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Compared to its shaky predecessors, Windows XP rivals the Rock of Gibraltar. But this doesn’t mean you can just compute and go. Periodic maintenance is essential to keep your computer humming along.

Start with Disk CleanUp. It does quite a few things to free hard disk space including removing temporary Internet files, files in the Recycle Bin, installed programs that you do not use, and old Restore Points.

To use Disk Cleanup, double-click My Computer, right-click the hard disk on which you want to free space, and select Properties. Click Disk Cleanup on the General tab.

On the Disk Cleanup tab, click to select the check boxes of the files that you want to remove, click OK, Yes, and OK. When done, click the More Options tab. Here, you can remove Windows components that you do not use. On the More Options tab, you can also remove installed programs and restore points, too.

Next, get the hard disk in tip-top shape. Disk Defragmenter and Chkdsk (which replaced ScanDisk found in earlier versions of Windows) are important tools.

Run these as a pair at least monthly starting with Chkdsk. As its name implies, ChkDsk scans the hard drive for errors. It should be set to automatically correct any errors. The most common type is orphaned data located on the hard drive. This is most often caused by an improper shutdown or system crash.

To use Chkdsk, click Start and My Computer. Right-click the hard drive you want to check, and click Properties. Select the Tools tab and click Check Now. Check both boxes. Click Start. You'll get a message that the computer must be rebooted to run a complete check. Click Yes and reboot. Chkdsk will take awhile, so run it when you don't need the machine.

Next comes Disk Defragmenter. When you save a file, bits and pieces of the file can be scattered on the hard drive. Disk Defragmenter puts these bits in contiguous order, so the file can be more easily reconstructed. That speeds up opening files.

Disk Defragmenter shares the Tools tab with Chkdsk. Click the Defragment Now button.

Another area that can stand an occasional scrubbing is the Registry. This massive database tells Windows how to run. As you install and delete programs, remnants are usually left behind in the Registry. Eventually, this debris can make Windows shaky.

The Registry is a critical part of Windows. Before cleaning it, back it up. Click Start and Run. Type "regedit" (without the quotes) in the box and click OK. In the Registry Editor, click File and Export. Select a folder in which to save the backup. Name the file Registry Backup and click Save. If cleaning the Registry leaves your computer unstable, double-click the Registry Backup file to restore it.

Two free programs EasyCleaner 1.7 (http://www.toniarts.com/ecleane.htm) and RegSeeker 1.30 (http://www.hoverdesk.net/freeware.htm) make light work of cleaning the Registry.

Despite regular maintenance, Windows XP can still misbehave. Here's where Dr. Watson can help diagnose the program. Dr. Watson creates a log file that lists everything that happened. It is difficult for the everyday owner to understand, but could help a technician. Open Dr. Watson by clicking Start and Run. Enter "drwtsn32" in the box (without the quotation marks) and click OK.
 

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Okay, I tried them both. Well, sorta. I tried to download the first one and you have to register and it looks like it costs money to register. I did download RegSeeker and used it to clean up my registry. I ran it several times and each time it found something. Not sure if I like that, but for a free ustility, I can live with it.

If anyone knows of a better, free registry tool for XP, that would be nice...
 

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Grateful thanks Franca, very helpful & informative,especially to tyros like me.Written in easily understood,plain English.Excellent, I now have the confidence to back up my Registry for the first time!

Foxfire
 
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