Reformatting your hard disk without affecting your data files

Most of the time, our computer comes default with one single hard disk, and it is usually our C: drive. Our operating system, applications and data (usually under the “My Document” folder) are all stored in this C: drive. If you have been using the computer for quite a while, you will know that after a while (usually 1-2 years), the system become so cluttered that performance badly affected and the system seems to feel like it is corrupted. The best solution to this is to have a clean install. This means reformatting the whole hard disk and starts all over again. Usually this also means a tedious way to backup the data files so that you can restore them back later. There are a few ways to make this process easier.Partition Your Hard Disk
* If your computer only comes with 1 hard disk, it is recommended that you partition your hard disk into 2 partitions. Depending on the size of your hard disk, I would recommend your C: drive partition to be no more than 40GB. Reason is C: drive will be catered for your operating system and applications, which usually will not exceed 40GB. This could of course be adjusted according to your needs (at the point of installation). So let’s say you have a 160GB hard disk, which will leave you with 120GB for your D: drive, which will cater to your data files. Once your have your 2 partitions set up and Windows properly installed. Do the following:

Step 1
Go to your D: drive and create a directory call “Username’s Documents” (where username if your login name).

Step 2
Click on Start” and highlight “My Documents”. Right click it and select “Properties”.

Step 3
Select “Move” and search for the directory you just created, which should be in “My Computer” => “D:” => “Username’s Documents”, click on “OK”. When prompted, click “Yes” to continue.

Now your “My Documents” folder is moved (or pointing) to your D: drive. When you click on “My Documents” now, it will point to your new D: drive’s “Username’s Documents” directory.

Once you have your data files moved to D: drive, whenever you need to re-install / reformat your operating system / applications, you can just format the C: drive and leave your D: drive (which contains your data files) intact.

If you have more than one user, logon to their account and repeat steps 1 to 3.

Having 2 Hard Disks
* If you have 2 hard disks in your computer, or intend to purchase an additional hard disk, this will make things even easier. Assign the smaller hard disk (put it as your C: drive) as your operating system and application software hard disk, and the bigger hard disk (put it as your D: drive) as your data files hard disk. Once you have your operating system setup in your C: drive (assuming your D: drive is formatted), follow step 1 to 3 above to move your “My Documents” folder to D: drive so that you can save all your data files there.

External Hard Disk
* There are 2 possible uses for an external hard disk here.

First, you can use it as your portable data files hard disk. Secondly, you can use it as your data files backup hard disk.

To use it as your portable data files hard disk, install your operating system and applications on your main hard disk in your computer (usually your C: drive). Once you have your external hard disk properly formatted, follow steps 1-3 to move your “My Documents” folder to the external hard disk drive so that you can save all your data files there.

If you only want to use your external hard disk to backup your data files, I would suggest your download a free tool from Microsoft call “SyncToy” ( tography/prophoto/synctoy.mspx) that can help you backup your files easily. Once installed, do the following:

Step 1
Run the program (Start => All Programs => SyncToy).

Step 2
Click on “Create New Folder Pair”.

Step 3
Click “Browse” and select the folder you want to backup and click “OK”.

Step 4
Click on the picture of the computer on the right. Click “Browse” and select the destination to backup to (Your external hard disk). Click on “Make New Folder’ if you have yet to create it. Click “Next”.

Step 5
If it is purely for backup, select the option “Echo” and click “Next”. Name your folder pair and click “Finish”.

Step 6
Select your folder pair and click “Preview”. It will present a list of files that will be copied/backup. Click on “Run” to start the process.

Step 7
When the process is completed, click “Close”.

When you use SyncToy, after the initial backup, only the changes will be copied, thus saving valuable time when doing backup. For example, if you copy 1000 files initially, and later make changes to 10 of it, and added 20 more files, only this 30 files will be copied when you do another synchronization, instead of copying all 1020 files again.

If you choose this method, after you reformat and re-install your operating system, you can just copy the data files back to the hard disk in your computer system.

Top 10 Tips for WinXP Users

Are you new to WinXp? Just upgraded, or gotten a new computer maybe? Or you might have friends and contacts who use it and you want to “show off” a little by teaching them a few tricks? I`ve collected 10 of my favourite WinXP tricks, each of them easy to use, and very helpful, and if you follow the instructions step-by-step, they work perfectly. So here goes:Top Tip #1:

Having a problem making your desktop icons stay exactly where you put them?

When you temporarily change your desktop to a lower resolution—for example whilst using Safe mode, Windows can wreak havoc with your careful positioning of desktop icons.

Right click your desktop click arrange icons and uncheck auto arrange. You can now drag & drop them wherever you want them. Note that if you start your computer in SAFE mode you will have to rearange them again.

Top Tip #2:

Accidentally moved your taskbar and want it back where it was?

Point your mouse to a ‘blank’ area inside the taskbar, THEN hold down your left mouse button, and DRAG it down where you want it to go. It may take a couple of tries to get it over.

Top Tip #3:

Feel like changing your Start Menu?

(1) Right click a blank spot on the Start Menu.
(2) Select Properties
(3) Select Customize
(4) Select the Advanced tab.

Most of those preset items which don’t have the option to check or uncheck will be there. For each item listed you’ll have the option to Display as link or Display as menu or Don’t display this item. Make your selection as you desire. Note that you will have the option to display the Control Panel as a menu, which you might find very useful.

Top Tip #4:

Getting grey popup boxes with ads in? Stop the spam like this:

(1) Select “Start”
(2) Select “Settings”
(3) Choose “Control Panel”
(4) Choose “Administrative Tools”
(5) Choose “Services”
(6) Right-click on “Messenger”
(7) Select “Stop”
To permanently disable Messenger:
(8) Right click “Messenger”
(9) Select “Properties”
(10) Change “Startup Type” to “Disabled” and click “OK”

Top Tip #5:

Having problems viewing sites cos your computer isn`t accepting the cookies?

Open a New Browser window.

(1) Click on Tools (in toolbar).
(2) Click on Internet Options.
(3) Click on Privacy.
(4) Click on Advanced.
(5) Click on Override Cookie Control.
(6) Click on Enable First Party Cookies.
(7) Click on Enable Session Cookies.
(8) Click OK.

Top Tip #6:

Want to change how you see your emails? Try this:

Click on “view” at top. “Layout” will allow you to fix what you see. “Sort by” will let you arrange the order the messages appear in.

Top Tip #7:

Want to disable the Automatic Update reminders in Windows?

Open Internet Explorer/Tools/Internet Options/Advanced tab, under “Browsing” take the checkmark out of “Automatically check for Internet Explorer Updates”, click Apply, click OK.

Another thing to try is to:

(1) Click Start
(2) Click Run
(3) Type in: “MSCONFIG” (without the quotes)
(4) Click OK.
(5) Under the Startup tab take the checkmark out of “Critical Updates”
(6) Click Apply
(7) Click OK
(8) Restart your computer.

Top Tip #8:

Got too many icons on your desktop?

Right click on an empty space on your desktop, highlight “Arrange Icons By”, the click on Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard

Top Tip #9:

Tired of seeing your pointer as an arrow or an hourglass all the time? Windows XP offers a number of alternative pointer schemes, such as Dinosaur, Ocean and Sports.

Open the Control Panel, double-click Mouse, and select the Pointers tab. (If you start in Category view, select Appearance and Themes, then click Mouse Pointers under “See Also.”) Next to Schemes, click the down arrow and select a scheme to preview its pointers. Click OK to apply the scheme to your desktop. Simple as that.

Top Tip #10:

Want to hear your computer talk?
Select Start, Programs, Accessories, Accessibility, Narrator. Or press the Windows key plus the letter “U” to open the Utility Manager. Microsoft Narrator, an accessibility option designed to assist readers who are blind or have impaired vision, starts automatically.

Once you’ve read through the intro screen (or let the Narrator do it), click OK and you’ll see a dialog box of Narrator options. Assuming you want to leave Narrator running, select the desired options, then minimize its dialog box. And if you’ve opened the Utility Manager, feel free to close it.

To turn Narrator off, click the Exit button or right-click its taskbar item and select Close.

Hope this has helped you get your WinXP working the way you want it to, and given you a little fun too.