Keep Your Computer Happy

How to Keep Your Computer Happy

By Deanna Lilly

Below are the general maintenance routines you should be doing on your computer to help it run more efficiently and smoothly. If you haven’t done any of the maintenance processes in a long time, be prepared to have it take a while to finish. Time estimates will be given, but remember they are general and it could take much more time (hopefully less time) on your computer.

Do these things in this order. (1) Delete Temp files, (2) SCANDISK and (3) DEFRAG



Your computer creates a temporary (.tmp) file for everything you work on in a program. Every document, envelope, letter, graphic, database, etc., you create and every time you open and existing file. It also stores .tmp files for the internet pages you open. These .tmp (or temp) files are backup files used in case the computer goes down (freezes up or your have an unscheduled shut down caused by electrical or other outside power shortages). A prime example: the cat is being chased by the dog, runs behind your computer and pulls out the plug — poof your document is lost.

Temp files can safely be deleted from your computer. Please make sure, especially if the computer is not shut down normally, that you check to make sure you have your last document or project file saved before deleting temps.

Please note: If you use the Disk Maintenance program in your System Tools, it does not always remove all the .tmp files from your computer.

The easiest way to get rid of temp files is to search for them, then delete them.

1. Click START.


3. Trace over and click on FILES or FOLDERS.

4. In the white dialog box next to or under “… search for files or folders named” you want to type: *.tmp (if someone tells you to type “star dot tmp” they mean “asterisk period (and the letters) tmp” – this is typed with no spaces between the letters and characters).

5. Check to make sure the drive the computer is going to search is C: — check in the box next to the words “LOOK IN” – it should say something like: Local Hard Drive(s) C: or something referring to C: – if it doesn’t type in C:

6. Click on FIND or FIND NOW button – The computer will search through all the files on your hard drive (that is the C drive) and create a list.

If you want to see the size of the files, after the search is finished, you can click on VIEW in the Menu Bar, trace down and click on DETAILS.

To sort the list, you can click on the SIZE column header once and it will sort in ascending order, click SIZE column header again and it will sort in descending order, showing you the largest files on top of the list.

7. After the computer is finished finding all the files, click on any file in the list to select that one file. Then hold down the CTRL key then Press the A key while holding down the CTRL key. This is the Select All feature – CTRL+A. All the files in the list should be “highlighted” or have turned another color.

8. Press the DELETE key on the booster keypad (that’s the key pad between the regular typing keyboard and the numeric key pad). The files will be put into your RECYCLE BIN.

9. Close the find files or folders window and right-click on the RECYCLE BIN icon on the desktop. Trace to and click on EMPTY RECYCLE BIN. Click YES in answer to the question do you want to delete these files.



If you have ever had a forced shutdown, or been forced to turn off your computer without properly shutting down the computer, when you start up or boot up again, the first thing the computer does is cycle through the SCANDISK process. SCANDISK is a program that allows your computer to do minor repairs on damaged or corrupted files. It is also the program you want to use if you have lost or un-openable files on a floppy diskette (if there is enough blank space on the diskette it can often recover the damaged file and put it in a new place on the diskette.

The SCANDISK that runs after an abnormal shutdown does not check for everything. You need to run what is called a THOROUGH SCANDISK only when you are having trouble running a program or device (such as a printer) or receive error messages such as “insufficient memory” notices. If you have never done a SCANDISK on your computer you need to run a THOROUGH SCANDISK soon.



Be forewarned: This can take a very long time, up to 10 hours or more depending on problems encountered, how long it has been since the last time you have run a thorough scan disk on the computer, or how long it’s been since the last time you ran the utility.

NOTE: Other programs on your computer can interfere with the SCANDISK because they run automatically in the background (virus protection, etc.) causing SCANDISK to restart itself several times. If this happens, after the tenth time you will get a message dialog box that says: Scandisk has restarted 10 times, do you want to continue. You can click yes to this, but generally you want to find out why. The reason is usually a file that is still running in the background.

BEFORE YOU RUN SCANDISK – regular or thorough

1. Shut down all open programs (virus scan, etc.) and turn off screen saver.

a. If you have the MS Office Tool Bar running, click on the little office symbol in the upper left corner (gray line) and trace down to and click on exit. This normally does not affect problems, but better safe than sorry.

b. Turn off your screen saver. Right-Click (right mouse button) anywhere on your desktop to open the menu. Click on the SCREEN SAVER tab, trace up to and click on NONE using the drop-down arrow and scroll bar.

c. Disable your virus protection. Usually there is a little icon (picture) in the system tray (that’s the box of icons in the Task Bar that are in the lower right corner of your computer). To disable the virus protection you usually right-click on the icon, trace to and click on disable or shut off.

2. Click START, trace up to PROGRAMS, trace over to ACCESSORIES, trace over and click on SYSTEM TOOLS, trace over and click on SCANDISK.

a. In the Scandisk dialog box – the first time your run this check THOROUGH – any other time you can do STANDARD unless you are having problems on the computer (out of memory errors, shut down problems, etc.)

b. Make sure there is a check mark in the box next to “Automatically Fix Errors”.

c. Click on the OPTIONS BUTTON make sure System and Data Areas are checked.

d. Click on the ADVANCED button in the lower right corner of the dialog box. The setting changes need only be done once. Make sure the following options are checked.

1. Display Summary: Always
2. Log File: Replace Log
3. Cross-Linked Files: Make Copies
4. Lost File Fragments: Convert to Files
5. Check Files For: Invalid File Names

e. Click START and go find something to do (like read a good book). Check back in about 10 minutes to see if it is running without problems. You may check back every 10 minutes for a while to be sure it hasn’t encountered error problems.

f. If you encounter the error message: “Scandisk has started 10 times, do you want to continue” (not exact message but close) it means something is still running in the background of your computer and is interfering with the Scandisk procedure. If you have turned off all the above programs in steps 1a-c you may have to “baby-sit” scandisk while it runs. This means that you will have to come back to your computer about every 10 minutes (you many need to gage the time depending on the speed of your computer) and click anywhere on the gray area of the SCANDISK dialog box (not on the close button) until it can finish the process.

The reason for clicking in SCANDISK the dialog box is to re-establish SCANDISK as the most active file on the computer thereby overriding the other programs that may try to jump in. This is definitely a pain in the posterior process but it works.

3. Once SCANDISK finishes, close the program.

The next time you run SCANDISK you need only run the Standard version. NOTE: The version of SCANDISK that runs when your computer is improperly shutdown, is a quicker version than either of these two options.

You do note need to do a thorough scandisk again unless you are having problems so set the switch back to STANDARD.



YOU SHOULD DEGRAG YOUR COMPUTER REGULARLY (usually about every three months is sufficient — unless you are deleting lots of files all the time) AND EVERY TIME YOU DELETE OR UNINSTALL A PROGRAM or BEFORE INSTALLING A NEW PROGRAM.

After running SCANDISK you can defrag your computer. What does defrag do? Your computer stores data in blocks of information. Think of a piece of graph paper. Documents are broken into pieces of information. Your computer begins looking for a place to store your document at the top of the grid, moving from left to right. If a block has some room in it part of your document will be stored there. It then goes back to the beginning block and begins searching again for a spot to put the rest or part of your document. Each time it stores part of the document it starts from the beginning and looks again. This is fragmented information and takes your computer longer to find all the parts of a document before it can display it on the screen for you.

Above is a sample of fragmented data – although this is not badly fragmented since I defrag regularly.

If you do not defrag before installing a new program, then the data for that program may be fragmented into any spot the computer can find to put the bits of information it needs. This can slow down the start up of a program or the running of various parts of that program.


1. Click START, trace up to PROGRAMS, trace over to ACCESSORIES, trace over and click on SYSTEM TOOLS, trace over and click on DISK DEFRAGMENTER.

2. The DEFRAGMENTER dialog box will open up. Be patient, it sometimes takes a few seconds to respond. You will be asked what drive you want to defrag. The default is C: which is correct.

3. Click the SETTINGS button and make sure a check in next to the following:

a. Rearrange program so that my programs start faster,
b. Check drive for errors,
c. Every time I defrag my hard drive.

4. Click OK

5. Click OK, again.

6. You can watch the defrag process by clicking on SHOW DETAILS button. Be aware that until defrag has completed at least 2% of the process you will not see any blocks in the windows. There is a LEGEND button that shows what each of the colored blocks represents as the process is going on. It’s fun to watch, but be aware this is a long, tedious process and can take up to 18 or more hours. Best to do this at night. Just shut off the monitor on your computer. Put a note on the computer so you don’t accidentally turn it off in the morning. You want to look at the detail finish report to be sure it has completed the process. If DEFRAG did not finish, start it again. It will pick up where it left off.