Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Prevent Windows Automatic Updates

Although Windows Update is a nice feature of Windows, it is sometimes annoying -- stealing your CPU power to determine what update is necessary, and stealing bandwidth while downloading updates. You can disable it from the Control Panel, but it's not completely disabled. See how to prevent Windows from "phoning home" for updates.

Disable Windows Automatic Updates
A lot of us know how to disable Automatic Updates in Windows. Go to Control Panel, select Automatic Updates, and choose Do not download or install updates. Well, that works, sometimes.

Even with Automatic Updates turned off, Windows still contacts Microsoft Update website occasionally. And, as I have found out, a bug in Windows is present that makes Windows act as though Automatic Updates were set to Notify. A lot of Windows users leave their computer running for a long time without saving their work. They will be frustrated to see all their hard work is lost when Windows suddenly updates and decided to restart itself.

Also, if you turned off Automatic Updates, you might not know that two more services are running in the background that are useless. These services are the Background Intelligent Transfer Service, and Automatic Update service.

Turn off these services and free up memory for your computer, and prevent Windows from updating unless you told it to. Oh, and you need Administrative Privileges to do this. If you do not have that privilege, it's wise not to tinker with the system.

Go to the Services console by going to Administrative Tools under Control Panel. Alternatively, go to Run, and type services.msc and press Enter. The Services Management Console should open.

Now, look for the name Background Intelligent Transfer Service. Double-click it to open its properties. Click the Stop button. Then, select Disabled for the Startup Type. Press OK to confirm. Do the same for Automatic Updates service.

There you go. Without these services, Windows can't contact Microsoft and update itself without your permission. To enable Automatic Updates again, follow the steps above, but click Start instead, and select Automatic for the Startup type.

This trick also affects updates from the Microsoft Update Website.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Deleting Old Files

When you need more space for your computer, there are certain areas Windows sometimes forgets to clean. And there are other methods to reclaim disk space.

Reclaiming Disk Space
If you're like me, storing thousands of songs and hundreds of hours of videos, you'll end up gasping for more disk space. The first thing that will tell you that Windows is low in Disk Space is XP's balloon tip. So, I compiled the common areas to check for junk so you can reclaim as much disk space as possible.

Run Disk Cleaner
The first thing you need is to run Disk Cleaner, a handy utility in Windows XP that searches your computer for temporary files, old installation files, and other useless junk. After you analyze the results, you can either check all the boxes that it will clean or select the ones you're sure you won't need anymore. One tip, you can always clean up your Temporary Files. Don't worry, Disk Cleanup won't cause your files to crash when it tries to clean your Temporary folder while programs are accessing the files there.

If your system is running smoothly, and Microsoft Office is well tamed, you can also remove Temporary Installation files left by Microsoft Office. This is the folder where the Office installer places the replaced files and configuration, so a rollback would go smoothly.

Compress Old Files
If your file system is NTFS, they you can compress files that you seldom access, like old documents, photos you never like but want to keep anyway, or other stuff that's more than 60 days old. Compressing them reduces their disk footprint, and still you can access them like regular files. Compressed files, if set, have their filenames colored blue. Tip, compress entire folders of programs you seldom use. This make take a while depending on the number of files of the folder, but you'll save a lot of disk space.

Remove Optional Windows Components
If you don't use the default MSN Messenger of Windows, or never play Solitaire of Minesweeper, you can remove these programs. Go to Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel, and on the left panel, select Add/Remove Windows Components. Select the components you want to remove. Certain programs even allows you to remove Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player if you don't use those.

Remove All But the Latest Restore Point
This should be your last resort to reclaim space as this is very risky. You can reclaim hundreds or even thousands of megabytes of disk space, depending on your computer, by removing all but the latest restore point.

Restore Point is like a snapshot of your computer before you install a software or hardware. If your new installation fails or reeks, you can revert to your previous system state by going back a restore point. So, removing a restore point is quite dangerous when your system suddenly acts differently. The downside is, a single restore point can be 200MB in size. If your computer is running smoothly, and your previous installation dates back a couple of weeks or a month, you can perform this step. But Windows will leave your latest Restore Point, so in the event your computer goes berserk, you can restore it to at least the latest snapshot.

To remove all but the latest restore point, run Disk Cleaner. After Disk Cleaner finishes scanning your system for removable files, click the More Options tab. On the bottom, labeled System Restore, click Clean Up. Confirm your action by pressing Yes on the next dialog box.

Burn Old Files to a CD
If you need more space, you can burn old files to a CD and delete them from your computer. Of course, don't do this for important or frequently accessed files. Think of it as archiving your files.

After performing these steps, check how much space you've reclaimed. You'll be surprised to see all those clutter in your computer.