Network Productivity Group

... a computer consultancy


The tip...

Albeit based on limited feedback, it appears that most of you have the most trouble with "freezes", "the blue screen of death", shutdown and startup problems.  We'll take them in roughly that order over the next few weeks then.

what has happened when your machine freezes, whether the mouse will still move or not, is that your machine was running close to the edge of its resources when a "time-dependent" request was made by another program or device, the processor could not respond and, voila, it freezes.

The general approach is to reduce the demand on the machine.  This may eliminate but, more likely, will reduce the frequency of freezes.  We start with a picture of how things stand right now.  With "nothing" running (no programs open), RIGHT click "My Computer", select (LEFT click) "Properties" and select the "Performance" tab.  Find the item "System Resources".  You would like this number to be GREATER than 80%.  You can probably live with 70-75%.  Below that you are headed for trouble.

We'll get to what do about that number in a second but while we're here, we can check a couple of things.  At the bottom, under "Advanced Settings", select "Graphics".  On the next screen, move "Hardware Acceleration" down at least one notch, perhaps two (to the second lowest value).  Click "OK" and when you have returned to the Performance screen select "File System".  Then select the "CD-ROM" tab. Move the "Supplemental Cache Size" down toward the middle and select "OK".

Now we'll see what we can do about the "System Resources".  Press and hold "ALT" and "CTRL" and press "DEL" while holding the first two.  This will bring up the "Close Program" dialog box.  The ONLY programs that MUST be running for Windows to run are Explorer and SYSTRAY.  We can end anything else that appears there.  Note:  Some devices and programs may not run right if we end some software they need here.  They will normally come back with a re-boot, so donít worry about ending them here for now.  If it turns out that we find a "bad guy" and we need the bad guy, we'll have to sort that out later.  For now we want to end each program, return to Performance and see what our System Resources are now.  If we end a program and the resources go up by a percent or two, it is not worth worrying about.  We are looking for a big change.  Note the name of each program you end, check resources, keep track of the ones that make a big change.  If you get up to the magic 80%, try running for a while and see if things are better.  We'll come back to making these changes "permanent" in a second.  Don't forget that sometimes it may take several minutes for Windows to actually end something you told it to end.  Be patient.

When you are done with that step, go to your Desktop and RIGHT click somewhere where only your wallpaper shows.  You should get a menu that includes the item "Properties".  Select it.  If you have a very complex background picture, consider going to "None".  Otherwise, click the "Settings" tab.  Consider two options here:  a smaller screen area and, more importantly, fewer colors.  Also consider checking your display adapter manufacturer's web site for updated drivers.  Perhaps we can go into that process in more detail at another time. 

Making the changes to "what's running" "permanent".
  Identifying the program that you ended above in the "load and run" list may not be clear and may take some experimentation.  We start with "Start>>Run" and type in "msconfig" and press enter (Windows 98 and ME only; this is, frankly, much, much more difficult in Windows 95).  In the dialog box that appears, select the "Start Up" tab.  In the next dialog box you will see a list of everything that Windows has been told to load when you boot.  You can click off or on any program in this list.  If you can identify the item from the list of names you kept when doing the "End Program" step, then click it off.  If you can't identify it, try about half of them, boot, and see if the one you are trying to eliminate is gone.  If it is not, try the remaining half and so forth until it no longer loads.  When it no longer loads, put half of the last group back.  I trust you can see where we are headed here.  Iterate until you have eliminated the "bad guys", click all the others back on and see if your key programs and devices run without that program.  If yes, leave it "permanently" off the load and run list.  If not, you can check the vendor's web site for an update or to complain, or Ö tough choices time.

Last but not least, go to Device Manager (RIGHT click "My Computer", select "Properties" and "Device Manger").  Look for a tab called "HCFMODEM".  An HCF modem "steals" cycles from the processor and is highly time dependent.  Those little bits coming down the telephone line must be put somewhere or lost.  This is one of the most common causes of freezes.  If all else fails, you might consider getting a "real" modem.  They are typically much more expensive than an HCF modem but may be worth the cost if you are both very busy and use the Internet or other telecommunications programs a lot.  (DSL or cable also makes this problem go away.)

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