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PC Tune-Up Tutorial (Beginner) - Windows Operating System (3.x - Windows 98)

A 10-Step Tune-Up For
Improving the Performance Of Your Windows PC

by Kris Driessen
PhoebeMoon (United States)

Computer slowing down? Error messages taking over your life? Before you invest in expensive software, hardware upgrades or even a new PC, try these simple suggestions for cleaning up your system.

Remember, these suggestions should be harmless, but don't do anything you find uncomfortable. Also, as always, be sure to back up any information that is important to you before you start. Please also understand that Windows typically offers users more than one way to solve a problem, so if you have an easier or better way to accomplish these goals, please e-mail us and share your ideas.

Initial preparation

To find out how much space is used on your hard drive, double click on the My Computer icon on your desktop. Then right click on the icon for each hard drive and the pie chart will tell you how much disk space you have used and how much free space remains. (Win 95 users will have to select the properties option from the pulldown menu.) Write down this information so that you can compare numbers later.

Close this box and then right click on the My Computer icon on your desktop. Right-click on each hard drive to bring up the menu that includes Properties option. In earlier versions of Windows you will find a Performance tab. System Resources will let you know how well your computer is performing. In Windows 98, you will be given cleanup and tools options.

STEP ONE: Review your Startup Programs

Something that can dramatically affect performance is the number of programs that load when you turn on your PC. (Lots of new software automatically inserts itself into your Startup tray when you install it.)

The more programs in the Startup group, the slower the start-up. Any open program will use the Random Access Memory (RAM) to some extent. The more programs using RAM, the slower your computer will run. However, just closing the program does not immediately release all the RAM, so you should keep as few applications open as possible.

To find out which programs are running in your start-up tray, click on the Start button at the lower left of your screen. Then choose Run and enter msconfig and then hit OK. A screen will appear with various tabs. Click on the Startup tab to see what is in your startup tray and remove the check in front of items you do not want to load when you start your PC. (Remember - when in doubt, donít! It is better to leave items you are unsure about than to remove them and find that they are needed.)

Alternately, to remove programs from the Start Up group, in versions below Windows 98, you can go to the My Computer icon, double click and then click on the Start Up Menu to remove unwanted files. In Windows 98, you can go to the My Computer icon, open it, and double click on the hard drive where Windows is installed. Then click on the Windows folder and then click on the Start Menu folder. Click on Programs, then Startup. If you don't want your PC to load with a particular program, just highlight it and click Remove. (Don't worry - this does not remove the program from your computer, it just prevents the program from loading automatically at Startup.) If you change your mind, you can always put it back using the ADD function.

STEP TWO: Clean out your Windows\temp directory

It is safe to delete all files from the Windows\temp directory that are more than a week old. Again, go to the My Computer icon, open it, and double click on the icon for your hard drive. Double click on the Windows folder, then the Temp folder. Click on View - Details, then click on View -- Arrange Icons -- By Date. Using your mouse, draw a box around any file ending in the extension .tmp that is more than a week old and then hit Delete.

STEP THREE: Uninstall old applications (software programs)

If you have applications (software programs) on your computer that you no longer use, you can uninstall them using the uninstall program that came with the program. (Typically, you can find the Uninstall program by clicking on the Start button at the lower left of your screen, then click on Programs. Highlight the name of the application/program that you want to remove and look for an Uninstall listing in the program folder and follow directions.)

If there is no Uninstall program provided, double click on My Computer and use the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs utility to uninstall it. (This is a less than perfect system, so if space is tight, try a commercial uninstaller.)

NOTE: You may get messages asking whether you want to remove certain shared files that are no longer in use. The safest bet is to say No. (You can always invest in a cleanup program later like Norton Utilities, and it will identify and repair any leftover shortcuts.)

STEP FOUR: Folders, documents & files

Over time, you can begin to accumulate folders, documents, and files that do nothing more than clog your hard drive. Go to the My Computer icon and peruse your folders, removing things you don't want. Alternately, you can open Windows Explorer and use the delete function under the File option at the top of the screen to remove items you no longer need.

STEP FIVE: Empty your browser's cache

All Internet browsers toss files onto your hard drive as you move from Web site to Web site. The trouble is they leave them there in a folder or a series of folders called the Cache. The means you can literally have thousands of files on your disk that serve little or no purpose.

To deal with this problem, with your browser running, use these instructions to clear the cache:

  • Internet Explorer 3.x: Select View/Options. Under Temporary Internet Files on the Advanced tab of the dialog box that appears, click Settings. In the dialog box that appears, click Empty Folder.
  • Internet Explorer 4.0: Select View/Internet Options. In the dialog box that appears, click the Delete Files button under Temporary Internet Files on the General tab.
  • Internet Explorer 5.0: Select Tools/Internet Options. In the dialog box that appears, click the Delete Files button under Temporary Internet Files on the General tab.
  • Netscape Navigator 3.x: Select Options/Network Preferences. In the Preferences dialog box that appears, click Clear Disk Cache Now.
  • Netscape Communicator: Select Edit/Preferences to display the Preferences dialog box. Under Advanced, select Cache, and click Clear Disk Cache.

STEP SIX: Get rid of old, unwanted e-mail

Do you hang onto all of your old e-mail? Do you have to keep it all? Adopt the habit of deleting the e-mail you don't need as soon as you are done reading it.

STEP SEVEN: Empty the Recycle Bin

Open the bin before you empty it and check its contents. Is there something in the bin that you do not want to delete? Highlight it and click Restore. Remember that once you empty the Recycle Bin, you cannot easily retrieve those files.


ScanDisk cleans your hard drive of the miscellaneous errors caused by software conflicts. Before running ScanDisk, be sure to close all applications, and turn off your screensaver. (To close all applications, hold down the CTRL key, the ALT key and the Delete key at the same time. This will bring up the Close Program window. Highlight each open program except Systray and Explorer and click on End Task. Do not hit CTRL/ALT/Delete twice, or click on the Shut down button or you will turn your machine off!)

Click Start and then Run and type in: scandisk You will have an option of choosing Standard or a Thorough. If you have never done a scandisk before, choose the Thorough option.

Alternately, you can click on the Start button, then Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> ScanDisk.


Your computer will function best if all the information it needs to access is in the same place. Unfortunately, programs do not always place items in the optimal places on your hard drive, and when you delete files and programs, your hard drive gets fragmented. To get all the information together again, run a Defrag after running a ScanDisk. Click Start -> Run and type in: defrag . Defrag will take awhile, so do it just before you go to lunch or overnight. Restart your machine after defragging.

Again, alternately, you can click on the Start button, then Programs-> Accessories->System Tools->Disk Defragmenter.

STEP TEN: Mouse alert!

Last, but not least, is your mouse giving you a hard time? Donít call the cat - usually all you need to do is a bit of cleaning. Start by turning off your computer and then turn your mouse over and turn (or push) on the cover that holds the ball in place. Remove the ball and wash it with soap and water, rubbing alcohol or a Windex-type cleaner. Pat dry with a paper towel. (You can clean your mousepad the same way.)

Look inside the mouse. Clean the rollers using a damp Q-tip or compressed air. Use tweezers to remove hair or dust. Put the ball back into the mouse and close the cover.

Kris Driessen began web designing in 1995 for her own on-line quilt business. Discovering that she loved the challenge, she continued to design for other creative arts sites and several public service sites. Kris recently opened her own web design site, PhoebeMoon.com, Web Design Solutions for Creative People. Kris lives in rural New York State with her husband, a varying number of adult children and an incredible number of cats.

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