When our computer begins to slow down, we usually do one of these:

1. Improve their computer by buying more memory.
2. Decide to tweak their computer”s settings.
3. Figure that their computer is old, there”s nothing else they can do, and that it”s probably time to buy a new computer.

All these solutions will boost a computer”s performance. However, what”s to keep your newly blazing PC from slowing down again after a couple months or years? A badly fragmented hard drive will bring even a top-of-the-line new computer to a grinding halt.

One easy option is to try Windows Live OneCare, a new PC care service that helps protect and keep your computer running. OneCare is always on, running in the background. It helps gives you round-the-clock protection and maintenance—virus scanning, firewalls, tune ups, file backups, the whole nine yards. If OneCare detects anything that you can do to improve the health of your computer, the service will automatically show you what action to take and give you a one-click solution. Learn 5 reasons to use OneCare to help protect your computer.

A second option is to create a preventive maintenance plan. One that”s easy to set up and set in motion so you never have to think about it again.

The following sections provide information on how to automate a maintenance schedule to keep your PC running smooth. These examples use Microsoft Windows XP. Some of the screens may differ from version to version, but overall you”ll find these tasks work for Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition (Me), Windows 2000, and Windows Vista.
Create a preventive maintenance plan for your computer

When people notice their computer”s performance slowing, the most common reason is the hard disk. Your computer”s hard disk is a non-removable area that holds all the information available from your computer. Over time, hard disks begin to lose their ability to store data efficiently.

The Windows operating system provides three great tools to help keep your hard drive humming smoothly. These tools are Disk Cleanup, Disk Defragmenter, and Check Disk. Find more information about using these tools to optimize your PC.

Ideally, you should run these tools on the following schedule.

Preventive Maintenance Activity

Recommended Frequency

Clean up the hard disk of temporary files

Weekly

Rearrange (defragment) the hard disk

Monthly

Check the hard disk for errors

Weekly

Of course, who has the time (or the desire) to keep up with this schedule? The best solution is to let Windows do all of the work.

The Windows Scheduler Task Wizard allows you to set up and automate these tasks, so you never have to worry about them again.
Clean up your hard disk (weekly)

Your computer amasses temporary files over time. These files can come from any number of sources—the Web being one of the largest offenders. After a while, these temporary files will slow down your computer.

About every week, you should run the Windows Disk Cleanup utility to clear your PC of these temporary files.

To set up Disk Cleanup to run automatically:

1. On the Start menu, click Control Panel.
2. In Control Panel, double-click Scheduled Tasks.
3. Double-click Add Scheduled Task. The Scheduled Task Wizard appears. Click Next.
4. You”ll find a list of applications within the Scheduled Task Wizard. Scroll down this list until you find Disk Cleanup. Click on Disk Wizard to highlight it. Click Next.
5. Select a frequency for the Disk Cleanup to run. Running this task weekly is suggested. Click Next.
6. Select the best day and time of the week for the Disk Cleanup to run. Pick a time when you know you won”t be using your computer. Click Next.
7. Enter your user name and password (the one you use when you need to log on to your computer). Click Next.

Congratulations! You”ve successfully scheduled your Disk Cleanup to run. Your PC will now automatically run Disk Cleanup on the date and time you scheduled— even if you”re logged off your computer.

Click Finish to have Windows automate this task.

Rearrange your fragmented files (monthly)

Whenever a file becomes too large to store in a single location on your hard disk, your computer breaks that file into parts (or fragments). Don”t worry, though. Your computer keeps track of all these fragments, piecing them together whenever the file is accessed.

However, as fragmented files accumulate on your hard disk, your computer becomes gradually slower. This is because your computer has to go through all these fragmented files in order to piece the correct parts together again.

While there”s nothing you can do to prevent the fragmentation of files, Windows does have a utility (Disk Fragmenter) to help deal with this situation. Disk Fragmenter rearranges fragmented files, resulting in increased free space on your hard disk and quicker performance from your PC.

About every month, you should run the Windows Disk Defragmenter utility.

To set up Disk Defragmenter to run automatically:

1. On the Start menu, click Control Panel.
2. In Control Panel, double-click Scheduled Tasks.
3. Double-click Add Scheduled Task. The Scheduled Task Wizard appears. Click Next.
4. Disk Fragmenter isn”t available within the scroll-down list. You”ll need to select it manually. Click Browse. Then, navigate to windows\system32\defrag.exe. Select defrag.exe and click Open.
5. The Scheduled Task Wizard asks you to define the frequency for defrag.exe to run. Monthly is suggested. Click Next.
6. You”re then asked to select the time and day you wish this task to start. Pick a time you won”t likely be using your computer.
If you selected a Monthly time frame, you”re able to define what months and what day of the month this task should run. Keep all months selected, and pick a day of the month that works for you.
7. Select a start time that differs from your other scheduled tasks. That way, you won”t have multiple tasks starting at exactly the same time. Click Next.
8. Enter your user name and password (the one you use when you need to log on to your computer). Click Next.
9. The next dialog box in the wizard states that you”ve successfully scheduled Disk Fragmenter to run on the time frame you”ve defined. Click Finish to have Windows automate this task.

Check your hard disk for errors (weekly)

Whenever some program you”re using crashes, your computer may create errors on your hard disk. These errors will eventually slow your computer to a crawl.

The good news is that Windows includes a Check Disk program. Check Disk corrects these types of errors from your hard disk—resulting in better PC performance.

About every week, you should run the Check Disk utility.

To set up Check Disk to run automatically:

1. On the Start menu, click Control Panel.
2. In Control Panel, double-click Scheduled Tasks.
3. Double-click Add Scheduled Task. The Scheduled Task Wizard appears. Click Next.
4. Check Disk isn”t available within the scroll-down list. You”ll need to select it manually. Click Browse. Then, navigate to windows\system32\chkdsk.exe. Select chkdsk.exe and click Open.
5. The Scheduled Task Wizard prompts you to define the frequency for chkdsk.exe to run. Select Weekly and click Next.
6. You”re then asked to select the time and day you wish this task to start. Select a time you won”t likely be using your computer. Make sure this start time differs from your other scheduled tasks. Avoid having your tasks start at the same time.
7. Enter your user name and password (the one you use when you need to log on to your computer). Disk Fragmenter will run as if you started it. Click Next.
8. A wizard page appears, stating that you”ve successfully scheduled Check Disk to run on the time frame you”ve defined. Click Finish to have Windows automate this task.






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