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Keepng your hard drive clean and healthier than.....

what windos can do for you. This is will be a good thread for newbies and home users (even businesses if they wish to) to get alot out of their hard drive. There will also be tips for securely erasing data too.

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tips for a healthy and happy HDD

If the HDD is healthy, then it is happy. If it is happy, it will perform better. Windows tools like defrag and cleanup, only work at a superficial level in my opion and don't give you the best performance ratings (what do u expect. Its Microsoft people) Here are some alternatives to using the windows tools. They work more thoroughly and at a faster rate than windows defrag and cleanup. For this I will create multiple posts, instead of one huge advice column.

1. CCleaner:
Current Version: 3.00.1303
Features: Registry cleaner and provides a backup facility for the registry before cleaning it up, secure file deletion (3,7 or 35 passes), can remove temporary files from office, adobe systems, Imgburn, logemin files, windows media player, windows defender and from other applications that the regular windows cleanuup doesn't.
Best download source:
Best time to use: Use before turning off your machine off every day to remove files ready for the next boot.

My thoughts/experiences: I firstly wasn't too bothered for an alternative to the cleanup as it is sort of okay. I found this on a site when I was trying out a free disk defragmenter. It is really good. If set correctly, then your system will run as quickly as it can for its age. It deletes alot more information than windows cleanup does and also in a quicker time.

I used this on a staff computer at college. Now I first ran windows cleanup and it notified me that there were 18GB worth of temporary files, compressed old files and recyle bin stuff. Now I started it off and it took an hour to delete 1% of all that information so I got fed up with it and used CCleaner. Not only did it read the 18GB of system temporary files and other crap. but it provided a further list of temporary files from other programs. (full total after analysis was 20.6GB) Now all those files using secure file deletion method DOD 5220.22-M (3 passes) took 31 minutes to delete. Re-booted the system and they haven't had problems with a slow system since.

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My second piece of software i s a replacement for windows disk defrag.

2. Auslogics Disk Defragmenter
Current version:
Features: Can move sytem files to the faster part of the disk, can also remove some temporary files before defragmentation., real-time colour-coded chart that changes colours as files are de-fragged, can be set as a schedule, can be integrated into context menus so that individual files/folders can be de-fragged, when creating a list of fragmented files, you can choose to defrag the whole drive or individual files. Can also work with VSS technology to reduce chances of overwriting areas reserved for VSS.
Best download site: folloed by the CNET download icon.
Best time to use: once a week before you power your machine off after running CCleaner or any cleanup program.

My thoughts/experiences. Auslogics disk defrag is exeptionally fast. alot faster than windows own software. I remember it takes windows about an hour regardless of the size of fragmentation or the drive. and the anything longer as well.

I used this program alongside the CCleaner for the same customer. with windows it would take 5 hours most likely to "solve" 60% fragmentation on a 250GB drive. and probably wouldn't do it all either. (windows can only cope with a maximum of about 12% fragmentation) on Auslogics, 250GB/60% fragmentation using the move system files to faster part of the disk algortihm as well took 34 and a half minutes. And the system was alot faster afterwards and no problems occurred after that.

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Now those two programs should be used in conjunction all the time. They don't conflict and work reaaly well when combined. the best method for using them together would be the following

1. before you switch off your machine run CCleaner daily.
2. before you switch of your machine, run Auslogics weekly after ruuning CCleaner.
3. switch off your machine and wait till the next time.

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Secure file deletion

I was browsing the internet for some way of trying to find out how I could securely wipe old un-indexed data from my drive and I found this software. I haven't personally used it, but I have seen many reviews regarding this software that all looks good. It comes as a bootbale LiveCD and has the name Active@Killdisk. It can use various overwrite methods including 3,7 and 35 passes. I would suggest you maybe try this in a virtual environment first. until you also know how to use it so that it doesn't delete important data.

The way to test this is then to try and recover the data. If you can't (or its jumbled characters and code) then you know it worked. I'd recommend 7 passes for personal data as 35 is overkill. use this standard only when it involves secretcovert information like military, FBI, special ops, CIA, NSA (ironically 7 passes is the NSA standard)

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Further information

My friend used CCleaner on a 64-bit environment and it BSOD his system. It deleted memory dump files that 64-bit Win 7 Ultimate (might I say though still has loads of bugs and/or incompatibilities with other software) and then upon re-boot, the BSOD said it could load windows because of missing memory dump files.

The point of this is to teell you that if you aare unsure, always try it in either virtual mode or on a system you don't care about (if you have an old spare system).

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how fragmentation occurs

I though it would be interesting (as we are talking here about de-fragging and cleaning) that I would explain how files get fragmented in te first place.

When a program to open a file or run a particular function is loaded into memory, it creates temporaary files which are scattered around the drive, it also loads the program randomly into memory. SO 1 part might be loaded into the first chip and another part maybe loaded into the sixth chip. Now when memory releses that program, it releases it as it was stored. In seperate pieces. It then is scattered in different locations This slow down the read speed of the drive because it has to search for all parts of the file in various locations first.

A disk defragmenter will place all those fragments either back into one file or place them close together in a continguous format that the system can read quicker.

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Fragmentation and defrag

Filesystem fragmentation occurs because NTFS does not always write files in contiguous logical blocks despite the availability of a contiguous chunk of free space that might have accommodated the complete file. Often it stuffs file fragments in free space that exists between other files. This free space in between files is a consequence of deletion or modification of existing files. Since it takes longer to read fragmented files compared to contiguous files (extra I/O as well as drive head travel time), disk performance suffers.

These days tackling fragmentation is pretty much a hands-off affair that doesn't waste the users' time; there are powerful defrag utilities that are completely automatic and defrag in the background without user intervention. The best ones even prevent most of the fragmentation at the file write stage itself, thus minimizing the need to defrag at all.

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data/system loss prevention tips

There is a certain order that you should use before installing a new program/system.

To protect the current data or system, you should perform all backup systems in the following way.

1. Run a cleaner program to remove temporary files and other crap so there's nothing in the restore point
2. Run system protection/restore to create a restore point
3. run cleaner program again to remove recent temporary files if their are any.
4. run a disk defragmenter to defrag and make contingous all files including system files.
5. Run either your data backup or disk imaging software and take the backup/image
6. Then when you feel secure everything is backed up, then format, install or whatever it is you were going to do. It maybe long winded, but it provides a backup measure should your system fail.

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