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Maintaining Windows

In this tutorial, you find out how to take good care of your programs and operating system in these ways:

  • When a program crashes, you can simply shut that program down by using the Windows Task Manager. This utility keeps track of all the programs and processes that are running on your computer.
  • If you've got problems and Windows isn't responding, sometimes it helps to restart in Safe Mode, which requires only basic files and drivers. Restarting in Safe Mode often allows you to troubleshoot what's going on, and you can restart Windows in its regular mode after the problem is solved.
  • Use the System Restore feature to first create a system restore point (a point in time when your settings and programs all seem to be humming along just fine), and then restore Windows to that point when trouble hits.
  • You can clean up your system to delete unused files, free up disk space, and schedule maintenance tasks.
  • If you need a little help, you might run a troubleshooting program to help you figure out a problem you're experiencing with a program.

Shut Down a Nonresponsive Application

  1. If your computer freezes and won't let you proceed with what you were doing, press Ctrl+Alt+Del.
  2. In the Windows screen that appears, click Start Task Manager.
  3. In the resulting Windows Task Manager dialog box, click the Applications tab and select the application that you were in when your system stopped responding.
  4. Click the End Task button.
  5. In the resulting dialog box, the Windows Task Manager tells you that the application isn't responding and asks whether you want to shut it down now. Click Yes.
If pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del doesn't bring up the Task Manager, you're in bigger trouble than you thought. You might need to press and hold your computer's power button to shut down. Note that some applications use an AutoSave feature that keeps an interim version of the document that you were working in - you might be able to save some of your work by opening that last-saved version. Other programs don't have such a safety net, and you simply lose whatever changes you made to your document since the last time you saved it. The moral? Save, and save often.
You may see a dialog box appear when an application shuts down that asks if you want to report the problem to Microsoft. If you say yes, information is sent to Microsoft to help them provide advice or fix the problem down the road.

Start Windows in Safe Mode

  1. To start Windows in a mode that loads only the most vital files, allowing you to get started and fix problems (for example, by performing a system restore to a time before the problems), remove any CDs or DVDs from your computer.
  2. Choose Start, click the arrow on the right of the Shut Down button, and then choose Restart to reboot your system.
  3. When the computer starts to reboot (the screen goes black), begin pressing F8.
  4. If you have more than one operating system, you might see the Windows Boot Manager menu. Use the up- and down-arrow keys to select the Windows 7 operating system. Or, type the number of that choice, press Enter, and then continue to press F8.
  5. In the resulting Advanced Boot Options window (a plainvanilla, text-based screen), press the up- or down-arrow key to select the Safe Mode option from the list and then press Enter.
  6. Log in to your computer with administrator privileges; a Safe Mode screen appears. Use the tools in the Control Panel and the Help and Support system to figure out your problem, make changes, and then restart. When you restart again (repeat Step 2), let your computer start in the standard Windows 7 mode.
When you reboot and press F8 as in Step 2, you're in the old text-based world that users of the DOS operating system will remember. It's scary out there! Your mouse doesn't work a lick, and no fun sounds or cool graphics exist to sooth you. In fact, DOS is the reason the whole For Dummies series started because everybody felt like a dummy using it, me included. Just use your arrow keys to get around and press Enter to make selections. You're back in Windowsland soon. . . .

Create a System Restore Point

  1. You can back up your system files, which creates a restore point you can later use to return your computer to earlier settings if you begin to experience problems.
  2. Choose Start → Control Panel → System and Security and in the resulting System and Security dialog box, click the System link.
  3. In the System dialog box, click the System Protection link in the left panel. In the System Properties dialog box that appears, click the Create button.
  4. In the Create a Restore Point dialog box that appears, enter a name to identify the restore point, such as the current date or the name of a program you are about to install, and click Create.
  5. Windows displays a progress window. When the restore point is created, the message appears. Click Close to close the message box, click Close to close the System Protection dialog box, and Close again to close the Control Panel.
Every once in a while, when you install some software and make some new settings in Windows, and when things seem to be running just fine, create a system restore point. It's good computer practice, just like backing up your files, only you're backing up your settings. Once a month or once every couple of months works for most people, but if you frequently make changes, create a system restore point more often.
A more drastic option to System Restore is to run the system recovery disc that probably came with your computer or that you created using discs you provided. However, system recovery essentially puts your computer right back to the configuration it had when it was carried out of the factory. That means you lose any software you've installed and documents you've created since you began to use it. A good argument for creating system restore points on a regular basis.
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