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For Seniors: How to Fix Your Computer Hard Drive

The hard disk drive in your computer has a limited life expectancy. If you’re unlucky, your drive will die suddenly. If you’re lucky, it will break down slowly over a long period. Make no mistake, though: Someday, your hard drive will die. That’s why it’s important to check its health regularly and keep it in the best possible shape. Fortunately, you can do several things to check and maintain your drive:

Defragment the hard drive with Windows’ defragmenting tool

For most users, the main hard drive is designated the C: drive; it contains Windows, your applications, and your data. This drive has the most storage. Here’s how to defragment your hard drive:

  1. Choose Start→All Programs→Accessories->System Tools→Disk Defragmenter.

    The Disk Defragmenter dialog box appears.

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  2. Select the drive that you want to defragment.

    Most people will choose the C: drive. You may also see a much smaller D: drive, which likely contains the files to restore your computer to factory settings. You don’t want to alter anything on this recovery drive.

  3. Click Defragment (Windows XP) or Defragment Disk (Vista and Windows 7).

    The defragmenter analyzes the disk for degree of fragmentation and then begins the defragmentation process. In Windows XP, you see a graphical display that represents the hard drive before and after defragmentation. In Vista and Windows 7, you see a countdown of the percentage of defragmentation completed.

  4. Choosing File→Exit (Windows XP) or click the Close button (Vista and Windows 7).

    The Disk Defragmenter closes.

Tidy up computer space with Disk Cleanup

How often you should run the Disk Cleanup utility depends on your habits. If you do a lot of Internet browsing, and disk space is running low, run the utility. Otherwise, every few months is probably often enough.

  1. Choose Start→My Computer or Start→My Computer.

    The My Computer/Computer window appears.

  2. Right-click the drive you want to check and choose Properties from the shortcut menu.

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    The drive’s Properties dialog box appears.

  3. Click the General tab, if it isn’t already open. If you want, check the Compress This Drive to Save Disk Space check box.

    This option compresses old files that you haven’t used for a while.

  4. 4.Click the Disk Cleanup button.

    The system churns away for a while, examining your drive and calculating how much garbage it can locate. Finally, the Disk Cleanup dialog box opens, indicating how much junk is sitting around in places like the folders for downloaded program files, temporary Internet files, and the Recycle Bin, and suggesting files to delete.

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  5. Clear the check boxes next to any files that you want to keep; check the check boxes next to any additional files that you want to clear off the disk.

    For most users, it’s best to delete only the recommended files. If you choose to go further, click each file and read its description before proceeding.

  6. Click OK.

    Windows asks you to confirm that you want to delete these files permanently.

  7. Click Yes (Windows XP) or Delete Files (Vista and Windows 7).

    The files are deleted.

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