Speed cleaning

Any time I can help you do something faster and better in Windows, it makes my day. Today's tip is an undocumented feature that can help you save disk space and save time, too.

Any time I can help you do something faster and better in Windows, it makes my day. Today's tip is an undocumented feature that can help you save disk space and save time, too.

Reader Norman Vance likes to clean temporary files off his disk periodically. But he hates the long, unnecessary wait while Windows' own tools calculate various compression ratios that might apply to his hard drive.

"Since moving to Windows 2000, and now Windows XP, I've found the Disk Cleanup button on the General tab of my hard drive's Properties sheet a pain instead of a plus," Vance says.

"Even though I've never turned on the 'Compress drive to save disk space' option, I still must wait long, agonising minutes while my drive is scanned for potential space savings. This may have been appropriate default behaviour when drives were small and rapidly filling. But in the modern age of dollar-per-gigabyte hard drives, why assume I want to save a few megabytes by compressing files?"

The secret, if you don't wish to compress space but you do want to delete temporary files, is to eliminate Disk Cleanup's lengthy calculation of the possible savings from compression. This involves changing a value in the Registry.

Step 1. Click Start, Run. In Windows 2000 or XP, type Regedt32.exe and click okay.

Step 2. In Regedt32, select the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE pane, then select the Software folder. Pull down the Registry menu, and then click Save Key to back up this folder for safekeeping.

Step 3. Double-click each folder to open the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches\Compress old files.

Step 4. In the right pane, double-click the REG_SZ key to edit it. Save the value in case you wish to restore it later. It reads B50F5260-0C21-11D2-AB56-00A0C9082678. Press Delete to remove the value, then click OK. Close Regedt32.

Now, right-click a hard drive in My Computer or Windows Explorer. Click Properties, then Disk Cleanup. The utility will zoom along, skipping the usual analysis of how much your old files could be compressed. You'll hardly have time for coffee.

Pick a peck of problem patches

I've written before about Microsoft patches that have side effects, but reader Michael Dworkin found a doozy.

Installing the patch Microsoft last month labelled "critical" for Internet Explorer 5 and 6 has the nasty habit of preventing you from logging on to some sites that require a username and password — even when you've entered valid data.

In a delicious irony, this prevents people who installed the IE patch from accessing the email in their MSN accounts. I guess no one at Microsoft uses MSN or tested it with the patch.

The company has an explanation and a patch for the patch (at least for IE 6).

Readers Vance and Dworkin will receive a gift certificate for a free book, CD or DVD of their choice for sending me tips I printed.

Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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