Data Recovery Article
Hard Disk Drive Maintenance Procedures
by Bill Hoyt, Hoyt Station Personal Computing
You want your computer to last. You've ordered the free preventive
maintenance report from http://www.hoytstation.com, cleaned out
the mouse, kept out the dust... but that's all 'hardware' stuff.
What do you do to keep the software in good running order?
Lucky for you, Microsoft provides a couple of tools to help keep
your hard drive and the programs on it healthy and happy (and
running longer) as well. The best part is (if you have Windows),
they're already loaded on your machine! We're going to take a look
at a few of them, and we'll be providing another one in our final
free software section, so let's go!
The first thing you need to do is locate them on your hard drive.
Right-click the Start button and select Open, then double-click
Programs, then Accessories. You should see a folder called
System Tools (if you don't, look around here, they're hidden
somewhere). Double-click System Tools to discover a bunch of
stuff you never knew you had ;-)
The first one we're going to look at is the Disk Defragmenter.
What's a defragmenter? I'm glad you asked. As your programs
save files to the hard drive, they try to grab the next available
space (this is simplified, of course) to where you saved the
last time. If the space is 'right next door', it's called
'contiguous' space. That's good space, because when the program
is reading the hard drive, it just goes 1...2...3..., everything
is in order.
However, if the space next door is taken, it will have to search
around and put your files somewhere else. After a while, it is
trying to read it back in as 1...78...32...that can take longer
and can result in Windows losing track of where the parts of a
In order to put everything back in order, you must defragment
the disk, which takes all the pieces of all the files and puts
them in contiguous space. I defrag (that's a techie term) about
monthly, but some recommend it be done at least weekly.
To run the Defragmenter, double-click the icon, select the drive
you want (your hard drive is usually 'C') and click OK. Then go
make a sandwich, as this will take some time. Windows will read all
the programs on your hard drive and put them together with all
other parts of that program, freeing up space and making your
machine run better.
OK, we've freed up some space, but we want more. Where can we
get it? One place is by deleting all the temporary files that
Windows has kept for you. Double-click the Disk Cleanup icon,
select your hard drive again, and a popup box will appear showing
things like Temporary Files, Recycle Bin, all the places that
Windows knows of files that are not needed. Select the ones you
want and click OK. They're gone, and you have a lot more space
for those new downloads you want.
If you're constantly low on hard drive space, it might be best to do
this *before* you defragment the disk, then you can free up all that
used space as one big block.
The final program is called ScanDisk...it's the one that comes on
when you boot up after failing to shut down the computer correctly
(if you should have a lock-up or lose power, for example).
Double-click the ScanDisk icon and a box will pop up and give you
a number of choices. Select your hard drive, and then either
Standard or Throrough.
A Standard scan will check your files and folders to make sure
everything is 'pointed' in the right place. It doesn't take
long to do. However, before you run it, it's a good idea
to close every program you can, because if these programs write
to the hard drive while Scandisk is running, ScanDisk may have
to start over...it can be pretty frustrating if that happens.
If you've closed everything and it *still* keeps restarting, it
might be an indication that a program is hung up... shut down the
machine, restart, and try it again.
A Throrough scan performs a Standard scan, but then checks the
hard drive itself for errors (like a 'spot' that won't record
data correctly), and marks them 'off limits' to the computer
so data does not get lost there. All hard drives develop 'bad
spots', so it's a good idea to run a throrough scan at least
monthly to catch them.
If you really want to play around, there's also a 'Task
Scheduler' which will allow you to automate this process...
I don't use it, but some people find that it easier to perform
preventive maintenance if they set reminders for themselves.
Good Computing to you!
About the Author:
Bill Hoyt is the Webmaster of Hoyt Station Personal Computing.
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