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This is how you clean your hard drive.

The Swedish evening tabloid Expressen have again published a series of articles with general tips on cleansing 'personal computers'. It's important to remember that when tabloids like this publish tips for 'personal computers' like this they are not only going to pretend everyone is running Microsoft Windows but also that they're running Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Outlook Express too - and also that they never once mention the fact there are other platforms that do not experience or suffer from one iota of this misery.

For it's very important to never give people any suggestion that Microsoft Windows isn't the only platform out there or the only shitty platform out there. As everyone knows, you can't risk incurring the wrath of Redmond.

This is all expected, and bad enough, but in this most recent article series they somehow still manage to raise the bar on the level of entertainment. Read on.

The first article, entitled 'This is how you can clean your hard drive', is written by Fredrick Granlund. He can be contacted at redaktionen@expressen.se.

His first gem is 'create more free space on your hard drive' [sic].

'If your hard drive is almost full, Windows won't have room for its swap file which it needs for you to be able to work with the computer. Without the swap file some programs will be unusable and your computer will be extremely slow. Clean your hard drive by uninstalling software you seldom use. If you have extremely little disk free space, you can use our disk cleansing guide.'

'Click the Start button and choose 'Run'. Type 'cleanmgr' in the box and hit Enter. Choose all options except 'compress old files' and click 'OK'.'

'If you have a digital camera there are surely lots of pictures taking up a lot of space on your computer. Make a habit of transferring them to a CD or DVD disc - then you can remove the originals afterwards.'

His next gem is 'Use a Registry tool'. Things get better all the time.

'All programs store lots of important information in a special database on your computer called the Windows Registry. Because the database is so complex it's important to keep it in shape. A good Registry tool is well invested money.'

'The program will search through the Windows Registry for errors and correct them - completely automatically. Curious errors in the Registry can cause enormous problems if they're not remedied in time. In addition, your computer will start faster with a 'clean' Registry. A good program is Registry Mechanic. The price is about $25 for a one year subscription. Norton Systemworks is a package which amongst other things has the same function but it is more expensive, about $70.'

That's admittedly a hard act to follow, but Granlund does his best with 'Remove unnecessary effects' [sic].

Many of the cool effects of Windows use a great amount of the processor's capacity. Right click on 'My Computer' and choose 'Properties' at the bottom of the list. Click on 'Advanced' and then on the button 'Settings' in the area marked 'Performance'. Then you click on the tab marked 'Visual Effects'.'

'Tick the box marked 'Adjust for best performance' and click OK.'

For those who don't yet feel like HR managers at Los Alamos, your time may have come: this next bit is called 'Remove all spyware' [sic]. This is truly a revolutionary idea.

'It is unavoidable that programs and web pages store programs on your hard drive that tell the developers what you're doing.' [<-- You might want to read that again.] 'But they often ruin your Internet settings and make your web surfing slower. Download, for example, Ad-Aware (www.lavasoft.de) and let the program search through your computer for all spyware and adware.'

'You can also download Microsoft's program Windows Defender. But remember this program is still a beta, so errors can occur.'

'You find Defender at www.microsoft.com/defender.'

We're about halfway done. Next is 'Turn off automatic startup'.

'A lot of programs start automatically every time Windows starts, and every program that starts takes a few seconds to get ready. With a dozen autostart programs your computer's startup is going to take a few minutes longer than when the computer was still new. Some of these programs put icons in the Autostart folder on the Start menu and you can skip their autostart by simply removing the icons. Other programs must be removed with Microsoft's startup tool 'Msconfig'.'

'Click the Start button and then 'Run'. Type in 'msconfig' and hit Enter. Click the tab 'Autostart' and clear the tick boxes for the programs you don't want starting at the same time as Windows. Click 'OK' and restart the computer. Now your computer will start faster, and you can start the programs you want when you need to use them. But only remove programs you can yourself identify. Many programs must be activated, amongst others antivirus and firewall programs.'

Now it's time for 'old program versions'.

'New programs have lots of functions which are often completely unnecessary and which in any case steal a lot of system resources - something that makes the computer sluggish to work with.'

'Use older programs in the same series. This saves your computer's power and even money in your wallet. And these older programs will start faster.'

'Maybe you can make do with Microsoft Office 97 instead of Office 2003?'

'Or with the simpler OpenOffice which in addition is completely free?'

[This last bit catches everyone unawares.]

Time to defragment.

'A file is saved on a place on the hard drive where there is free space. But files are moved, get shorter or longer as you use the computer, and in the end new files have to be divided up into smaller fragments to find room in the spaces between the files already there. Each such fragmentation makes the hard drive's reading head move a bit to read in the rest of the file.'

'On a hard drive you can have hundreds or even thousands of fragments [sic] and this slows down the hard drive (and shortens its life span).'

'The solution is a defragmentation, where all small fragments are put together into whole files again. Double-click on 'My Computer'. Select the hard drive you want to defragment (usually C:) and right click. Choose 'Properties' at the bottom of the list and then click on the tab 'Tools'. Then click on 'Defragment now'.'

'Remember that when you start the defragmenting program the computer needs to stand by itself and work until it is finished and that can take several hours. The simplest way is to start the defragmenting program in the evening when you go to bed. Make a habit of defragmenting your hard drive once a month.'

And to the finish line with 'use the latest device drivers'.

'You will avoid unnecessary system crashes [sic] and in addition get a faster computer if you regularly check that you have the latest device drivers for your hardware components. This is especially true of your graphics card.'

Wow! Is that it? Actually no - that was only the first of THREE articles all published on the same day, and the best of them has to wait until last for a reason that becomes apparent at that time. This next article, by the same Windows 'expert', is called '3 advanced tips for experienced users' and it comes with a preamble.

'You who know a little more about computers and who aren't afraid to put the screwdriver in the computer box can of course go even further.'

'WARNING! Do not attempt these advanced tips if you are not experienced enough in these matters.'

And now that we're shaking all around, we go into the nitty gritty of arcane computer science.

'1. The best thing is to have separate hard drives for Windows and all programs. Get a fast hard drive with a high rpm and lots of cache memory, preferably one with the SATA interface, and install Windows on it. You use your old hard drive for your games and programs. In this way your computer will access important Windows components and the files needed to start programs at the same time.'

'2. A faster processor makes the computer work faster, especially if you invest in more memory [sic]. Check that your motherboard's BIOS supports the higher speed or if you can upgrade the BIOS for the faster processor.'

'3. More internal memory means you can switch faster between programs and that you can work with more programs and larger files open at the same time. Memory circuits are cheap, but preferably exchange your old memory circuits at the same time. Different memory speeds and manufacturers don't work well in the computer.'

Wow. Another gem. Meaning there's now only one remaining. And the best is saved for last, for even though Granlund officially wrote this article as well, the high brow advice mentioned here isn't his.

No: these crumbs of rocket science come from none other than JESPER HÄGGROTH, Microsoft's local product manager for Windows. Jesper has the word; fasten your seatbelts. The article is entitled 'The 4 best tips from the experts' but there's at most one expert involved.

'1. Attachments to all the mail you receive remain as records in the Outlook Express database - as the mail itself. Save the mails and attachments you want to keep (for example by selecting all the messages and dragging them to a folder on the desktop) and remove the mail from your inbox (and empty the trash). But save the mail for the last two weeks so you won't have to go hunting for the lastest announcements.'

'2. Clean away old programs you don't use. You often download and install new programs and beta versions of programs to test them and then forget to uninstall them, which steals a lot of disk free space (and unnecessary records in the Windows Registry). Use the uninstall tools in the Control Panel.'

'3. Watch out for programs that often are part of other programs you download from the net. In the best of all cases you'll get a 'Yahoo Toolbar' or other similar help programs - in the worst possible case you'll get trojans and other dangerous things. Uninstall the programs you got by mistake [sic].'

'4. Every time you visit a site on the net your computer saves information, cookie files, and pictures automatically, and after a while it takes too much space. Remove it all by going into the settings menu (Internet options) in Internet Explorer and clicking (in the following order) 'Remove cookies', 'Remove files', and 'Clear history'. Remember to save passwords and usernames from sites where you're already a member.'

We were driving out of central Stockholm to SAAB Defence Systems. SAAB Defence Systems are today a division of British Aerospace. I was to teach a course in Windows system programming. [Ponder that for a while.] I'd already taught the same course for British Aerospace in England.

I was sitting and browsing through this contractor's course catalogue. Everything was Microsoft - Microsoft this, Microsoft that, Microsoft everything. I found only two Unix courses listed, and both were extremely simplistic. So I asked.

'Hey this entire catalogue is Microsoft crap. And you have but two Unix courses and they both look like they're made for preschoolers. Seriously: don't you think that's too much of a focus on Unix?'

No one laughed. No one. But one of them replied with the following.

'You know, actually you're right. We've been reviewing our catalogue and we've decided to remove one of them for the next issue.'

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