Cheat Sheet

Cleaning Windows XP For Dummies

Cleaning Windows XP can rid your computer of pesky problems and unused files. Cleaning utilities that are part of Windows XP introduce you to the tools and terms you need to free up space on your hard drive and make your programs run faster.

How to Free Up Hard Drive Space when Cleaning Windows XP

Cleaning a computer running Windows XP is often a matter of getting rid of files you don’t access any more — heck, you may not even know they exist! To free up some space on your hard drive, use the tips in the following table:

What to Do How to Do It
Empty the Recycle bin Right-click the Recycle bin and choose Empty Recycle Bin.
Empty your Deleted Items and Junk Email folders In your e-mail client, choose the folder and choose File→Empty Folder. In some clients you can right-click the folder and choose Empty Folder.
Clear the temporary Internet files cache In Internet Explorer, choose Tools→Internet Options→General tab→Delete Files.
Delete files ending in the extension .tmp Use the Windows Search function (Start→Search) to locate and delete the files.
Delete or archive files ending in the extension .bak or .old Use the Windows Search function (Start→Search) to locate the files.

How to Make Windows XP Programs Run Faster

Cleaning up a PC that runs Windows XP can make all your programs run faster, jump higher, and throw farther (okay, maybe only run faster). If your machine is acting sluggish, try the tips in the following table to get it back up to speed:

What to Do Why Do It?
Increase your RAM Windows works best when you have plenty of RAM.
Transfer your pagefile to a faster hard drive The pagefile is used by Windows to store virtual memory when you don’t have enough physical RAM. Moving it to a faster drive means Windows can access the data within it faster.
Don’t access data over a network Grabbing data from a network is inherently slower than grabbing it from your local hard drive. If possible, transfer the data to your local hard drive and access it from there.
Place frequently accessed data on a faster hard drive If you have multiple hard drives on your local system, place your data on the one that has the fastest rotational speed.
Defragment your hard drive Fragmentation slows down programs, data access, and Windows itself.

Built-in Windows XP Cleaning Utilities

Bet you didn’t know that Windows XP can clean itself. Well, actually, you have to do the heavy lifting as in running the programs, but at least the cleaning programs are there for you to run. The following table lists the five most helpful cleaning utilities:

Utility What It Does How to Use It
Disk Cleanup Allows you to identify and remove the most common forms of clutter on your hard drive. Choose Start→All Programs→Accessories→System Tools→Disk Cleanup.
Msconfig Modifies how your system starts. Choose Start→Run, type msconfig, and click OK.
Check Disk Checks for hard-drive errors and corrects simple ones. Display the My Computer window, right-click a drive, and choose Properties; on the Tools tab, click Check Now.
Defragmenter Analyzes disk drives for fragmentation and removes it as much as possible. Display the My Computer window, right-click a drive, and choose Properties; on the Tools tab, click Defragment Now.
Registry Editor Allows you to examine the contents of the Registry, back it up, and make changes if necessary. Use with extreme caution. Choose Start→Run, type regedit, and click OK.

Terms to Know when Cleaning Windows XP

You clean Windows XP in an effort to rid it of things that shouldn’t be on your computer and things you don’t need on your computer. The following list explains some of the things a cleaning tries to sweep off your PC and some of the tools you can use to clean things up:

Term Definition Term Definition
adware A program that delivers advertising directly to your computer, typically in the form of pop-ups. program inventory A list of what programs should be installed on your system.
archive A data file kept for historical reasons. RAM An acronym for random access memory. RAM is used as the working area for both programs and data being processed by the computer.
cache A storage area used as a repository of temporary files. Caches are typically implemented by programs because reading information from a cache is much quicker than retrieving it from the primary source. All Web browsers implement some sort of cache to make browsing the Web faster. Registry The central repository of all configuration information in a Windows XP system.
cookie A small data file, stored on your system, designed to save information about you and your preferences. This information is used by Web sites to customize the information presented to you in some way. spam Unsolicited e-mail received from people or companies that you have no prior relationship with, or from people or companies that you previously severed your relationship with.
firewall Software or hardware designed to prohibit unauthorized access to your system across a network. spyware A program that reports information about you or your actions to someone else, all without your knowledge.
flash drive A storage device implemented through the use of static RAM. The memory is viewed as a disk drive by Windows, even though the device has no moving parts. Flash drives are relatively small in size (64MB to 512MB) but are extremely fast. temporary files Data files created by programs for temporary use. Sometimes temporary files aren’t deleted properly, and they end up cluttering a system with unnecessary data.
orphan data Data files left behind by a program long-since removed from a system. Trojan horse Effectively the same as a virus, but delivered to your system as part of an otherwise acceptable software program.
pop-up A form of advertisement that results in small browser windows “popping up” on your screen. Pop-ups can be displayed by visiting Web pages that include code that displays them, or by the installation of adware on your system. virus A program designed to interrupt or change your computing efforts, or designed to corrupt or destroy data. A virus always includes ways to propagate and spread itself to others.
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