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 Post subject: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:31 pm 
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Here is the process of what I do to maintain a Windows computer:

Vacuum the dust out of the inside of the case, and the power supply, the intake grills, the optical drives, the CPU heatsink and duct -- all the places that air flows. I check the sounds that the fans make to see if they are wearing out or not.

Install CCleaner and EasyCleaner. I use these to remove unneeded files from the hard drive, and I run the Registry clean up tools in these as many times as it takes until they find no more issues. I use CCleaner first, and backup it's changes, then EasyCleaner, and the reboot; and repeat until they find no errors. This typically takes about 6 cycles. Removing all the temporary files and all the uninstallation files from Windows then makes defragmenting the hard drive a little faster. Also, the Registry gets to be very problematic the longer it goes between cleanings.

Install Startup Control Panel by Mike Lin and use it to remove unnecessary programs from running at start up, to streamline the use of RAM. Anything that it turns out that you need something, you can easily reselect it.

Install Spybot Search & Destroy, and run it to find Trojans and malware and tracking cookies, and then to "immunize" the remaining files. This is an invaluable tool with situations with machines infected with malware programs.

Install Microsoft Update, which supplants Windows Update, since it updates all Microsoft programs as well as Windows. I then install all the recommended updates and many of the optional updates. I specifically avoid some, like Desktop Search, and on Dell machines, I do not install any driver updates. Obviously, this requires lots of rebooting.

I run the Windows defragmenting utility as many times as it takes to finish in say a minute or less. This utility is not very thorough, so it takes it about 6 or 8 times to streamline the hard drive files as much as possible, if it has not been done often enough. It is free, though. If you want a good defragmenting program that does it right in one pass, I like one called Perfect Disk.

Upgrade/update the antivirus program and/or definitions, and run a full machine scan. Also schedule it to run once a week. It's amazing how fast these scans go on a completely defragmented drive. If you want to continue to use your WinXP machines, I highly recommend using something like ESET Smart Security: This includes a robust software firewall as well as a very good antivirus, that is a bit less CPU intensive as AVG, as well. The Windows XP firewall is almost useless, especially after a computer gets infected; as it does nothing to stop *outgoing* Internet access. This is how you can prevent Trojan programs from "calling home".

Repair any driver issues in the Device Manager. On Dell machines, you typically need to go to Dell.com for the specific drivers, by looking up the specific model.

Create a Registry Restore Point after all is cleaned up. This would let the system be rolled back to a known "clean Registry" if it get infected by malware. Creating a new Restore Point after installing any new programs or cleanings, in the future would be a good way to help maintain a computer.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:50 am 
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Quote:
Vacuum the dust out of the inside of the case, and the power supply, the intake grills, the optical drives, the CPU heatsink and duct -- all the places that air flows. I check the sounds that the fans make to see if they are wearing out or not.


Ditto. Back in September I started myself up as a self-employed computer engineer, and added to that list a expensive can of air - it maskes all of the difference in some cases (laptops specifically - although be aware that you get instant condensation - you have been warned - water and electronics dont mix), and additionally a dirt cheap set of paint brushes, they are also invaluable.

I have been using Crap Cleaner, SPybot and MBAM for years, they are great (and free).

I have never heard of the "startup control panel", it looks like it could be useful, although I have been hacking the windows registry for years it would be nice to have something that is foolproof and almost certainly easier to use, although I would like to know what happens if you make changes, and then un-install the program.? I imagine all of the changes would stay, just a query.

Although AVG (free version) eats some resources, its far better than Norton, and McAfee, and just as good (bad) at stopping and removing viruses, I would also recommend NOD32 (ESET), although it is not free like AVG it does use less resources, and it virus scans in about half of the time of AVG, and finds more stuff including a fair amount of malware.

Quote:
Install Microsoft Update, which supplants Windows Update, since it updates all Microsoft programs as well as Windows. I then install all the recommended updates and many of the optional updates. I specifically avoid some, like Desktop Search, and on Dell machines, I do not install any driver updates. Obviously, this requires lots of rebooting.


I really am not a fan of ANY software that updates itself automatically, especially when its easy to do manually and the manual way means that you can skip crap that you dont want, and it is far less likely to brick windows (yes it still happens). I turn off automatic updates as a routine procedure.

Additionally, for those poor souls with vista, or people with W7, turn off "superfetch", and reclaim your RAM (and readyboost in Vista).

I also turn of system restore due to the fact that it routinely "backs up" viruses which it will then put back on your machine when you "restore" it, and it slows down the machine (HDD specifically), and is fundamentally rubbish for anyone who knows anything about how to use a computer.

Quote:
Create a Registry Restore Point after all is cleaned up. This would let the system be rolled back to a known "clean Registry" if it get infected by malware. Creating a new Restore Point after installing any new programs or cleanings, in the future would be a good way to help maintain a computer.


Very sensible point - take heed people.


Andy

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:06 am 
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andyb wrote:
can of air - it maskes all of the difference in some cases (laptops specifically - although be aware that you get instant condensation - you have been warned - water and electronics dont mix)

It may be obvious to you but you can also damage fans with something like that. Be careful.

andyb wrote:
I have never heard of the "startup control panel", it looks like it could be useful, although I have been hacking the windows registry for years it would be nice to have something that is foolproof and almost certainly easier to use, although I would like to know what happens if you make changes, and then un-install the program.? I imagine all of the changes would stay, just a query.

The Sysinternals tools are quality tools, not snake oil. And they're MS tools now that they've bought the company. Get the one named autoruns for this. Lots of other great Sysinternals tools if you care to take a look at the list.

As for the rest, I'm skeptical about many of these tweaks.

Quote:
I really am not a fan of ANY software that updates itself automatically, especially when its easy to do manually

... if it's your computer or you're managing it, yeah. But if it's a client's computer you're not going to see again until there's a problem, different story.


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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:42 pm 
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Quote:
It may be obvious to you but you can also damage fans with something like that. Be careful.


Good point, most people should stick with a brush (with natural fibres) and a vacuum, and pull the power plug and battery (in laptops) before doing this

Quote:
The Sysinternals tools are quality tools, not snake oil. And they're MS tools now that they've bought the company. Get the one named autoruns for this. Lots of other great Sysinternals tools if you care to take a look at the list.


I forgot about them, some of them are fantastic.

Quote:
As for the rest, I'm skeptical about many of these tweaks.


Its good to be sceptical, in the case of many of these tweaks its a simple case of turn it on or off. However system restore WILL destroy all restore points when it is turned off so be aware of this, although there is a workaround to turn it off from an automatic point of view, but leave it turned on from a manual point of view, if anyone is interested in doing that I am sure I can dig out the article explaining how to do this - in my opinion this should have always been an option. Also it can often reclaim many gigabytes of space.

Quote:
... if it's your computer or you're managing it, yeah. But if it's a client's computer you're not going to see again until there's a problem, different story.


Personally I dont see it that way as system restore is a virus haven, and windows update is questionable when its automatic. I will add a little detail.

I find viruses in system restore on infected PC's ranging from 1 in 3 to 1 in 1, the virus itself makes the difference here. If someone has a virus, then removes it, 6-months later they "restore" their computer back to when they had the virus they then have to destroy it all over again. Additionally some viruses manage to worm their way into system restore points that were created BEFORE the virus got onto their PC, therefore making it impossible to restore their computer to a point before they had the virus in the attempt to get rid of the virus. Not so good is it. Lastly on this point, system restore creates a new restore point whenever you install a bit of software or driver, 9 times out of 10 people are better off removing the offending bit of software by normal means rather than using system restore to do it "automatically".

As far as windows update is concerned its often impossible to prove that X fault could have been prevented if someone had have updated windows because the really important fixes for say a new virus is usually handled better and faster (and automatically) by your antivirus software, often without even realising it. On the other hand, its totally possible to prove that an automatic update destroyed windows, often beyond the ability of system restore to fix it as well. Manual is the way to go here, or at least have windows nag you from time to time telling you that it has been X amount of time since you last updated windows and then you can do it automatically when your not doing anything else, similar to running an Anti Virus scan when you go to bed - plain and simple if windows is updating itself while you are using it, it can self destruct.

Personally I tell people that I would like to disable those options, and explain my reasons (more briefly than I have done here), most people are happy to go along with my suggestions, some dont, or only want me to disable one of them, I dont have any problem with that and will always do what the customer wants, and I also tell tham that its easy to turn back on/off and will simply talk them through it over the phone.

But like all of these issues everyone has a different point of view and so long as they understand both opposing opinions its up to them to decide, informed opinions are all valid.

Lastly I noticed that W7 has a nasty habit of abusing your HDD (or SSD) with a very well hidden folder called XXXX that is worthless and should be deleted, I found that it had eaten 19GB of my SSD.

Of course I now cant find the folder, and I cant remember where it was hidden or what it was called. It may not be a folder that re-appears after being deleted. In the attempt of finding it again I downloaded and installed WinDirStat that shows you how much space is being used by each folder, if a W7 user wants to try that and see if they spot a folder they dont usually see in Explorer please let me know and I will tell you if that was the folder. BTW its not WinSXS or the backup folder therein. On my PC WinSXS uses 51% of the total size of Windows, a huge 5.44GB

I just thought of another couple of useful ones, specific program removers to be run after uninstalling the program, these clean up all of the crap thats left behind (not completed by CCleaner) these are available for McAfee, Norton and AVG (32 and 64 bit versions for AVG), these should ALWAYS be run after removing the affected program.


Andy

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Main PC, P180, CM Silent Pro 500M, i5 3570k @ 4.2Ghz, 8-GB @ 2,000MHz, 256 GB Samsung 830, 500-GB 7K500, MSI 660Ti Twin Frozr, PC is super quiet :o
Server, 6-TB RAID-5 array, + 2 x 2-TB backup drives, 380W Enermax Pro82+, 4x very quiet fans, positive pressure only, no exhaust fans
Living Room PC, 3500+, 2-GB RAM, HD501LJ


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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 5:22 pm 
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+1 on Autoruns, it's a bit hard to understand how much you can turn off until you've tried it. It's much more than what you see in MSConfig, or HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run or the other \Run.
Personally I use MSConfig just to get an idea of how much is autostarted, then I go to Regedit to disable it, unless I'm just testing, MSConfig is great for turning on or off. So yeah, I like Autoruns, but on my own computer I rarely find anything extra with it that I want to turn off.

Another tool straight from MS is Windows Performance Toolkit. I've never used it, but it seems like it can improve boot time. Maybe a successor to Bootvis, if anyone remembers that one. I haven't tried it yet so I'm giving you a link to a forum thread, just to give you some feedback to read.

Classic Shell is a must have for me in Windows 7 (and Vista).
It brings back the up button in Explorer, but can also give a full, classic path in the address bar, and classic folder tree.
During install you can also choose to install a Classic Start Menu, but I've never done it because I'm not interested in that.

WinSetupFromUSB is the best tool for copying Windows ISO's to USB memory, although there's a chance you might get lost in all the options, so let me do it simple for you:
1 - Do a quick format of your USB memory in Explorer (NTFS).
2 - Start WinSetupFromUSB, add your ISO of choice.
3 - During the boot countdown, pick the right choice.
Unetbootin is another choice, but it doesn't always play nice with XP or 2003 (use FAT 32 if it doesn't work, helps sometimes). For anything newer it's a very good tool.
Both these works with modified ISO's (think nlite), unlike MS official tool. They work with many other bootable ISO's like Linux etc.

NT 6.x fast installer is useful if you want to install Windows on a USB drive, just don't try this on a regular USB-memory.. :lol: I did, and after five hours Windows 7 was still starting up.

Check out Scheduled Tasks, I found more than a couple of useless tasks there in W7. I'm not sure if it made much of a difference, but it feels like my laptop got a bit quicker after I disabled some of them. Go through the list, I'm sure you find something meaningless. :wink:

I always keep my personal files on a second partition, even on a single HDD computer. This is NOT because of performance reasons, it's just very convenient to separate personal files from system files. There's more than one way to do this, but the easiest and fastest is to select the folders you want in C:\Users\Mats\ while holding down Ctrl, then right-click-drag-and-drop them where you want them, then pick "move" in the pop up window. The settings in the registry gets changed automatically. I put them directly into D:\, but if you have more than one account on the computer you should of course put them in separate folders. :D Appdata is the only folder I don't move.
After doing this, I can format C:, or reinstall the system image, whenever I want.

Speaking of System image, that's one more reason not to use system restore. It's a very useful tool in W7.

If you have a virus in the Restore folders, use a third party file explorer to remove them (or if you just want to delete them manually), I actually still use ExplorerXP, remember to run it in XP compatibility mode, otherwise you can't see the context menus.

Agent Ransack is a good alternative to Windows Search, another one is Everything.

I use Comodo Internet Security, it's free and it works very well for me. The firewall is great and the AV is much better now than just a few years ago. Just remember to pay attention to what you select during install, and disable that sandbox when finished if you don't need it.

On a new computer with Windows preloaded, reinstall it the first thing you do. On a friends HP Atom netbook, 55 GB was already used, that's just hilarious.
If you don't know how to do it, follow this guide, it works with any brand.

I know that the recovery discs you make with Asus actually gives you a clean install (about 45 processes), the same for HP if you choose "Minimal installation", at least that's my experience. Sony discs won't do any good in this regard, you end up with 90 processes, nice.


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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:08 pm 
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thorough replies..

I am basic ccleaner and sysinternals autoruns is amazing.
the free reg cleaner beyond ccleaners version by Eusing always gives windows a good battle. :lol:

I went through drivers list and unchecked a boat load of stuff with "autoruns"...don't know what it did, but it is still unchecked, never rechecks itself..except agp filters. must be kb or low mb savings in ram measured unnoticed. This is a trick I learned in windows 2000...in 2000. the pntium 2 sure as heck knew alot of stuff went away..not even a prescott notices anymore. let it run the fat slob they let it become for all they care.

I don't know what keeps rechecking them to start at startup all brands of video cards filtering agp known to mankind. :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:28 pm 
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Here's a program that was recommended as being more effective than Spybot Search & Destroy:

http://malwarebytes.org/

For truly nasty Trojans, I use a bootable CD called "Ultimate Boot CD for Windows", which is Linux with enough Windows tools streamlined in to be able to read and write to NTFS so you can delete "hidden" and protected files. It takes a bit of work to make the CD, but it is *well* worthwhile having on hand!

When you need it, there is no substitute.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:28 pm 
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MyDefrag is very good for defragging a system. It's extremely thorough, but it can take quite a while if not run regularly.


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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:48 am 
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Routinely overlooked:

Click Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Cleanup
C:\ drive (unless you changed the destination earlier.)

When the diag box shows up click "More Options"
Click "Clean up..." under system restore and shadow copies.
This removes old startup points made just before every Windows update is made.

If you've never have cleaned them up and you do a lot of updates you can reclaim gigs of space.

Personally I update once a month, so I know when the update occurs and why if a problem starts. Auto update is easy, but dangerous. And it simply makes a lot of restore points, all unnecessary churn IMO. Once restore points are gone then consider defrag.

Defrag should be done as required. It causes a lot of churn and some files frag the moment you reboot, so don't plan on being frag free for long no matter where you end up after defrag. Log files that are constantly augmented will frag by design, there's no stopping it, and there's little to be gained trying. Some defrag tools leave empty space after files for the sole purpose of growth. That's great if that's what happens, otherwise it's waste.

Use Ultimate Defragger as a way to visual the state of your hard drive. So far I've never used it for a real defrag, but it shows a phenomenal picture of the state of your hard drive.

If you're using an SSD move your restore points back to your conventional hard drive.

Spybot warns me of registry updates, thank you SpyBot!

How about a safe registry cleaner?

Update - People who send out resumes should consider a metadata cleaner or converting them to PDF files before sending documents. Warning - the file size increase may be about the max allowable file size that can be uploaded to a company server.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:42 pm 
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Hi Aris,

The two Registry cleaners I mentioned have been entirely safe for me for years: CCleaner lets you back up the changes with a .REG file (I have never had to restore anything, though) and EasyCleaner works well in concert. They don't get every last thing, but they also don't remove things you need.

CCleaner can also remove the HotFix uninstallers, and it can function like the Startup Control Panel.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:46 pm 
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Quote:
They don't get every last thing, but they also don't remove things you need.


Frankly the last part is all that really matters.

Thanks

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:47 pm 
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Update, ran CC to cleanup the registry, the list wasn't too bad. I removed quite a few items from the list and it removed about 70 items from the registry. Nowhere near what I was expecting, but I don't install and remove a lot of software, I tend to install and keep, which is a whole different problem.

Damn I still see remnants of the ATI driver Camelshxx, err, Catalyst Center on the Add/Remove Programs list. Bummer.

Is there a way to store files for the "restore point" to a different location/drive?

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:10 pm 
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Sure, when you save the .REG file before removing the items, just browse to another drive.

I have a feeling that some Registry stuff will not be cleaned by any program -- did you also run EasyCleaner, reboot, and then rerun each and reboot -- until they find no more errors? I've certainly found that some programs simply must be manually edited out of the Registry; using the Search / Find Next function in RegEdit.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 3:07 am 
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I just got rid of a rootkit Trojan called DOS/Alureon.A aka AlureonMBR, by using a great utility from Kaspersky called tdsskiller.exe -- it was very quick and worked like a charm!

The same computer also had RHHKIEEENUA.EXE and Win32/Cybot.B.

Sheesh.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 6:43 am 
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Here's how I do windows maintenance:

Hardware:

Take dust filter out, clean the filter, put dust filter back.

Software:

Make sure I am running the latest windows updates and latest google chrome.

No weird maintenance software installed here, and as long as I don't fall for stupid trojan emails I should be fine... And my machine flies! Generally when I experience someone elses windows, those are way more sluggish.

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 Post subject: Re: Windows Computer Maintenance
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 2:50 am 
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The problem with anti-virus/malware etc software is that it is reactive and retroactive. There has to be a threat before it can act (hence constantly updated definitions) which means you're always vulnerable to infection and furthermore you have to be infected and in immminent danger before anything can be done (which may be too late). Also it eats RAM.

I've found the best way to stop malware/virii/trojans etc is to plug the holes they attempt to use. Run all web-connected apps in a sandbox, make sure windows can only run .exe/installers from a specific directory (say C:/Program Files), run a limited account and use the EMET tool from Microsoft. This should be enough to dispense of a RAM/HDD hogging realtime AV program to the extent where you can run a scan once a week or so.


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