Maintaining Windows

The following procedures are suggested to ensure the proper functioning of your computer:

1. Malware. Make sure you have installed and use some form of virus protection. Consider Avira, one of the highly rated free antivirus solutions.

2. Memory check. Use memtest86 to check your memory. Download and create a boot CD, then boot from the CD to run the diagnostics.

3. Drive check. Verify your disk drive and file system are okay. From Windows Explorer right-click on your C drive and choose Properties. Click on the Tools tab and under Error-checking choose "Check now". For a normal drive, the kind that spins around, enable both checkboxes. If you have an SSD then don’t attempt to fix bad sectors, just fix file system errors.

4. OS updates. Make sure you have the latest updates from Microsoft. Click on the Start button, enter “update” in the Run box, click on Windows Update, and then Check for updates.

5. Backups. It's important to backup your disk. I utilize two separate drives: C for the OS and data, and D:/ for backups. Alternatively you can backup to an external drive via a USB port to something like a WD My Passport Ultra or, if you already have a hard drive, a USB hard drive docking station with an ASM1053E/ASM1351E chipset works well.

At the beginning of each month I do a full backup using ShadowProtect Desktop, an industrial-strength backup utility that does one thing and does it well. For the rest of the month an incremental backup runs each day when the computer is first turned on. This only takes a few seconds and as a result I'm able to restore the entire hard disk or selectively restore files from any day for the last several months. Since it is easy to restore from backups I have turned off system protection so that Windows restore points are no longer created.

6. Temporary Files. The OS and applications often create temporary files. These can accumulate to a surprising degree. Periodically, say once a month or so, delete the following files:


The *.* represents a wildcard and indicates all files/directories. This just begs to be done with a command-line script but Windows support for such a script is limited. I recommend you use Windows Explorer to accomplish this task. If you happen to be running cygwin, a Unix emulator, it is very easy:

rm -rf /cygdrive/c/Users/*/AppData/Local/Temp/*
rm -rf /cygdrive/c/temp/*
rm -rf /cygdrive/c/Windows/Temp/*    

A Clean System

Periodically I like to start with a clean system. Here is my strategy. After purchasing a computer and installing the applications, I make sure the OS is up-to date and then create a base backup. This base backup remains untouched for the next six months. During that time I record, in a text file, changes that have made to the environment. This includes changes to parameters in the operating system, changes to parameters in applications, and a record of any new applications that have been installed.

After six months a snapshot backup is created. Now there are two backups: a snapshot of the current data, and a base backup that's six months old. The base backup is restored to my C drive and all the changes made, based on my records, are applied. Then my personal data from the snapshot backup is restored. Since all personal files and directories reside under a single home directory this is easily done. Now I have another clean system which is saved as a new base backup for the next time. Here is what six months of Microsoft updates look like.

In this way I have maintained a stable system since 2011 that incorporates all the latest software.

In 2015, when Microsoft began installing spyware and forced updates, I disabled Microsoft updates. I still update other applications, including anti-virus software, and life is good.

Tom Niemann
Portland, Oregon