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  Author    understanding pc maintenance
Posted: April 7th, 2009, 7:41am Report to Moderator
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An aspect that is missing in grasping the importance of pc-maintenance is why, where and when it is needed. Most of us will understand why a car needs diagnostic tools, oil and repair of wear to prevent severe damage , because we more or less know how the mechanism functions., e.g. most of us realize that friction is harmful in rotating motor parts, while it’s needed in e.g. proper performance of brakes.
With computers I could , so far, not find a comprehensible (but not too specialistic) description or book of how it actually works. What happens, when e.g. a command from a software’s GUI is launched, in the diverse interactions beween OS, CPU, RAM, drivers , dll’s, etc. and what is the role of the registry  and MFT (master file table) in these processes ? Since even with a bit more knowledge one then can better anticipate why e.g. a pc is slowing down (apart from malware effects) or some kind of malfunction (e.g ‘hang’/ software bugs, missing dll or codec or outdated/corrupted driver) occurs, and be more capable to take proper actions.with or without  Dr Watson or third party diagnostic /repair tools.
A few months ago I purchased a HD-manager (Paragon), and for the first time I noticed that WindowsXP contained a MFT which (just like the registry) may be prone to fragmentation. And indeed, following a MFT-defrag and compaction, the pc ran significantly smoother (as was the case when , a few years ago, I first used RegVac and removed junk file remains & reg. entries with A1Ultra PC cleaner). Right now I’m not aiming to complain here on Windows’ shortcomings, but  looking e.g. at a subject like fragmentation I find it amazing that this performance-reducing mechanism concerns such a wide spread (not only user and software files, also Pagefile, registry, MFT , even the RAM, the Windows database, and maybe more… are involved)  The only ‘weapons’ provided in Windows I’m aware of are in fact a partition defragmenter (lacking optimization), a not too effectieve cleaner , the chkdsk-facility, a ‘last good’ startup and a sometimes not effective restore point; hardly any simple auto-diagnostics or even timely notifications on the other subjects  Even a final rescue option like a C:\ Partition Image is a third party development (I hope Windows 7 will do better)
Such  considerations have lead me to questions like:
- is there some direct or indirect relation or overlap in function between registry and MFT ?
- does anybody know some literature (flowchart or block diagram layout) that explains how a pc actually works (not too popular, but comprehensible for interested non-specialists) ?
.Thanks in advance
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Posted: April 8th, 2009, 1:25pm Report to Moderator
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The Registry and MFT are not related.
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Posted: April 10th, 2009, 7:12am Report to Moderator
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Thanks for this statement as it was not quite clear to me from the following description:
[part cit: The MFT is a relational database that consists of rows of file records and columns of file attributes. It contains at least one entry for every file on an NTFS volume, including the MFT itself. MFT is an NTFS system file that contains in-depth information on files, including size, time and date stamps, permissions, and data contents. In the course of time the MFT file can also be fragmented, thus slowing down the speed at which data is accessed There also is an ability to re-write MFT in a more compact way that will also increase access-speed to files of NTFS partitions.]

However, the main  issue is how to keep a (Windows OS) pc in optimal condition. At the moment I’m not aware of any ‘autodiagnostic sensing’ or even analyzing software to indicate which components need improvement (or is such perhaps inattainable for some reason?)
So now we are more or less obliged to look for the separate factors (incl. how to find out which ones, and their relative importance) and perform (with or without preceeding ‘Analyze’):
- File cleaning (standard or more advanced like with the A1 Click Ultra PC Cleaner)
- Registry cleaning and optimization (like with RegVac),. defrag/compaction
- File defragmentation (standard or specific 3d party tools incl. optimization).     Some tools like Power Defragmenter (Sysinternals) even enable to defragment single files or folders (time saving in e.g.video-rendering or other big file operations)
- MFT – defragmentation and compaction
- Pagefile : System File Defragmenter (PageDefrag from Sysinternals)
- System File integrity check
- RAM – defragmenting  in some cases (like multitasking or relatively few RAM, or on a pc at RAM-limit). Some software are able to perform such ‘on the fly’ (like Hare 1.5.1)
- ….(evt, internet:  privacy items/trace removal /riskware itms)

- …. I assume that  you and others can mention even more aspects…..

I think that many average users are unaware of the majority of such items, stressing the relative importance of developing a ‘general’ analyzing (or possibly ‘autodiagnostic’) program, or do you consider such unrealistic?.
What can be observed is that there now are developments towards ‘multifunctional-maintenance’ software, both in the freeware and commercial sector, but their reach and/or quality still looks limited with respect to the above.
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Posted: April 10th, 2009, 7:50am Report to Moderator
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Very interesting question, as I too have wondered how it all works.  Hope someone will take the time to answer it and in a way we can understand.  I'll be sure to check back on this one.
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Posted: April 10th, 2009, 9:26am Report to Moderator
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   The MFT is a part of the internal structure of a harddrive.  If you could look at the raw data on a drive you would find basically two sections:  the MFT (Master File Table) and then the space where the files are stored.  MFT is a list of all of the files on the drive with information about them.  This is written at the beginning and sometimes at the end of the drive.  The system uses the list to find the files on the drive.  When you defrag a drive, you defrag the MFT.
   The registry on the other hand is a database of software settings used by Windows and other software.  The registry is stored in files on the harddrive.
   It takes a year or more for a drive to get so fragmented that you notice a difference in your computer's speed.  So if you defrag once a year, you should be alright.  The same holds true when it comes to defragging the registry.
   The RAM does not need to be defragged unless you never shut down or restart your computer.  I have found RAM cleaning to be useless and consider them as scams.  Shutting down your computer, defrags the RAM.  I think this is also true of the PageFile.
   Problems with System file integrity are very rare (unless you are someone who haphazardly deletes files or experiments with the system).  The system will usually tell you when there is a problem with the system files.  Scans of system file integrity are usually done when problems are noticed and are useless before then.
   Computer magazines need something to write about and the developers who write software that perform the above mentioned scans need to make money and so it is to their advantage to mention these things.  But in most cases, they are not a problem.

   So to sum it all up, do daily or weekly registry and harddrive cleanings.  Shut off your computer daily or at least weekly.  Defrag the drives and the registry once a year.  And when you get system errors, do a system file integrity scan.
   If you are a person who opens unknown email attachments and visits questionable websites, you should also have an antivirus program running.
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