Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.


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    Chapter 2. The program's decline

    The problem with Windows is that the system is in decline. As time goes by it deteriorates nearly all the time. The programs run more and more slowly and strange errors start popping up like, for example, the mouse hangs on the screen and cannot be moved. This is a typical sign of a sick Windows.

    Windows 98 experiences this after a few months of intensive use and Windows XP will also wear down in the same way. In this chapter I will expand on the various conditions, which contribute to the decline of Windows. Then we can hopefully find some precautions, which can help to delay the decline.

    What is it that wears Windows down?

    Imagine a computer with Windows XP, which has a handful of programs (for example, Microsoft Office) installed. If it is used daily as it is, Windows ought to theoretically keep healthy for ever. But the reality is different.

    There are a number of quite ordinary activities, which you ought to be able to undertake on your computer but which turn out to have a wearing down effect on Windows. These are:

  • Replacement of hardware devices or the installation of new hardware.

  • Installation and uninstallation of user programs.

  • Updating with service packs and patches.

  • Daily use of programs already installed.

    The first three points are all concerned with alterations in the configuration of Windows and program registration. Each time something is changed in Windows, it is as if Windows collapses a little. The last point, the daily use, ought not to in theory wear Windows down but it looks as if it does anyway.

    Each time we install or remove both hardware and programs, Windows is worn down. In the end, the program will inevitably have to be reinstalled.

    Since the beginning lots of errors have been built into Windows, which is an extremely complicated program. It consists today of millions of code lines, which are weaved into each other, and no single person has a complete picture of it. This enormous amount of program material is constantly increased with all of Microsoft's updates. Many think that Windows, in fact, gets poorer and poorer with every new update. The best solution would, therefore, be a completely new version of Windows, which has been rewritten from the ground up. But until then we will have to live with an endless stream of temporary solutions.

    Many devices to keep an eye on

    Windows has to control all the hardware units: hard disk, memory, screen, printer, mouse, keyboard, sound card, etc.

    Literally thousands of different hardware units are to be found all functioning differently and Windows has to know every single one of them. It is, in fact, quite unbelievable that a computer works, when you think about it. But it does usually.

    During the installation of Windows, the program analyses the computer's hardware and ensures that the drivers necessary in connection with the different devices are installed. If any of them aren't working, you can see it in the device manager:

    Figure 6. The three hardware devices at the top haven't been activated by Windows, because the right drivers weren't present during the installation.

    It is usually unimportant for the performance of Windows, if there is hardware in a computer, which hasn't been activated. The hardware concerned won't work but the rest of the computer will probably work fine.

    At this moment of writing I have two multimedia cards in my computer, which are marked with yellow question marks. In the Device Manager, as seen in Figure 6. This means that Windows hasn't read in the drivers to these devices, which is why they cannot be used for anything at all. So when in this case nothing comes out of the loud speakers, then there is a good reason for it the sound card isn't properly installed in Windows. It's easy to live with these kinds of things, as long as you are aware of the circumstances.

    Sensitive with regards to hardware

    Windows is sensitive with regards to irregularities in the computer's hardware. It can, for example, be important how the RAM modules are installed on the motherboard. If there is enough room, for example, for four RAM modules, then it can cause problems if they are installed in socket 3+4 instead of socket 1+2. In the same way RAMs from different manufacturers can cause problems for Windows.

    Hardware problems can be very unfortunate in Windows. It is often very difficult to identify the problem's source. If there is, for example, something wrong with the RAM blocks, then you might experience many mysterious things in Windows. This might be a mouse, which appears to be paralyzed or one or another program, which won't start-up. Purely logically, you would think that there is something wrong with the mouse or the program concerned. This isn't necessary the case the cause of the problem can be concealed in a completely different place, in unstable hardware, for example.

    Watch the heat

    Strange Windows errors can also occur when the processor gets too hot. This is rather a common problem because the processor's cooling unit collects dust in time and the CPU is very sensitive to rises in temperature.

    Dust can impair the cooling process so that the processor becomes too hot. Modern motherboards have built-in mechanisms, which give reports on the temperature of the CPU, and this is worth keeping your eyes on. Watch the text on the screen during the start-up; you can often see the CPU temperature here. Or you can open the Set-up program where there is a section called PC Health Status or something like that. You can see the current temperature in the power room here. Temperatures higher than 50 degrees celsius should be avoided. Clean the cooler with a vacuum cleaner or (better still) replace it.

    Figure 7. One of the biggest sources of error is an overheated CPU. Check the processors cooler at least once a year. You can see a nearly noiseless copper cooler from the company Zalman in the figure above.

    The answer is precautionary measures

    Windows XP is going to give problems at one time or another; it is probably not to be avoided. The best solution to these problems is a reinstallation of Windows XP. You might just as well accept this right from the start.

    You can postpone these problems for a while. But because a computer is designed for daily wear and tear, it doesn't really make sense trying to postpone the wearing-down. You can, however, try to make sure that the Windows system is healthy as follows:

     

    Precautions

    Several hard disks in the computer and lots of unoccupied room at least 25 %, preferably 40 % on them.

    Regular defragmenting of the hard disks.

    Optimize the Windows settings, e.g. the page files.

    Recognise and remember all the installed programs and drivers for all the hardware.

    Uninstallation of all unnecessary programs.

    Cleaning up after the uninstallation of unnecessary programs

    Control of programs, which start automatically during the start-up.

    Updating via Windows Update.

    Control of all folders with temporary files.

    System regeneration.

    Have a security hard disk with Windows XP installed ready.

    Figure 8. These precautions can keep Windows healthy for a long time but not for ever.

    Restoring the system

    Windows system restoration makes it possible to restore Windows from earlier snapshots of the system's configuration.

    This function, which really works well, is found both in the start menu's Help and support and in the program folder System tools.

    Windows monitors the system and at intervals stores information about the different conditions in Windows at a particular time. This is called a restore point.

    At a later date you can decide to let Windows restore itself from the relevant data. It is all controlled by a calendar, where you can see the different restore points:

    Figure 9. The calendar shows the restore points Windows can use. The 4th July software for a new mouse has been installed (Logitech). The computer's Windows can be brought back to the status before the installation if you activate one of the earlier restore points.

    You can either let Windows store the restore points itself or you can control it yourself. If you have a computer with a well-functioning Windows, then you can choose to create a restore point before, for example, you install a program you are not quite sure of.

    Uninstallation of programs doesn't always work perfectly. But if you activate the last restore point before the installation, then it corresponds with a 100 % uninstallation.

    Figure 10. By storing a restore point before a program installation, you get a guarantee for the option of making a total uninstallation of the program later.

    If you find an error in your computer for example after the installation of a bad program or after experimenting with the registry editor, then you can restore.

    You select a restore point and then Windows XP is restored. After the start-up the computer's system software has been brought back to the status it had at the restore point.

    Figure 11. The computer is restored from a restore point.

    Preparation for reinstallation

    It is as said before almost unavoidable that Windows XP at some time or another will have to be reinstalled, at any rate if you use your computer a lot.

    Preparation

    Clean hard disk ready for installation

    CD-ROM with Windows XP ready

    All the necessary drivers at hand

    List with the programs and utilities to be installed and access to them

    Backup of the most important settings and system data

    Figure 12. If you have control of all these situations, then it is an easy task to reinstall Windows XP.

    Even though you use Windows' reinstallation to remove unfortunate program installations or no matter how well you have looked after Windows XP, the system will probably be worn right down in time. This is why it is important to prepare the reinstallation. The preparation is quite extensive as seen in Figure 12, and requires lots of discipline.


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