Computers, like cars, require routine maintenance to continue functioning properly, and to avoid possible damage. For instance, you would normally change the oil in your car about every three thousand miles. Likewise, you should run computer maintenance at least once a month. Many prefer to do it weekly.
Defrag and Scandisk are two programs for Windows computers, and there are virus detectors for all computers.
When your operating system writes a file to the hard drive, it finds the first available sector and begins writing. If the file is larger than that sector, typically 37,768 bytes, then your operating system tries to write in the next contiguous sector. If that sector is already being used by another file, then a "forwarding address" is attached to the file in the current sector and the remaining part(s) of the file is copied into the next available sector. For instance, say the first available sector is 1234:ABCD. The OS starts to write a file of 100K into it. 32,768 bytes later, the sector is full with 67,232 bytes left to write. The next sector, 1234:ABCE is already being used by a 300-byte file. The next sector, 1234:ABCF is available. So 1234:ABCD is left a forwarding address to 1234:ABCF and the remainder of the file begins to write there using the same methodology until all of the 100K is written. This results in disk fragmentation.
Fragments of the file are stored in non-contiguous locations on the Hard Drive. Suppose the forwarding address gets lost or corrupted, then the remainder of the file is called a lost allocation unit. The first of the file is now damaged and could cause your software to experience many different types of problems, including locking up. For instance, suppose your file is a quote table which could be around 3 megabytes, or 3 million bytes. This would generally take about 92 sectors to write. Now suppose every other sector is taken by another file. The read and write of this file would take considerably longer than reading from contiguous sectors, thus slowing performance and speed.
Secondly, the possibility of one of the sectors losing the forwarding address information is now increased dramatically. If one of the sectors loses the forwarding address, the remaining sectors would be lost. For instance, say out of the 91 sectors, sector 20 lost the forwarding address. Sectors 21 through 91 would become lost allocation units and basically be garbage data taking up valuable hard drive space. The remaining sectors, 1 through 20, would be a damaged file and could cause the software and consequently, the computer problems. When Ensign loads, it opens up this file and loads it into memory. Expecting the file to be good, it just goes about its work loading symbol after symbol after symbol. Once the end of the file is reached (sector number 20) the program may lock up or begin working with a partial database. The partial database will continue to grow and cause bigger problems the longer it stays in memory. The "damage" and results are varying depending on the system and what file was damaged and where the file is damaged.
Scandisk is a Microsoft program that finds these kinds of errors. The only fix is to delete the lost allocation units and delete the remaining portion of the file. Scandisk will automatically locate and delete (based on automatic settings) these lost allocation units. Finding and deleting the remaining files, unfortunately, would be up to the user and is usually done only when problems arise. Experience is necessary to determine what files are damaged and need to be deleted.
Defrag is also a Microsoft program that aligns file in a contiguous order. There are also third party companies that have similar utilities, such as Norton's Disk Doctor. Running each of these would help ensure the quality and integrity of the operating system, computer, software, etc.
Another program to run is a virus detector. Tens of thousands of viruses exist that affect computers in many different ways, including destroying hard drives. A good virus detector that has the latest detectors is a really good way to protect yourself as well as those you transfer files and e-mails to. Many people like to run the virus detector constantly. It is loaded into memory and alerts you instantly when a virus is attacking your system. Others like to run a virus detector once a week along with Scandisk and Defrag.
One situation that we run into here at Software Support is system resources. The more powerful the computer is, the more components you can add to it. Each component you add to it, the lower the system resources becomes. The bigger computers get, more "toys" are being added to them, and the more system resources are being strained. The lower your system resources become, the more prone your computer is to having problems with files, locks ups, etc. Removing any driver or resident program that you do not want or need is good to do. If you do not know how to do this, or you are unsure of a particular program or driver, then contact a qualified individual that can assist you.
- Run Defrag (or comparable third party program) to help keep your files in line and quickly accessible. This is a good start to keeping your computer running quickly, smoothly and optimally.
- Run Scandisk to locate and fix most errors on your hard drive, including physical errors.
- Run a Virus Detector with the latest virus library to locate and clean any viruses your system may have.
- Remove any drivers and resident programs from memory to keep your resources optimally high, thus allowing your system to run smoothly, quickly, and efficiently.
Ensign Software Support can be reached at 801-328-1382.
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Ensign Software, Inc., 113 Stillwater Drive, Idaho Falls, ID 83404 Support: 801-328-1382 Billing: 208-552-2230
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Last modified 10/17/08 2:41 PM