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When the car that carries you to work every day pings or puffs instead of accelerating, you know a tune-up's in order. And when the PC that carries you through a workday suddenly lacks the oomph that used to make short shrift of spreadsheets, you know it's time to take out the tools, get under the hood and make a few adjustments.
There are plenty of tools to tune a sluggish system. Utilities can put your hard disk in order, improve its efficiency and help restore its performance. Other programs will show you how your system's memory is being used, so that you can reallocate resources without having to buy more of them. Some utilities address specific applications, suggesting ways to make them work better for you.
But before you head to the software store with your utility shopping list in hand, take a look at what you may already have, and what you can get for just the price of a phone call. When you installed Windows 95 or NT, for example, the operating system brought along a few companion utilities. Used appropriately-and often-these tools can help ensure a smooth and speedy ride.
And what your operating system may lack, the Web has to offer. WINDOWS Magazine offers several tune-up utilities that are just a download away. Our free utilities alone can help you do some serious performance tuning, but there's even more available. And you can get it at an unbeatable price-free.-Richard Castagna
Diagnostics for Your PC
When was the last time you gave your PC a good overall tune-up? We recently revised Wintune, our free test and tune-up kit from Windows Magazine that will kick the kinks out of your system. The new 32-bit version, Wintune 97, runs on the latest versions of Windows 95 and Windows NT. If you're running Windows 3.x, we haven't forgotten you; the older Wintune 2.0 is still available. All versions of Wintune will help you tweak and tune Windows for maximum performance. Wintune offers specific tips for problems it finds and compares your system to similar systems that we've tested in our labs.
You can find Wintune at the WINDOWS Magazine Web site, http://www.winmag.com/software/wt97.htm. It's also available on America Online (Keyword: WinMag) and CompuServe (GO: WINMAG). You might find Wintune elsewhere on the Internet, but we recommend you get it directly from our site to make sure it's the most recent version and hasn't been altered by anyone else.
Getting in Tune
The first thing you'll want to do after starting Wintune is click on the Analyze Now button. This initiates a quick set of tests that examine your PC's CPU, and video, disk and memory subsystems. While the tests are running, you'll see some messages on the screen and a variety of test patterns from the video test. For the most accurate results, don't run any other programs while Wintune performs its analysis.
After Wintune finishes analyzing, it displays the test results and gives you tips to improve performance. Depending on the system configuration and test results, Wintune may recommend that you enable RAM caches, check BIOS settings, adjust the size of disk caches or tweak Control Panel settings. If Wintune doesn't give you any tips after analyzing your system, that's good news. It means there are no dire performance problems that need fixing. Still, you may be able to tweak your system even further.
First, you should find out how your system compares to similar ones in Wintune's database. Click on the Database tab and select systems with the same CPU type and speed as yours. You can click on any of the column headings in the database to sort by that column. This makes it easy to find similar systems. If you don't see any similar systems in the standard database that comes with Wintune, you can download additional test results and add them to the database. Our Web site offers Wintune results for every system we review.
Once you've selected systems similar to yours, click on the Charts tab and select the type of results you'd like to display in a graph. With all of Wintune's benchmarks, larger numbers (and longer bars) indicate higher performance. If you prefer, you can view the results in tabular form through the Reports tab. You should focus your tune-up work on any results that compare poorly to similarly configured systems.
If you're not sure what a tip or test measurement means, go to the Details tab, click on that item and then click on the Tell Me More button. This takes you to Wintune's help files, which explain how each item is measured, what it means, how it affects your system performance and how you can tune it. Much of Wintune's value comes from the tuning details you'll find in its help files, so be sure to consult them whenever you have questions.
A few Wintune tips involve buying or upgrading components. In particular, Wintune will point out when your system needs more RAM. With RAM prices so low these days, it's a good idea to have at least 16MB and preferably 32MB. Without enough RAM, many of the other tune-ups Wintune recommends won't work nearly as well.
We're continuing to improve and enhance Wintune to keep up with the changes in PC hardware and Windows itself. We expect to have a new version of Wintune later this year, after Microsoft updates Windows 95. So stay "tuned."-David W. Methvin
Test Your Browser Power
It's a little surprising when a private project takes on a life of its own, but that's what's happened with BrowserTune. The original BrowserTune grew out of some behind-the- scenes Web pages I wrote for myself. You see, I was looking for an easy way to try out new browser features and technologies for my home page (http://www.winmag.com/flanga/hotspots.htm). Though it's a modest effort, the HotSpots page has gotten over 1.5 million visitors, so I wanted to make sure the pages would look good and act okay no matter what browser viewed them.
Every time a new version of a major browser came out, I'd fire up the test pages to see what worked, what was broken, and how the browsers differed from each other. As new Web technologies and functions became available, I'd create new test pages to help implement the functions in a way that would still work with older browsers.
Eventually, I polished and published the test pages so anyone could perform the same kinds of tests. The first version of BrowserTune let you test over 100 separate features and functions easily. You'd simply follow links from page to page. Each page would tell you exactly what was being tested, why (that is, what the tested function or feature was commonly used for), what the test results should be, and what you could do if your favorite browser failed a test. You could even open up two competing browsers side by side and see exactly where they were the same and where they differed. All the tests were geared to the functions and features used in real-world Web pages (not made-up technology demonstration sites) while staying as browser-neutral as possible. BrowserTune didn't play favorites with any particular brand or version of browser. Beyond testing, BrowserTune also offered specific advice wherever possible on how to overcome or work around any deficiencies you might uncover in your browser. And best of all, BrowserTune did all this in a way that was completely benign and noninvasive-it didn't change anything in your system-so it was extremely safe and nondisruptive.
I continued updating the tests until BrowserTune became what I honestly believe is the world's most complete collection of useful, practical, real-world browser tests. Hundreds of thousands of you agreed and have visited the BrowserTune site. Many of you used the feedback link at the end of the tests to offer great suggestions about how I could make the tests even better and more complete.
The Latest Model
BrowserTune 97 is the result. It incorporates as many of your suggestions as possible, and extends and clarifies many of the original BrowserTune tests. It's especially timely because of the new versions of Navigator and Internet Explorer due out this summer. There's no easier way to put a browser through all its paces than to surf through BrowserTune.
New in BrowserTune 97 are timing tests for modem throughput and Internet packet turnaround; tests for streaming audio and video capabilities; security features; use of tool tips; the ability to view and edit a page's source code; and the use of Win95-specific features, such as right-click menus.
Like its predecessor, BrowserTune 97 should not alter your browser or system settings in any way. You can still run the tests as a full suite, or just run the ones you want. You also can start the tests and bail out anytime with no problem.
BrowserTune 97 still strives to be browser-neutral. The tests involve only "legal," standard HTML coding and focus on functions in common use today. These are functions you need to get the most use and enjoyment out of real-life pages found on today's mainstream intranets and on the Web. BrowserTune 97 doesn't stack the deck for or against anyone, so you can find out which browser offers just the features and functions that matter to you for your personal surfing, your corporate Internet and intranet use, and so on.
BrowserTune is ready for you right now. Click on over to http://www.winmag.com/flanga/browsertune and check it out.-Fred Langa
Scour Your System
The Windows 95 Registry is a great new operating system feature-usually. Applications can store settings and options in the Registry, and Windows itself can store the locations of key files. Unfortunately, though, the Registry can become corrupt after applications are installed, uninstalled and reinstalled. RegClean, a utility included with Visual Basic 4 and available free from Microsoft's Web site, can help.
RegClean analyzes and corrects Registry settings that can affect programs ranging from applications to Win95 itself. RegClean also scrutinizes-and repairs, if necessary-common settings that make it possible for separately built components (such as Word and PowerPoint) to work together. Information in this common location contains cross-references to other Registry sections; RegClean ferrets out these cross-references, too. (However, it does not attempt to replace invalid cross-references.)
RegClean first scans, counts and sorts entries in your Registry. Then it launches the OLE Automation Registry Correction Wizard, which concentrates on entries for local and remote OLE automation. Click on the Options button to set the items you want RegClean to check. You'll find most options already checked, but there's no help file to explain them.
On Second Thought
After running RegClean, you may notice some differences in your system. Program icons may return to their defaults, and items may disappear from the New dialog box in the File menu. But you can undo these changes if you don't like them: When it finishes its work, RegClean creates an undo file-UNDO.REG-in the folder that contains the program (C:\PROGRAM FILES\REGCLEAN). UNDO.REG contains a list of every entry that RegClean modified or removed (though it doesn't say specifically if it changed or deleted the entry). To read the list, right-click on UNDO.REG in Explorer and select Edit. To restore all the keys to their original versions, just double-click on UNDO.REG.
To get RegClean, start at the Microsoft technical support home page (http://www.microsoft.com/support/mtshome.htm). Click on the blue "Help files, service packs, & other files" button at the left of the screen. In the text box labeled "Enter the filename, then click find file," enter REGCLN.EXE and click Find File. Click on RegClean to download the file to a folder on your hard disk (it's best to use a new folder). In Explorer, double-click on REGCLN.EXE; the 1.57MB file will uncompress itself and store its files in the folder where you saved it. Run the SETUP.EXE file (a 32-bit-only application), and RegClean will be ready to go. The installation program adds an entry to your Start menu; just select Start/Programs/RegClean to get going.-James E. Powell
How's That Horsepower?
Sometimes the cause of a performance problem is not apparent. System Monitor can help spot performance-inhibiting problems that might otherwise go undetected. The utility gives you an inside view of what's going on inside your Win95 system. If you have Win95 on CD-ROM, you already have System Monitor; if not, you can get it free at Microsoft's Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/software/accessories.htm)
System Monitor reports its results with a series of colorful charts. You can customize the charts, changing their colors, type and refresh interval time. You can also add multiple graphs (line or bar charts) or numeric values for data in several categories. For example, in the File System category, you can track several operations simultaneously, such as the number of bytes read or written per second, the amount of "dirty" data (bytes waiting to be written to disk), and the reads and writes per second. In the IPX/SPX category, System Monitor will report the number of IPX packets lost, received or sent per second, the number of open sockets, the number of Routing Table or SAP Table entries, and the SPX packets received or sent per second.
Perhaps the most useful statistics are those System Monitor turns up by tracking memory. The utility will show you the amount of allocated memory and locked memory, size of the disk cache, number of instance faults and page faults, minimum and maximum disk cache size, and information about your swap file, including its size and the amount in use. With this information in hand, you can tinker with settings to improve system performance.
System Monitor also provides reports for the kernel, Client for NetWare Networks, Network Client and Network Server. If you don't know what a measurement means, click on the Explain button for a brief description.-James E. Powell
Running on NT
You get an impressive set of performance-optimization tools for NT by doing one thing: installing the operating system. With NT Workstation and NT Server, you get Performance Monitor and Task Manager, and NT Server administrators also get Network Monitor.
Performance Monitor is the primary tool for observing NT performance. It works as a software chart recorder that gleans information from a variety of objects in the NT system; you can have Performance Monitor display the information, log it or signal an alert based on certain conditions. The utility lets you peek at the system's processors, as well as memory, disk and network subsystems. In many cases, you can break down performance on a per-process or per-thread basis. You'll find Performance Monitor in the NT Desktop's Administrative Tools folder.
In NT 4.0, Performance Monitor is augmented by an enhanced Task Manager with CPU and memory-charting capabilities. Though it's less flexible than Performance Monitor, it's easier to use. You just right-click on any open portion of the NT Desktop's taskbar and pick Task Manager from the resulting pop-up menu. The Performance tab gives you a quick look at CPU and memory utilization. The Tasks tab lets you break the utilization down and find out which programs are using the most resources.
With Performance Monitor and Task Manager, the key to optimizing NT performance is to observe CPU and memory utilization and look for a bottleneck-a situation that occurs when programs request more resources than NT has available. Frequently, you'll find the problem is one or two applications that are hogging resources. For example, if Task Manager's Performance tab shows CPU utilization saturated at 100 percent, you should look at the Tasks tab to determine the processor hogs.
Unfortunately, while the tools to find such problems come free with NT, actually solving the problem often involves spending money. A common performance problem in NT is "thrashing," which results from trying to run too many applications on a system with insufficient RAM. You can work around such a problem by identifying which applications use the most memory and not running them all at the same time. For example, we've found that Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word will run fine on our test system with 32MB of RAM individually-but the system thrashes when we try to run them together. To completely eliminate the problem, we had to add RAM, which is cheap now but still not free.
NT Server administrators can extend bottleneck-detection to the network, because Performance Monitor can observe many network objects. NT Server 4.0 also includes a functional protocol analyzer in software: Network Monitor, which is installed as a network service.
You can start Network Monitor from the Administrative Tools folder. To capture network data, select Capture/Start. After a dozen or so network frames have been captured, select Capture/Stop and View, and you'll see a screen with summary data. Double-click on any frame in the summary, and you'll see Detail and Hex windows for that frame. Network Monitor helps the most when you can tell (from Performance Monitor) that you have too much network traffic, but you can't figure out where the traffic is coming from. It lets you examine the actual bits going over the wire.-John D. Ruley
Use 'Em or Lose Data
Win95 also offers a couple of built-in utilities: ScanDisk and Defragmenter. These two helpful disk-maintenance utilities can mitigate the chore of replacing or reconstructing lost data in the wake of a hard disk disaster.
ScanDisk comes in both DOS and Windows 95 flavors. It examines your hard disk and corrects errors caused by wayward programs and quirks in the FAT file structure. Located in the System Tools folder under Accessories, ScanDisk detects errors in the folder/directory table, repairs cross-linked files, reports invalid long filenames and date/time signatures, and detects media defects on the disk surface. ScanDisk can also repair compression errors on Microsoft DriveSpace 2/DriveSpace 3 volumes. Many of the problems that ScanDisk can detect and remedy can adversely affect hard disk performance, too.
If a program mistakenly allocates the same clusters to two files in the FAT directory table (called cross-linked files), ScanDisk can sometimes sort out the error or rediscover lost data clusters the file system has misplaced. Wear and tear through longtime use can also make parts of your hard disk unreadable. ScanDisk detects these problems and marks bad sectors.
If you've already saved a file in a bad area, ScanDisk can physically relocate readable clusters of that file to a good section of the disk. When you run ScanDisk, a dialog box pops up on the Desktop so you can set default options. If you run ScanDisk from MS-DOS mode, the options are available as command-line parameters. You should run ScanDisk periodically to help ensure that minor disk errors don't accumulate and snowball into a serious hard disk problem.
If you use DriveSpace 3-available in Microsoft Plus or Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 (OSR 2)-to compress your system's hard disk, you'll also have an updated version of ScanDisk. The version of ScanDisk included in OSR 2 is also designed to handle Microsoft's new FAT32 file system for large hard drives. If you have the OSR 2 version of Win95, ScanDisk will run automatically at start-up if the machine previously shut down improperly. You can tell if you have Windows 95 OSR 2 installed by right-clicking on My Computer, selecting Properties and checking the version on the General tab; you have OSR 2 installed if the Windows 95 version is 4.00.950B.
Microsoft Defrag, the other toothbrush tool for hard disk hygiene, is a disk optimizer. Disk optimizers reorganize the file structure of your hard disk by placing individual pieces of a file into consecutive order on the disk. Normally, when Windows 95 saves files to disk, it searches for available contiguous space. However, due to limitations in the FAT filing system, data sometimes winds up in nonconsecutive locations. When you reopen your files later on, the hard disk heads may have to skip all over the drive-beginning, end and middle-to read all the data into memory.
Hip-hopping across the hard disk slows performance and adds mechanical stress to the drive's moving parts. A defragmenter puts files in order to speed up performance and reduce physical wear and tear.
Defrag (also in the System Tools folder under Accessories) can perform either a full or partial reordering of the file structure. The default setting will eliminate the holes produced by FAT reshuffling and place all your files next to each other in consecutive order. If you have a large partition and don't want to take the time to do this, you can tell Defrag just to put the pieces of scattered files together and skip consolidating free space.
Either choice will help ScanDisk (and other disk recovery utilities) restore your files if you experience a serious hard disk crash.
You should run ScanDisk and Defrag once or twice a month; doing so can yield a noticeable difference in your computer's performance. For more serious disk problems, you may need to move up to this duo's big brothers, bundled in Symantec's Norton Utilities. Norton Disk Doctor is likely to do a better job than ScanDisk of fixing serious FAT or directory structure problems and restoring corrupted partition information. The Norton utility also one-ups Defrag with its ability to optimize the Windows swap file, which can put a big hit on performance when it's fragmented.-Lenny Bailes
Quick Disk Fix for NT
NT disk partitions can fragment as badly as (if not worse than) Win95 or DOS partitions. In recent tests, one WinLab NT system had over 20,000 excess fragments on a single partition. And just as with Win95 or DOS, excess fragments slow performance-by as much as six times, in extreme cases.
The good news is you can defragment your partitions without plunking down a penny. Executive Software, maker of the Diskeeper 2.0 defragmenter for NT (see WinLab Reviews, March), offers a free version called Diskeeper Lite that you can download from its Web site (http://www.execsoft.com)
Diskeeper Lite differs from Diskeeper 2.0 in that it supports only single-pass (manual) defrag. You have to manually start a defrag pass as you typically would with a DOS or Windows 95 defrag. Unfortunately, that's rarely sufficient for NT-particularly on a badly fragmented partition. Since NT is a multithreaded, multitasking operating system, some files will be in use when the defragmenter runs, and those won't be defragmented. To get around this problem, you need to run the defragmenter many times-a real pain if you have to do it manually.
Automatic multi-pass defrag (you can schedule it for times when you're not using the system) is available, for a price. Diskeeper 2.0 costs $75 for a version that runs on NT Workstation. Or you might prefer Norton SpeedDisk, which is part of Symantec's Norton Utilities for Windows NT (see NT Enterprise Reviews, May). Norton SpeedDisk provides automatic multi-pass defrag, a complete undelete feature and other utilities. You can download a free trial version of Norton Utilities from Symantec's Web site at http://www.symantec.com.
Finally, if you run a dual-boot configuration with both NT and Windows 95 installed, you can run Win95's Defragmenter. Note that it will only run from Windows 95-it requires direct low-level access to the disk controller, which NT doesn't allow. It will also only defragment DOS-style FAT16 partitions. To defragment NT File System partitions (commonly used on NT servers), you'll need an NT-native defragmenter like Diskeeper or SpeedDisk.-John D. Ruley
Microsoft's first service update for Win95, issued in January 1996, contained a number of patches and revised dynamic link libraries (DLLs) that fixed minor problems in the operating system. With the service update, Microsoft included Update Information Tool. This program (QFECHECK.EXE), placed in the System Tools folder under Accessories, tracks which of the 10 Win95 update patches are installed on your system. If you've installed some of the patches separately and want to track them, you can also download QFECHECK.EXE from Microsoft's Web site (http://www.microsoft.com./windows/software/Servpak1/enduser.htm)
Update Information Tool searches for all of the DLLs in your C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory and examines the system Registry. The dates and version numbers of DLLs associated with operating system fixes appear on the Registered Update tab of the program. If the version number of the DLL in the Registry does not correspond to the one on your hard disk, this information appears in red. The second tab in the program lets you search for all system update files, whether or not they appear in the Registry. If you installed an early update or simply copied one of the patches to the hard disk and bypassed the setup program, it will show up on this list.
Don't Dread the Red
If Update Information Tool reports an invalid driver in red, that doesn't necessarily mean you have a system problem. Sometimes the version number for the active DLL is not updated in the system Registry. You may have a perfectly good file with a later date installed on your hard disk.
Microsoft's utility reports only on DLLs included in Win95 Service Pack 1, but it is a step in the right direction for troubleshooting stubborn Windows 95 system problems. Nearly 80 percent of all program failures (general protection faults) within Windows 95 are caused by conflicting system or program DLLs. Windows 95's core set of drivers (COMMCTRL.DLL, MSVCRTXX.DLL and so on) are constantly overwritten with new versions whenever you install new applications.
Theoretically, the latest version of each system DLL is backward-compatible with programs that ship with older modules. However, some cranky applications become crash-prone or refuse to run whenever another application substitutes a new system file. A classic example of this is a conflict between Microsoft Office and early versions of Netscape Navigator. After Netscape had been installed, Word and Excel would refuse to run. The only way to fix the problem was to recopy the MS Office versions of system DLLs to the Windows directory or reinstall the entire suite.
Duplicate versions of DLLs in multiple directories can also cause system problems. A couple of free utilities might help you solve problems with program GPFs. Version Info 1.0 (http://www.shareware.com) will display the filename and directory path, version number and other pertinent information for any Windows system file (DLL, DRV, EXE, VBX, VXD, OCX and so forth) on your hard disk. It will also track down duplicate versions of these files hidden in other directories. This utility is available in both executable program (EXE) and Windows Control Panel (CPL) formats.
Another freebie, Symantec's Norton CrashGuard 1.0 (http://www.symantec.com), protects your file data when programs freeze or conflicting DLLs precipitate GPFs. CrashGuard revives frozen and crashed programs, bringing them back from the twilight zone long enough for you to save your files before closing the sick application.-Lenny Bailes
Dig Up Buried ActiveX Controls
Microsoft Internet Explorer gives you a great deal of help when it comes to automatically downloading and installing ActiveX controls. Click on Yes when IE prompts you to install a detected control, and the browser does the rest. However, IE isn't quite as helpful when it comes to finding and managing all the controls you've installed on your system. If you're a big ActiveX fan, pruning unnecessary files and managing necessary ones could quickly become a daunting task. That's where WinMag's exclusive Active XCavator can help.
This simple, compact utility (its single EXE file is only 47KB) lists all the ActiveX controls installed by IE 3.0 or later. By default, IE stores all related files in your C:\WINDOWS\OCCACHE directory, but a quick look at the OCX files tells you almost nothing about the controls you're running. Active XCavator digs through the data for you and displays a convenient palette of information for each file. You can quickly reference each control's full name, author, file size, version number, installation date and other stored information, such as author comments or details on special builds of the file.
If you discover you're housing unneeded or outdated controls that just chew up valuable disk space, XCavator lets you delete them with a mouse click. If you delete one by mistake, simply return to the original source site, and the control will be reinstalled automatically.
Download Active XCavator 1.0 free from the WinMag Web site at http://www.winmag.com/software/wmfiles.htm.#activex.-Paul Silverman
Keep Your PC Running Clean
A virus doesn't just pose a danger to your system's data-it puts a big hit on your productivity, too. Free Windows 95 anti-virus utilities may be a little less reliable and efficient than their commercial counterparts, but they beat having no protection at all. And we found three you might want on your Desktop.
Eliashim's ViruSafe Web (http://www.eliashim.com) monitors 32- and 16-bit versions of Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer, America Online's Web browser, Mosaic/Air Mosaic and other browsers. It warns you if you attempt to open or download infected Microsoft Word and Excel documents in your browser. ViruSafe Web also intercepts attempts to open infected documents in Netscape Mail and includes a simple scanner that lets you check all files on your hard disk one by one. If it finds a virus, you can either delete the infected file or ignore the warning. There's no cleaning utility.
ViruSafe Web caught all the macro viruses we threw at it, and some common DOS viruses that typically infect COM files. However, it missed many other common DOS viruses. ViruSafe Web offers no protection within Word itself if you open an infected document that's already on your hard disk.
Another freeware Good Samaritan-Padgett's Word Macro Antivirus v. 1.10 (http://www.netmind.com/~padgett/getmacro.htm)-provides protection for versions 6 and later of Word. The program is a Word template that disables common document start-up macros. Most Word viruses use the AutoExec and AutoStart macros to do their dirty deeds to your documents and stylesheets. The Padgett template stops these macros from executing but also adds an icon to the Word toolbar that allows you to inspect all active document macros at a glance.
ARFAV (http://www.shareware.com, CompuServe PCUtil Forum) is a DOS antivirus utility that also lets you create an emergency rescue floppy. The authors take a creative approach to preventing hard disk infection. Instead of simply scanning your hard disk for infected files, ARFAV searches for common DOS utilities and inoculates them with transparent code that fights off most file viruses. When a virus attacks COMMAND.COM, DOSKEY or another utility, the ARFAV inoculation fends off the infection, nullifying the effect and preventing the virus from replicating. If you're uneasy about altering your program files, ARFAV can also save the original of each inoculated application with a BAK extension that will hide it from viruses. -Lenny Bailes
Lenny Bailes is a San Francisco-based consultant; Jim Boyce is the author of Windows Magazine's Applications column; Karen Kenworthy is the author of Windows Magazine's Power Windows column. Contact them care of the editor at the e-mail addresses here.
SIDEBAR: Karen's Toolkit ... Part I -- PWSwap is a handy-and free-utility from Power Windows columnist Karen Kenworthy.
Some people think you can never have too much RAM. That might be true, but one thing's for sure: For optimal performance, you must have enough RAM. So how much is enough?
PWSwap, the WinMag Swap Monitor, answers that question. It lets you see how often Windows 95 uses your hard disk to simulate extra RAM. Win95 uses this trick to solve occasional RAM shortages, but if it does so too often, it can kill your PC's performance.
Run PWSwap and then forget it as you go about your usual work. After you've run your favorite programs, take a look at PWSwap's main window. A few swap file reads and writes ("Page Ins" and "Page Outs") are normal. But if PWSwap reports over 50 swaps per second after you load your favorite applications, plan on shopping for more RAM.-Karen Kenworthy
Download PWSWAP.ZIP from WinMag's online sites (listed on the Table of Contents). Documentation and source code are included.
SIDEBAR: Karen's Toolkit ... Part II -- Multiple instances of a program can slow your PC to a crawl. Karen Kenworthy's PWOne solves this problem.
Before you start cramming your PC full of extra RAM, make sure you're using the RAM you have effectively. One way to do that is to prevent Windows from launching extra copies of large applications.
PWOne, the WinMag Instance Limiter, makes that job easy. This little utility runs in place of the program being limited. Once started, PWOne checks for a running copy of the program. If it finds one,
it activates the old copy of the program and prevents new copies from running. If your app's not already running, PWOne will let it start up.-Karen Kenworthy
Download PWONE.ZIP from WinMag's online sites (listed on the Table of Contents). Documentation and source code are included.
SIDEBAR: Karen's Toolkit ... Part III -- Karen Kenworthy's ResLim utility helps you keep tabs on memory and other resources.
The WinMag Resource Probe (ResLim) keeps tabs on your RAM and lots of other important stuff. The utility tells you how much disk space remains on the drive Windows uses for temporary files, how much RAM and system resources are free, and even how many Windows timers are available to your applications. Most importantly, ResLim lets you know how much conventional memory (memory below 1MB) is free and in use, and which programs are soaking it up.
If any of the important resources ResLim monitors are in short supply, you may experience system crashes, slowdowns and other problems. That's why ResLim not only reports the levels of each item, it red-flags any resource hovering near critical levels.-Karen Kenworthy
Download PWRESL.ZIP from WinMag's online sites (listed on the Table of Contents). Documentation is included.
SIDEBAR: Roadside Service -- Pull over on the information highway for some quick repairs.
The next time you're tooling along online, you might want to make a pit stop-pick up a patch or two, make a couple of repairs and hit the road again, all without spending a penny.
All-encompassing diagnostic and repair Web sites such as TuneUp.com (http://www.tuneup.com) and Cybermedia's Oil Change (http://www.cybermedia.com/product/oilchange/ochome.html) offer free trial services, then charge a small fee after an introductory period. For $3.95 per month, Windows 95-only TuneUp.com will check your PC's software for version numbers, inject the latest antivirus measure and optimize/defragment your hard disk. Then it checks its database of bugs, patches and updates, and installs the latest fixes with your approval. The service will store 5MB of data for you for $4.95 a month (additional megabytes cost 75 cents per transfer) or build a data archive for you on CD-ROM for $25. Oil Change searches the Internet for updates of your software, notifies you of the updates and installs them for you.
But you can find many such services for free. Dan Kegel's ISDN Page (http://www.cerf.net/dank/isdn) is one of the best sources of information on ordering, installing and using ISDN service. It's a great example of technology-specific collections presented by expert enthusiasts.
Stephen Jenkins' Windows95.com can tell you if a new BIOS is available for your older machine, help you find a 32-bit driver for hardware Microsoft doesn't yet support and offer excellent TCP/IP connection advice. Frank Condron's World of Windows (http://www.conitech.com/windows) includes a new touch-a Windows CE page-plus collections of advice, bug notifications, patches and updates about virtually any flavor of Windows.
TechWeb's TechHelper (http://www.techweb.com/helper) offers a wide range of free advice, from a massive FAQ troubleshooting database to WINDOWS Magazine's Tips issues. Microsoft's Trouble-shooting Wizards (http://www.microsoft.com/support/tshooters.htm) page and its Knowledge Base (http://www.microsoft.com/KB) technical database are invaluable Web resources for Windows information.
Scott Wainner's System Optimization Information Page (http://www.sysopt.com) offers tune-up tips, performance-enhancing utilities, BIOS update advice and more. One of the more useful free PC tech shops, it will go as deeply into chip technology as you care to ... and then some.
McAfee's new SecureCast (http://www.mcafee.com/securecast) uses the BackWeb news broadcast service to send out the latest computer vandalism notices and antivirus updates.
Don't Get Burned
Before you pull in to the nearest pit stop, here are a few things to keep in mind:
-- Beware of firewalls. Broadcast-oriented services, such as McAfee SecureCast, can't get past the firewalls of corporate networks.
-- Watch for the hard sell. Most of these sites support themselves with advertising or provide these services to support their customers. But some are really interested in selling consulting services or diag-nostic products. Make sure you're not obligating yourself before you subscribe.
-- Take precautions. You wouldn't let a stranger under the hood of your car, and the same should apply to online tune-ups. Make sure you have virus protection running and back up important files before you begin.
n Be choosy. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Use discretion when downloading or installing updates. Don't accept an upgrade automatically; check the fine print. -Cynthia Morgan
SIDEBAR: Accelerate Your Apps ... Part I -- Get your kicks without clicks.
If you find using Windows too much of a button-clicking job, you should check out RTVReco. The utility from RTV Software (http://www.clearlight.com/~rtvsoft) does much of the clicking for you, as well as automating other tedious tasks.
You create tasks associated with specific window and dialog box names, and RTVReco executes the task in the window when it appears. For example, you can set it up to automatically click on the Connect button in Windows 95's Connect To dialog box (used for Dial-Up Networking)
RTVReco can automate any window or dialog box you can identify by name. If you always click on the same button when a particular dialog box pops up or always choose the same menu item when you first open a specific program, you can set up tasks in RTVReco to click or pick automatically.
Technically, RTVReco is freeware, but after using it for a while, you might even want to pay the suggested $10 registration fee.- Jim Boyce
SIDEBAR: Accelerate Your Apps ... Part II -- Make your suite sweeter.
Microsoft Office suite users can pick up free add-ons (http://www.microsoft.com/msdownload) that can help speed up creation of Web pages.
Internet Assistant add-ons for Word and Excel make it easy to convert existing Word and Excel documents to HTML format for publishing on the Web.
Free viewers for Word and Excel let you take a quick look at these apps' documents without opening the programs. The viewers open faster and take less memory than the full applications, and they also allow you to view documents even if you don't have Word or Excel. They offer a great way to distribute documents across a workgroup or company without the expense of providing the native applications to everyone.
Microsoft Camcorder, another free utility available at the Microsoft Web site, lets you record and play back actions from your screen. It's great for recording clips for training purposes and to supplement custom-built help documents.- Jim Boyce
SIDEBAR: Fine-Tune for Free -- Here are some of the best free utilities you can use to protect and fine-tune your system. You can download these programs from WINDOWS Magazine's online locations.
Free Scanner is a free version of the popular Norton AntiVirus. For the best protection, use the monthly virus definition updates available from Symantec's Web site (http://www.symantec.com)
Memory Status displays the current memory stats, including total and available physical RAM, paging memory, virtual memory and free system resources.
CPU Load adds an icon to the Windows 95 system tray that shows a graph of CPU load.
CPU Monitor adds an icon to the system tray that shows the current processor usage on a scale of 0 to 100 in increments of 10. You determine usage update intervals.Requires VB40032.DLL CPUM-13B.ZIP; 20KB
APK Windows Memory Compacting Engine defragments and compacts Windows memory for smoother memory management.
StatBar monitors free system, user and Graphics Device Interface (GDI) resources as well as free hard disk space. It's also an application launcher that starts up to five of your favorite apps and will shut down, reboot or log you off with a single click.
Disk Space Utilities
SpaceTracker monitors local and network drives for free space. It notifies you when free space falls below a level that you set.
Bill Reid's DriveSpaceChek 1.0 sits on your Desktop and shows how much hard disk space is used and how much is free.
DiskData reports on the amount of space your files and folders take up.
DUW shows you how much space a directory's files and subdirectories are using.
Quick Disk displays a pie chart of free disk space in the system tray. Requires VB40032.DLL.
Shortcutter searches your hard disk for shortcuts with targets that have been moved or deleted. If it finds a broken link, it will attempt to find the correct target. If it can't find the target, it'll delete the shortcut.
DLL Show for Windows 95 displays a list of all running processes and the DLLs they use. It also gives you information about the running processes' memory load and priority.
DLL Explorer shows which DLLs are being used by running processes. It provides version information for each DLL and specifies newly used and removed DLLs.
PEsx is a shell extension that adds a tab to the Properties windows of EXE and DLL files. The tab reports the dependencies of a given DLL or application, and displays the complete dependency tree and full path and filename of each module.
Catch-UP searches the Internet for the latest versions of software residing on your system, then generates a list of possible updates and appropriate download sites.
freeDUM 1.0 for Windows 95 is a dial-up manager that integrates and extends the features of Windows 95's dial-up component. FreeDUM displays session time and total online time; it supports multiple phone numbers per connection, sequential or random dialing, automatic disconnect, and automatic or manual reconnect.
FDUMI100.ZIP; 1.85MB -Compiled by David Hafke