Ten Tune-Up Tips for Windows 98 Performance

Ten Tune-up Tips For Windows 98 Performance

Tip 7. Taking Out The Trash.

Windows 98 is truly an amazing operating system. It does, however, tend to be somewhat of a packrat in that it tends to accumulate trash in the form of old files, records of deleted files, temporary files etc. If you add to this the number of users who delete files, but never empty the Recycle Bin, its not difficult to understand where all that disk space has gone and why their system has slowed to a crawl. Here’s an example.

About six months ago, one of our long-time customers contacted us about some problems he was having with his system that he had upgraded a little over a year earlier. He had upgraded his system by increasing his hard drive size to 8G (from a 2G drive) and upgraded to Windows 98 from Windows 95. He was complaining that now, after only 14 months, his hard drive was almost full again. According to him, he hasn’t really added that much new software, and most of what he had installed he later uninstalled. At the time of the support call, he had less then 500MB of disk space left. Our technical support person spent nearly two hours on the telephone with this gentlemen in an effort to determine where the problem was, and what he found was simply amazing.

Over the course of 14 months:

  • The customer did delete files, but never emptied the recycle bin. There were 3.1MB of files in the recycle bin that had to be removed.
  • The customer had installed 11 different programs, some from CD’s and some as the result of downloads, and he did uninstall all but one. Of the remaining 10, he never removed any of the leftover directories or any of the downloaded programs that he didn’t care for. This added nearly 1MB of unnecessary files to his hard drive.
  • There were several Index.dat files (See below), that were keeping record of all of these accumulated files and folders, that had become enormously bloated, another 422KB.
  • The ShellIconCache file, which keeps track of your icons etc, was 123,122KB, when it should have been about 1,250KB.
  • Last but not least, the number Temporary Internet Files and Cookies was enormous. All in all, of the 6GB+ that he had gained during the upgrade, nearly 95% of it had been gobbled up by trash.

The resolution to this technical support call resulted in the restoration of 5.4MB of usable hard drive space. Although this case was an extreme example, it does provide you with some insight into the packrat nature of Windows 98. It also shows you the importance of good maintenance. Remember what your mother used to tell you, “Take out the trash”, well the same thing applies in Windows 98. In order to keep Windows running at peak performance, you need to free it from having to keep track of all of those unnecessary files.

There’s a couple of ways to get rid of old files and keep your hard drive clean, but first you should be aware of how Windows treats some of these files. When you delete a file while in Windows Explorer, the file is sent to the Recycle Bin where it is saved. This enables Windows to know where the file came from and how to restore the file in the event you deleted it accidentally. Ironically, the deleted file consumes more disk space in this saved state than it did before you deleted it. As an example, let’s presume that you were running low on available disk space, and with that make a decision to delete some old files. When Windows saves the deleted files in the Recycle Bin, it creates a data file for each file in the Recycle Bin to let Windows know where it came from and how to restore it. Therefore, unless you empty the Recycle Bin after you’re finished deleting files, you’re really losing even more hard disk space by just merely deleting them and then leaving them in the Recycle Bin.

Here are three methods you can use to deal with unnecessary files:

Method 1: (The easiest)

If you are routinely deleting files, at the end of every day just double-click the Recycle Bin icon and delete the contents. If you want to keep your Recycle Bin empty, and you’re sure that you really want to delete those files, try this.

While in Windows Explorer, click once on the file to be deleted to highlight it. Next, hold the [Shift] key down and press the [Del] key. You will be asked if you want to delete the file, so just click Yes. This permanently removes the file instead of storing it in the Recycle Bin. Although this is the easiest of the methods, it is also the least desirable as it does nothing to remove temporary files, temporary Internet files, old scandisk files etc.

Method 2: (Considerably more thorough)

Windows 98 comes with a number of Tools to help you maintain your computer. One of these tools is Disk Cleanup, and it does a pretty good job of doing just that. If you’ve never used the Disk Cleanup tool tool, follow along and we’ll show you how to set it up and use it.

  1. Click Start, then Programs, then Accessories and then select System Tools. It should look something like Figure N below.

    Figure N:

  2. Now select Disk Cleanup
  3. When the Disk Cleanup window opens, it will look like this:

  4. By clicking OK, another window will open and calculate how much drive space can be recovered by cleaning out old files.

    When the calculations are finished, you will see another window open that will allow you to select exactly what type of files to be included in the disk cleanup.

  5. Just click on each of the four boxes to the left to select them, and Disk Cleanup will do a pretty good job of creating more hard drive space for you.

Method 3: (Even more thorough!)

This method can be used in conjunction with Method #2 above, but it really should be used by someone completely familiar with MS-DOS and the Windows 98 operating system, as it involves the use of a batch file to delete specific and non-specific files from your system. This is not intended as a lesson in MS-DOS or batch files, but rather a way of showing you a simple and painless way to keep your hard drive free from useless clutter. We do not doubt that someone adept in MS-DOS can come up with a number of  variations to do this, but this seems to be the easiest and simplest method for a majority of folks. Again, this presumes that you have at the least, a basic knowledge of MS-DOS commands, batch files and the consequences of typos and the incorrect use of wildcard variations.

The temporary internet files folder, history folder and cookies folder rely on an data file called “index.dat” in order to maintain a coded record of the files in each respective folder where the data files reside. You cannot delete this index file as Windows will not allow you to do so. Even if you delete all of the files in the respective folder, you will be left with the index.dat file containing a record of all of the info you just deleted. Over time, this index file becomes excessively bloated, and when you delete files from the folder in which it resides, it becomes corrupt, as it will no longer match the actual files in the folder. The index.dat file can only be deleted by booting into a pure MS-DOS environment and then deleting it from the respective folder (directory). Obviously deleting files in this manner can easily become a hassle, which is the why behind the need for a batch file.

Although the Autoexec.bat file is not really necessary in Windows 98, unless of course you need it for loading drivers for MS-DOS based games or legacy hardware, you can put it to use for cleaning up your hard drive. If you do not have this file in the root directory of your C:\ drive, all you need to do is create one in Notepad, but make sure that the “Word Wrap” option is OFF, then save the file as Autoexec.bat. You could actually name the file anything you like, however if you do so, you would have to boot to a pure MS-DOS environment in order to run it. The Autoexec.bat file, if present, is processed during the normal startup process.

Below you will find a sample Autoexec.bat file with explanations of the commands beneath. You will need to modify the paths to accommodate your own computer setup. Most of all, be careful about which files you delete in which directories. Caution: If you visit allot of sites that require cookies for recognition, you may want to consider removing that line.

Sample Autoexec.bat

@ECHO OFF PATH=%PATH%; if exist c:\windows\smartdrv.exe c:\windows\smartdrv.exe 2048 16 DELTREE /y c:\windows\history\*.* > NUL DELTREE /y c:\windows\tempor~1\*.* > NUL DELTREE /y c:\windows\temp\*.* > NUL DELTREE /y c:\windows\cookies\*.* > NUL DELTREE /y c:\windows\applic~1\micros~1\office\recent\*.* > NUL DELTREE /y c:\windows\ShellIconCache DELTREE /y c:\windows\recent\*.* > NUL  if exist del c:\windows\ff*.tmp

if exist del c:\windows\system\advert.dll

  1. @ECHO OFF suppresses the “command” from displaying on the screen. Normally, when commands are executed from a batch file, they are displayed on the screen.
  2. if exist is a conditional command. Basically, if the file exists, load it, and if it doesn’t exist, ignore it.
  3. smartdrv.exe is a standard disk cache used to speed up file handling in MS-DOS by making better use of memory.
  4. DELTREE allows you to delete a directory even if it contains files and subdirectories or has hidden, system or read-only attributes.
  5. The /Y suppresses a prompt requesting that you confirm each deletion.
  6. *.* is a wild card command to delete all the files and subdirectories but leave the directory itself. This saves adding an additional command line to recreate the folder.
  7. The > NUL instruction disables output to the screen as your computer boots and the batch file is processed. Without it, error messages about “files not found” as well as a file by file list of each file being deleted will show up on screen. Likewise, if a folder was empty you would receive an error message, but this suppresses that message. If you would rather see exactly what is going on, just delete the> NUL entry.
  8. The ShellIconCache file is a hidden file in the Windows directory that stores a cache of you icon file records. Similar to the temporary internet file folder, it becomes very bloated and corrupted.
  9. if exist del c:\windows\ff*.tmp deletes unnecessary files that Microsoft Office leaves behind, if they exist.
  10. if exist del c:\windows\system\advert.dll deletes the spyware file (advert.dll) that many demo programs and ISP’s install with their programs. This file is secretly loaded and runs on your system, reporting your online activities to the originator.

Note: There is one additional entry that you could add pertaining to the Windows swap file, but we will discuss that in greater detail in Tip #10.

Let’s take a look at Cleaning up Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and maybe Netscape too!

Notice: Windows® 95, Windows® 98, Windows® NT, Windows® 2000
are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation.

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