Optimizing your Windows operating system with built-in tools

I have this tendency to install programs on my computer and after a day or two, I change my mind and uninstall them. Since not all programs are efficient at removing their tracks/traces from my computer, I resort to manually hunting down rogue files and then using Norton Utilities to do the rest of the work. I chose Norton Utilities over Iolo or TuneUp because right or wrong, I feel that since Norton makes a very capable internet security application for the Windows operating system, I would take my chances with Norton’s tips for optimizing their computer versus a company that touts an 800% increase in Windows 7 bootup times” *cough* Iolo *cough* If there’s one thing I would upgrade to Windows 7 for, it’s for the decreased bootup times. I can’t tell you how much faster it is because I am not a time-clock pusher. Go to one of those tech. review sites for that. However, in real people speak, it’s fast enough that I don’t have to get coffee before sitting down to start working with the computer.

In my experience, the best way to make sure your Windows installation stays free of cruft is to do the following:
1) Make use of the built-in system cleanup tool. Seriously. On XP, Vista and now Windows 7, there is utility called “Disk Cleanup” that lets you remove everything from old system restore points, debug data dumps to temp files (where things like cached pages are stored). To get to the Disk Cleanup tool, press the Windows “Start” key and type “Disk Cleanup”. Windows Search is very efficient and the chances are high that it showed you “Disk Cleanup” entry before you completed your search term.
2) Uninstall crap you don’t use: If you are like me, you have 2 of each kind of program. 🙂 For instance, I’ve got 2 OCR programs currently installed (Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional and I.R.I.S. Professional 12 (which, by the way, sucks majorly so don’t waste your money buying I.R.I.S. OCR). Why on earth do I need 2 image editing programs (I’ve got GIMP and Adobe Photoshop CS3 installed) or 3 photo cataloging applications (Adobe Bridge CS3, Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Live Photo Gallery)? I’m clearly guilty of the sin of keeping programs around that I don’t make use of a lot. You will save on disk space if you just honestly come clean with yourself first and remove duplicate programs.
3) Disk problems: Sometimes, the file system structure gets corrupted especially if you run programs that bleach the free hard disk space or partition your hard disk. Typically, you can sort out disk errors by rightclicking on your C: drive icon under “My Computer” and selecting “Properties”. Then, you’ll want to click on the tab called, “Tools” and select the “Check now” button under “Error Checking.” An alert box will pop up and ask you to scan your file system for errors as well as fix & repair said errors. Ideally, you want to have both options checked. Then, Windows should inform you that you will need to schedule a disk check because “the files that need to be changed are currently in use.” This disk check (chkdsk) will happen when you boot up your computer. Simple, right? not so fast. Sometimes, this doesn’t happen even after you tell the computer to schedule a disk check. No matter how many times you restart your computer. Trust me on this one. What to do?

  • I rebooted in safe mode (I think it’s the F8 key).
  • I logged in as an Administrator
  • I clicked the “Windows” key and typed “cmd”. Rightclick to start commandline tool as an administrator.
  • Run the following command: chkdsk /R
  • The chkdsk /R flag basically tells the computer to fix any file system errors and it implies (obviously) that you are scanning the file system for errors. If all you want to do is scan your file system, then type in chkdsk /F

You don’t have to take my word for any of this. If you are skeptical about typing in commands from a internet stranger, then ask Windows for help. What do I mean? For almost all commands you type into the commandline tool, if you put the word, “help” or “/?” after your command, you will get a list of options that are associated with that particular command. And *that’s* how I know the difference between the /R and /F flags. 😀

Cheers and I hope this helps someone who is trying to figure out how to get Windows 7 or Vista to run a disk check when it won’t do it on its own.