Jewish World Review August 27, 2003 / 29 Menachem-Av, 5763


Simple click cleans desktop of icon clutter; getting rid of program 'junk' and saving space

By James Coates

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | (KRT) Q. I just downloaded new Windows desktop wallpaper but it is very cluttered because of all the icons. How can I get rid of the icons I don't use? I don't want to delete the icons, only hide them. Any help will be appreciated.

_Don Brandfellner, Niles, Ill.

A. Yet another one of the hundreds of features that Microsoft's engineers wrote into Windows and then failed to let customers in on the secret, is an option on the desktop to simply hide all of the icons instead of worrying about how to arrange them. It's a snap to toggle desktop icon displays on and off and a decided improvement for disorganized folks like this writer who lets them sprout like weeds.

Move the cursor arrow onto the desktop and give a right-click and pick the Arrange Icons command. This calls up a menu of maintenance tools, including one that toggles a command to display all the icons on the desktop or hide them.

You might note as well, Mr. B., that there are a couple of other tools there that might aid your housekeeping, starting with a cleanup tool that will seek out the least frequently used icons and tuck them into a folder. Also, there is a command called Auto Arrange that can be quite useful. If you remove the check mark from Auto Arrange, you can drag and leave any or all of the icons anywhere you want on the whole screen display.

You can, for example, move them all to the extreme right side of the monitor or tuck them away at the top or bottom where they won't be very noticeable.

Q. My computer is a mess. I've had it two years and I have downloaded all kinds of junk (I must have six different music players). My computer's efficiency has gone down even though I have limited the startup programs. My ScanDisk doesn't do anything. I have installed so many programs that I get "shared files" messages and I'm left with empty folders.

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I would like to clean it out and reorganize it. I'm thinking of reformatting my hard drive and partitioning it. Then loading my system files on one drive and my fun and games files on other drives. What are your thoughts on this?

_Dale Burke @yahoo.com

A. You've put your finger on perhaps the most vexing problem to frustrate computer buyers not very long after they unpack their new machines. As ever more software gets loaded onto the hard drive, the computer adds all kinds of support files and supplemental data folders to serve each program. These include things such as run time modules, dynamic link libraries, script files and other elements that often get shared by several different programs.

All music players, for example, might need to find the same libraries of stored commands and trip over one another.

This means that as time passes, the computer must check ever more components to find the exact ones needed for a given piece of software. This is particularly dramatic when one loads different programs that handle the same task, such as multiple CD-burning programs, music players and such.

Add to that the fact that each time you load stuff onto the hard drive, it doesn't necessarily get listed in logical order, but gets spread willy-nilly all over the drive's surface. The result is computers slow as time passes because each time they try to do something, they must cover more ground than the last time.

I liken it to the guy with a bucket of paint assigned to adding dotted lines to the highway. At first things go pretty fast but the farther he gets from the bucket of paint, the longer it takes to go back and load up the brush. Your idea is akin to telling that sorry soul to move the bucket from time to time.

Your strategy will certainly help stave off the glutted drive problem. If you make a point of loading only programs that you need and then load those programs on a relatively small partition on the hard drive, they will run faster. The data, of course, will continue to be a problem, but most of the slowdown comes with scattered program code rather than data.

Make deadly sure that you back up all of your data and then pick up a partition program like the $50 Partition Commander 8 from V-Com (www.vcom.com). This program makes creating and altering partitions a simple exercise of mouse clicks and will certainly stave off the problem of software build-up.

Let me add, however, that the most dramatic way to speed up a computer is to periodically reformat the drives and reinstall the operating system and all commonly used programs for a fresh start.

If you're really hard core about solving the data clog problem, another program, Drive Image 7 by PowerQuest, (www.powerquest.com) is just the ticket. This $70 software package lets you make a mirror image on CDs of the hard drive at the point where all of the software and operating system has been loaded but before it has been used and thus slowed down. Then, from time to time you simply back up all new data and restore everything to its pristine condition. It's too bad we humans can't do that with our own overloaded databanks and deteriorating equipment.

Q. Your recent advice for turning on and off Microsoft Internet Explorer's Auto Complete feature and for clearing history doesn't work for users of CompuServe 7.0 (and possibly for AOL, but I don't know about that). CompuServe 7.0 users have to click Access on the CompuServe toolbar, then click Preferences, then click Toolbar and Sounds.

From there, the user can work Auto Complete and Clear History problems. Knew you would be breathlessly awaiting some nitpicker to send this reminder.

_Sam Sudz, Las Vegas

A. You're hardly a nitpicker speaking for the tens of millions of subscribers to America Online and the far smaller but estimable CompuServe membership, Mr. S. You covered CompuServe nicely in your own note, and I'll take over for AOL.

If users of AOL tap Control+K (for keyword) and type in Preferences, they will be given a list of items to change, including their Internet settings. Picking the Internet item in that AOL box will summon the same menus that users of the Microsoft browser get.

There they can select the Content tab and click on Auto Complete to switch off the feature that keeps a record of all prior Web pages visited.

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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of rthis column by clicking here.

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