Over time, your hard drive will become defragmented, meaning that files are scattered all over the drive. Windows comes with a utility to help you rearrange files, programs, and unused space on your hard drives so that programs run faster and files open more quickly. Go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Defragmenter. Click the Settings button and make sure both boxes to Rearrange program files … and Check the drive for errors are checked and that these options are used Every time I defragment my hard drive. Then select the drive you wish to defragment. Choose All Hard Drives if you want to do them all at once.
Tip: It can happen that defragging continuously starts over and over again, because of some hard disk activity. If that happens to you, boot into safe mode, perform the defrag, and reboot into normal Windows mode. To boot into safe mode, reboot the machine, then either hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard during the reboot process until you see a menu, or watch the screen for the words Starting Windows 9x. As soon as you see that sentence, push the F8 function key to get to the boot menu. From the menu, select the option for Safe Mode.
Depending on how fragmented and how large the drive is, this process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours so be prepared to leave the computer alone for a while until this has finished.
Scan your drive for errors frequently
No hard drive is perfect. Every drive has a few bad clusters and will develop more over time. In addition, hard drives can have lost file fragments, cross-linked files, and other file system errors. To check for these types of errors and correct them, go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/ScanDisk. Make sure the box to Automatically fix errors is selected. Check the Advanced button for more settings. The default settings are usually fine. Then select the drive you want to scan, and click Start.
Convert to FAT32
If you are running Windows 95b or c, Windows 98 or Windows 2000, then you can take advantage of FAT32, a newer and more efficient file system. To convert a drive under Windows 95b or c, you need a utility that does the job for you since Windows 95b does not come with a conversion utility. This is a tiny little program that was made by Microsoft but never publicly advertised.
Download the Windows 95b FAT 32 conversion utility here
Windows 98 even comes with a built-in converter program that will convert a hard drive that is currently using FAT16 to FAT32 without losing any data. To find out what file system your hard drive uses, open Windows Explorer, right-click on the hard drive icon on the left and choose Properties. Under the General tab, see what file system is indicated. If it already reads FAT32 (or NTFS), then you’re fine. But if it reads FAT, then you’re still using FAT16 and can benefit greatly by converting to FAT32. I’ve seen up to to 30% disk space recovered after converting to FAT32.
Go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Drive Converter to start the FAT32 conversion wizard.
This utility is installed by default, but if it is not listed, go to Start/Settings/Control Panel/Add/Remove Programs/Windows Setup/System Tools/Details and check the box for Drive Converter FAT32 to install it.
Once you start this wizard, it will guide you through the process. It is very simple and doesn’t require much user input, but it could take a while depending how big the drive is that you’re converting. When this is finished, be sure to defrag your drive, because this process will fragment the drive significantly.
To take advantage of FAT32 in Windows 2000, it needs to be set up when partitioning the drive, before installing the operating system.
For more information on FAT32, how it works, and its benefits, check out our FAT32 guide.
Automate your hard drive maintenance
Of course you don’t want to do most of these tasks manually every week. Windows 98 comes with a tool that lets you automate some of these tasks and perform them at night when your computer is idle, provided you leave it running at night of course. Go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Maintenance Wizard. Choose Custom and click Next. Choose the time span in which you want to perform these tasks, usually Nights, and click Next. The next screen is for defragmenting your drives. In Windows 98, this not only defrags your drives, but also moves frequently used programs to the beginning of the drive so that they start up a tad faster. Click the Settings button to choose what drives to defrag, usually All Hard Drives. Click Reschedule to modify the default time for this task. Then click Next to proceed.
The next screen is for running scan disk. This will check your hard drives for errors and either repair them or mark the clusters as bad so that data won’t be saved to those bad clusters anymore. Again, click the Reschedule button to modify the default time for this task and the Settings button to customize the options for this task. Make sure the box to Automatically fix errors is selected. Check the Advanced button for more settings. The default settings are usually fine. Then click Next to proceed.
The next screen is to remove unnecessary files. Again, click the Reschedule button to modify the default time for this task and the Settings button to customize the options for this task. Here you can select what clean-ups to perform and what files to delete/folders to empty. Then click Next to proceed.
On the last screen, you can verify the schedule for each task. Check the box to perform these tasks right away, or just click Finish to complete setup of this automated task. That’s it. From now on, Windows will perform the disk maintenance for you.