copy of your hard disk’s recently-used sectors. When you tell the computer to deal with your hard disk, Smart Drive makes the computer try to use the disk cache instead of the hard disk, since the disk cache is faster. If you try to write to the hard disk, Smart Drive makes the computer write to the disk cache instead; later, when you seem to be pausing from using the computer (and scratching your head wondering what to do next), Smart Drive copies the disk cache’s contents to the hard disk; but before Smart Drive copies to the hard disk, what if you turn off the computer, or the computer’s hardware or software malfunctions? Then the hard disk’s contents are incomplete and inconsistent. The entire hard disk can become unusable, especially if you’ve been using compression software, which renders your hard drive useless at the first sign of trouble. If you ignore my advice and decide to use Smart Drive anyway, wait 10 seconds before turning off your computer, to give Smart Drive a chance to copy the disk cache’s contents to the hard disk.

Clean your hardware

Eventually, your computer will get covered with dust, dirt, cigarette smoke, pollen, spilled drink, spilled food, dead insects, dandruff, and other unmentionable body parts.

Once a month, clean the computer, to increase the happiness of the computer and the people who see it (you, colleagues, customers, and visitors). To make cleaning easier, many companies prohibit employees from smoking, drinking, or eating near the computer.

Easy cleaning

Before cleaning the computer, turn its power off.

Just take a paper towel, dampen it with plain water, and wipe grime off the keyboard, the monitor’s screen, the monitor’s case, and the system unit’s case.

Don’t dribble water into the electronics. That would cause a short circuit and corrosion. Put water just onto the paper towel, not directly onto the hardware.

Don’t use the computer until the water has dried. Don’t open the monitor, since it contains high voltages even when “off”.

Inside the system unit

If you wish to open the system unit’s case, to remove dust from inside it, be careful not to give your computer a shock of static electricity. The computer’s chips are delicate and can get destroyed by even the smallest spark. To avoid shocks, do this:

Avoid working on the computer in the winter, when the air is cold and the humidity is low. Wait until summer, when the air is warm and the humidity is high.

Avoid shuffling across the carpet in rubber-soled shoes. Remove your shoes and socks (so you look like a beach bum or hippie). Remove the carpet, or cover it with a plastic mat (or newspaper), or put anti-static spray on the carpet.

While working on the computer, keep it turned off but still plugged into a 3-prong grounded socket. Keep touching the outside of the computer’s case, which will be grounded. You can also keep touching other big metal objects in the room — so you’ll shock them instead of your computer.

Avoid directly touching the chips.

When fiddling inside the computer’s case, make sure you don’t loosen any of the cables inside, since if a cable gets loose you might forget which socket it belongs in and which direction it should be twisted in.

To remove dust, wipe it off — or just take a deep breath and blow, but try to avoid blowing spit.

Professional cleaning

That’s how to clean your computer for free. Professional repair shops usually spend extra money:

Instead of using water,

they use isopropyl alcohol, which dries faster.

Instead of using a paper towel,

they use a soft lint-free cloth.

Instead of blowing from their mouths,

they blow from a can of compressed air, bought at Radio Shack.

Instead of touching objects to dissipate static electricity,

they wear an electrostatic-discharge wrist strap (ESD wrist strap), which is a wrist strap that comes with a wire you can run from your wrist to a grounded metal object (such as the outside of a grounded computer case).

When cleaning a monitor’s screen, do not use alcohol or traditional “glass cleaners”, since they can harm the screen’s antiglare coating.

Clean your mouse

Here’s how to clean the mouse’s bottom and innards:

Turn the mouse upside down. Using your fingernail, scrape off any gunk you see. (Gunk tends to accumulate on the mouse’s rubber strips or rubber feet.)

In the mouse’s belly, you typically see a rubber ball, whose purpose is to roll on your desktop (or on your mouse pad). Remove the ball’s circular cover (by turning the cover counterclockwise or sliding it toward you). Remove the ball.

On the ball, you’ll probably see a little dust, dirt, hair, or food. Clean the ball by rubbing it against your clothes. (Oooooh! That felt Gooood!) If you prefer, you can clean the ball by using water, but do not use alcohol, which can shrink the ball and make it lopsided.

Look inside the mouse, in the hole where the ball was. On the sides of that hole, you’ll see two rollers (looking like rolling pins) that the ball is supposed to rub against. One of those rollers is for motion in the X direction (horizontal); the other roller is for motion in the Y direction (vertical). Dust and dirt are probably caked onto the middle of each roller. Scrape the dust and dirt off, by using your fingernail.

Then put the ball back into the mouse and put its cover back on (by turning the cover clockwise or sliding it away from you).

 

Clean your software

For over 25 years, I’ve given free help to folks whose computers got messed up. That extensive experience taught me most computer problems can be solved by software cleaning: just remove any software routines that distract the computer from what you want to accomplish! If you remove those distractions, the computer can concentrate on accomplishing your goal. The computer’s headaches — and yours — will disappear. The computer will run reliably — and faster.

Here’s how to do software cleaning in the three most common operating-system environments: modern Windows, classic Windows, and DOS 6.2.

Cleaning modern Windows

To clean modern Windows (Windows 95 & 98 & Me & XP), you can use many methods. I’ll start with the methods that are the simplest and most foolproof, then progress to methods that are more advanced and risky. To get free help using these methods and my other tricks (which are more bizarre), phone me anytime at 603-666-6644.

Shut down If the computer is on, try to shut it down properly:

Click Start.

For Windows XP, click “Turn Off Computer” then “Turn Off”.

For other Windows, click “Shut Down” then press ENTER.

Turn the power off.

If you can’t do that shut-down procedure properly, give up and just turn the power off.

Wait for the computer to quiet down.

Start the computer again Turn the computer on. Wait for the Windows main screen to appear, so you see the Start button.

If the computer refuses to show you the Start button, go into safe mode. Here’s how:

Turn the computer’s power on; then immediately hold down the F8 key, and keep holding it down. You’ll hear some beeping.

For Windows XP, do this: take your finger off the F8 key; the computer will say “Windows Advanced Options Menu”; from that menu, choose “Safe Mode” (by pressing the HOME key then the ENTER key then the ENTER key again). Eventually, the computer will say “To begin, click your user name”. Click your name. Press the ENTER key.

For other Windows, do this: keep holding down the F8 key, until the computer says “Microsoft Windows Startup Menu”; from that menu, choose “Safe mode” (by pressing 3 and then pressing the ENTER key). For Windows Me, close the “Help and Support” window by clicking its X button. For Windows 95 & 98, do this: wait several minutes until the computer says “Windows is running in safe mode” (if the computer refuses to say that, skip ahead to the section called “do DOS editing”), then press the ENTER key.

Now you see the “Start” button, but all four corners of the screen say “Safe mode”. While you’re in Safe mode, you can repair your computer’s software but cannot use fancy features: you cannot use the CD-ROM, printer, sound, fancy colors, or tiny icons (you see big icons instead).

Close whatever is open Get out of any programs you’re in (by clicking their X buttons). Close any windows that are open (by clicking their X buttons).

At the screen’s bottom, to the right of the Start button, you might see some other buttons.

Narrow buttons (narrower than the Start button) are okay (and commonly occur in Windows 98 & Me & XP).

If you see a button that’s wider than the Start button, get rid of that button (by clicking it then clicking the X button that comes up).

Simplify the display Find a spot in the screen’s middle where there’s no icon yet. Right-click there (by using the mouse’s right-hand button). From the pull-down menu that appears, left-click the bottom choice (which is “Properties”). You’ll see the Display Properties window.

For Wallpaper, choose “None”. Here’s how. For Windows XP, do this:

Look at the Theme box (which is below the word “Theme” and above the word “Sample”. Make sure the Theme box says “Windows XP” or “Windows XP modified”. (If it says something else, click the box’s down arrow then click “Windows XP”.)

Click “Desktop”. In the Background box, make “None” be highlighted (by pressing the HOME key).

For other Windows, do this:

Look under the word “Wallpaper”. You see a list of choices. Click the top choice, which should be “None”. (If you don’t see “None” as a choice, make that choice appear by clicking the “5”, then click “None”.) For Windows 98 & Me, click “Pattern”.

Look under the word “Pattern”. You see a list of choices. Click the top choice, which should be “None”. (If you don’t see “None” as a choice, make that choice appear by clicking the “5”, then click “None”.) For Windows 98 & Me, click “OK”.

Click the “Screen Saver” tab (which is at the top of the window). Then for Screen Saver, choose “None”; here’s how:

Look at the Screen Saver box (which is wide but not tall). In that box, you should see the word “None”. If that box doesn’t say “None” yet, make it say “None” by pressing the HOME key.

Although wallpaper and screensavers are cute fun, you should delete them (by choosing “none”) because they consume RAM, slow down the computer, distract the computer, distract you, and are unnecessary (since all modern monitors are built well and don’t need to be protected by screensavers).

Click the “Appearance” tab. Then make the appearance be standard. Here’s how. For Windows XP, do this:

Look at the “Windows and buttons” box. In that box, you should see “Windows XP style”. If you see “Windows Classic style” instead, change it to “Windows XP style” by pressing the keyboard’s down-arrow button.

For other Windows, do this:

Look at the Scheme box. In that box, you should see “Windows Standard”. If that box doesn’t say “Windows Standard” yet, do this: click the box’s “6”, then click “Windows Standard”, which should be the third-from-bottom choice. (If you don’t see “Windows Standard” as a choice, make that choice appear by clicking the “6”, then click “Windows Standard”.)

Click the “Settings” tab. You have to decide how many colors and pixels to request. For normal operation, you should request 1024-by-768 pixels and 16-bit color. But you have these choices:

Pixels            Comment

640-by-480     best for 14-inch CRT monitors; Windows XP omits this choice

800-by-600     best for 15-inch CRT monitors

1024-by-768   best for 17-inch CRT monitors, most programs, most Web sites

1152-by-864   best for 19-inch CRT monitors

1280-by-1024 the writing is too small, and the screen flickers or is unreadable

 

Colors        Comments

16 colors      lowest quality, for computers that are broken

                    Windows XP omits this choice

256 colors       low quality, mainly for ancient computers running Windows 95

                    Windows XP omits this choice from this menu

16-bit color  “16-bit color” means 216 colors, which is 65,536 colors

                    use this for most computers, most programs, most Web sites

                    Windows XP calls this “medium quality”

                    other Windows call this “high color”

24-bit color  “24-bit color” means 224 colors, which is 16,777,216 colors

                    accurate color, but slow

                    intended just for artists & photographers fussy about color

                    Windows XP calls this “high quality”

                    other Windows call this “true color”

32-bit color  “32-bit color” means 232 colors, which is 4,294,967,296 colors

                    highest quality but too ridiculously slow

                    intended just for the absolutely fussiest artists & photographers

                    Windows XP calls this “highest quality”

                    Windows XP omits this choice if your video card can’t handle it

Suggestions:

Switch to fewer colors if your computer is old (with a slow CPU chip or with little RAM on the video card) or having trouble.

Switch to fewer pixels if your eyesight is poor or your monitor’s screen is blank, fuzzy, or unreadable.

To choose the number of pixels, do this:

Find the screen-resolution slider. (Windows XP calls it “Screen resolution”; Windows 95 calls it “Desktop area”; other Windows call it “Screen area”.)

Drag that slider towards the left or right.

To choose the color quality, do this:

Find the Color quality box. (Windows XP calls it “Color quality”; Windows 95 calls it “Color palette”; other Windows call it “Colors”.) Click that box’s down-arrow, then click the color quality you want.

Click “OK”.

If Windows XP says “Your desktop has been reconfigured”, click “Yes” (before the image goes away).

If another Windows says “The computer will now resize your desktop”, do this: press ENTER; wait for the screen to look different, then immediately click “Yes” (before the image goes away).

Right-click in the screen’s middle (where there are no icons), then do this.…

Windows XP:      click “Arrange Icons By” then click “Name”

Other Windows:  click “Arrange Icons” then click “by Name”

Check your total RAM Make sure you have enough RAM.

Windows 95                  requires      4M of RAM to run at all,   16M to run well.

Windows 98 1st edition requires    16M of RAM to run at all,   32M to run well.

Windows 98 2nd edition    requires    24M of RAM to run at all,   64M to run well.

Windows Me                 requires    32M of RAM to run at all, 128M to run well.

Windows XP                 requires  128M of RAM to run at all, 256M to run well.

If your RAM is less than the quantity needed to “run well”, the main way you can make Windows run better is to buy more RAM.

To discover your total amount of RAM, do this.…

Windows XP: click Start then “My Computer” then “View system information”

Other Windows: right-click the “My Computer” icon then click “Properties”

Read the message on the screen. When you finish reading, close any windows by clicking their X buttons.

Clean up your hard disk Double-click the Recycle Bin icon. You see the Recycle Bin window, which shows a list of what’s in the Recycle Bin. To see the list better, maximize the window (by clicking the box next to its X button).

That’s the list of files you said to get rid of. If the list is not empty, deal with it as follows:

Those files are still on your hard disk and consuming the hard disk’s space, until you empty the Recycle Bin. If you’re sharing the computer with friends, ask their permission before emptying the Recycle Bin.

If you’re sure you don’t need any of those files anymore, empty the entire Recycle Bin (by clicking “File” then “Empty Recycle Bin” then “Yes”). If you want to erase just some of those files, click the first file you want to erase, then (while holding down the Ctrl key) click each additional file you want to erase, then press the DELETE key then ENTER.

Close the Recycle Bin window (by clicking its X button).

Next, find out how full your hard disk is. To find out, do this.…

Windows XP:      click Start then “My Computer”

other Windows:  double-click the “My Computer” icon

Right-click the hard drive’s icon (which says “C:”), then click “Properties”. You see a pie chart. Make sure the amount of free space (colored red) is at least 10% of the disk’s total capacity. If your free space is less, you’re in danger of having the computer gradually slow down or quit functioning, so you should delete some files. Later, I’ll explain the best way to delete unused programs.

If you’re not using Windows 95, do this:

Click the “Disk Cleanup” button (which is missing from Windows 95).

The computer shows a list of file types. For example, Windows XP shows this list:

o Downloaded Program Files

o Temporary Internet Files

o Offline Web Pages

o Recycle Bin

o Setup Log Files

o Temporary files

o WebClient/Publisher Temporary Files

o Compress old files

o Catalog files for the Content Indexer

For other versions of Windows, the list is shorter. (If the list is too long to fit on the screen, see the rest of the list by using its scroll arrows.) Put a check mark in each type’s box (by clicking) — except for “Recycle Bin” and Windows XP’s “Compress old files”, whose boxes should stay blank (since you dealt with “Recycle Bin” already, and “Compress old files” slows down your computer too much).

Click OK, then press ENTER. The computer will erase those files.

Close all windows (by clicking their X buttons).

Clean Outlook Express. Here’s how (if you use Outlook Express 5, 5.5, or 6):

Start using Outlook Express (by doing the procedures in page 173’s column 1).

Click “Inbox”. You see list of incoming e-mail messages. Which of those messages do you want to delete? In that list, select the messages you want to delete, so they turn blue. (To select one message, click it. To select several messages, click the first and then, while holding down the Ctrl key, click the others. To select several adjacent messages, click the first and then, while holding down the SHIFT key, click the last. To select all message, tap the A key while holding down the Ctrl key.)

Press the keyboard’s DELETE key. That makes the computer move the selected messages to the Deleted Items folder.

Congratulations! You cleaned “Inbox”.

Click “Sent Items”. Use that same technique to clean “Sent Items”.

Click “Drafts”. Use that same technique to clean “Drafts”.

Right-click “Deleted Items”. Click “Empty Deleted Items folder” then “Yes”.

Click “File” then “Folder” then “Compact All Folders”.

Close the Outlook Express window (by clicking its X button).


Delete unused programs. Here’s how.…

Windows XP: click “Start” then “Control Panel” then “Add or Remove Programs”

Other Windows: click “Start” then “Settings” then “Control Panel” then double-click “Add/Remove Programs”

You see a list of all programs that are on your hard disk and designed for modern Windows. (You see the list’s beginning; to see the rest of the list, use the scroll arrows at the list’s right side.) In that list, if you find a program that you’re sure you’ll never use again (such as a lousy game), here’s how to delete it:

Click the program’s name.

Click the Remove button. (In Windows XP, that button might be labeled “Change/Remove”. In other Windows, that button is labeled “Add/Remove”.)

Then follow the instructions on the screen. The computer will try to delete the program completely: the computer will deletes the program’s folder, the program’s icons, and (hopefully) all references to the program.

Using that method, find and delete all programs that you’re sure you’ll never use again. Then close all windows (by clicking their X buttons).

Examine the task list Here’s how to analyze what Windows is doing at any moment: while holding down the Ctrl and Alt keys, tap the DELETE key (just once, not twice). If you’re using Windows XP, then click “Processes”.

You see the task list. That’s a list of all tasks that the computer is running at the moment.

For Windows XP, the list of tasks is typically long, but don’t worry: Windows XP can handle a long list okay.

For other Windows, list should be short, as follows:

If your computer is “clean” (not distracted by any extraneous tasks), the only tasks that should be on that task list are Explorer and maybe Systray. (If you’re running in “Safe mode”, the only task on the task list is Explorer.)

Explorer is needed because it gives you the desktop picture. Systray is optional: it creates the sound-volume icon at the screen’s bottom-right corner, if your sound card is good enough to have its volume changed by software.

If your task list contains a lot more than just Explorer and Systray, your computer should be pitied, since right now your computer is trying to run all the programs on the task list simultaneously! I’ve seen too many computers where the task list contains a dozen items: the poor computer is trying to run all those tasks simultaneously and it’s amazing the computer hasn’t yet crashed (stopped working). The more tasks you have on the list, the more likely that your computer will crash, because each task consumes RAM and confuses the computer by interrupting its attention from the task you wanted to focus on.

Giving a computer a long task list is like giving a juggler too many knives to juggle: he might quit or die.

I get annoyed by magazines who tell readers to buy all sorts of fancy routines that are supposed to make your computer “better”. Though each routine is fine by itself, when you try to run them all simultaneously they interfere with each other and create crashes.

Although you can end a task by clicking the task’s name and then the “End Task” button (which Windows XP calls the “End Process” button), that ends the task just temporarily. To end the task permanently, so it won’t resurface the next time you boot up the computer, try the following strategies.…

Empty your StartUp folder If you click on Start, then Programs, then StartUp (yeah, it’s there, keep looking), you’ll see what’s in the StartUp folder. Each time you start running Windows, the computer automatically runs all the programs in the StartUp folder. (That folder is the Windows equivalent of DOS’s AUTOEXEC.BAT file.)

On a clean machine (such as mine), the StartUp folder should be empty (so your task list stays short). Microsoft Office tends to put two items into the StartUp folder (“Microsoft Office Fast Start” and “Microsoft Office Find Fast Indexer”), but if you eliminate those two items Microsoft Office will still run fine.

Here’s how to remove items from the StartUp folder.…


For Windows 95, do this:

Right-click the Start button (by using the mouse’s right-hand button), then click “Open”, then double-click “Programs”. You see a list of all folders that are in your Programs menu. (To see the list better, maximize its window.) Double-click “StartUp”.

For other Windows, do this:

Click Start then Programs. Then double-click “StartUp”.

You’ll see icons for all the programs in the StartUp folder.

To remove a program from the StartUp folder, click that program’s icon then press the DELETE key then ENTER. (To remove all programs from the StartUp folder, do this: tap the A key while holding down the Ctrl key, then press the DELETE key then ENTER.)

If you’re not sure whether to remove a program from the StartUp folder, go ahead and try it (after getting permission from any friends who share your computer). Trying to remove a program from the StartUp folder is an experiment that’s safe for three reasons:

“Removing” an icon from the StartUp folder just sends the icon to the Recycle Bin, so you can restore the icon later if you change your mind. (To be extra-safe, tell your friends not to empty the Recycle Bin for several weeks, until you’re sure your newly emptied StartUp folder makes you happy.)

The icon you’re sending to the Recycle Bin is just a shortcut icon (since it has a bent arrow on it) rather than the program itself.

No items in the StartUp folder are ever needed to start Windows. In fact, Windows starts itself up before it bothers to look at the StartUp folder.

When you’ve finished, close all windows (by clicking their X buttons).

Remove unwanted networking For Windows XP, do this:

Click “Start” then “Connect To” then “Show all connections”.

For other Windows, do this:

Click “Start” then “Settings” then “Control Panel”. Double-click “Network”. (If the computer says “Your network is not complete”, press ENTER.)

You see a list of network components. Which ones do you need?

The typical computer communicates with other computers by using just an ordinary phone cord and an ordinary Internet Service Provider. Such a computer needs just 2 network components: Dial-Up Adapter (which teaches the computer how to use the phone cord) and TCP/IP (which teaches the computer how to communicate with the Internet). So for such a computer, keep just those 2 components and remove any others. For example, you can remove Client for Microsoft Networks. If you’re not sharing your computer with other people, or if you’re sharing just with people who all have the same privileges as you (no separate passwords, no separate screen setups), you can also remove Microsoft Family Logon.

If your computer is fancier, it needs more network components. For example, if your computer communicates with the Internet by using America OnLine (which is a non-standard Internet Service Provider), you must also keep a network component about AOL. If your computer communicates with the Internet by using a cable modem (which attaches to a cable-TV wire instead of a phone wire) or DSL (which attaches to a high-speed phone wire) or communicates with other computers by using an Ethernet card or a local-area network (LAN), you must keep network components that teach the computer about those features.

Remove components you’re not using; then your computer will run faster, stop asking for passwords to unused networks, and stop complaining about half-completed networks.

Here’s how to remove a component. For Windows XP, do this:

Click the component’s icon, then press the DELETE key.

If the computer says “You cannot delete a connection while it is busy connecting”, do this: press ENTER then click “Disable this network device”. (which is at the screen’s left edge).

For other Windows, do this:

For the typical component that you want to remove, click the component’s name and then click “Remove”. To remove “Microsoft Family Logon”, click its down-arrow then click “Windows Logon”.

When you finish saying which components to remove, click “OK”. (If the computer says “Your network is not complete”, press ENTER. If the computer asks you to restart, let it restart.)

Close any windows (by clicking their X buttons).

Improve your hard disk’s structure Before trying to improve your hard disk’s structure, you should typically
switch to safe mode. (You can skip this switch if you’re in safe mode already, or you’re sure you’re not running any antivirus programs or other hard-disk writing programs.) Here’s how to switch to safe mode:

Shut down the computer (by following the “Shut down” procedure on page 226). Go into safe mode (by following the procedure in page 226’s last box).

Regardless of whether you switched to safe mode, do this.…

Windows XP:      click Start then “My Computer”

other Windows:  double-click the “My Computer” icon

Click “Tools” then “Check Now”.

For Windows XP, do this:

If you have the patience to wait through an hour-long thorough check, put a check mark in the box marked “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” (by clicking); otherwise leave that box blank.

Press ENTER.

For other Windows, do this:

Click “Standard” (unless you have the patience to choose “Thorough”, which will make you wait about an hour).

Click “Start”.

Then the computer will run the ScanDisk program, which analyzes your hard disk. While the computer analyzes, choose “Discard” whenever the computer lets you. That makes the computer discard useless files. At the end of the ScanDisk process, here’s what happens.…

Windows XP: the computer will say “Disk Check Complete”; press ENTER

other Windows: the computer will say “ScanDisk Results”; press ENTER twice

Next, run the Defrag program, by clicking “Defragment Now”. (For Windows XP, then click “Defragment”. If Windows 95 gives you a choice between “Start”, “Select Drive”, “Advanced”, and “Exit”, click “Start”.) Then the computer will rearrange your hard disk’s files, so you can access them faster.

After a long time (typically an hour), the computer will say “Defragmentation is complete”. (If the computer takes several hours because the Defrag program keeps restarting, the real cause is that you forgot to do the “switch to safe mode” procedure in column 1, and you should go back and do that procedure.)

If you’re not using Windows XP, press ENTER.

Close all windows (by clicking their X buttons). If you did the “switch to safe mode procedure”, return to normal mode by doing this: shut down the computer (by following the “Shut down” procedure on page 226), then turn the computer back on.

Do DOS editing For Windows Me & XP, skip ahead to the next topic, “Strip WIN.INI”.

For Windows 95 & 98, you should do DOS editing; here’s how.…

If the computer has started normally (so it’s not in “safe mode” or a DOS mode), do this:

Close all windows (by clicking their X buttons). Click “Start” then “Programs”. If you’re using Windows Me, click “Accessories”.

Click “MS-DOS Prompt”.

If you see a black window, make it fill the whole screen by doing this: while holding down the Alt key, tap the ENTER key. (If you mess up, press Alt with ENTER again.)

Now the whole screen is black (except for white writing on it). The screen says:

C:\WINDOWS>

If you had to start the computer by using “safe mode” (or your computer was so messed up that even “safe mode” didn’t work), do this instead:

Try to shut down the computer properly: try to click Start then Shut Down, then press ENTER, then turn the power off. (If you can’t do that shut-down procedure properly, just be nasty and turn the power off.) Wait for the computer to quiet down.

Turn the computer’s power back on, then immediately hold down the F8 key. Keep holding it down, until the computer says “Microsoft Windows Startup Menu”. Near the menu’s bottom, you’ll see a choice called “Safe mode command prompt only”. Choose that (by pressing that choice’s number, which is usually 6 or 7, and then pressing the ENTER key). The computer will say:

C:\>

Type “cd windows”, so your screen looks like this:

C:\>cd windows

At the end of that line, press the ENTER key. Then the screen looks like this:

C:\WINDOWS>

Your computer contains a WINDOWS folder. In that folder, you’ll find a TEMP folder. It’s supposed to hold “temporary” files. Some programs temporarily put files into that TEMP folder. Those files are supposed to self-destruct when you finish running the program that created them, but sometimes the computer gets amnesia and forgets to help those files self-destruct. For example, suppose while you’re using a program that created temporary files, the electricity suddenly goes out (or the computer crashes for some other reason); then the computer will forget to destroy those files. After several months of using the computer, you’ll discover that the TEMP folder still contains many files that the computer forgot to delete. Those old TEMP files waste space on your hard disk. They also make your computer slower, because whenever the computer needs to create a new TEMP file it must skip past all the TEMP files that are still there, to find free space.

Delete the TEMP files. Here’s how.…

After the “C:\WINDOWS”, type “deltree temp” (which stands for “delete the tree of TEMP”), so your screen looks like this:

C:\WINDOWS>deltree temp

Type that very carefully: after typing the word “deltree”, make sure you press the SPACE bar and then the word “temp”. (If you forget to type the word “temp”, you’ll delete all of Windows!) At the end of typing that line, press the ENTER key.

The computer will ask whether you’re sure. Press the Y key, then the ENTER key. Then the computer will delete the TEMP folder.

Next, type “md temp”, so your screen looks like this:

C:\WINDOWS>md temp

At the end of typing that line, press the ENTER key. That causes the computer to “make a directory called TEMP”, so the computer creates an empty folder called TEMP.

You see “C:\WINDOWS>” again. Type “cd \” (and press ENTER afterwards). Now the screen says:

C:\>

Type “del *.chk”, so the screen looks like this:

C:\>del *.chk

That makes the computer delete any files that end in “.CHK”. Here’s why:

Any file that ends in “.CHK” was created by using “chkdsk” or “scandisk”. That file is just a “lost chain” (fragment of a discarded file). It’s useless. It just wastes space on your hard disk. It should be deleted.

Modern Windows doesn’t need a CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT file. On too many computers, the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files are lengthy messes that waste RAM, make the computer sluggish, and cause memory conflicts. Here’s how to strip them down.…

Type “ren autoexec.bat *.a”, so your screen looks like this:

C:\>ren autoexec.bat *.a

That makes the computer rename AUTOEXEC.BAT to AUTOEXEC.A, so you no longer have a file named “AUTOEXEC.BAT”. (If you change your mind later, you can reverse the renaming by saying “copy autoexec.a *.bat”.)

Type “ren config.sys *.a”, like this:

C:\>ren config.sys *.a

That makes the computer rename CONFIG.SYS to CONFIG.A, so you no longer have a file named “CONFIG.SYS”. (If you change your mind later, you can reverse the renaming by saying “copy config.a *.sys”.)

If you’re still using some big old DOS programs, you can make them run better by typing this:

C:\>copy con config.sys

device=windows\himem.sys /testmem:off

device=windows\emm386.exe ram d=64

dos=high,umb

At the end of each line, press the ENTER key. Make sure you correctly type the spelling, punctuation, and blank spaces. At the end of the last line, press the ENTER key, then the F6 key (which creates the symbol “^Z”), then the ENTER key again. That creates a 3-line CONFIG.SYS file, which is slightly better than having no CONFIG.SYS at all. The 3-liner increases the available RAM and also creates expanded memory.

You see “C:\>” again.

If you did the DOS editing by clicking “MS-DOS prompt”, do this:

Type “exit” (and press ENTER). You see the Windows desktop screen again (with the Start button and the My Computer icon).

If you did the DOS editing by choosing “Safe mode command prompt only”, do this:

Turn the power off. Wait for the computer to quiet down. Turn the power back on. You should see the Windows desktop screen again (with the Start button and the My Computer icon). If you don’t see that, phone me at 603-666-6644 for further help.

Strip WIN.INI For Windows XP, skip ahead to the next topic, “Empty MSCONFIG”.

For other Windows, examine a file called WIN.INI, by doing this: click “Start” then “Run”, then type “win.ini” (and press ENTER). You see a window showing you the many equations that comprise WIN.INI. Those equations affect how Windows boots up.

Two of those equations should say —

load=

run=

In those “load=” and “run=” equations, typically nothing should come after the equal sign.

Any program mentioned after the equal sign will be loaded and run automatically every time you start Windows. A program should be mentioned after the equal sign just if you really do want to run that program every time you start Windows.

After scribbling a careful note on a sheet of paper about what junk came after the equal sign, delete the unwanted junk (by clicking just after the equal sign and then pressing the DELETE key several times). Or deactivate the entire line by putting a semicolon at the line’s beginning, so the two lines begin by saying “;load=” and “;run=”.

Then exit from the editor by clicking its X button. (If the computer asks “Do you want to save the changes?”, press ENTER.)

Shut down the computer completely (by clicking “Start” then “Shut Down”, then pressing ENTER, then turning the power off). When the computer has quieted down, turn it back on and watch what happens.

Probably Windows will start fine (faster and better!) because of the changes you made to WIN.INI. If not, revert the WIN.INI file back to its original state. (Phone me at 603-666-6644 if you need any help reverting.)

Empty MSCONFIG A program called MicroSoft CONFIGuration (MSCONFIG) helps you configure Windows. That program is missing from Windows 95 but included in later versions of Windows.

If you’re not using Windows 95, do this.…

Click “Start” then “Run”. Type “msconfig” and press ENTER.

You see the System Configuration Utility window. Click “Startup” (which is near that window’s top right corner). You see a list of programs.

For Windows 98 & Me, maximize the window (by clicking its maximize button, which is next to the X button). For Windows Me & XP, you can widen any column (by looking at the column’s heading, looking at the vertical line to the right of the heading, and dragging that line farther to the right).

Every time you turn the computer on, the computer automatically runs all the programs in the list — unless you deactivate a program by removing the check mark from its box. (To add or remove a check mark, click the box.)

Programs get into that list because they were mentioned in the StartUp folder or the Registry or a file called WIN.INI. On a typical computer, you can deactivate most programs from the list, and the computer will still work fine.

Which programs should you keep, and which should you deactivate?

For Windows 98 & Me, here are comments about what’s in the list:

I recommend keeping ScanRegistry (which protects against errors in the registry), StateMgr (which helps Windows Me protect further against errors in the registry), and SystemTray (which makes the volume icon appear at the screen’s bottom right corner). You might also wish to keep TaskMonitor (which keeps track of which programs you use the most, so defragging will put those programs where you can access them faster).

LoadPowerProfile (which is in the list twice) makes the computer go into sleep mode if you walk away from the computer for a while. Although sleep mode is supposed to be a good thing that saves electricity, it confuses the human and the computer and causes errors. I usually recommend deactivating it; instead, whenever you’re going to walk away from the computer for awhile, shut down the computer properly and turn it off; but if you have a notebook computer and use the battery frequently, keep this active to make the battery last longer.

Deactivate SchedulingAgent and PCHealth. They force the computer to do some software cleaning at certain times of the day and month automatically, but I recommend you do software cleaning manually when you wish, to avoid interrupting your work.

You can deactivate these:

PowerReg Scheduler reminds you to register your software. Billminder, from Quicken, reminds you to pay bills today. Works Calendar Reminder (wkcalrem), from Microsoft Works, reminds you of your appointments today. Money Express reminds you to try using the Microsoft Money program, which can balance your checkbook and compete against Quicken. You don’t need those reminders, unless you want the computer to act as your tormentor and mother.

Several programs put extra buttons at the screen’s bottom right corner, in an area called the tray, next to the time. You don’t need those buttons: they’re redundant, since similar buttons already populate your screen’s desktop (or in the programs menu or control panel). Although having a redundant button can occasionally be convenient (I admit liking the System Tray program, which puts the volume-control button into the tray), but I recommend you deactivate most such programs, to avoid cluttering your screen with useless buttons. Examples of redundant-button programs (which you should deactivate) are AtiKey (for ATI’s video cards), Aoltray (for America Online and its Internet hookup), and Igfxtray (for Intel’s video-chip graphics special effects).

Microsoft has invented several programs that are supposed to make Microsoft Office run faster but actually make the Microsoft Office be slower. Deactivate them! These counterproductive devils are called Microsoft Office StartUp Application (osa.exe) and Microsoft Find Fast (findfast.exe).

AtiCwd is useful just if you have a TV attached to your video card.

Over a thousand startup programs have been invented — and most should be deactivated! Info about 3000 startup programs is at www.pacs-portal.co.uk/startup_pages/startup_all.php.

You can experiment by deactivating most of the listed programs: just get rid of their check marks. (In Windows XP, you can see an even longer list of automatically run programs by clicking “Services”.)

Then click “OK”.

If you made changes, here’s what happens next:

The computer says “You must restart your computer”. Press ENTER.

The computer automatically reboots.

For Windows Me & XP, the computer says “System Configuration Utility”; to react, click the tiny square (at the window’s bottom left corner) then click “OK”.

If you don’t like the results of your efforts, run msconfig again and put the check marks back in.

Final steps Click “Start”.

For Windows XP, click “Turn Off Computer” then “Turn Off”.

For other Windows, click “Shut Down” then press ENTER.

Then turn the power off.

Test your computer When the computer has quieted down, turn it back on and watch what happens.

Probably Windows will start fine (faster and better!) because of the software cleaning you did.

Probably your DOS programs will work fine (even your DOS games!) if you start them the way Microsoft recommends: click “Start” then “Programs” then “MS-DOS Prompt”; then if you see just a small black window, enlarge it by pressing Alt with ENTER. If you start DOS that way, the mouse & CD-ROM will work even while you’re running DOS software.

For Windows 95 & 98, consider this:

Though stripping CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT improves the performance of most computers, your computer might have “special needs”. (In the old days, computers having “special needs” were called “handicapped”, but I guess that’s not politically correct anymore.) For example, some Compaq computers have “special needs”. Such computers require some “special needs” lines in CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT.

If Windows refuses to start properly after you’ve fiddled with CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT, change them back. Here’s how.…

Shut down the computer. (If possible, shut it down gracefully by using the Shut Down menu. If you can’t get to the Shut Down menu or it doesn’t react properly, just turn the power off.)

Turn the computer’s power back on, then immediately hold down the F8 key. Keep holding it down, until the computer says “Microsoft Windows Startup Menu”. Near the menu’s bottom, you’ll see a choice called “Safe mode command prompt only”. Choose that (by pressing that choice’s number, which is usually 6 or 7, and then pressing the ENTER key).

The computer will say “C:\>”. Then you can restore your original CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files by saying:

C:\>copy config.a *.sys

C:\>copy autoexec.a *.bat

Finally, turn the power off, wait for the computer to quiet down, turn the computer back on, and you should be back where you were before you tried this experiment.

Then if you’re ambitious, edit CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT more carefully, trying to figure out which lines to keep and which to discard. Read my DOS chapter for further details. You can phone me for help at 603-666-6644.


Cleaning classic Windows

The following comments apply to Windows 3.1 and 3.11.

The best way to make Windows 3.1 (or 3.11) work better is to upgrade to modern Windows (Windows 95 or 98 or Me).

Microsoft tried hard to make Windows 95 fix all of Windows 3.1’s problems — and on the whole, Microsoft succeeded! Also, the newest versions of all popular programs require you to buy modern Windows. Internet access is faster, simpler, and more reliable if you buy modern Windows. Modern Windows is technically superior: it does a better job of handling multitasking (many tasks in the RAM simultaneously), new devices (it automatically detects any new hardware you buy), and repairs (it tries to automatically fix itself when anything goes wrong). Many Windows 3.1 headaches arise from incorrect CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files, but modern Windows doesn’t need those files at all!

To run well, modern Windows wants lots of RAM (16M for Windows 95, 32M for Windows 98’s first edition, 64M for Windows 98’s second edition, 128M for Windows Me). If you have enough RAM, the only disadvantage of modern Windows is that it takes longer to boot up and shut down. So if possible, upgrade to modern Windows.

If you refuse to upgrade (because you’re an old fuddy-duddy), the following tricks will make your old Windows run as well as possible. They’re similar to the tricks for making modern Windows run well. I’ll start with the tricks that are the simplest and most foolproof, then progress to the tricks that are more advanced and risky. To get free help using these tricks and others that are more bizarre, phone me anytime at 603-666-6644.

Close whatever is open Go to classic Windows’ main screen. Make sure the very top of the screen says “Program Manager” and no other windows or programs are open or running.

Here’s how:

If another window is open, close it by double-clicking its control box (the white horizontal bar in the window’s top left corner).

If a program is running, exit from it by choosing “Exit” from its File menu.

If the words “Program Manager” appear at the top of a window but not at the top of your screen, maximize the window by clicking the “5” (which is in the window’s top right corner).

If the words “Program Manager” appear under an icon, click the icon and then click “Maximize”.

Make sure the computer takes you seriously. To do that, click “Options” (which is at the top of the screen, next to the word “File”). You see the Options menu. Make sure a check mark is in front of “Save Settings on Exit” and no check marks are elsewhere in the Options menu. (To add or remove a check mark, click where you want the check mark to be created or destroyed; then click “Options” again to see whether you succeeded. If you forgot to put a check mark in front of “Save Settings on Exit”, the computer does not save what you’re doing, does not take you seriously, and does not let your fooling around affect future sessions of Windows.)

Make the Options menu go away (by pressing the Esc key).

Simplify the display Double-click “Main” (which is an icon) then “Control Panel” (so you see the Control Panel window) then “Desktop”.

Make the Pattern, Screen Saver, and Wallpaper each be “None”. If one of them isn’t “None”, click the down-arrow at its right, so you see a menu; click “None”, which is the menu’s top choice, which you might have to scroll up to see.

When Pattern, Screen Saver, and Wallpaper are each “None”, click “OK”.

Turn off the Print Manager While you’re looking at the Control Panel window, double-click the Printers icon. You’ll see the Printers window. At its bottom left corner, you’ll see a box labeled “Use Print Manager”. If that box has an X in it, eliminate the X (by clicking it), so the computer will not use Print Manager.

Here’s why:

Print Manager is well-intentioned software that unfortunately screws up. It tries to help you by playing this trick: whenever you tell the computer to print on paper, Print Manager diverts the request: instead of printing the output directly onto paper, Print Manager prints the output onto your disk instead, then later copies that output from the disk to your printer. So it’s a two-step process: output to be printed is sent first to the hard disk, then copied from the hard disk to the printer. As soon as the first part of the process has finished (all the output has reached the hard disk), Print Manager lets you use your keyboard and mouse again, so you can accomplish whatever further computerized tasks you wish, while output is being sent from the disk to the printer. The result is that you can start working on a second task before the first task has finished printing.

But Print Manager screws up, for two reasons.…

First, you must have enough room on the disk to hold the output. If your disk is almost full and you then try to print long output (such as a 20-page report or a high-resolution picture containing millions of dots), Print Manager has trouble sending the output to the disk and gives up: your computer crashes (ignores all your keystrokes and mouse strokes) and you must reboot.

The second reason why Print Manager screws up is that your computer probably doesn’t have enough RAM to run Print Manager at the same time as other software.

That’s why I recommend not using Print Manager in Windows 3.1.

In Windows 95, Print Manager is usually okay, since Windows 95 manages RAM problems better and since most folks using Windows 95 have bought lots of RAM and a huge hard disk.

When you finish eliminating the X from the Use Print Manager box, click “Close”.

Then close the Control Panel window. Close the Main window.

Empty your StartUp folder Double click “StartUp” (which is an icon). You’ll see what’s in the StartUp folder. Each time you start running Windows, the computer automatically runs all the programs in the StartUp folder.

Typically, the StartUp folder should be empty, so your computer won’t be distracted by having to run junk. If your StartUp folder is not empty, you see icons in it. You should probably delete all those icons. Before deleting an icon, try to figure out each icon’s purpose, and figure out whether you have a copy of it in another folder besides StartUp. If you have another copy of the icon, or if the icon is for software that you never use, do this:

Click on the icon (just once, not twice), so its name appears in a blue box.

From the File menu, choose Properties. (To do that, click the word “File” at the screen’s top left corner, then click the word “Properties”.) You’ll see info about the file’s properties. Onto a sheet of paper, copy that info (the file’s Description, Command Line, and Working Directory), so if you change your mind and want the file back, you’ll have an easier time reconstructing the file. Then click OK.

From the File menu, choose Delete. Then press ENTER. The icon will vanish.

If you’re not sure whether to delete an icon from the StartUp folder, the safest procedure is to drag the icon temporarily into another folder instead. (To do that, get both folders opened at the same time, drag the folders away from each other to minimize the overlap, then drag the icon from the StartUp folder to the other folder.) A quicker alternative is to just be brave and delete the icon by using the procedure I explained in the box; but make sure you include the step about File Properties so you can reconstruct the icon if you change your mind. (Here’s how to reconstruct a StartUp icon: click anywhere in the StartUp folder, then choose New from the File menu, then press ENTER, then fill in the blanks by using the notes you’d written on the sheet of paper, then press ENTER).

When you’ve finished examining and fiddling with the StartUp folder, close it.

Do DOS cleaning If you’re using Windows 3.1 or 3.11, the next step is to do DOS cleaning, which I explain in the next section. (Go ahead, peek at the “DOS cleaning” section, do what it says, then return here.)

Strip WIN.INI After you’ve done DOS cleaning, improve Windows further by stripping WIN.INI. Here’s how.

At the C prompt, say “edit windows\win.ini”, so your screen looks like this:

C:\>edit windows\win.ini

When you press the ENTER key at the end of that line, your screen will turn blue. (If it doesn’t turn blue, recheck your typing, or try saying “dos\edit” instead of “edit”.)

On the blue screen, you’ll see the many equations that comprise WIN.INI. Two of those equations should say:

load=

run=

In those “load=” and “run=” equations, typically nothing should come after the equal sign.

Any program mentioned after the equal sign will be loaded and run automatically every time you start Windows. A program should be mentioned after the equal sign just if you really do want to run that program every time you start Windows.

After scribbling a careful note on a sheet of paper about what junk came after the equal sign, delete the unwanted junk (by clicking just after the equal sign and then pressing the DELETE key several times). Or deactivate the entire line by putting a semicolon at the line’s beginning, so the two lines begin by saying “;load=” and “;run=”.

Then exit from the editor (by pressing the Alt key, then the F key, then the X key). The computer will say “Loaded file is not saved.” Press the ENTER key (which saves the file).

Turn off the computer. When the computer has quieted down, turn it back on and watch what happens.

Probably Windows will start fine (faster and better!) because of the changes you made to WIN.INI. If not, revert the WIN.INI file back to its original state. (Phone me at 603-666-6644 if you need any help reverting.)

Why Windows 3.1 screws up The main reason why Windows 3.1 (or 3.11) screws up is insufficient conventional RAM.

Windows 3.1 needs at least 565K of conventional RAM free, in order to run well. Unfortunately, companies such as Gateway and Dell have shipped computers having less than 565K of conventional RAM free. To find out how much conventional RAM you have free, say “mem”.

To increase the amount of conventional free RAM, follow my suggestions on page 240, in the section called “insufficient memory”. You should also get rid of screen savers.

Windows wants 8M of RAM altogether. If your computer’s total RAM is much less than 8M (for example, if you bought just 4M), get rid of the AUTOEXEC.BAT line that mentions SMARTDRV.EXE and change the number of buffers in CONFIG.SYS to 40. Exception: if you compressed your hard drive, you must keep SMARTDRV.EXE, in order to prevent your hard drive from seeming too slow.

Another source of Windows 3.1 headaches is a full hard drive.

Make sure your hard drive has at least 10M free. To check that, say “chkdsk” and look at the number of “bytes available on disk”. If you have less than 10M free, erase the files you don’t use.


Cleaning MS-DOS

The following comments apply to MS-DOS 6.2 (or 6.21 or 6.22) on a computer having at least a 386 CPU and at least 2M of RAM.

If you’re using an earlier version of MS-DOS, you should upgrade to one of those versions. The upgrade usually costs $50. If you’re using MS-DOS 6.0, you can get use a cheaper upgrade called the “MS-DOS 6.2 Step-Up”, which costs just $10 from the repair departments of most computer stores. If you refuse to upgrade, read my CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT advice on pages 128-132 to find out how old DOS versions differ.

If you’re using a later version of MS-DOS, you must be using modern Windows, so read the “Cleaning modern Windows” section instead.

Get a standard C prompt Get to a standard C prompt, so your screen looks like this:

C:\>

If you’re in Windows instead, get to the C prompt by choosing “Exit Windows” from the File menu. If you’re in DOS shell, get to the C prompt by pressing the F3 key.

If your C prompt is too short and says just “C>”, make it longer by saying “prompt $p$g”. If your C prompt is too long and has extra words in it, get rid of the extra words by saying “cd \”.

Delete CHK files At the C prompt, type this:

C:\>del *.chk

That makes the computer delete any files that end in “.CHK”.

Here’s why:

Any file that ends in “.CHK” was created by using “chkdsk” or “scandisk”. That file is just a “lost chain” (fragment of a discarded file). It’s useless. It just wastes space on your hard disk. It should be deleted.

Delete temporary files Type the word “set”, like this:

C:\>set

You’ll see several equations. One of the equations probably begins by saying “TEMP=C:\”. That equation tells which directory contains your temporary files.

All temporarily files should have been deleted by the computer; but sometimes the computer forgets to delete them. Delete them yourself, manually. Here’s how:

What the TEMP equation says    What to type

TEMP=C:\temp            C:\>del temp

TEMP=C:\windows\temp       C:\>del windows\temp

TEMP=C:\pbtools\wintemp    C:\>del pbtools\wintemp

TEMP=C:\dos             C:\>del dos\*.tmp

                          C:\>del dos\~*.*

                           C:\>md temp

TEMP=C:\windows           C:\>del windows\*.tmp

                           C:\>del windows\~*.*

                           C:\>md temp

When typing those lines, type carefully. If you make a mistake, you’ll delete files that are important.

To type the symbol “~”, hold down the SHIFT key while tapping the key that’s typically next to the number 1. If you have questions about how to type, phone me at 603-666-6644 for help.

If the computer asks “Are you sure?”, press the Y key then ENTER. If the computer says “file not found”, there were no temporarily files to delete.


Make copies Make copies of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT (to protect yourself in case you screw up), by typing this:

C:\>copy config.sys *.a

C:\>copy autoexec.bat *.a

While typing those lines, make sure you put the spaces, asterisks, and periods in the right places, and make sure you type the “c” at the end of “autoexec”.

Those lines make copies of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. The copies are called CONFIG.A and AUTOEXEC.A and are stored on your hard disk.

Edit CONFIG.SYS Edit CONFIG.SYS by typing this:

C:\>edit config.sys

The screen should turn blue. (If it remains black and says “bad command or file name”, the computer doesn’t understand “edit”. To get around that problem, try typing “dos\edit” instead of just “edit”.)

On the blue screen, you’ll see your current version of CONFIG.SYS. A standard CONFIG.SYS looks like this:

device=dos\himem.sys /testmem:off

device=dos\emm386.exe ram d=64

dos=high,umb

stacks=0,0

buffers=40

files=50

If you have a CD-ROM drive, you need an extra line at the bottom. The extra line should begin by saying “devicehigh=” and should also have a “/d:” in it. It usually also has the letters “cd” buried in it somewhere, perhaps as part of an longer word. The line’s exact details depend on which brand of CD-ROM drive you have — and also on what kind of motherboard and sound card you’re attaching it to. If the line begins with “device=”, change it to “devicehigh=”.

Some CD-ROM drives require you to put one or two extra “helper” lines before the CD-ROM drive line. Those “helper” lines mention the same subdirectory (folder) as the CD-ROM drive line. Those lines should begin by saying “devicehigh=”. (If they say “device=” instead, change them to “devicehigh=”.)

Except for the line about the CD-ROM drive, your CONFIG.SYS file should typically consist of just the 6 lines I listed above.

For example, if you have a line saying “stacks=9,256”, change it to “stacks=0,0”. Making that change will gain you 21/8K of conventional RAM.

In the line about “files”, the number should be at least 50. A few programs require more than 50. If the number is less than 50, raise it to 50. If the number is more than 50, leave it alone; don’t bother fiddling with it.

If you have a line saying “dos=high” and a line saying “dos=umb”, combine them into a line saying “dos=high,umb”.

Typically, the buffers line should say “buffers=40”. If you’re using a program called “smartdrv” (which is pronounced “smart drive”), buffers should be 15 instead. Normally I recommend avoiding smartdrv (because it consumes too much RAM and occasionally destroys your files); but if your drive is compressed (a dangerous activity that I don’t recommend), you must use smartdrv (to help it run fast) and set buffers to 15.

The only lines that should begin with “device=” are typically the lines about himem.sys and emm386.exe. (Some hard drives need a third “device=” line to handle the “disk manager”.) Any other “device=” line should typically be changed to “devicehigh=” (to make sure the device driver is loaded into upper memory, to free up your conventional memory.)

If a line begins with “devicehigh”, make sure nothing comes between that word and the equal sign. Delete anything coming between “devicehigh” and the equal sign. For example, if a line’s start is “devicehigh /L:1,30; 3:30=”, shorten that start to “devicehigh=”. (The “/L” and other numbers between the “devicehigh” and the equal sign were put there by the memmaker program, which tries to improve RAM usage by forcing the computer to load software into specific addresses; but those specific addresses usually conflict with other addresses and make your software crash. Never use memmaker: it’s the most counterproductive utility that Microsoft ever created. If you do what I say, your RAM usage will be better than memmaker’s attempt.)

If a line mentions “qemm”, you should typically delete the line (since “qemm” is a memmaker competitor that causes as many conflicts as memmaker). But if the qemm line mentions “c:” twice, keep the second “c:” reference (and delete the first “c:” reference, which mentions “qemm”). Make the line begin by saying “devicehigh=c:”

More comments about CONFIG.SYS are on pages 128-130. Advice about using the editor is on page 123.

When you finish editing CONFIG.SYS, exit from the editor (by pressing the Alt key, then the F key, then the X key). The computer will say “Loaded file is not saved.” Press the ENTER key (which saves the file).

Edit AUTOEXEC.BAT Edit AUTOEXEC.BAT by typing this:

C:\>edit autoexec.bat

The screen should turn blue. (If it remains black and says “bad command or file name”, the computer doesn’t understand “edit”. To get around that problem, try typing “dos\edit” instead of just “edit”.)

On the blue screen, you’ll see your current version of AUTOEXEC.BAT.

AUTOEXEC.BAT’s top line should say:

@echo off

If that line is elsewhere, move it to the top. Here’s how: move to that line by using the down-arrow key, then press Ctrl with Y (which yanks the line from its old position), then move up the beginning of the first line, then press Shift with INSERT (which inserts the line where desired).

Fix the other lines in AUTOEXEC.BAT by reading the info on pages 130-132. Just as you did in CONFIG.SYS, remove any junk that was inserted by memmaker or qemm.

When you’ve finished editing AUTOEXEC.BAT, exit from the editor (by pressing Alt then F then X then ENTER).

Reboot After you’ve edited CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT, your changes don’t take effect until you reboot. So to find out whether your editing was successful, reboot! (To do that, turn off the computer, then wait for it to become quiet, then turn the computer back on again.)

If you have any trouble rebooting, use this trick to reboot:

Reboot the computer again, but when the computer says “Starting MS-DOS” immediately press the F5 key. You’ll be at a C prompt. Then try again to edit CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. If you wish to return to your original CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT, type this:

C:\>copy config.a *.sys

C:\>copy autoexec.a *.bat

After making CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT the way you wish, reboot again.

After you’ve rebooted successfully, try running your favorite programs, to make sure they still work okay.

Probably, they’ll work better! If they have trouble working, edit again or phone me at 603-666-6644 for advanced tricks.