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Dear Windows Advisor…

Expert solutions to your Windows worries.

Years ago, I wrote a column for the now-defunct Computer Currents magazine entitled “Quick Tips and Fixes,” wherein I attempted to answer reader’s questions about problems they were having with their PC’s. Though that column is long gone, I still get questions about working with Windows. In this issue, we’ve decided to answer a few of them.

Taking out the Trash

I’m tired of constantly having to empty the trash, cull old temporary files, and delete the remains of partial installations on my Windows XP Pro system. Is there a way to do all of these things automatically?

Jason Aldaver

San Francisco

There are many third-party shareware programs available that do exactly as you described, but for my money Trash It! (from Optimus Software) beats them all. In addition to deleting temp files and doing all of the other things you asked for, the program also monitors installations.

Why is this important? If you’ve ever setup a program on your hard drive and then had to remove the software, you’ve probably noticed that not everything gets deleted. This is because most setup programs not only create new folders to house their various parts, but also use existing folders such as c:Windows and c:WindowsSystem. The uninstaller program does not always uninstall all of the files it spreads around, especially system and DLL files.

Setup programs can also alter your registery, autoexec.bat, config.sys, windows.ini, and system.ini files. All too often, uninstallation doesn’t clear out the deadwood that should be deleted when you delete the program in question. And that can cause your system to slow or even crash.

Because Trash It! monitors all installations, it knows what to remove when you uninstall a program, keeping your system folders and registry free of virtual debris.

The program also comes with a built-in scheduler that allows you to automatically delete files you no longer need, such as the aforementioned temporary files. And while it doesn’t do windows, (though it obviously does Windows) it will “take out the trash” (empty your recycle bin) for you, leaving you free to spend your time installing and removing various shareware programs at your leisure.

Trash It! is free to try for 15 days. After that, you must pay $30 to register it. You can download and read more about the program at www.optimussw.com.

Getting a Better View

Is there any way to view your hard drives without having to go through the menus and open Windows Explorer?

Todd Heiler

Little Rock, Ark

You are in luck, for there is indeed a way. Left-click and hold the “My Computer” icon and drag it to the far left side of your screen, and then release. This should instantly produce a vertical menu of the contents of that folder. Then left-click and hold the “c:” drive icon (or whichever drive you want to display) and drag it to the top of the screen. This will create a horizontal bar across the top of your display that shows the entire contents of your hard drive. If you get tired of it, you need simply right-click on each (or either) toolbar, select “close toolbar,” and, voila, things are back to normal.

What are We, Bears?

I was browsing through my Windows files and found a huge (nearly 1GB) file called hiberfil.sys. I have no idea what this is. Is it safe to delete it? I only have a 100GB hard drive, so every little bit counts!

Alicia McDonald

Ft. Madison, Iowa

Hiberfil.sys is a component of a feature called Windows Hibernation. New to XP, the goal of this feature is to save power while keeping your system responsive. Ostensibly, it’s supposed to be a shortcut that allows you to leave your PC in suspended animation until you’re ready to use it again. Windows essentially takes a snapshot of everything in memory and saves it to your hard drive, and then powers down until you move the mouse or click on a key. In practice, however, the time saved through hibernation is negligible at best, and usually not worth the space the files takes. Normally located in your root (c:) drive, hiberfil.sys can often be huge–the size, in fact, is determined by the amount of RAM you have in your system. If you have 512MB of RAM, hiberfil.sys can be up to 512MB in size, and so on. And while it’s perfectly safe to delete this file, Windows won’t let you do so without first forcing you to jump through a few hoops.

Hibernation is, by default, turned on when you first install Windows XP. You can, however, disable it, effectively removing the file.

Here’s how:

* Open the Windows Control Panel

* In your Control Panel, double-click Power Options

* Click the Hibernate tab

* De-select the “Enable hibernate support” check box

* Click Apply.

* Restart your computer. When it starts up again, you’ll find that hiberfil.sys has been deleted and that your hard drive suddenly has more room

And that’s it. If you ever change your mind and want to re-enable hibernation, just follow the directions above but instead select the “Enable hibernate support” check box.

Contributing Editor Joe DeRouen writes Windows Advisor monthly for ComputerUser.

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