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Maintaining Windows

Originally written 20050209

These are instructions for fixing performance of Windows95, Windows98, Windows98SE, or WindowsME. The instructions were tested with Windows98SE.

Microsoft's operating systems slow down after being used for some time, usually within months. They are also extremely prone to viruses, trojans, adware, spyware, and other bad programs. Use these instructions whenever your PC seems to be slow, but at least once per year.

There are 3 sections:

Checking Boot Commands - This should be done whenever someone does not practice "safe computing", and after installing most software. It should be done monthly if you use the Internet. The purpose is to discover what programs automatically run when the PC boots. Many bad programs (such as viruses) may be disabled during this process, as well as "good" programs that you do not want wasting your PC's resources.

Checking the Hard Drive - This should be done at least yearly, and at most quarterly.

Defragmenting the Hard Drive (and Setting Virtual Memory) - Most homes should do this quarterly. If you delete files often, it should be done monthly. It should be done immediately after uninstalling programs.

Checking Boot Commands

Keep pen and paper ready to make a list. There are 4 categories of commands:
Good and Necessary
Good but Optional

Several of the instructions below suggest checking commands. Use an Internet search engine to look up the commands. Usually you should search for the filename at the end of the command ("somefile.exe").

Some commands may be part of MSWindows, ZoneAlarm, or other desirable programs. Some may be necessary for sound or communications, or to improve video performance. Add those to your "Good and Necessary" list.

Some commands may be for chat programs (IRC), scanners, cameras, MSOffice, or other wanted programs, but may not be necessary for your PC to work. Add these to your "Good but Optional" list. Some of them may be removed from the active Boot Commands. Programs for scanning and printing may need to always be active, but other programs for chat, cameras, and MSOffice can be disabled safely.

If investigation suggests a file is part of a Virus, Spyware, Adware, or Trojan, write down where the file is located. Delete the command, then delete the file.

If you cannot find any information about a command, add it to your "Unknown" list. You should rename the file so the command cannot run. Just change the extension from ".EXE" to ".NOTEXE". Wait until you use the PC for a few weeks. If you had no problems, remove the command during the next maintenance.

Current Processes

Hold the CTRL and ALT keys, and press DEL. The "Close Program" dialog will appear. This list is the programs currently running.
Leave the following:

All the others should be checked using an Internet Search Engine. If you are not certain, end the task. Click on the entry, then click the "End Task" button. Then press CTRL+ALT+DEL again.

Registry Editor

Click Start
Click Run
In the "Open:" box, type: regedit

Expand "Software"
Expand "Microsoft"
Expand "WindowsNT" (if it exists)
Expand "CurrentVersion"
Look for any entries that start with "Run": Run, RunOnce, RunOnceEx, RunServices, RunServicesOnce
Click on each of them.
Look at the "ab" entries on the right side.
Ignore (Default) - (value not set)
Check the other entries. Look at the commands in the second column, and investigate them.

SysTray.Exe and Rundll32.exe powrprof.dll,LoadCurrentPwrScheme are part of Windows, and should remain.
zlclient.exe and VSMON.EXE are for ZoneAlarm and should remain.
KB891711.EXE (others that start with "KB") are probably updates from Microsoft and should remain.
mstask.exe is Microsoft's Scheduler, and can be removed.

Expand "Windows" (under "Microsoft")
Expand "CurrentVersion"
Look for any entries that start with "Run": Run, RunOnce, RunOnceEx, RunServices, RunServicesOnce
Check the other commands as above.

Go back to the top and repeat for HKEY_CURRENT_USER.

System Editor

Click Start
Click Run
In the "Open:" box, type: sysedit

FILE: Autoexec.bat
Lines that start with "SET" or "REM" are fine.
Check the other commands.

FILE: Config.sys
This command is fine:

Check all the other commands.

Under [windows], look at the following lines:
If there are any commands, research them.

After removing commands, reboot.

Checking the Hard Drive

Open "My Computer"
Open "C:" drive, and delete the file "SCANDISK.LOG". This file contains the log of what this process fixed.

Open "My Computer"
Right-click the "C:" drive.
Choose the last entry: "Properties"
Choose the second tab: "Tools"
In the "Error-checking status", click the "Check Now" button.
Choose "Thorough".
Click the "Options" button.
In the "Areas of disk to scan", choose the first option "System and data Areas"
The two checkboxes should not be checked.
Click "OK".
Check "Automatically fix errors"
Click the "Advanced" button.
In the "Display Summary" box, choose "Always".
In the "Log file" box, choose "Append to log".
In the "Cross-linked files" box, choose "Delete".
In the "Lost file fragements" box, choose "Free".
In the "Check files for" box, check all three boxes: "Invalid file names", "Invalid dates and times", "Duplicate names"
Do not check (and remove the check for) "Check host drive first" and "Report MS-DOS mode name length errors".
Click OK.
Click Start.
Wait about 10 minutes. If Scandisk keeps restarting, use CTRL+ALT+DEL to turn off programs.
Then take a nap or go to a movie. Scandisk will run for several hours.

When it is finished, the Scandisk Summary will appear. If the "bad sectors" is not 0 (zero), your hard drive is having problems. A full "wipe and reinstall" may solve them, or you may need a new hard drive.

You can read "C:\SCANDISK.LOG" to see what was fixed.

Defragmenting the Hard Drive (and Setting Virtual Memory)

Decide Amount of Virtual Memory

Decide how much virtual memory is needed. This is based on how much free space is available on the C: drive, how much real memory is in the PC, and what you do with the PC.

Open "My Computer"
Right-click the "C:" drive.
Choose the last option "Properties".
Write down the "Free space".

If your "Free space" is many gigabytes, use 1 GB (1000 MB) for virtual memory. Otherwise use 500 MB.

If you use your computer for editing videos, or anything else very memory intensive, and it crashes or gives an "Out of Memory" error, then increase this number the next time.

Disable Virtual Memory

Virtual Memory should be disabled the first time you defrag, and if you are changing the amount of virtual memory. If this has been done before, and you are not changing the amount, skip to "Start Defrag"

Right-click "My Computer".
Choose the last option "Properties".
Choose the last tab "Performance".
Click the "Virtual Memory" button.
Choose "Let me specify my own virtual memory settings."
Check "Disable virtual memory. (Not recommended)"
Click "Yes" to the warnings about your computer not being able to start.
Click "Yes" to "Reboot now?". If it does not reboot, then do it manually (Start - Shutdown).
Wait for the reboot.

Start Defragmentation

Open "My Computer"
Right-click the "C:" drive.
Choose the last option "Properties".
Choose the second tab: "Tools"
In the "Defragmentation status", click the "Defragment Now" button.
Go to work or sleep. This process may take many hours.

When it is finished, click OK.

Set Virtual Memory

Right-click "My Computer".
Choose the last option "Properties".
Choose the last tab "Performance".
Click the "Virtual Memory" button.
Uncheck "Disable virtual memory. (Not recommended)"
Put the desired amount of virtual memory in both the "Minimum:" and "Maximum:" boxes.
Click OK.
Click "Yes" to "Reboot now?"

Enjoy your faster, cleaner PC.

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