General Computer Help

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That is the question I am asked more often and in more different ways than any or all others combined. When you ask, "Why is my machine slow all of a sudden?" or "How can I speed this computer up?" or any of a myriad of other forms, the question is the same as the one at the top of this page. In the ensuing paragraphs I will attempt to answer all these questions in layman's terms. One word of warning though, I am a computer geek by trade, so if I branch off in a foreign dialect that needs further translation, please email me with the question and I'll translate if I can.

The first and foremost advice I can give you is to MAINTAIN your system as though it were an expensive sports car. There ARE a lot of similarities between the two. I enjoy both sports cars and High end computers and this isn't the first time I've felt this kinship between the two.

Maintenance is the main thing that will keep a system running well. A computer's speed is a function of the speed of the Main CPU Chip, the amount of Free Disk Space and Physical or RAM memory. This part isn't that difficult to determine. Just like paychecks, the larger the number the better. If you aren't satisfied with the performance you have, then the most dramatic results can be achieved by increasing the size of the numbers.

Going from a 486 based CPU to a Pentium®, Pentium II®  or 586/686 can be pretty dramatic, but not very cost effective when you price new systems and compare with the cost of this particular upgrade.

Most systems made since 1994 have controllers capable of adding an additional hard drive. This isn't a particularly difficult upgrade and shouldn't be all that expensive depending on the price of the drive you add. The common type hard disk interface in PC's is the IDE. That's not to say there aren't SCSI's, they just aren't nearly as common on home/office PC's.

The most dramatic and cost effective upgrade you can do by FAR is the RAM memory upgrade. One of the manuals that came with your system should be entitled "Advanced System Guide" or something similar and should tell you what constraints you are under in relation to chip size and type as well as location on the motherboard. Memory is readily available at your neighborhood computer/electronics store and if you are familiar with the workings of a screwdriver, can likely be done by yourself. If you have ANY doubts as to your ability, ALWAYS hire a pro and save money in the long run. If you educate yourself in the terms such as SIMM, EDO, SDIMMS, DIMMS and the various machine-specific types of "laptop-memory".

There is a utility on the Windows 95 CD that will tell you everything you need to know about your system and then some. The name of the program is MSD.EXE, for Microsoft Diagnostics. It is located on my CD at G:\OTHER\MSD\MSD.EXE  If you don't have the Win95 CD, you can get this file  from the Windows 3.x diskettes or directly from Microsoft at, at


To use it:

  1. Copy it to your WINDOWS\COMMAND\  folder.
  2. Restart your computer in MS-DOS mode
  3. at the C:\> Prompt, type msd and press the enter key.
  4. Print the report that is under the File menu,
  5. and since it is about 20-50 pages in length, choose the FILE option to print it to file.
  6. A good suggestion for the information is to be sure to DATE the report and do this while your machine is running well.
  7. Be sure to put the drive letter and colon (:) in front of, (which is the default filename.)
Now that you have all your pertinent information, save it in a safe place and also in a place where you can locate it quickly.** Put it in a folder off the "C" drive. something like C:\MSDRPT or C:\SYSBACK would be great.
**Your computer consultant will love you for it, if you ever need one. trust me  :-)**

Now that you have all the pertinent information stashed away, Let's move on to routine maintenance.

Two items on the System Tools options of the Start menu under accessories are Scandisk and Disk Defragmenter. I won't go into a lot of explanation as to exactly what these tools do, other than to say they are similar to tuning up a computer the same way one might tune up a car.  The first thing to do is to get them set properly to do what you want them to do.

I have placed the instructions for the configuration of these tools on their own pages for the sake of speed. Also you can print or save these two pages for off--line use.At the bottom of each page is a "Back" link that will return you here.

For directions to  setup Scandisk click here

For directions to setup the Disk Defragmenter click here

Now that you have both commands configured it's time to run them. Scandisk should be run first as Defrag will prompt you to do so if any errors exist on the hard disk. Scandisk can also be run in DOS mode which is probably a better option to do that Restart in MS-DOS mode and type the  word "SCANDISK" less the quotes, and press enter.

For Maintence of Windows 3.x
use Scandisk and Defrag also
In Windows 3.11 and lower

Both of these commands are available and both MUST be run in MS-DOS.To configure the commands, look at these links for the Windows 95 versions and choose similiar options in the DOS versions you have.

**It would be HIGHLY advantageous for you to to print both these pages as you will not have a web browser or text editor available to view them in while you are trying to execut4e the commands.**

At the C:\> prompt, type SCANDISK and press enter as below


Defrag the same way.



I run these on a weekly basis on my system and until I decide to install buggy beta software I usually don't have serious problems on this system. It's not what's considered to be a high end workstation anymore either, just about average, or a little below by today's standards. If you follow these instructions exactly as they are written, it is my opinion that your system will give you better service as well.

This page is designed and written by John Jenkins. If there are any questions or other issues about the content, email me, and I will deal with it in a timely manner. If specific help is requested an email address with an or domain is required. As with all programs on the internet, you, the downloader, assumes all risk of file damage or viruses that these or any programs may contain that are received over the internet. Neither CSS, ECS, nor the author will be responsible for any damage done by any program received over the internet. Please note this includes programs that are virus free but may cause problems with other programs on your computer and programs that simply won't run right on a particular machine.