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More About PC Health Care

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The more programs you install and uninstall, the more artifacts are left behind that can cause problems on your system later. This chapter will help you maintain your PC and keep it cleared of these leftover files that can cause strange behaviors.
This chapter is from the book

The more software you install or uninstall and the more files you add or delete, the more pertinent it becomes to perform maintenance on your system. Whether you are trying to accomplish an advanced task or you are trying to figure out why your computer is acting up, you will find the troubleshooting tips and tricks in this chapter helpful.

Just when you think you have the hang of controlling this hunk of machinery, the unexpected happens. Maybe your monitor doesn't flicker into action when you boot your machine, or perhaps your computer doesn't seem to recognize the new CD you just put into the CD drive.

Combine the savvy wisdom in this chapter with the Windows tips and tricks learned in Chapter 2, "Keeping Windows Happy," and you can save yourself a lot of grief!

Safe Storing Your Files

To protect your valuable data, it's best to make an extra copy of it. The easiest way to do so is to back up your files onto a diskette, recordable CD (or, if you're very lucky, a highly capacious recordable DVD with much more room than a CD), or a Zip drive cartridge. Then, if something happens to the original file (or worse yet, to your hard drive), you can restore the backup copy onto your hard drive.


The process of making copies of files and storing them in a collection off your main hard drive is often referred to as archiving.

Choosing Your Backup Media

With today's computers, data files are typically backed up onto diskette, CD, or Zip drive. Owners of older PCs also had the option of using Jaz drive media and tape backup units, but the limited storage capability, high price of storage media, and lack of market share made these options all but disappear in the light of affordable CD recording capabilities.

There are basically three factors that should be considered in making your decision regarding how to backup your important files: (1) what devices you have available to you (different devices can widely vary in amount of storage room they offer), (2) what type of data you want to back up, and (3) your intended use of the backup media.

Do You Have Drive?

Almost every machine has a floppy drive but they're not that useful for backups today because so many of our files are larger in size than a floppy disk can handle. Obviously, the type of backup method you use will depend on your computer's components. If you have a recordable/read writable CD drive, you need to understand how much data these types of recordable discs will hold.

Normally, a recordable CD or DVD is best when you have hordes of files to store elsewhere. A recordable CD, for example, stores about 650 megabytes (MB), while a recordable DVD stores at least 4.7 gigabytes (GB).

What You Want to Put on the Disk

If your goal is to back up word processing documents or spreadsheets, just about any of the backup media options will do. However, when it comes to graphic-intensive documents, photographs, and audio and video files, you will need to take into account the storage capacity of each type of media. Table 3.1 shows just how much material you can fit onto each type of storage media.

Table 3.1 Storage Capacity of Various Types of Media


Data capacity

High-density diskette


Zip disk

100MB or 250MB






You can fit more than 300,000 pages of text on a single CD-ROM. That's more than 400 copies of this book on one CD, excluding graphics!

With that in mind, it should come as no real surprise that in order to deal with the large files such as photographs, video files, or music files, you will need to work with CD-ROMs, DVDs or Zip disks or other large capacity media that you find at the computer store.

Music files can also get large in a hurry. A standard 3- to 4-minute song can easily reach 3–5MB when converted to the popular MP3 format. The larger and more numerous your file collection gets, the more important backing up your data becomes.

CD-Rs Versus CD-RWs

When you go shopping for blank CDs, you will notice that there are two kinds: CD-R (recordable) and CD-RW (read writable). The newest drives will record on either, but check your documentation because some older drives will accept only one type.

CD-Rs can only be written to once. You can always add data to the unused parts of the disk with the right software, but you can't overwrite the data recorded on the disk; once it's there, it's there for good. This makes it a fine alternative for creating music CDs and virtual photo albums but perhaps a waste for data backup, since you would probably want to overwrite your data backups periodically to reflect any changes.

CD-RWs are sort of like overgrown diskettes; you can write over them again and again (up to a point; the more you record over existing data, the faster the quality of the recording can degrade), making them good data backup candidates. However, CD-RWs can only be read by other CD-RW drives. If the plan is to make a CD to play in your car or at a friend's party, you will definitely need to go with CD-Rs.


Save money and time by buying recordable CD or CD-RW media in bulk. It usually costs substantially less if you buy recordable CDs, for example, in 100-disc spindles. The same is often true with DVDs.

What Are Your Plans for the Disk?

When deciding which type of backup media to use, make sure that the intended recipient can work with it. Also, think back to the earlier caution about the differences in blank CDs.

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