ways to keep your system running
by JAMES BELARDO
originally printed in Graphic Exchange Magazine Mar/Apr issue
a similar fashion to the Mac OS, there are four basic maintenance procedures
you must run regularly to keep your system running effectively.
You may have heard of swap files or temporary files. These are files that are created and deleted by your operating system, and in fact, most applications create these as well. A swap file usually uses tmp as an extension to its file name.
These files are usually unreadable after a system restarts so its okay to delete them. Windows 98 has addressed the problem of cleaning up these unnecessary files with the Disk Clean Up Utility. You should run it as part of your regular scheduled maintenance.
The other way to clean up is to roll up your sleeves and do it manually, and the best time to clear out Temp files is at startup. You can navigate to the Windows 98 Temp located within the Windows Folder. Any file or folder found in here can be deleted without causing problems, provided you are not running applications that are creating them. If any of these files are in-use you will not be able to delete them.
to close all applications before performing disk maintenance.
Disk Cleanup allows you to delete files that may no longer be required, such as temporary Internet files, downloaded program files (e.g. Java applets and ActiveX controls), files previously deleted but still residing in your Recycle Bin, temporary data files, and even some non-critical system files.
Scandisk checks files and folders for corruption. You can set it up to ask you whether to prompt you when it needs to fix a file or automatically fix it as it scans. An option in the Advanced Tab allows you to Free (delete) the Lost file fragments or Convert them to files. Let it delete these files theyre probably damaged beyond repair anyway.
Disk Defragmenter optimizes your files for easier access by the hard drive. With the advent of the Windows 98 structure, this can also make applications start up faster. To use this utility properly, the computer must be left alone for a while.
As a rule, do not remove anything you are not sure about from the system.
Improve Performance. Speed Disk is used to optimize your PCs hard disk; Norton Optimization Wizard fine tunes your PC to make applications load faster; Space Wizard helps you alleviate unneeded files and create more disk space.
Preventative Maintenance. Norton System Doctor continuously monitors your system for potential problems. Rescue Disk helps you save and restore your PCs critical setup data. Image saves a snapshot of your hard disks critical information. And Norton Registry Tracker tracks and restores changes made to critical files.
Troubleshoot. System Information reviews useful information about your PC. Norton Registry Editor helps you navigate and edit the Windows infamous Registry. And finally, Norton Web Services are Web-based utilities to enhance your PC.
Norton is an invaluable tool for professionals who need a little bit more diagnostic and repair capability. It is a highly comprehensive suite of Maintenance Tools that can help prevent most problems from occurring in the first place.
If your system becomes unstable, or an application freezes, you may have to press the keyboard combination of Control-Alt-Delete. The dialog box will show you a list of applications running. If an application is not responding, it will be shown. Here you may shut down the offending application then proceed with shutting down your system.
Emergency StartUp Disk is most useful when you experience a major
system failure and cannot boot Windows 98 at all. You may be
or fix the problem from the Command Line. Tools that are included with
this Emergency StartUp Diskette include Fdisk.exe on the
floppy itself, Attrib.exe, Chkdsk.exe, Debug.exe,
Edit.com, Ext.exe, Format.com, Scandisk.exe,
Mscdex.exe, MS-DOS, and Sys.com.
They will be located in the temporary RAM drive created when you started
with this diskette. You can access all these utilities from the A: prompt.
advanced tools such as Debug.exe, Ext.exe,
and Mscdex.exe are tools which help diagnose and solve
those problems. For more information, see the text file Readme.txt on
the Emergency Diskette itself.
The Windows 98 Registry is a database located within your system folder that regulates how your computer functions. ScanRegW.exe can be found in your Windows folder, while ScanReg.exe and ScanReg.ini can be found in the Windows\Command folder. Finding them is easy if you right-click on My Computer, choose Find, and search your drive for scanreg. We recommend you copy these two files (ScanReg.exe and ScanReg.ini) onto your newly created Emergency StartUp Diskette. This will give you an additional tool to help you if your Registry has been corrupted.
If you need to start Windows 98 in SAFE-MODE to help repair your system you may have to hold the CTRL button (F8 in Windows 95) while booting up. This forces Windows 98 to load with the Windows 98 Startup Menu, letting you start in SAFE-MODE. Then utilize the extensive Windows Help available.
After a serious crash youll probably want to run Disk Clean Up (dont forget to check the Temp Folder) and scan the Registry Database for errors. If your computer gets turned off improperly or if a major crash forces your computer to restart, Scandisk will automatically start. Norton Utilities 3.5 also automatically scans your hard disks after crashes or if your system was not properly turned off.
Following these tips and techniques wont guarantee that your system will never fail, but it can prevent many problems.
One last point: dont forget that there are resources available to help with your system diagnosis. Access the Windows 98 Help files, the Windows 98 Resource Kit, and the Norton Utilities documentation to get more detailed information and techniques.
To use the StartUp Menu, hold down the <CTRL> or <F8> keys. The menu will give you access to normal start up, Step-by-Step, Safe Mode, or even directly to the DOS command prompt.
To modify the system configuration at a lower level than TweakUI, type msconfig into the Run Dialog box.
Here in the West,
we tend to rely on trained specialists to take care of the appliances,
tools and gadgets that surround us. But with computers now mandatory tools
for many professions, this strategy doesnt work any more.
Imagine a hard drive as a big filing cabinet or a closet: new files are added in front of existing data, old files are trashed, leaving empty spaces after a while your hard drive begins to look like a chunk of Swiss cheese with lots of short blocks of empty space. Eventually every newly created document and every installed program gets split and written into many little blocks in various places.
A drive mechanism works much like an old record player where the needle accesses grooves in platters to find information. So you can imagine the kind of complicated math we are asking a computer to perform!
Macs come with a program called Disk First Aid for diagnostics and repair, but there are much better tools on the market. The most commonly used software is Symantecs Norton Utilities. Norton Utilities can do many things (like rescue deleted files, volume recovery and excellent searches) but lets focus on the two most important utilities the program provides: Norton Disk Doctor and Speed Disk.
The number one thing to know is that diagnosing/repairing and defragmenting programs should never be used on an active startup disk (would you try to repair an engine while its running?).
If you run System 9 you should use Norton Utilities version 5.x. There is a standard System Folder included on the original installation CD, so use this CD to start up your computer when you want to perform cleanups and repairs. But if you are a Mac clone user you must build your own start-up disk. Your computer will not start unless there is a file called Enabler in it. If you download the software via the Internet, you should make a startup disk (CD, Zip, Jaz, floppy, etc.) containing a System Folder plus the Norton Disk Doctor and Speed Disk modules.
You will also have to include Norton Shared Lib file on the startup disk or Disk Doctor and Speed Disk will not work. Install Norton Utilities first on your hard drive and then drag Norton Shared Lib from the hard drives System Folder/ Extensions to the startup disks Extensions folder within the System Folder.
If you start from a CD, insert the disk, restart and hold C on the keyboard until you see the Welcome to Macintosh screen. If you start from any other external disk, hold down Command-Option-Shift-Delete. If your computer is completely frozen (meaning you cannot access the normal Restart menu or use the Power switch), all non-USB Macs can usually be restarted using the Command-Control-Power Switch key combination. Unfortunately this command doesnt work any more on G3s and G4s, for which using the Restart button is your only choice.
run repair software first. Let it fix all fixable problems (almost
all are). Once in a while you will come
across a file
which is too
to be repaired. If it is data that you can delete (such
as a Preferences file), do so.
After repairs, run Speed Disk. This will optimize (defragment) a hard drive, consequently speeding up its performance and preventing crashes.
Desktop items (aliases, icons, the Trash, pull down menus) are most prone to corruption simply because theyre used most often. Treat them like your favourite pen, pencil, address book and calculator kept in an accessible place at the front of all data and preferably close to each other. Of course, some people keep their entire lives on a desktop and these are also the people who experience crashes more often.
So keep your desktop clean create Launcher and Apple Menu Items for items and aliases you need to access regularly.
You should never add more than one extension or control panel at a time to the System Folder. But if youve already added a bunch of them and now youre fighting with crashes, theres an easy way to test if one of them is causing problems. Starting (or restarting) a Mac with the Shift key down disables them all. If your problem disappears, your headache was more than likely caused by an extension conflict. The Mac ships with Extensions Manager, a utility which allows us to turn extensions and control panels on and off one by one. But in real life, we usually have too many to figure out which one is really causing trouble.
Fortunately there are more comprehensive diagnostic and repair products on the market (Cassady & Greens ConflictCatcher is one such software package). Just remember that you must remove the Extensions Manager control panel and EM Extension from the System Folder before installing another extensions manager.
ConflictCatcher not only lets us turn extensions on and off individually but it also runs tests to establish which extension is the culprit. All you have to do is restart your Mac, doing what you were doing when it crashed, and let ConflictCatcher know at startup whether the problem still exists. Once you know which extension or control panel caused the problem, think about whether you really, really need that item or not. If not, trash it. If, however, it turns out to be a vital extension (like ATM), let ConflictCatcher test further. It is possible that ATM is acting up only because of some other extension which you dont really need.
Most applications keep Preferences in the System Folder>Preferences folder (one exception is QuarkXPress which keeps its Preferences in its own folder).
To assign more memory, quit the program, locate and select its icon on the hard drive, and choose File>Get Info>Memory (or Command-I). In the dialog window you will see three boxes: Suggested size, Minimum size and Preferred size.
Make sure Minimum size is set to no less than Suggested size. In Preferred size give it as much as you can, taking into consideration how much RAM you really have, how much of it is taken by the system (check the Apple menu/About This Computer), and how many programs you usually have open at the same time.
Parameter RAM is a place where system preferences (settings for memory, mouse, monitors and sound, keyboard, AppleTalk, etc.) are stored. Like other Preferences files, this information also gets corrupted once in a while. We cannot trash it but we can reset Preferences to their original default settings.
Make sure that the Caps Lock key is not engaged and zap the PRAM by restarting (or starting) a computer holding the Command, Option, P, and R keys on the keyboard (and yes, youll almost certainly need both hands to do it). Let your computer chime five times, then release the keys and let it load.
If you dont have a backup copy, start from the System CD, trash your old Finder, rename the old System Folder (Macs understand the word disabled) and then install the new system. Dont forget that you will have to go through your old System Folder looking for things like scanner drivers, printer drivers, and perhaps even monitor software and other pieces installed by various programs, and manually move them to your new System Folder to make your system and various peripherals work.
Just remember that when you are installing a new piece of software, you should turn anti-virus programs off. Most are installer-aware but precautions never hurt.
A computer emits an electromagnetic field which attracts dust and smoke and the combination is especially potent. Particles of dust embedded in oily nicotine can clog electronic parts and cut off connections, so dont smoke near your computer. Once in a while you should open the case and use compressed air to blow off the dust which accumulates inside.
Power surges are another thing that can upset your computer. The life of a monitor can be drastically shortened if your office is in an area where power fluctuates. A good power surge protector can remedy that.
But even a surge protector may not be enough when lightning strikes. Try not to work during lightning storms.
Get a static-draining touch pad, especially if your office is carpeted wall-to-wall. Computers dont like getting zapped any more than we do.
If you are running a Mac with SCSI devices attached, always turn the computer off before unplugging them. This of course doesnt apply any more with USB devices.
One last word of advice: when disaster strikes, it is good to have a printout of System Error codes on hand (available from various Macintosh resource web sites). True, the descriptions of most errors are cryptic but eventually you will acquire a sense of what is what and the guide will help you to troubleshoot better.