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Monday, Dec 23, 2002

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PCs too need cleaning

The inside of the PC needs an occasional `clean sweep' - otherwise it can grind to a halt.

BESIDES THE physical PC clean, equally important is the `spiritual' side of the personal computer — its ticking heart and its software soul. But there is another reason why regular cleaning on the innards of the PC is vital. This is to protect your privacy. For starters, use the free cleaning tools that come with the Windows operating system of the IBM type PC. In the latest version, Windows XP, the `disk cleanup' utility can be reached by looking under `All Programs'— `Accessories' — `System Tools'. It is good to run this at least once a week. It will empty the recycle bin, remove downloaded programme files that are no longer being used and erase all `temporary' files. It tells you how many MB each cleanup operation will release.

What Disk Cleanup will not do is to empty the cache that gets filled every time you surf the Web with Netscape or Internet Explorer. This keeps a copy of every page you visited and even an hour's surfing will generate a cache of 30-50 MB. The only way to empty the cache is to access it with the browser. In Netscape, go to `Edit'— `Preferences' — , `Advanced'— `Cache'— and press the `Clear Memory Cache' and `Clear Disk Cache' buttons.

In IE, go to `Tools'— `Internet Options' — `Temporary Internet files' and press the `Delete files' and `Delete Cookies' buttons.

Another utility that many users never exploit is the `Defrag' option in Windows. It can be found in the same `System Tools' folder where `Disk Cleanup is placed'. This essentially packs up the data on the hard disk tightly, reducing the space wasted on gaps. In other words it defragments the disk. Typically one does a defrag once a year. If you invoke the tool, Windows will first do an audit of your hard drive and tell you whether you would gain anything from a defrag operation.

Many software packages especially the ones that come on the free CDs that are distributed with computer magazines, are easy to install but harder to uninstall. They often leave a residue of rubbish on your drive. There are any number of tools available which do a more thorough cleanup of your computer but most of them cost money, typically Rs. 500 or more. But there are quite a few which are limited use shareware: that means you can download it for free and use it for some time, but after that it will stop working. The best of this breed is something called `Complete Cleanup' that can be downloaded from dozens of mirror sites. The easiest way is to enter `Complete Cleanup' in the Google search engine ( and you will find links to a number of alternative sites all of which offer downloads of the product.

Protecting your PC from the Virus scourge is an unavoidable part of Web e-nabled life today. There are free virus protection programmes and there are many who supply anti virus products at a price that could range from Rs. 500 to Rs. 2,000. If that is a problem, you can still find acceptable protection from perfectly adequate free services that are fully supported with regular updates like the AVG anti virus product that can be downloaded from After the download, you must wait to receive a `key' that will be e-mailed to you, but this happens the same day. There are a host of other cleanup tools available free: `Pop-Up Stopper' which eliminates those irritating pop-up advertisements; `Cookie Crusher' which allows you to size up each incoming cookie — those tiny bits of software that clutter your disk — and either accept or reject it; and `Personal Firewall' that secures the sensitive parts of your drive from prying invaders. The easiest way to locate a download site for these freebies is to enter the name in a Google or Altavista or Lycos search engine and hit the address. This is far easier than entering a long string of characters to reach the site.


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