Maintenance on a computer running Windows XP

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Article ID: 959060 - View products that this article applies to.
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SUMMARY

This article contains information for the basic maintenance of computers running Windows XP. In this article, you will learn how to perform the following tasks:
  • Downloading and installing operating system updates
  • Removing files from the computer that are no longer needed
  • Checking the computer hard drive for errors
  • Defragmenting the computer hard drive to improve performance
  • Backing up personal files and other data
To help extend the life of your computer and prevent data loss, it is recommended that you regularly perform basic maintenance on your computer.

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Note For information about performing basic maintenance for computers running Microsoft Windows Vista, please visit the following Microsoft web site:

Windows Vista: Performance and maintenance
http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/maintenance.mspx

Install Microsoft Windows Updates

Microsoft periodically releases updates for its products. The updates affect your computer's performance and security vulnerability.

For more information about how to keep Windows up to date, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
311047 How to keep your Windows computer up-to-date

Run Disk Cleanup

You can start Disk Cleanup, by doing any of the following:
  1. Click Start, point to
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    All Programs, point to
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    xp start menu folder icon
    Accessories, point to
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    System Tools, and then click
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    Disk Cleanup.
  2. If the Select Drive window appears, click the (C:) drive, or the drive you want to clean up, and click OK, otherwise move on to Step 3.
  3. After Disk Cleanup scans the hard drive for files that can be cleaned, select one or more of the following file types:

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    XP Check Box Selected
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    DL ProgramFiles Folder Icon
    Downloaded Program Files
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    XP Check Box Selected
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    Temp IE Files Icon
    Temporary Internet Files
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    Recycle Bin
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    Temporary Files
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    Offline Web pages
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    Microsoft Error Reporting Temporary Files
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    WebClient/Publisher Temporary Files
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    Offline Files
  4. Click OK.

Delete Temporary Internet Files and Cookies

To delete the temporary Internet files:
  1. Click Start, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel window, double-click Internet Options.
  3. On the General tab, click Delete Files.
  4. When the Delete Files window appears, check Delete all offline content.
  5. Click OK.
To delete cookies:
  1. Right-click My Computer and click Explore.
  2. When the Windows Explorer window opens, expand drive C: in the left pane.
  3. Expand the Windows folder.
  4. Expand the Cookies folder.
  5. Click in the right pane.
  6. Press <Ctrl> + <A> to select all objects.
  7. Press <Delete> to delete all the files.
  8. Click OK to confirm file deletion.

Run Disk Defragmenter

When used periodically, Disk Defragmenter can improve the performance of your system. For best results, exit other programs before beginning disk defragmentation; Disk Defragmenter may take up to a number of hours to run, depending on the size of the volume and available system resources.

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Note You must be logged in as an administrator or a member of the Administrators group to run this program.

To run Disk Defragmenter:
  1. Click Start, and point to Programs, Accessories, and then System Tools.
  2. Click Disk Defragmenter.
  3. When the Disk Defragmenter window appears, click to highlight the volume that you want to defragment, which in most cases is your primary hard drive, the C: drive.
  4. Click Analyze.
  5. When the analysis is complete and a window appears advising whether the volume needs to be defragemented, click Defragment Now.
A status indicator tracks the progress of the defragmentation process and displays a notice when the process is complete. If you repeatedly receive the message Drive Contents Have Changed: Restarting, refer to the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article:
310541 "Drive's Contents Have Changed: Restarting" Message When You Use Disk Defragmenter

Run the Error Checking Utility

Windows XP has a utility that checks the data on your hard disk drive for potential problems and fixes them. In addition, this process checks the physical surface of the hard disk to identify any bad sectors that can prevent future errors.
  1. Click the Start button, and then click My Computer.
  2. Right-click the hard disk drive you want to scan, and then left-click Properties.
  3. In the Local Disk Properties window, click the Tools tab.
  4. From the Tools tab, click Check Now.
  5. Click to select the box next to Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.
  6. Click Start.
This process can take up to an hour or more depending on the size of the drive. If you are prompted to perform the scan the next time you reboot, click Yes.

Back Up Data Using Windows XP Backup Tool

To prevent any loss of data during hardware or software failures, Dell recommends that you periodically back up your data, especially any critical documents, mail, or other important files.

The most common data locations include:
  • Outlook e-mail folders
  • Outlook contacts and notes
  • My Documents folder
  • Desktop
  • Frequently used programs
  • Frequently used folders/files
  • Other important files
The Windows XP backup tool schedules routine backups to media such as floppy drives, tape drives, and DirectCD-enabled CD recorders. For more information about the Windows XP backup tool, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
320820 How to use the Backup utility to back up files and folders in Windows XP Home Edition

MORE INFORMATION

For information on backing up Outlook and Outlook Express data, please refer to Microsoft Knowledge Base articles:
195719 How to manage personal folders files in Outlook (CW)
188854 OLEXP: How to Back Up the Outlook Express Address Book and Mail Folders

Properties

Article ID: 959060 - Last Review: November 13, 2008 - Revision: 1.0
APPLIES TO
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Keywords: 
kbtshoot KB959060

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