Tuesday, October 21, 2008

WinXP - Operator System Maintenance Routine

You should be doing the following manually, on a regular bases, as a OS Maintenance Plan:
  • From the Command Prompt, run CHKDSK C: /F (will require reboot)

  • Defrag/Optimize your hard drives (suggest a better utility than Win Defrag in System Tools, see below)

  • Run Disk Cleanup in System Tools (do not select compressed files), or the better, run CCleaner (see below)

  • Use [Delete files] in Internet Options between runs of Disk Cleanup

  • Remove unnecessary backup files (see below, JAVA & Win Updates)

  • Run a good, safe, Registry Cleanup tool (see below)

JAVA: If you are using Sun's JAVA (and you should), when they install updates, they ADD them. They do not replace older versions of JAVA. These can take up much hard drive space.

You should only keep the latest version and use Add/Remove Programs to uninstall all older versions. Example, have JAVA 6 installed, remove JAVA 5.

Win Updates: When Windows installs updates, it makes backups of the changed files so you can uninstall them via Add/Remove Programs. These backup files also take up much hard drive space.

If an Update has been installed AND working without a problem, you will unlikely uninstall it. So the backup file is no longer needed. You need to remove the backup file, AND the entry in Add/Remove Programs, but leave the Update Logs so Win Updates always sees them as installed.

One safe way I recommend is using the Update Cleanup (shareware). See the screen shot on their page. Very easy and safe to use. Worth the cost. I use it at home and work. I just keep 6mths of updates.

Registry Cleanup:

USAGE: All Registry Cleaners are NOT meant to be used as a fix tool. They should NOT be used to fix an on-going problem. Registry Cleaners are preventative Registry cleanup tools. DO NOT RUN REGISTRY CLEANERS IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM THAT HAS NOT BEEN FIXED ALREADY.

If your Registry has errors in it, this can cause problems. There are tools/utilities that will scan your Registry and report errors, and remove them.

CAUTION - Some Microsoft MVPs do not like Registry Cleaners, but I've never had problems with the ones listed here.

One utility I have used is TweakNow RegCleaner. RegCleaner is free, and backs up changes. Highly suggest using the Registry Cleaner (NOT Quick) on sidebar.

Another is RegCure Pro, subscription (which I use at home). Do not use the download versions from other WEB sites because they are promoting RegCure as a fix tool.

TweakNow is very easy to use and clearly indicates Safe to delete, Unknown (use Deep Scan to resolve), and Unsafe to delete. Do not use ignore list in latest version.

Hard Drive Defrag/Optimizers: There are 2 good utilities I've used.

One advantage of Perfect Disk is that, with Smart Placement enabled, it uses the WinXP LAYOUT.INI (Prefetch file that lists all the software loaded during bootup) to move all those files to the head of your drive, in order. This results in slightly faster and smoother bootup.

CCleaner (freeware), excellent (and faster than Disk Cleanup) but do be careful what you delete especially in the Applications tab. Includes ability to manage startup items via Tools in sidebar. Works with XP, Vista, Win7, Win2003 Server.

COMPUTERS - Memory Upgrades

The thing to remember whenever you want to upgrade you system's memory (RAM) is that the memory "stick" (DIMM) MUST be and EXACT match to your motherboard.

Also, the ONLY authority on what RAM to use is the manufacturer of your motherboard. Do not go by a sales-rep recommendations, they are not technicians.

In addition written specifications can be short of very important information. Two examples of Full memory specifications follow:

1GB, DDR2, PC2-4200, ECC, Registered
128Meg x 64, 240 Pin, DDR533, 1.8v, CL=2.5

1GB, DDR2, PC2-4200, ECC, Registered, Fully Buffered
128Meg x 72, 240 Pin, DDR533, 2.5v, CL=2.5

Both of these DIMMs could NOT be installed on my previous motherboard because it was not compatible with "Registered" memory. If I had purchased memory through normal sources, where they did NOT list "Registered" in their specifications, I could have bought the wrong memory.

The best-practice is to use a tool to scan you motherboard and tell you what memory is compatible with your motherboard.

One such tools is available on 4AllMemory's site (see sidebar). You use [Check My System] and they download a small, temporary, applet that scans your motherboard and returns a WEB page showing you what you already have installed, open memory slots, and a list of compatible memory upgrades.

The returned-page will list the actual motherboard memory part number for well known motherboards. For my MSI motherboard, they actually listed the MSI memory part number.

By the way, I was pointed to 4AllMemory by corporate IT.

PC SECURITY - Security Tools

The best, and well known, antivirus tools are listed on the sidebar. Norton (aka Symantec) Antivirus & McAfee Antivirus. Both cost, but are very well supported and equally good at their job and worth every penny (IMHO).

In is important to understand that no antivirus can stop unknown viruses or spyware. The "sickness" must be known before you can develop a vaccine. This is why it is essential the you keep your antivirus subscription up-to-date, so the latest threats can be blocked or found.

Also, it is "best practice" to have 2 tools protecting your system, a antivirus and anti-spyware. No single tool will catch everything.

One anti-spyware tool I recommend is Spybot - Search & Destroy (see sidebar). I've use this for decades, it is donationware (asks for donations), maintains timely updated definitions. The publisher, Patrick M. Kolla, is a member of an organization dedicated to protecting your system. Spybot S&D includes Immunization to protect your browser from threats. The only plug-in I recommend NOT to install, is TeaTimer (read description during install); you'll get tired of all the nags whenever you change something in your system. Advice, remember to Immunize immediately after all updates.

There are many, many other protection tools out there that are good, with one exception; HighJack This. The only real problem with this tool, is you have to be an expert to interpret the information it gives you. It is a poor tool for the common user, which is why may posts about problems include the HighJack list and ask for help in identifying a problem.

But if you do use HighJack, what you should look for is something listed that you did NOT install on purpose. Also look for anything that looks like ad-ware (advertising software). When in doubt, use Google to search for the filename in question and see what it is.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

WinXP - Microsoft's Registry Monitor

This is a FYI that Microsoft SystemInternals includes a very good troubleshooting tool. Registry Monitor (aka Regmon) that provides real-time monitoring of what is happening with the Registry.

The contents of the ZIP file are the program files. Just copy them to a folder of your choice, then create a shortcut to the EXE.

It includes an Option to monitor during the next system boot, to troubleshoot boot-time Registry access that may be causing problems.

For clarification, the REGMON.LOG created during a boot will be in C:\Windows folder.

Just remember to allow your boot to fully complete to capture all boot-time Registry access.

Reason for this post:

I was pointed to Regmon by a Microsoft MVP to help in troubleshooting a Registry problem.

In short, a standard Registry entry was missing and would disappear on next boot, after I used the Registry Editor (aka RegEdit) to put the missing data in the Registry.

Finally a MVP mentioned Regmon and noted that the problem could be caused by a Tweak Utility.

Tweak Utilities are for making changes to the look/feel/operation of Windows in a more user-friendly way than normal. In fact, for all versions of Windows (Win95 - WinXP at least) Microsoft has provide a Power Toy called TweakUI (see sidebar list on Power Toy page).

There are 3rd Party Tweak Utilities, and they can be a problem. It turned out that a tweak utility I use had an option Clear Recent on exit. It is supposed to delete all entries in your Recent list when you exit WinXP. The publisher of the utility did this improperly and actually removed a Registry entry.

So be aware that 3rd Party Tweak Utilities MAY cause problems.

OH - Want to clear your Recent list easily, try this:

Copy the following lines (between dashes) and paste into Notepad


@echo off

echo y ¦ del "%USERPROFILE%\Recent\*.*"


NOTE: If you have a problem, replace the ¦ character using your keyboard.

Now save the file, using Save as type: = All Files, and use filename ClearRecent.cmd

This script (cmd) will work for any user, so I suggest you save it to C:\ (root).

Now anyone can create a shortcut to the file to use it. I placed my shortcut directly in my Start Menu folder. Also suggest you run the shortcut as minimized.

Also, if you place a copy of your shortcut in the Startup folder, Recent list will be cleared when you logon/boot.