Shareware Shop column, Computer Shopper
by Ken Hart
Clean Up Your Hard Drive and Wipe Out the Clones
It wasn’t too long ago when a 1-gigabyte hard drive seemed like a ridiculous bit of overkill, kind of like a toaster that could handle 700 slices of bread. “Sure, it’s NICE,” you thought, “but I’ll never use it!” Fast forward to 1997, where bloated mega-applications like Microsoft Office can consume nearly 200MB in one voracious bite.
The need for space is great, especially if you have an older system where the hard drive space isn’t measured in exponents. Before you invest in a bigger hard disk or a removable ZIP drive, let’s see if we can clean up your existing system. You’d be surprised at how many useless files you’ve accumulated over the months. (I usually define “useless files” as either duplicates or those left behind by deleted programs, not your old Yvonne Craig “Batgirl” images.)
This month’s collection of five shareware programs will dive into your system, find the data driftwood, and help you reclaim the space on your hard drive. They’re available for downloading from Computer Shopper's online forum on ZDNet/CompuServe (GO ZNT:COMPSHOP) in Library 11, Shareware Shop. You can also find them on Shopper's own Web site (http://www.cshopper.com). For filenames, look at the information box near the end of this article.
Here’s some advice before you delete anything from your system. Just because a file looks “orphaned” doesn’t mean that it is. Move the file in question to Windows 95’s Recycle Bin or, better still, a temporary directory; if a couple of days go by without an error message warning you of a “missing” file, that’s a good sign you can delete the file without any repercussions.
Now it’s time to become your computer’s Mr. Clean. Bald heads and gold earrings are optional.
CLONE MASTER 2.18
Unfortunately, Clone Master does not help you create extra sheep. However, this Windows 95 program does track down duplicate and non-essential files that may be hogging space on your system. A typical Windows-based system may have dozens of “0-byte” files, extra DLLs (Dynamic Link Libraries), and identically named files that have been added by previous installations. After you open Clone Master, just choose one or more drives for it to scan (even networked drives), then take a break for a few minutes: By default, Clone Master will examine every file on your chosen drives, and that could take a while if you have a large hard drive, even with a Pentium.
The end result, though, is worth the wait. Clone Master creates several windows of results. The first, Zero Length Files, lists all the items that have no mass as far as your PC is concerned, along with the date they were created. The Same Name Files window shows you those items with the identical filename, and the Duplicate Files window goes a little deeper, providing you with a list of those files which are exactly the same in data if not name. In some cases, you can delete the whole lot of them if you wish (not recommended), rename them, or save the list as a text file for later reference.
After you’ve tried Clone Master the first time, I suggest you narrow your searches in the future. Customize the scan menu so that it looks only for a specific format or along a specific path. You’ll get much faster results.
The only way Clone Master could improve would be to add a couple of extra selection options. “Delete All” and “Save List As...” simply don’t do the trick. Nonetheless, this is a well-done program that will open your eyes to the amount of excess stuff on your hard drive. By registering the program for $29.95, you’ll be able to contact SoftByte Laboratories for technical support.
DLL SHOW FOR WINDOWS 95 2.2
If you’ve been using Windows for any length of time, you know that the biggest file hogs are those darn DLL files. They’re the digital equivalent of Tribbles. Every program you install seems to add another dozen of them to your hard drive, and even if you delete the program, you’re probably still carrying around a few orphaned files. These library files contain information vital to the operation of certain programs. How do you know which ones are safe to delete? Software By Design’s DLL Show gives you some clues.
As soon as you activate DLL Show, it provides a list of all the active processes (i.e., any active programs, even if they’re residing quietly in the Win 95 Tray). Simply highlight one of the processes in the top window, and all the DLL modules upon which it depends appear in the bottom window. You’ll see the task priority, the file location, and the number of references to the module. Double-clicking on either a DLL or a process reveals a whopping bit of information about the file, including its description and manufacturer.
By refreshing DLL Show’s view after you open and close certain programs, you’ll get a better idea of how your system works and which files are most important. (Hint: Your system always checks for DLL modules in your \Windows\System folder. Therefore, if you have duplicate DLLs, you can delete one so long as the other one is in the \Windows\System folder. Be sure that the size and dates of the dupes match first, though. If you’re not sure, leave the module alone or move it to a temporary directory first and see what happens.) DLL Show would be perfect if it did the reverse operation, that is, find DLLs that were not referenced by any program on your system. You could then more easily eliminate “leftover” modules. On the plus side, DLL Show is absolutely free to use.
EASYCLEAN 32 1.04
To really sweep out the junk in Windows 95, you need to do more than just delete files: You need to go into the Registry. For most users, exploring the Registry is about as intimidating as entering the Temple of Doom in the dark. Deleting the wrong key in the Registry can play serious havoc with your system. That said, EasyClean 32 makes this process about as safe as you could hope.
The purpose of EasyClean 32 is to deinstall programs when you no longer want them. A wizard takes you through the process. Choose the items that you want to keep an eye on, such as the Registry, your hard drive, and system files like WIN.INI and AUTOEXEC.BAT. Then use EasyClean to create a complete record of these items as they are now. Install a new program, then have EasyClean do a “before and after” comparison of the selected areas.
Now that EasyClean has created a log of the changes, it doesn’t take much effort to restore your system to the way it was. In fact, a right click of the mouse on any affected area calls up a “Remove Changes” option. Not bad. The drawback of EasyClean 32 is that it can’t help you get rid of programs that you installed before you first used it: Since it wasn’t around to create a log, it has no reference. Still, it does a terrific job of monitoring changes to your system from this point on.
As careful as EasyClean 32 is with its step-by-step wizard, this is a program that’s best left to more advanced users. The Registry contains arcane information that could easily shatter the sanity of a novice. Be sure you know what you’re doing and play it safe by creating a backup of your existing Registry before you tweak it.
Those courageous enough to tackle this program must pay the ultimate price: the registration fee of $45 for continued use.
MORE SPACE FOR WINDOWS 95 2.6a
The true workhorse of the five programs here, Contact Plus’ More Space doesn’t mince words. Its opening screen is a menu of seven ways to clean up your system, covering system hogs, duplicate files, space-grabbing folders, and seldom-accessed files.
Like Clone Master, it can find identically named files, and while More Space may not catch the more subtle clones, it does give you a chance to mark and delete individual files. The many options are More Space’s big advantage. You can search for duplicates based on full or partial filenames, or only those of a certain type. When dealing with “hogs,” More Space lets you choose the drive and set the size range (e.g., larger than or equal to 2.5MB). Likewise, when it looks at folders, you can set it to scan just the main folder or every single subfolder underneath. View the results according to size, access date, number of subfolders, or number of files.
Likewise, from the Files Accessed menu, you can search according to date of last access, date of last modification, or creation date. You’ll be surprised by the number of files that you haven’t even heard of, let alone used in the last few months.
Better still, More Space’s talent doesn’t stop there. You can have it conduct a thorough exam of your system, the results of which are presented as bar charts. From access dates to file sizes to attributes, More Space gives you more information about your hard drive than you possibly digest in one sitting. Paying the registration fee of $20 will enable you to scan multiple drives at once.
Here’s a nasty-sounding program to wrap things up. Mutilate, from Craig Christensen, is a “file wiper” utility. Normally, even after you delete a file, it’s still possible to bring it back. When you get rid of items in DOS or in Windows’ Recycle Bin, the information is still on your system, believe it or not. You’ve merely eliminated any pointers to that data, but the information remains until another file overwrites it, and even that may not do the trick. As dead as the original file appears to be, it’s possible to retrieve it with the right expertise, the right program, and the right amount of patience.
Yes, the files on your hard drive are undead.
Mutilate efficiently handles this. It eliminates files -- permanently. Depending upon the level of security you want or how paranoid you happen to be, you can increase the number of “wiping” passes that Mutilate makes over the hapless files. At the highest level, Mutilate obliterates the area with several random passes of 1’s and 0’s, foiling any attempts to recover the information.
Mutilate doesn’t do a wholesale cleanup like More Space, but complete obliteration of files can be very satisfying at the end of a long day. For the registration fee of $20, the author will make site licenses available to users.
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