Showing posts from 2011

A+: Verifying Hardware Details

Windows System Information gives information about your hardware; launch it with {Win-R}msinfo32.exe{Enter}. The earlier winmsd can still be run on Window XP and 2000 as well as msinfo32.

Belarc Advisor is a free download at . It’s extremely quick and painless; all you need to do is double-click it once the download is complete. It will automatically install, look for updates, and create a profile of your computer that runs in a browser window. Here you will find all of the hardware-related (and software-related) information on one screen. It also gives you system security status.

SiSoftware Sandra Lite can also be found at .

The Windows 7 Compatibility Center is at and the Windows Logo’d Products List (formerly the HCL) can be found at

For computers without an installed operating system, use self-booting diagnostic pr…

A+: Windows Minimum Requirements

Any system built in the last few years can easily achieve the hardware requirements needed for installing Windows Vista or 7 and will far surpass the requirements of Windows XP. However, in the real world, digital dinosaurs that might not be fast enough or have enough free disk space to support some versions of Windows still roam the earth  (and for those, there's Linux).

Minimum official specs

CPU -RAM- HD Free -Other

7 (64bit)1GHz - 2GB -20GB free - DirectX 9 video, WDDM 1 or better

7 (32bit)1GHz - 1GB - 16GB free - DirectX 9 video, WDDM 1 or better

Vista800MHz - 512MB - 15GB free (20GB partition) -DVD or CD drive

XP233MHz - 64MB - 1.5GB (2GB partition) -DVD or CD drive

2000133MHz - 64MB - 650MB (2GB partition) -CD or floppy drive

Now, those are the 'official' specs. A recommended guideline for Vista is a 1 GHz processor for all versions, and 1 GB of RAM plus a 40 GB HDD for Home Premium/Business/Ultimate.

A+: Operating systems

PCs without an operating system (or 'OS') are lumps of metal, fiberglass and solder and silicon. The OS is a foundation, a collection of low level programs which are like a uniform and consistent floor, walls and ceiling you can furnish to do your work and make the computer useful. To get ready to put an OS on a PC, you need to:

    • Confirm the PC has sufficient resources and free disk space for the installation

    • Make sure you have drivers for the devices and peripherals you want to use with the OS

    • Collect the startup disks (if needed) to prepare the hard disk and start the installation

    • Figure out where a new OS should be installed to if part of a dual-boot configuration to let you run either the old or new OS.

    • Choose the OS edition to install

A+: Halting Apps Gone Zombie

You can also shut down an unresponsive application, preferably through the Applications tab of the Task Manager. A program listed as Not Responsive might start working again in a few moments. However, if it does not, select the program, click End Task, and Windows will (eventually) shut down the program.

If you are unable to shut down the program using the Applications tab, you can use the Processes tab’s End Process button to stop the application’s underlying process. For example Microsoft Word is an application, but its underlying process is winword.exe. However, you should use this method only as a last resort. Be careful when ending processes; make sure that you know the correct process name for the application you wish to terminate.

Tip: If you have a lot of problems with unresponsive applications, consider a memory upgrade and check for updates to the application, other applications that are running at the same time, and to Windows itself.

A+: Adjusting Processes

The Windows Task Manager’s Processes tab lists processes currently taking place by the name of the executable file. To adjust the priority for a particular process from the default (Normal) to a higher or lower priority, right-click the process, select Set Priority, and choose a priority from the listing

    Be careful when setting custom priorities for processes. If you want to tweak application priority, make the change just one step at a time. Going to a high priority for one application could make other applications less responsive or could cause the operating system to freeze up. Also, changing the priority of SYSTEM processes isn’t recommended. Doing so could make your system unresponsive.

    If you don’t like the changes, reboot the system. Priority changes last only for the current computing session.

A+: Application Performance Adjustment


Windows offers several ways to fine-tune application performance. These include

    • Adjusting the balance between background services and application response

    • Adjusting the priority of a process belonging to an application

    • Stopping unresponsive applications

Adjusting the Balance Between Background Services and Application Response

Windows since 2000 can be configured to use more memory for background services (non-active windows, printing, and so on) instead of the default (Programs—improves performance for the foreground application). You might want to do this if your Windows Vista or XP computer was acting as a file or print server for a small network. To make this change, use the following steps:

    Step 1. Open the System Properties window and click the Advanced tab.

    Step 2. Click the Settings button in the Performance box. This opens the Performance Options window.

    Step 3. Click the Advanced tab.

    Step 4. From here you can adjust for best pe…

A+: Windows Startup

Most systems are configured to run programs at startup as well as services. In addition to starting some services at start up, Windows can also start programs automatically from these locations:

    • The Startup folder in the Start menu for all users— To view the contents of this folder, open the Run prompt, type %allusersprofile%\Start Menu\Programs\Startup, and click OK.

    • The Startup folder in the Start menu for the current user— To view the contents of this folder, click Start, Run, type %userprofile%\Start Menu\Programs\Startup, and click OK.

    • Registry keys, such as

    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

Startup programs might wind up in the Task Bar or the systray, or they might be displayed in a window or full-screen. If …

A+: Windows Services

Since Windows 2000, many core functions are implemented as services, including features such as the print spooler, wireless network zero configuration, DHCP client service, and many more. Services can be run automatically or manually and are controlled through the Services node of the Computer Management Console. To open the Computer Management Console, right-click My Computer/Computer and select Manage. Then expand the Services and Applications node and click Services. You can also access the Services dialog from the Services applet in Control Panel’s Administrative Tools folder (Classic mode). The Services dialog lists each service by name, provides a description, status message, start up type, and whether the service is for a local system or network service.

To view the properties for a particular service, double-click the service listing. The General tab of the properties sheet displays the service name, description, path to executable file, startup type, and status. You can also …

A+: Temp files

The default location for temporary files in Windows versions prior to Windows Vista/XP is the TEMP folder beneath the default Windows folder (\Windows or \WinNT). Windows Vista and XP use \Windows for system temporary files, and XP uses \Documents and Settings\Username\Local Settings\Temp for user-specific temporary files. Vista uses \Users\Username\AppData\Local\Temp for user-specific temporary files.
The location can be adjusted with a pair of SET statements.

Some applications use SET TEMP=location; others use SET TMP=location (replace location with the actual drive and folder path). Be sure to change both variables if you need to change the setting for temporary files.

Temporary File Settings in Windows Vista/XP/2000

Use the Advanced tab on the System properties sheet to set environmental variables such as SET TEMP and many others. Here’s how to make the change (you must be logged on as an administrator):

    Step 1. Create a folder called TEMP in the root folder of the drive you wa…

A+: Windows Optimization and Hard Drives

To optimize the performance of the hard disk, you can use the following methods:

    • Upgrade to a hard disk with a faster spin rate and larger cache buffer— Typically, newer SATA hard disks have faster spin rates and larger cache buffer sizes than older SATA or most PATA hard disks. To determine the spin rate and cache size for an     installed drive, check the manufacturer’s specifications for the drive.

    • Set up a RAID 0 drive array— A RAID 0 drive array is similar to a striped array, but uses a RAID-compatible host adapter on the motherboard or a host adapter card. A software-based version of RAID 0 can also be set up within Windows through the use of the Disk Management snap-in. Keep in mind that there is no fault tolerance involved with RAID 0, this technology is developed solely for speed. If one of the drives fails, you will lose all of the data in the array. Remember to back up your data!

    • If the system uses PATA drives, don’t use a single PATA host adapter for two …

A: Optimizing Windows and Page File Adjustment

If the Performance Monitor/System Monitor indicates that the Paging File % Usage is consistently near 100% or the Memory Pages/Sec counter is consistently higher than 5, add RAM to improve performance.   low levels of usage of the Paging File % Usage and Memory Pages/Sec counters indicate adequate memory.

The performance of the paging file can be improved by

    • Setting its minimum and maximum sizes to the same amount.

    • Moving the paging file to a physical disk (or disk partition) that is not used as much as others.

    • Using a striped volume for the paging file. A striped volume is identical areas of disk space stored on two or more dynamic disks that are referred to as a single drive letter. Create a striped volume with the Windows XP Disk Management tool.

    • Creating multiple paging files on multiple physical disks in the system.

    • Moving the paging file away from the boot drive.

To adjust the location and size of the paging file in Windows, follow these steps:


A+: Getting Windows Optimized, Virtual Memory, Performance Monitor, and System Monitor

If you run short of money, you can borrow some from the bank (assuming your credit’s in decent shape). However, there’s a penalty: interest. Similarly, if your system runs short of memory, it can borrow hard disk space and use it as virtual memory. The penalty for this type of borrowing is performance: Virtual memory is much slower than real RAM memory. However, you can adjust how your system uses virtual memory to achieve better performance.

    To minimize the need to use virtual memory, increase the physical memory (RAM) in a Windows system to at least 1GB (1.5GB on a system with integrated graphics; 2GB for Win 7). When additional RAM is added to a computer running Windows, it is automatically used first before the paging file.

The Windows Vista Performance Monitor and Windows XP System Monitor can be used to determine whether more RAM should be added to a computer.

    • To access the Windows Vista Performance Monitor, open the Run prompt, type perfmon.exe and press Enter. This o…

A+: Remote Desktop Connecting Remotely

Start the process of connecting with  Start | All Programs | Accessories | Remote Desktop Connection || Enter the name or IP address of the remote machine and select Connect. Provide a username and password from the list of authorized remote users and click OK when prompted. The remote desktop appears.

Note: If you need additional connection options, click on the Options button. This opens a multi-tabbed connection dialog with options for saving connection settings (General tab); adjusting the size and color depth of the remote desktop (Display tab); configuring options for remote computer sound, keyboard, and devices (Local Resources tab); what program to start on connection (Programs); connection speed, screen handling, and reconnect options (Experience); security and advanced connection settings (Advanced).

A tab at the top of the remote dialog displays the name or IP address of the remote PC, and provides options for minimizing, maximizing/windowing, and closing the session

You ha…

A+: Remote Desktop use and configuration

Windows since XP Professional includes Remote Desktop, a feature that enables a user on that system to access the system remotely and use its desktop, programs, drives, printers, and other resources.

The Remote Desktop server program (a subset of Terminal Services) accepts remote logins, but you can also use other Windows versions as well for the Remote Desktop client. You can download the Remote Desktop client software from Microsoft’s website (; search for Remote Desktop Connection Software for current and older versions of Windows. The Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2, also available from the Microsoft website, enables MacOS-based systems to connect remotely to a Windows Vista or XP Pro system.

Ordinary Windows can handle only one remote connection at a time; if another user is currently logged on locally, he or she must log off to permit the remote connection.

Configuring Your Windows System to Accept Remote Client Connections

Windows since XP…

A+: System Restore

Ever wish you had a “wayback machine” so roll back time before you added a corrpted driver or a malware app? Windows since XP features a “wayback machine”, System Restore.

Be aware that System Restore is not necessarily the first step you should try when troubleshooting a computer. Simply restarting the computer has been known to “fix” all kinds of issues. It’s also a good idea to try the Last Known Good Configuration. You can access this within the Windows Advanced Boot Options menu by pressing F8 when the computer first boots. Also, if System Restore doesn’t seem to work in normal mode, attempt to use it in Safe Mode. Safe Mode is another option in the Windows Advanced Boot Options menu.

Be wary of using System Restore if you’re fighting a computer virus or malware infection. If you (or the system) create a restore point while the system is infected, you could re-infect the system if you revert the system to that restore point. To prevent re-infection, most anti-virus vendors recom…

A+: Event Viewer

Windows since 2000 generates many log files during routine use which can help fins what goes wrong. Many logs can be read through the Event Viewer. To see Event Viewer events, right-click Computer/My Computer, click Manage | Event Viewer.

It captures various types of information, and the three most important logs to know for the exam are: Application, Security, and System. In Vista they are inside Event Viewer\Windows Logs; however, in XP these are listed directly inside of the Event Viewer.

To view details about an entry, click on a log in the left window pane; entries appear in the right window pane. To open the event and view more, double click the event, or right-click it and select Event Properties/Properties.


Regedit edits the Windows Registry. (There was another registry editor known as regedt32, which had a different look. If you launch it, it just brings up the standard registry editor.)

Changes made in Regedit are automatically saved when you exit; however, you might have to log off and lock back on, or restart the system, for those changes to take effect. Under most normal circumstances, the Registry will not need to be edited or viewed. However, Registry editing might be necessary under the following circumstances:

    • To view a system setting that cannot be viewed through normal interfaces.

    • To add, modify (by changing values or data), or remove a Registry key that cannot be changed through normal Windows menus or application settings. This might be necessary to remove traces of a program or hardware device that was not uninstalled properly, or to allow a new device or program to be installed.
    • To back up the Registry to a file.

    Caution:     The Registry should never …


The Microsoft System Configuration Utility, Msconfig (starting with XP), allows selective disabling of programs and services that run at startup. If your computer is unstable, runs more slowly than usual, or has problems starting up or shutting down, it can help you determine if a program or service run when the system starts is at fault. To launch it, do  Start | Run |  msconfig  | click OK.

All versions have a multitabbed interface to pick startup options. The General tab lets you select from Normal, Diagnostic (clean boot), or Selective Startup (you choose which items and services to load). You can also expand or extract files or launch System Restore from the Windows XP version of Msconfig.

Other tabs control settings in Msconfig, System.ini (legacy hardware), Win.ini (legacy software and configuration), Boot.ini and services (Windows XP), startup programs, and other version-specific startup options. Vista/7 versions eliminate the System.ini and Win.ini tabs.

Although it wasn’t pa…

A+: Task Manager

Task Manager gives a useful real-time inside Windows and running programs. Launch it by:

    • {Ctrl-Shift-Esc}

    • Right-click on the taskbar, select Task Manager

    • Open the Run prompt and type taskmgr

    • {Ctrl-Alt-Del} then choose Task Manager from the Windows Security dialog box. (In Windows XP, this requires turning off the Welcome Screen option.)

Tabs include Applications (shows running applications); Processes (program components in memory); Performance (CPU, memory, pagefile, and caching stats). XP added a Networking tab (lists network utilization by adapter in use) and a Users tab (lists current users). Vista added a Services tab (displays the services on the computer and their status).

The Applications tab shows if a program has stopped responding; you can shut down these programs by using the End Task button. Use the Processes tab to see which processes are consuming the most memory. Use this dialog along with the System Configuration Utility (MSConfig) to help dete…

A+: MMC to manage the computer

The Computer Management console window has the majority of tools needs to manage your Windows machine, shown in two panes. Open it with:

    • Click Start, then right-click Computer/My Computer and select Manage

    • Navigate to Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools, Computer Management

    • Open the Run prompt (Windows+R) then type compmgmt.msc

The Device Manager, Event Viewer, Local Users and Groups, Services, and disk tools such as Disk Management appear in the console.

Ever since XP, the Management Console (MMC) is a “master” console with multiple snap-ins which can be added.  It shows the last snap-in used and preserves all previously used consoles, so management is easier and quicker.

Launch it by opening the Run prompt and entering MMC to open a blank console.  {Control-M} or File | Add/Remove Snap-in allows you to click the Add button to select the consoles you want such as Computer Management, Performance Logs and Alerts, or ActiveX Controls. You can also change the “mo…

A+: Device Manager, a System Management Tool -2

To see more information about a specific device, double-click the device to open its properties sheet. Device properties sheets have a General tab and some combination of other tabs:

    • General— Displays device type, manufacturer, location, status, troubleshoot button, and usage. All devices.

    • Properties— Device-specific settings. Applies to multimedia devices.

    • Driver— Driver details and version information. All devices.

    • Details— Technical details about the device (added in Windows XP SP2). All devices.

    • Policies— Optimizes external drives for quick removal or performance. USB, FireWire, and eSATA drives.

    • Resources— Hardware resources such as IRQ, DMA, Memory and I/O port address. Applies to I/O devices.

,     • Volumes— Drive information such as status, type, capacity, and so on. Click Populate to retrieve information. Applies to hard disk drives.

    • Power— Power available per port. Applies to USB root hubs and generic hubs.

    • Power Management— S…

A+: Device Manager, a System Management Tool -1

Device Manager shows devices which are installed bycategorie, specific installed devices, and helps troubleshoot problems with devices.

To use it in Vista/7, follow these steps:

    1.  Start | right-click on Computer | select Properties - the System window will appear.
    2. On the left side under Tasks, click the Device Manager link.

To use it in XP/2000:

    1. Control Panel | Open System Properties  or right-click My Computer and select Properties.
    2. Pick the Hardware tab then choose Device Manager.

To view the devices in a specific category, click the plus (+) sign next to the category name,

    Note 1: There are two other ways to launch Device Manager. The first is by using the Search box within the Start menu. Just type device manager and then click the link for Device Manager that appears in the results box. The second is from the Computer Management console window. It opens the same way in Vista and XP. To open this, right-click on Computer (My Computer in XP), and sele…

A+: Command Prompt, plus the Elevated Mode for Vista/7

The command prompt allows you to type in programs with options , mostly for diagnosis, repair, and troubleshooting.  
You can start a command-prompt session by clicking on the Command prompt option in the Start menu; it’s usually located in the Accessories menu on most versions of Windows. However, it’s faster to use the Run command:
    • In XP/2000, do Start | Run |  type cmd | click OK.
    • In Vista and 7, do Start | type cmd | press Enter, or press {Ctrl+Shift+Enter} to run in elevated mode (needed for some powerful executables).
    • In any version: Hold down the Window key and press the letter R then release both {Win+R}

A+: Windows Explorer started from the Command Line

Explorer.exe can be launched from the command prompt with your choice of these options: /n, /e, /root (plus an object), and /select (plus an object):

/n  Open a single-pane window, normally the root of the Windows-installed drive (XP/2000)
/e  Open in default view (XP/2000)
/root,<object> Open window view of the object
/select,<object> Open window view of the specified folder, file or program

As the following examples demonstrate, the command line options can be used with local or network files and folders:

    • Example 1: Explorer /select,X:\Program Files\Acme\Coyote.exe—Opens a window view with Coyote.exe selected.

    • Example 2: Explorer /e,/root,C:\Program Files\Acme\RoadRunner.exe—Opens Explorer with drive C: expanded and RoadRunner.exe selected.

    • Example 3: Explorer /root,\\TestSvr\TestShare—Opens a window view of the specified share.

    • Example 4: Explorer /root,\\OtherSvr\OtherApps,select,OtherApp.exe—Opens a window view of the specified share with Other…

A+: FORMAT and removable magnetic media

Although floppy disks, USB flash memory drives, and removable-media drives are preformatted at the factory, Format is still useful as a means to

    • Erase the contents of a disk quickly, especially if it contains many files or folders.
    • Place new sector markings across the disk.
    • Create a bootable disk that can be used to run MS-DOS programs.

Formatting Floppy and Hard Disks with Windows Explorer

You can use Windows Explorer to format both hard drives and floppy disks. Right-click the drive you want to format, select Format, and the Format options for Windows are displayed (Windows 2000’s options are almost identical, except for the lack of the MS-DOS startup disk option).

Windows 2000 doesn’t offer the Make an MS-DOS Startup Disk option, but is otherwise similar.


The FORMAT command rebuilds an empty file system on a floppy disk, removable-media disk, or a hard disk. In the process, the contents of the disk are overwritten, or the index of the files is erased ('quick' format).

FORMAT works in very different ways, depending on whether it is used on a hard or floppy disk. When Format is used on a hard drive, it creates a master boot record, two file allocation tables, and a root directory (also referred to as the root folder). The rest of the drive is checked for disk surface errors—any defective areas are marked as bad to prevent their use by the operating system. Format appears to “destroy” the previous contents of a hard disk, but if you use Format on a hard disk by mistake, third-party data recovery programs can be used to retrieve data from the drive. This is possible because most of the disk surface is not changed by Format.

If a floppy disk, USB flash memory drive, or removable-media disk is prepared with Format and the uncondition…


You can test disk drives for problems and errors with the Chkdsk.exe program. It runs from the command line or from the Windows GUI. Check Now shows up before Defragmentation and Backup in the Windows disk Tools menu for a reason: Check your drive for errors first before you perform a defrag or a backup!

Automatically fixing file system errors with recovery attempts of bad sectors also is a Chkdsk option. If you decide to automatically fix file system errors, Chkdsk will be set to run at the next restart, required since Chkdsk needs sole access to the drive. Chkdsk performs a three-phase test of the drive after the system is rebooted but before the desktop appears.

You can also run Chkdsk from the command prompt. For options, type Chkdsk /? from the command prompt.

In Vista, you will need to run this command in elevated mode:

    • Start |All Programs | Accessories | Command Prompt | Right-click Command Prompt | select Run as Administrator | Click Continue at the permission window.


A+: Vista and Backup Status and Configuration

Backup Status and Configuration replaces NTBackup in Vista. It can back up individual files as does Windows XP’s NTBackup and also also create up an entire image of your system  to the removable media of your choice, for example DVD,-R, with Complete PC Backup, using these steps:

    1. Launch the Complete PC Backup with   Start | All | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Backup Status and Configuration.
    2. Click on the Complete PC Backup button.
    3. Choose Create a Backup Now, and follow the directions. Have a lot of blanks ready that can hold an image of your operating system, such as DVD-R.

Backup vs Copy/Xcopy/Drag & Drop?

When planning to use a backup program or file copy to protect a file, think about these facts:

    • Backups are typically compressed; file copies performed with COPY or XCOPY or with drag and drop from the Windows GUI generally are not (although open source ZIP utilities can provide a compressed command-line backup).

    • Backups can span a lar…

A+: NTBackup

XP and 2000 include a backup program that can be run from the Windows GUI or from the command line, NTBackup. It runs in interactive mode or in wizard mode

    Note:  The Microsoft Backup utility for Windows XP Home Edition must be installed manually from the \ValueAdd\MSFT\NTBACKUP folder on the Windows XP Home Edition CD.

 Launch it from:

    • From the System Tools submenu of the Start menu’s Accessories submenu
    • From the command line (ntbackup.exe; for command-line options, open Help and Support Center and type ntbackup into the Search box)
    • From the Tools menu of the drive properties sheet; choose Backup

NTBackup supports backups to a wide variety of drive types, including tape drives, floppy disk drives, removable-media drives such as Zip, Jaz, and Rev drives, and external hard disks. A backup can be saved to a rewritable CD or DVD drive as long as the backup fits on a single disc, however, the backup file must be created first, it cannot be burned directly to the dis…

A+: Security and Permissions for Files and Folders

Ever since Windows 2000, Windows drives using NTFS have an extra tab, Security, on the file and folder properties sheet, which controls who can access and change a file.

Specific users, or groups of users, can have these rights:

 Full Control (incl. delete)
 Modify - change a file
 Read & Execute - open and run a file
 Read - see into a file
 Write - replace file contents
 List Folder Contents - see what's inside a folder.

The Security tab shows users and groups with rights to a file or foder above, and the bottom section allows you to determine what permissions that person or group has. You can change the permissions in either section.

However, Simple File Sharing in XP will disable the Security tab and therefore is not recommended for business use. You can disable that in Computer or My Computer or in Windows Explorer with Tools | Folder Options | View (tab) | scroll to bottom | clear the checkmark for Use Simple File Sharing.

A+: Encrypting and compressing files in NTFS

Encryption and compression are available since Windows 2000 and later on drives formatted with the NTFS file system. To set these options for a file or folder in Windows, you can use Windows Explorer or the command-line programs Compact (to compress a file) or Cipher (to encrypt a file).

To select or deselect the archive attribute, or to set encryption or compression options on a drive using the NTFS file system, click the Advanced button underneath Properties in Windows Explorer. Select Compression to reduce the disk space used by the file, or Encryption to restrict access to only the system’s administrator or the user who encrypted the file. Files can be compressed or encrypted, but not both.

If you are encrypting the file, Windows recommends that you encrypt the folder containing the file (which will also encrypt the file).

Only the user who originally encrypted the file (or the system’s Administrator) can open an encrypted file and view its contents. Only the Administrator can appl…


Windows does not automatically make sure that a new file is placed at the end of the previous file when writing to hard drives, and as files are added, deleted, expanded or contracted, the space between files grows. Windows also does not make sure that files stay in a consecutive series of locations, and sometimes will scatter a file all over a hard drive. This slows down the computer, as the hard drive must jump all over the drive locations to retrieve file data, a problem which grows with time.

Therefore, disk defragmentation tool has been included to help regain lost read/write performance.

Defragment can be run in the following ways:

    • From the Accessories menu’s System Tools submenu (Disk Defragmenter)

    • From a drive’s properties sheet’s Tools tab (Defragment Now)

    • From the command line (a feature introduced in Windows XP): defrag (type defrag /? for options)

The XP/2000 defragmenters and many third party defragmentation programs have an Analyze feature to test if de…

A+: File attributes and Extensions

ATTRIB, a comand-line application, shows you details about the metadata of a file; whether it can be changed (R), if it has been archived (A), if it is a System file (S) and if it is Hidden (H) from appearing in Windows Explorer and with DIR.  + Sets an attibute, and - clears it; /S alters files in the current directory and subdirectories beneath it, and /D modifies folders as well as files.

The Recovery Console in XP and 2000 doesn't have the /S or /D options but instead offers +C to compress a file and -C to extract a file from compression.

Windows Explorer allows you to right-click on a file, select Properties from the Context Menu which appears, and then see and change the attributes in lieu of using ATTRIB from the command line.

Extensions are the part of the file name following the last period. Files with the extensions .BAT, .CMD, .COM and .EXE can be run from the command line prompt, and are considered Executable; other files in the system are consider Data files, even if …

A+: Short filenames for DOS and how they're made from long filenames

Ever since XP, Windows supports LFN, long file and folder names. They cab be as long as  255 characters and can have spaces and most other alphanumeric characters, except for illegal characters which are:  \ / : * ? " < > |
Names of files can have more than one period, but only the characters after the last period are considered the 'extension'; applications commonly have one or more default extension types, such as .DOC for Word, .XLS for Excel, and .HTML or .HTM for web browsers. 
 So operating systems like DOS which don't have LFN support can access files, Windows also stores a DOS alias (also known as the MS-DOS name) as well as the LFN when a file or folder is created. The DOS alias name is created from the first six letters of the LFN, replacing illegal characters with an underscore, removing spaces, and ignoring additional periods in the LFN. To distinguish between different files with the same DOS alias names, the first DOS alias name in a folder is indicat…


Ping is another networking command, and simply shows if you can connect to a specified address (wither a numeric address such as, an open Google DNS server, or, as well how long (in thousandths of a second, or milliseconds) it takes for a signal to go through the internet to a specified address and back again.

It uses ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) and shows any loss of data packets (which in general mean a serious problem), as well as the quickest, slowest, and mean average times for a round-trip.

Some servers and networks won't reply to a ping for security purposes, and ping can be abused to flood a targeted machine or network with so many pings it can't do anything else (a Denial-Of-Service Attack).

The term can also be used to mean any connection test not using ICMP, and video game servers often send a similar test using UDP (the Universal Datagram Protocol) to test the quality of an internet connection to a gaming console.

Dropbox alert


One of the commands _not_ inherited from MS-DOS is ipconfig which shows yr PC's current IP address, subnet mask & default gateway, as well as the DNS servers used and other networking information. Ipconfig /all shows it all; ipconfig omits DNS and other information, and ipconfig /? shows available options.

Many machines have multiple network adapters, so when using ipconfig. make sure to look for the networking connection currently in use.

IPv6 is inevitably coming, someday, but nearly all connections use IPv4 and that's the data you should look at now.

On networks where the IP address is assigned by a server using DHCP, ipconfig /release followed by ipconfig /renew obtains a new IP address lease and solves some networking fail-to-connect problems.

A+: Internal Commands list

These commands of the Windows Command Prompt are built into CMD.EXE and do not need to load from an external file: DATE, TIME, COPY, DEL, ERASE, DIR, MD, MKDIR, CD, CHDIR, RD, RMDIR,  VER, VOL, SET, PROMPT, PATH, ECHO, CLS, HELP and TYPE. 

Command-prompt functions and utilities can be used to operate on a group of files with similar names by using one of the following wildcard symbols:  ? replaces a single character, and you can use ??? to find any three characters, excluding two or four characters. * replaces a group of characters.

A+: Command Line uses

Invoke the command prompt to run DOS-style apps primarily for diagnosis, repair, and troubleshooting.   You can start a command-prompt session in Windows by clicking on the Command Prompt option in the Start menu; it’s usually located in the Accessories menu on most versions of Windows. But it’s faster to use the Run command: • In Windows XP/2000—Click Start > Run. Then, type cmd and click OK. • In Windows Vista/7—Click Start type cmd, and then press Enter, or press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to run in elevated mode (might be necessary for some commands). • In any version—Click {Win-R} 
HELP shows a list of commands you can use at the Command Prompt, and HELP NAMEOFPROGRAM or NAMEOFPROGRAM /? shows more details about that particular command.

Some of those programs are embedded in CMD.EXE but other apps are executables and reside in other .EXE or .COM files.

A+: Working with Folders/Directories

Windows provides two ways to work with folders (also called directories): visually, through Windows Explorer (which you also start by using the Computer / My Computer icons), or at the command line (MKDIR/MD, CHDIR/CD, RMDIR/RD).   To navigate between folders in Windows Explorer, follow these procedures: • To view the subfolders (subdirectories) in a folder (directory), click the plus (+) sign next to the folder name in the left pane of Windows Explorer. • To view the contents of a folder (including files and other folders), click the folder in the left pane of Windows Explorer. The contents of the folder appear in the right pane. • To navigate to the previous view, click the left-hand arrow above the address bar. • To move to the next view, click the right-hand arrow. • To navigate to the next higher folder in the folder hierarchy, click the up-arrow/folder button. To create a new folder in Windows Explorer, follow these steps: Open the folder in which you want to create a new f…

A+: Checking and changing file systems

Follow these steps to determine what file system was used to prepare a Windows hard drive: Step 1. Open Windows Explorer. Step 2. Right-click the drive letter in the Explorer Window and select Properties. Step 3. The Properties sheet for the drive will list FAT32 for a drive prepared with FAT32, and NTFS for a drive prepared with NTFS.
Convert.exe Windows includes the command-line Convert.exe program to enable users to change the current FAT32 file system on a drive to NTFS without reformatting the drive (which would wipe out all of the information on the drive).  To convert a drive’s file system using Convert.exe, follow these steps: Step 1. Open a command-prompt window. (For Windows Vista, refer to the options that follow this list.) Step 2. Type Convert x: /fs:ntfsand press Enter.
Thex: is a variable. Replace it with the drive you want to convert, for example c:, d:, f:, and so on. To see advanced options for Convert, type convert /?. In Windows Vista, you will need to run this…

A+: File Systems

Partitions hold file systems, which describe how data and drives are put together and work. Windows file systems determine: • The rules for how large a logical drive (drive letter) can be, and whether the hard disk can be used as one big drive letter, several smaller drive letters, or must be multiple drive letters. • How efficiently a system stores data; the less wasted space, the better. • How secure a system is against tampering. • Whether a drive can be accessed by more than one operating system. Windows normally use two different file systems for hard disks, FAT32 and NTFS, plus the original FAT12 aka FAT for floppy disks and file systems for CD and DVD discs.

FAT32 was introduced in 1995, replacing the earlier FAT16, and is supported by Windows Vista, XP, and 2000, although NTFS is preferred. FAT32 has the following characteristics: • The 32-bit file allocation table, which allows for 268,435,456 entries (232) per drive. Remember, an entry can be a folder or an alloca…

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A+: Disk Management

Although you can use text-based applications like FDISK to prepare and configure hard drives, the Disk Management snap-in of the Computer Management console is easier to use.  To launch it, right-click on Computer / My Computer | Manage | and in the left-hand task pane, click on Disk Management. provides more information on disk status results from Disk Management.

You can also use the app to give names to paths within NTFS folders:    

Right-click the partition or volume you want to mount and select Change Drive Letters and Paths.In the displayed window click Add.Then browse to the empty folder you wish to mount the volume to, and click OK for both windows.
Vista and 7 allow changing the partition without destroying data; you need thirst party utilities to do that with XP and earlier systems.

A+: Managing Disk Partitions

Hard drives (whether PATA, SATA or SCSI) and drive-like drvices (such as USB Flash Memory Drives) must be partitioned before use (although the latter are preformatted before packaging). Repartitioning destroys any data on the drive so BE CAREFUL.

A partition determines if a drive can boot a PC, how many drive letters the hard disk can have, and whether space is set aside for future or other use.

Once the partition is created, it defines a drive letter for the logical drive. Phyisical and logical drives must then be formatted to build the file system before they can hold data.

Only a primary partition can be bootable and it can only have one drive letter. Only one primary partition can be active in a Windows PC. If you have a simple system, that's all you need, and most systems are set up this way.

Extended partitions can't boot and don't have drive letters themselves, but you can create one or more logical drives which then can be formatted. These partitions can hold data,…

A+: Hibernation and the Page File

Start | Shut Down | Hibernate makes (or replaces) a file from 250MB to 1GB+ in the root named hiberfile.sys and it can be deleted after reviving with no risk. It should be deleted before defragging with the stock defragmenter as it can't be moved or reorganized.

XP and 2000 can clear it with Start | Settings | Control Panel | Power Options | Hibernate | and clear the Enable Hibernation tickbox. Check that tickbox on to allow Hibernation once more.

In Vista do {Win+R} CMD powercfg.exe/hibernate offto disable and {Win+R} CMD powercfg.exe/hibernate on to reenable hibernation.

Another root file which can't be moved or reorganized is pagefile.sys which is used to temporarily hold the contents of memory when apps and processes exceed the available memory. {Win+R} CMD attrib -s -h pagefile.sys followed by del pagefile.sys can delete it, but please only do that immediately using the Control Panel | System | Advanced | Performance | Settings | Advanced | Virtual memory | Change to set…

A+: Registry backup in differing Windows versions

Windows 2000 and XP has their own backup app; launch it with   Start | Accessories | System Tools | Backup   pick Emergency Repair Disk then on the following screen select Registry back up the Registry. For NT, load a formatted and blank disk when requested to create that Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) which does not have the Registry since it can be larger than 20MB but instead stores a Registry copy in \WinNT\Repair\RegBack.

Windows XP backup is more thorough and also backs up boot files, the COM+ Class Registration database and Windows File Protection guarded files, in a larger package called the System State. Instead of only a floppy plus copy to hard drive, this backup can be stored on tape, an external hard disk, or removable media.

Vista offers three Registry backup options:

The Backup Status and Configuration app performs a complete backup including the Registry. The System Restore wizard backs up the Registry when a new restore point is made.REGEDIT can export the entire Registr…

A+: The Registry and its files

Multiple files under the default Windows folder in a subdirectory named SYSTEM32\CONFIG  (so that's normally C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG) make up the Windows Registry. The files closely, but not exactly, match up with sections of the Registry.

— default.LOG has the .DEFAULT data from HKEY_USERS

— SAM.LOG keeps some of the Security Account Manager information from      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SAM  (Beware: there are no user-editable keys, and don’t erase the matching Registry files!)

— SECURITY.LOG is the file with the remainder of the Security Account Manager database from HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SECURITY   (Beware: there are no user-editable keys, and don’t erase the matching Registry files!)



Each user which has booted on that machine also has:

— NTUSER.DAT.LOG for most preference settings in the \Documents and Settings\username folder for that user

— UsrClass.dat.LOGkeeps the rem…

A+: NTDETECT.COM plus NTLDR in the boot process

When your PC finishes the Power-On Self Test and the 'bootstrap loader' of its system Basic Input Output System (BIOS) reads the NTLDR file from the root directory of the default Windows drive, it checks BOOT.INI (same location) to show you how many versions of Windows are available, and waits for the specified time for you to choose, before it starts the default version by loading its startup files. 
Then, it has NTDETECT.COM check for installed hardware and puts a list of same in the Registry before it loads the Windows Kernel NTOSKRNL.EXE with its Hardware Abstraction Layer HAL.DLL into memory then passes control to it after getting the device drivers which match your PC's hardware. 
If your PC's Windows drive is SCSI and its host adapter is missing an enabled BIOS onboard, it also has to call NTBOOTDD.SYS, but that's pretty rare since modern PCs almost all use Serial ATA or Parallel ATA drives (aka 'IDE') and many of the newer SCSI adapters have that on…

A+: XP's boot.ini

Boot.ini is a file n the default boot drive (even if Windows is installed on a different drive letter) which configures how to start XP, and is very specifically formatted.   It can be edited by Notepad or MSConfig,or Bootcfg can revise it from wither Windows XP or from the XP Recovery Console.

The [boot loader] section specifies how long XP waits for an override command to start loading the default OS.
The [operating systems] section specifies the name to call each version of Windows on the system, and in which partition of which hard drive to find each. 
Do NOT alter boot.ini unless your PC won't boot, and if that strikes, the Microsoft Knowledge Base for XP should be your first stop to look for solutions.

A+: Files to never even _think_ about messin' with

The Vista/7 boot sequence must have these files undisturbed to boot. Many, many other files are also needed for Windows to work even semi-well, but these are essential:
Bootmgr the OS loader needed to start the OS, replacing NTLDRBCD is in \boot\bcd and is an updated-for-EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) version of boot.ini which tells the Boot Manager about the OS and which can be altered with MSCONFIG or by bcdedit.exeNtoskrnl.exe Bootmgr tells it to take over booting, which it completes doingHal.dll The Hardware Abstraction Layer, a go-between from different system hardware to WindowsThe Registry's SYSTEM Key Defines the system configurationDevice drivers (many) Listed as need-to-load in the Registry Likewise, XP has its own essentials: NTLDR the OS loader needed to start the OS Boot.ini  tells the Boot Manager about the OS and how to load up; edit with notepad.exe at yr risk! Detects your PC's hardwareNtoskrnl.exe NTLDR tells it to take over booting, which it c…

A+: Indexing in Windows

Indexing, in theory, helps you find files faster, but also consumes hard disk space can can steal CPU and memory to slow down your system overall. Instead, you might just set up indexing of your My Documents folders (XP) or your User folders (Vista/7).

XP indexing can be disabled with Start | My Computer | Manage (which invokes Computer Management) | (at left) Services and Applications  | Services | (at right) Indexing Service | right-click, pick Stop.  Pick Start to resume indexing.  A right-click on the Indexing Service will show it the service is Automatic (it will restart at the next reboot), Manual (only restarts if asks for) or Disabled (won't run). A right-click on any drive or volume, picking Properties and un-choosing Allow Indexing Service to Index This Disk for Fast File Searching can also turn off indexing. Do not index optical discs or removable flash memory devices.
In Vista/7, indexing can be disabled with Start | right-clicking on Computer | Manage (which invokes Com…

A+: Tuning the Start Menu Properties

Picking Properties after right-clicking on the Taskbar invokes Taskbar and Start Menu Properties lets you choose the Start Menu to customize it, including:
 Choosing the icon size  Removing recently opened document shortcuts Pick from a list for what appears in the Start Menu and Taskbar (Classic Start menu only) Clear the IE browser history, cookies and cache (Default Start menu only) Whether to add most frequently used programs Its Advanced tab also allows choice of  Submenu auto-open Newly installed app highlighting Links vs menus for standard Start menu items Standard Start menu items Listing or not listing most recently used documents 

A+: Start Menu

Manually editing the automatically generated Start Menu can ease the selection of programs. Most apps automatically assign one or more links and/or folders in it for one-click launching, but click-and-drag allows you to recategorize programs, and right clicking allows sorts and cut-and-paste as well as renaming and deleting. You can also switch from large to small icons to permit more apps in a list, or upsize the icons if desired.
Adding to the default Start menu starts with a right-click on its button; pick Explore to add a new item to your own menu or Explore All Users to add to all users' Start menus. Shortcuts appear on the right, the menu folder opens on the left. Expand a folder by clicking on its + symbol.
Pick on a folder by clicking on it at left, or right click to create a new folder. File | New | Shortcut starts a wizard for the Shortcut (for your menu only); then, directly enter a path to the app or browse to it. You can optionally rename the app as it will appear befor…