The Senior Macintosh Center – My Mac Magazine #61, May ’00

Hi there! What an incredible spring! The birds are singing, the flowers are going nuts, and it’s time for the old mop and bucket to come out. Yes, faithful readers, we have entered the spring-cleaning season. Are you ready to climb those ladders to clean your windows? No? How about raking up all those rotted leftover leaves from the fall? Not a chance? Well, don’t forget, there is one more place to sanitize to bring about the fresh feeling of spring… you guessed it… your hard drive! This might be a bigger chore than you might imagine…

Many people confuse computer memory with hard disk space. Memory is the RAM (Random Access Memory) inside your computer. It is the “electronic area” where you do your computing stuff. Some of you may have 16Mb or less, but most people now have at least 32Mb or 64Mb, or even 128Mb or 256Mb of RAM installed. When you start your Mac, it loads System software from your hard drive into that RAM. That’s how all computers function… even PCs (I bet they even stole that idea too! ;^) ). The hard drive is nothing more than a storage facility. Repeat: it is for STORAGE only! The computer will access “stuff” that is stored on it and save “stuff” to it, but that is all. Macs started with little, itsy bitsy, teeny-weeny, hard drives that at the time were considered huge. Who in the world could fill up a 20Mb hard drive?! No way! Nowadays, if you have less than 2Gb, you’re considered behind the times! Whatever!

The biggest problem we have with our hard drives is that we tend to store so much “stuff” on it that we fill it up too quickly, no matter how big the sucker is. Just what do we store on it? You name it, from budgets, games, and letters to the editor to sound files, cheat codes, and those nasty spreadsheets… we save EVERYTHING! Many of us have folders wherein we save our stuff to keep things orderly, but our hard drives don’t understand that we have brightly color-coordinated folders listed in alphabetical order. When you save something, the computer just looks for the nearest available spot on the hard drive, and tells the Desktop file where to look for it later. When you send a file to the Trash, it then frees up that spot for something else to write over it. I’d like to offer some ideas on cleaning up your hard drive so that it too can rejoice with you about the warm, wonderful days ahead! Trust me, you’ll thank me later!!! :^)

First, you should sit down at your computer and seriously review all the “stuff” you have on it. Are there letters you sent out a long time ago and were saving just in case you had to review them again? Why did you keep them? Just in case? In case of what? See, I told you this wouldn’t be easy. You really must evaluate what you use on a regular basis and what is simply taking up space. If there are files (or old programs for that matter) that you just don’t use that much anymore, consider either storing them on some media other than your hard drive, or just sending them to their final resting place… the Trash can. Seriously, we’re speaking about clutter that you’ll most likely never use again, and it takes up space that could be used for something more useful.

Now, I can tell that some of you are cringing at my proposal. “Who does this guy think he is telling me that I need to trash my Oscar the Grouch Trash can… uh… thingie?” The question to ask yourself is “Do I use this or will I use it anytime soon?” That’s all. If you aren’t going to need that letter to your second cousin’s mother-in-law’s veterinarian again, then send it on down the line! Good grief, Fluffy died 3 years ago! I know it’s hard to let go of these files–I’ve gone through the painstaking process myself–but it’s a good thing to open the windows (pun intended) and let the fresh air blow through!

Second, you really should consider getting something that I use all the time. Yup, here comes a plug! I love Norton Utilities! Oh, yes I do! I’ve never seen a utilities package that is as thorough but still easy to use. Disk Doctor and Speed Disk are my absolute favorites. They have saved my neck time and time again. Okay, plug’s over! After you go through the heart-rending ordeal of throwing away all of those old, dusty files from your hard drive, run Norton Utilities on it. I recommend running Norton Disk Doctor first. This will examine each file and the hard disk space where it resides and give it a thorough physical. It will tell you what files have problems and then give you the choice of fixing it or not. After that’s done, I go straight to Speed Disk. This cool little thing will take each and every file and prioritize it in order of “importance.” For example, a system file is more “important” than an application. The bottom of the list is set aside for documents, the least “important.” That’s where the letter to the vet would go–if you decide you just have to keep it handy.

After you have gone through this painful exercise you will notice something… the Happy Mac face will seem just a little happier, your computer will seem to run just a little bit faster, and you will feel better knowing that you did something productive for the perfect spring setting. Now, it’s off to do the windows… Hooray!

Catcha L8r, Eddie

Ed Tobey

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