Windows

Think twice, act once

Jeff Takes another wander down memory lane (no pun intended), cautioning help desk pros to think twice before performing even routine maintenance.

It is all too easy to assume that users all work the same way. Back in the day, when Windows 3.11 and DOS were the norm, PCs did not have the power that they have today. We took great care that not a single megabyte of hard disk space was wasted, and with 4 MB of RAM being the norm we had to make the best of what we had. When you consider that those 4 MB of RAM cost what a whole PC can cost today and a 545 MB hard disk was state of the art, you will realize that performance tweaks were essential.

Routine housekeeping included deleting temporary files as well as defragging and running Scandisk. It was my practice to do all these things routinely when dealing with any system problem, but one day this was to be my downfall.

It turned out that the user, an elderly lady who lived and worked in a delightfully picturesque thatched cottage in Oxfordshire, was in the habit of using her TEMP folder as the default location for all her files. As an experienced author, she knew how to structure a manuscript, but the finer points of housekeeping were a closed book. She had found the folder and used it from day one.

DOS had a DELTEMP command that I used to automatically remove the contents of the TEMP folder and free up vital kilobytes of disk space. Even the Windows swap file came into play, as I deleted it and created a new one that noticeably improved performance.

Thank goodness for the extremely useful UNDELETE command that could restore files that hadn’t been overwritten.

It was an experience that taught me a valuable lesson. In trying to go the extra mile to make the customer’s machine perform better, I had put the files of her latest best-selling novel at risk. We had a discussion about file locations and backups after that, and my advice was followed. I even have a signed copy of the book!

14 comments
piers.tuson
piers.tuson

All widsom is valuable. Ignoring what led to it can mislead onlookers into looking down on those involved. The most obvious things tend to trip us up most!

Joe_R
Joe_R

This reminded me of that old carpenter's rule: measure twice, cut once. It's such a waste to misread a measurement and cut a piece of wood too short. But that's something you can't put back!

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

In those days it was a location everyone could find. So why not put stuff there? :)

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Any computer should be able to run any exe even without an operating system installed in the computer.Even with these older computers you would start the machine and the BIOS would prompt you.If I wanted my computer to be powerful I would adjust the BIOS for a high bit voltage and clock speed.

vindasel
vindasel

This has almost become a cliche by now but I'll just reiterate it: Have a good data protection plan *in place* if your hard drives contain data that is of any value to you. This means that you should be able to restore/recover data quickly and without hassle in case of a drive failure or accidental deletion of files. Regular backups onto another physical drive/storage medium will insure against data loss from drive failure, and a good file recovery program installed on the PC will allow file recovery after accidental deletion. Searching for solutions *after* data loss is not a whole lot of fun.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't think there's a single true statement in your last post. Why don't try some of this crapola you spout out? Maybe you'll finally crash your system beyond repair and we won't have to put up with you any more.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Try attacking Balthor's statements with examples of WHY they won't work instead of engaging in ad hominim attacks. I found her/his comments to actually have value. Of course most paradigm-breaking innovators were called idiots, and worse, before they were vindicated. "Any computer should be able to run any exe even without an operating system installed in the computer." Actually, not a bad idea. Very similar to the way many special purpose computers operate - they don't necessarily use an OS, just a custom designed program, or at most, a very basic, special purpose OS. Think avionics. The question is, do we modify the computer's BIOS to figure it out, or redesign the exe file? "If I wanted my computer to be powerful I would adjust the BIOS for a high bit voltage and clock speed." We can pretty much do that now. Although I'd love to find a product that would allow me to change the settings in mid-run without having to reboot the computer to get back to the BIOS setup. Better yet would be a BIOS that could parse the application and set itself to optimum operation of the app; instead of letting the OS do most of the 'decision' making on resource allocation. Other questions that arise are are the size, power, and speed trade-offs of such a BIOS prohibitive? It's not 1975 anymore. By the way, didn't people think Bill Gates was crazy when he was starting out, or even when he dropped out of college for that matter?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The original article is about being careful when working with a system, especially an unfamiliar one. Don't assume the user has followed conventions that technicians take for granted. It has nothing to do with special purpose computers, BIOS, clock speed, or anything else he may be referring to. It's one thing to be off topic after using the original article or other comments as a springboard. It's another to regularly post random comments just so you can see your name as the first poster. I used to present reasons why I disagreed with this twit's statements, but since he never responds to anything it isn't worth laying out logical responses. Now I just unload on him to vent my spleen. I should ignore him like any other troll, but in his case I have problem.

tigerjim49
tigerjim49

If you had spent anywhere near as much time in the industry as the author of the article, you'd understand EXACTLY what he was saying. Forget your resume; you're still a newbie.

jdclyde
jdclyde

since he didn't bother following the path of the thread, I am surprised he was able to successfully reply to you directly. At least, I THINK he intended to reply to you?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I wasn't addressing Jeff Dray, the author of the article. I understand what Jeff is saying quite clearly. I was replying to the three comments posted by BALTHOR, one message up the tree from mine. Please read BALTHOR's comments. If you understand EXACTLY what BALTHOR is saying (without the use of psychedelic drugs), then I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd explain any one of the three to me. We've long been looking for a member to translate his babblings into English; you'll be -very- popular if you truly are indeed The Gifted One. My eternal undying gratitude in advance.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Personally, I don't try to figure them out. ----------- Edited because I didn't [i]look twice[/i]. (Which will make sense only to anyone who might have seen it before the edit!)

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

he's 'Special'. 'Exceptional'! 'Differently Conscious' Maybe 'Hard of Thinking' give him a blue ribbon! or took too much of that LDS :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The one with all the panes in the Windows logo painted over.