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Cleaning Up

Recycle Bin: Many people believe that when they delete something in Windows, it is actually deleted. Instead, the deleted item is moved to the Recycle Bin where it often remains. As a computer technician I get to check out many computers. Most of the time, when I check the Recycle Bin, it is full of previously deleted items and has grown to extreme proportions. This takes up valuable disk space. To avoid this situation, empty your Recycle Bin regularly.

It may seem that the Recycle Bin is merely a troublesome window’s feature but it can be a very valuable tool. Should you ever delete something by mistake and forget to undo the action, that item can be restored at anytime from the Recycle Bin. So it is a good thing to have as long as it is emptied on a regular basis.

You can make certain your Recycle Bin doesn’t get overloaded by setting a low space limitation for the Recycle Bin. Once it reaches this point and you delete something, the oldest item in the Bin will be discarded to make room for the newer item. This will stop the Recycle Bin from growing too large. To set this up, just right click the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop and then click Properties. Set the Recycle Bin capacity to 3% or less of your hard drive space. This will limit it to that maximum and avoid future space problems.

If you feel really confident, you can turn off the Recycle Bin. This means that when you delete something it is completely gone from view and inaccessible. Of course, if you realize that you have deleted something incorrectly, you can also use the undo button before taking any other action. Once you have completed another action, the undo button will not bring back the deleted item.

Deleting Data: It is also a misconception that deleting an item completely removes it from the system. Even when an item is deleted from the recycle bin it only renders the item invisible to the system and allows the space occupied by the item to be overwritten with new data. Until overwritten, the data is not gone, it can be accessed by people with the right skills and tools. This is not a problem for most of us since our information is not really of a secret nature. For others who may deal with vulnerable and confidential information, it is an important point.

Scandisk: This is an important Windows feature that should be used regularly. Scandisk analyzes the file structure of your hard drive to make certain it is not damaged. If you have ever turned off you computer without properly closing down Windows 98, then you have seen Scandisk run automatically. This happens because bad shutdowns can damage clusters on your hard drive. When Scandisk runs it shows a bright blue screen that indicates the progress of the scan.

There are two levels of scandisk. The standard level does a quick scan of the file structure to locate any problems. If it finds a problem, it will fix it by isolating the clusters involved so they won't be used again. It will also save the data on those clusters to a file that you can check to attempt saving the data. Usually the data on damaged clusters is useless.
The thorough level of Scandisk scans each individual cluster on the hard drive and takes a long time to complete. Normally this level is unnecessary unless you have reason to believe your hard drive is damaged.

Defragmentation: This is an equally important process to keep your computer running well. As you use various files and programs in your computer the data on your hard drive becomes fragmented. The defragmentation tool realigns the data into contiguous clusters making it easier to find and therefore speeding up your computer. If you use your computer regularly, defragmenting once a month is a good idea.

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