Improve reliability and performance through routine system maintenance

Version 12

    Just as a craftsman takes care of their tools, CAD users need to maintain their computer. All computers should have regular maintenance, but it is more acute when the computer is used for large parts, assemblies, and drawings. This technical tip  describes  common Microsoft Windows®  maintenance tasks and how-to automate these tasks.

     

    There are two reasons to perform regular system maintenance; stability and performance. Your computer will perform better in both areas with regular, standard Microsoft Window  system maintenance. Every item discussed is included within the Microsoft Windows  operating system.

     

    NOTE: Consult your IT and/or CAD administrator before performing any of the tasks listed here.

     

     

    Disk Space

     

    Disk space is consumed by a number of different items; programs you install, data, and temporary files all contribute to how much disk space is used. As far as how much free space is enough, there should be a couple of GB available at all times. Disk space is relatively cheap and if you disk becomes too full the hard disk will become fragmented easier, and disk performance will be slower as it has to work harder when space become tight.

     

    The free disk space should be checked on your local hard disks, the SolidWorks backup directory, the Windows temporary directory, the Documents and Settings directory, and the network drives. If any of these locations start running low, there are two basic options: add more disk space or remove files and/or applications. SolidWorks Rx (see below) can also be used to automate this process. SolidWorks Rx also cleans up some additional filed the Disk Cleanup utlity will not address.

     

    The Disk Cleanup utility is located under the Windows Start menu / Accessories / System Tools menu. Use this utiltity to remove downloaded programs, temporary log and Internet files, and other temporary files.


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    Disk Defragmentation

     

    One area that has a large effect on system performance and stability is disk fragmentation. When a disk becomes highly fragmented, it means that the files are scattered on the hard disk and it takes more time to access files. This process should be a regularly scheduled task. If the disk is highly fragmented, it will take multiple iterations to defragment your disk to an acceptable level. This is a good reason to run this task on a regular basis.

     

    The Disk Defragmenter utility is located under the Windows Start menu / Accessories / System Tools menu. Use this utility to move files into contiguous locations where possible. The dialog box shown below is the Windows 7 Disk Defragmenter utility which has scheduling built in.

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    While Microsoft Windows provides a defragmenter, this utilities does not address:

    • Boot-time Defragmenter. There are many files that are in use while the computer is running and they cannot be re-arranged while in use.
    • Pagefile. This is the virtual memory used by the system. The utility provided with Windows does not defragment the pagefile. This function is performed during the boot process as it cannot be defragmented while in use.
    • Master Table File (MTF). The MTF is used by NTFS volumes. This file can also be defragmented during the boot process.
    • Windows Registry. The Windows Registry also becomes fragmented. This also needs to be done during the boot process.

     

    For a listing of commercial disk defragmenter applications, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defragmentation_software.

     

     

    Automating the Process

     

    Many of the tasks listed here can be automatically scheduled using the Task Scheduler utility available through the Windows® operating system. The Task Scheduler utility is located under the Windows Start menu / Accessories / System Tools menu.The version shown is from Windows 7.

     

    By using this utility, you can run these tasks off-hours and on a regular basis without having to remember to start the tasks and without interfering with normal working hours.

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    SolidWorks Rx

     

    SolidWorks Rx can also be used to perform the system maintenance tasks listed and clean up additional SolidWorks specific files. SolidWorks Rx features include:

    • Clean up the SolidWorks backup directory
    • Clean up the SolidWorks temporary directory
    • Clean up the Windows temporary directory
    • Clean up temporary Internet files
    • Clean up SolidWorks "~" temporary files
    • Run Disk Cleanup
    • Run Disk Defragmenter

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    The tasks can also be scheduled to run a regular, scheduled interval. SolidWorks Rx schedules these task using the Windows Task Scheduler. The tasks can be edited from within SolidWorks Rx or the Windows Task Scheduler.

     

     

    3rd Party Applications

     

    There are also a number of utilities that will perform many of these tasks. Most of these applications have the potential to cause more issues than they fix. One utility that we have used and recommend is System Mechanic. These tools will address:

    • Boot-time defragmentation (Virtual memory, Master Table File, etc.)
    • Defragment and compact the registry
    • Repair registry problems
    • Repair hard disk problem
    • Troubleshoot system problems
    • etc.

    For more information visit, http://www.iolo.com/

     

     

    Conclusion

     

    One of the keys to ensuring that you do not have computer issues is to be proactive with your systems and data. The saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies to developing and following a regular computer maintenance program.

     

     

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