Microsoft

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!

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