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March 20, 2007

Speeding up Windows XP - Not!

Over at the forum, we've been having a discussion on how to recover from a speed-up attempt that went wrong. The original poster referred to a webpage by Bob Rankin which had this whimsical recipe:

INGREDIENTS: Cyber Sludge Remover

  • 1 tbsp Windows Updates
  • 2 cups Virus/Malware remover
  • 3 lbs Software Cleanup powder
  • 2 tbsp Hard Disk Scrubber
  • 1 slice Defrag
  • 1 tsp Startup Weeder
  • 1/2 cup Registry Shavings
  • 2 cups Virtual Memory Sanitizer
  • 1 Extraneous Services Remover
  • It's nice story telling and no doubt interesting to casual users of computers but in these times, anyone who does support (and that could mean you if you have to hand hold Dad through the mess after it unravels) should take that with, ah, a pinch of salt.

    1. Windows Updates are nearly mandatory. Yes, there was a kerfuffle with WGA Notifications (in fact, just the other day, the pest wanted to insert itself as a critical update again) and there has been the odd bad update. Unless you are ensuring compatibility with corporate applications however, the good outweighs the bad.

    2. Resident Anti-Virus and Resident Anti-Malware are pretty mandatory as well. There are a few provisos. An AntiVirus suite that is all singing, all dancing virus killer, malware killer, SPAM filter, internet filter, firewall - you know the kitchen sink type of thing - we back away from. When one module of the suite gets corrupted, your machine is about as useful as a brick - the close association between all these modules could mean your browser stops working and your firewall acts odd and you can't download any fixes. Some of us like Avast as the Anti-Virus (no, not the Suite, just the Anti-Virus program) and Microsoft Windows Defender as Anti-Virus of choice. In the sad case that your Windows has already been contaminated, Spybot Search and Destroy, Lavasoft Adaware have a track record for effectiveness.

    3. Software Cleanup powder refers to going into Add/Remove and uninstalling the programs that you took for a test drive but didn't find useful. Do not simply delete files and folders using Windows Explorer - Add/Remove is the structured and preferred way to go. However, those programs that you test out sometimes refuse to Add/Remove or their removal method is faulty or broken. The best advice is to only load those programs that you seriously use - you know, Microsoft Office and other business apps. If you want to play with toys and the plethora of free or shareware programs from the World Wide Web, do that on another expendable machine. Don't have an expandable machine? Well, about time you learnt how to install and use Microsoft VirtualPC or VmWare Player - you would probably need to buy another copy of Windows, but the ability to relax, laugh in the face of a corrupted virtual machine image is so much sweeter than the heart-stopping sensation of knowing that your business programs and data have gone away, away on your only machine. An additional word of advice? Set up Restore Points regularly, especially before you Add/Remove.

    4. A Hard Disk Scrubber - yes, well, you should delete unwanted old data files, mp3 or movies that you have been magpieing. Empty out the Temp folder if you know how to find it. After deletions check that things still, before emptying out the Recycle Bin.

      However, on a modern machine with casual business users, the hard disk will never fill up even if you don't scrub the hard disk. Don't get carried away. Burn some copies of your data to DVD first eh?

    5. Defrag? For a business user? Just don't do it.

    6. Startup entries Weeder? Yes, for notebook computers that need quick startup and quick shutdown. But you have to be quite interested in the inscrutable icons and entries - they're not well described and not well explained. Again, for the casual business user? Leave them alone.

    7. Registry Shavings? Gasp. Unless you grok HKLM like the back of your hand, leave them alone. Those so-called Registry Cleaners are like Vim. Remember that brand? You scoured as much off the surface as you removed of the grime.

    8. Virtual Memory Sanitiser? Windows XP and later, know how to manage this. Do you like driving a manual, un-airconditioned car up a South East Asian traffic jam? Do ya?

    9. Extraneous Services Remover? "Oi - who're you calling extraneous?". Even the geeks find they sometimes shut off services and then months later, they wonder why certain programs won't start. Leave them alone.

    Ultra important things casual users don't do but they should.

    Instead of tinkering around with Windows:

    1. Get an external hard disk

    2. Get a disk cloning / imaging program

    3. Make a disk image of your whole system drive to the external hard disk when Windows is unblemished.

    4. Switch off the external hard disk and keep it safe, away from your elbow.

    5. Burn DVDs or CDs of your data regularly.

    6. From time to time, make another disk image.

    7. Sit behind an inexpensive hardware router / firewall, particularly when you are surfing the 'Net on broadband connection.

    8. Don't shut off UAC or it's equivalent.

    9. Most importantly, count to ten before you click "Download this - Ok" or "Install this - Ok" - you may suddenly come sane and refuse to do it.

    10. There isn't a tenth point. What do you think this is? A top ten just because I have to show that I can count?

    Do Good.

    Posted by Anandasim at March 20, 2007 07:13 PM

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