ISSUE 590: Zisman- Feb 13 2001
The high-tech office
people, can slow down with age
If you're feeling like your computer doesn't
seem as peppy as when you first got it, you're not going crazy.
It's sad but true. Like me and probably you, too, your
computer gets increasingly tired and grumpy as it gets older. Some of
this can be helped.
As you use your computer, files get scattered in
pieces all around, slowing the hard drive. Regular use of a disk
optimizer utility every month or two will keep this problem under
control. (Windows users can find the Defrag utility in the
Accessories/System Tools menu, but Mac users need to buy a product such
as Symantec's Norton Utilities.)
Other causes of computer hardening of the arteries are
harder to cure, however. This is especially the case if you try out a
lot of software, as I do, or have an active teenager. Even if you
carefully use the Windows Add/Remove Programs control panel to remove
unused programs, in all too many cases, bits and pieces of the old
software stay behind, cluttering your drive and slowing down the vital
You may start to find odd little annoyances, things
that don't work the way they're supposed to for no particular reason.
On my system, the little speaker icon disappeared and
resisted all efforts to get it back. And the close box, the little X in
the top corner of one program, magically turned to a tiny nubbin,
making it awkward to click to close the program.
Then the icon for the CD drive started disappearing.
Sometimes. Other times it worked fine. That one sounded more like a
hardware problem, right? But swapping the drive for a new one didn't
help, and neither did new cables and the like.
When enough little intermittent problems pop up with
my car, I figure it's time to trade it in. But there's something else
you can do to bring your computer back to health.
With some problems, you can try installing the
operating system right over top of your existing setup. This will help
if files are missing or corrupted -- but, in too many cases, your old
Unlike a car, you can clear off your computer's
hardware and start over. Before you do that, make sure you're ready:
n Back up your saved files. And check and make sure
the backup works.
n Make sure you have installation disks for all the
programs that you really need to use.
n Make sure that you have a boot floppy and that you
can use it to access your CD-ROM drive. (Windows 98 boot floppies do
that. Windows 95 users will need to work at it.)
A few weeks ago, I wrote about using Powerquest's
Partition Magic utility to create more than one partition on my hard
drive. It came in handy here, too. With more than one partition, it was
easy to move all the files to another partition, prior to nuking my
When you're sure you're ready, it's time to take the
plunge. With many recent name-brand computers, you should have received
a system restore CD. This will erase everything on your drive and make
it just like it was the first time you turned it on. (It may also nuke
your extra partition, so beware!)
Alternatively, if you have a copy of a Windows CD, you
can boot to your floppy, format everything on the C-drive, run Setup on
the CD, and get a nice, new, clean version of Windows. (If you have an
upgrade version, you may be prompted for a disk with an older operating
In either case, you then have to reinstall your data
files and all your programs. I did this last week. It took about half a
day, but all those little glitches are gone and even the hardware
problem with the CD drive seems to be fixed.
My wife wishes she could do the same thing to me.