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Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs Forum • View topic - Software recommendation?
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 Post subject: Software recommendation?
 Post Posted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:50 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 11:51 am
Posts: 316
Hi Scott. I'm opening a small computer building and repair business and I was wondering if you could recommend any computer diagnostic software that may be helpful. There's alot of hype out there in the quest of my money and I'm having trouble seperating the fluff from the really useful.
Years ago Best Buy & Circuit City both used CheckIt Pro with good results, however the manufacturer (Smith Micro) has pulled the product since it is not that effictive on newer systems and they are in the process of upgrading their product with no firm release deadline. Best Buy has developed their own Diag. software and Circuit City has gone with PC Doctor Suite.
My funds are limited but I don't mind springing for truely good software that will actually pay for itself in the long run.
I'm also plan to offer disk optimization services and am looking for a very good stand-alone defragmenter, preferably one that doesn't have to be licensed on each of my customer's computers. Besides defragmenting, are there other ways to speed up and de-clutter hard drives?
Thanks,
Randy

PS- The DVD's you include in your books are absolutely great. Thank you very much for packaging them with your books.


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 Post subject: Re: Software recommendation?
 Post Posted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:41 pm 
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For hardware diagnostics and testing, see my recommendations here: viewtopic.php?p=2056#p2056

You might also consider a POST card for reading POST failures that occur before video is initialized, which can be useful in confirming that the motherboard is defective: http://tinyurl.com/5zdehn

For defragging I recommend Vopt http://vopt.com, which is easy to use, unbelievably fast, and I've been using it for over 20 years now with excellent results. I believe you can use it on as many systems as you like (including customer systems), as long as you don't leave a copy on the systems. It is perfect for techs since it is the fastest defragger I've ever seen.

Other than that, the best way to clean up a system is to do a clean install of Windows, drivers and applications, which will pay off immensely in terms of performance: viewtopic.php?p=2373#p2373

In that post you'll note the software that I install by default on all of the systems I load, whether they are for myself or my customers. Included are many programs useful for testing, troubleshooting, and diagnosing problems, especially when you are helping customers remotely or over the phone.

I hope things go well in your new venture, let me know what software you end up using and how you like it. Scott.

PS: Thanks for the nice comment on the DVDs!


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 Post subject: Re: Software recommendation?
 Post Posted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 2:44 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:50 am
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Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA
From what I gather on the opening screen, Scott's on vacation, so he may reply in a few days:

1. I am not certain your customers would feel such a service was worth it. You can certainly recover a lot of disk space on a hard drive that has not been properly cleaned over the years. Undoubtedly, there are many such computers out there. And similarly, you can defragment and remove intervening space between files for such customers. This MAY result in a perceived speedup, but I imagine it would not be great. W2k, XP and I assume Vista (courtesy the NTFS file format) do a nice job of ignoring fragmentation.

2. I would any computer before defraging it. I would probably turn off the option to clean cookies in IE and Firefox, as your clientèle may not appreciate all of their password autologins gone. But otherwise have at it.

3. The commercial gold program is: . As you said, I do not think licensing would allow legally what you want. However, you may be able to use a setup where you remove a client's hard drive and defrag it on a computer setup in your shop for this purpose that would be perfectly under the EULA.

Diskeeper will perform reasonably fast, and shuffle certain files into an "optimal" position, for speeding operation.

There are others competing that make similar claims to Diskeeper. I will let others state their opinions.

Scott is a big fan. They use very fast, tight code. Much to like. Web site is a bit uninformative in what their product does. They want you to download a trial and see for yourself.

The commercial freebies: from the folks who bring you CCLeaner. And . I have used both (as well as -- which while free is not free to commercial users), and they work well, faster than Microsoft's defrag, but not much faster. They do the job, but not much else.

I occasionally get someone wanting me to make their old computer (anything over three years, and I frequently encounter very old P4s and even P3s still chugging away) more stable and speedier. I generally try to dissuade them as I charge $100 just to touch their computer, and such a service usually ends up costing them near $300. As I point out, reusing their monitor, for $200 bucks more $500 will buy an incredibly fast and powerful computer these days. There old trusted friend just is not worth it. And I would be happy to do an initial setup and file transfer from their old computer for $100.

Still some are willing to shell out $300. I have a list of complaints. I will usually run and on the system to see what I have in addition to what dxdiag/ sysinfo and the hardware device manager (I check settings) have to tell me. [There are a lot of software tools to see what is on someone's computer, much of it freeware (z-CPU and crystalmark comes to mind) even for commercial users.] I typically look at their startup and services to see what is running. I may make alterations depending upon the complaints and what I see. After making a list of the attached equipment, and making sure their computer is working before I touch it, I bring their computer back to my living room, er, shop. Be warned, older computers that are on the edge can break.

I open up their case, clean out all the dust bunnies and note what I see inside, especially the power supply. I have a small 2.5" SATA 250Gb external USB hard drive that I have loaded with various utilities and because it is a Seagate (the free Acronis software) will allow me to make a image of the drive, which I do before all else in case something goes wrong. If the computer is so old it does not support USB 2.0, pull that hard drive and make a copy in a testbed computer that has a Maxtor or Seagate HD for the free software.

For them I update their BIOS, their drivers [some may have to wait until their equipment is reattached, so I download from the manufacturer and will burn a CDROM], their operating system, I often replace their optical drive (usually CD ROM or burner) with a new DVD burner (plus Roxio or Nero) or at least make sure their firmware is current, update their ram to 2 Gb, or the max (some cannot go over 512M).

I then make sure their firewall (if they have one) and their antivirus are up to date. They usually are if XP is the OS. W2K or Win98 usually no firewall, and especially Win98 an old Norton long out of date. I run the antivirus scan or run a modern one from a boot CD..

Assuming everything is good -- it usually is except for some occasional inactive or relatively harmless trojans -- I run several spyware programs which almost always cleans up a lot of crap, because people who do not maintain their computers generally don't seem to have spyware blocker/ removers. Computers that have heavy viruses and spyware will run much, much better when you are done (unless viruses have damaged files). You may have to reinstall OS. [On occasion, I have upgraded Win9x users to Win98SE+SP2.1a with one of the copies I have and no longer use with customer approval.]

I may update some of their other software (Office, MediaPlayer, IE, etc.).

Then I run CCLeaner.

Then I run a defrag -- truthfully I usually use MS defrag and just let it run.

Then I briefly test it, cleanup anything I left on there and make arrangements to bring it back set it up and install any remaining drivers. I never add software to a client's computer without discussing it thoroughly -- antivirus, firewall, spyware, utilities, etc. Whatever I think they need, whatever I think they are capable of. I usually create a folder for their current drivers, BIOS and manuals that I could download from the manufacturers -- and usually burn a CD. I may create a utilities folder that contains either maintenace software or shortcuts to MS maintenance software for them to monthly maintain their computer. I usually set Windows Update on automatic ... even though I hate this normally. I often have to drop by and make a quick adjustment a day or two later after I call them up, but usually they are happy with a stable and speedier computer. Be warned, most people are great, but there are a rare few who frankly are embezzlers -- people who will needle and complain and accuse until you give them their money back to make them go away. The joys of a business. Don't count on getting rich. I do it as occasional pocket change.

If I did it a lot, I would probably set up a bootable disk to run some of this stuff, including programs that run better and faster than MS's included maintenance tools. I have several bootable rescue disks available for computers in trouble (viruses, unstable, Knoppix, PE Builder, Hiram's Boot comes to mind), but I would make a current antivirus disk if that was the problem. Have a open, simple testbed computer with a slipstreamed setup so if something gets on your testbed you can wipe it and reinstall.

And as a plug, I keep Scott's Upgrade & Repairing PCs and his Windows books (update any month now;-) handy. There are plenty of other very good Windows XP books, but I have only found one other hardware book that I liked: The Thompson's "Repairing and Upgrading Your PC." Different approach, but a lot of nice tips. The rest of the non-Mueller PC repair books have left me wanting rather badly. Really, really rather badly.


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 Post subject: Re: Software recommendation?
 Post Posted: Mon Aug 11, 2008 8:37 am 
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Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:50 am
Posts: 508
Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA
I was playing around with Microsoft's free when I came across a defrag program. Since I have great respect for the , I thought I would try it out. It is command-line based.

defrags everything, and WOW I mean everything. And fast. The author, Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, suggests if the hard drive is almost completely full, that you run the process as many times as it takes to defragment because with little space some files get bypassed on each run until sufficient space remains. [I would suggest buying another HD and transferring the files, as it would be faster AND smarter than screwing around with a HD that full!]

In searching it out I ran across a convenient GUI shell to run the command line program, which if it does not detect Contig present will offer to connect and download it. Both programs must be extracted into the same folder (directory) to work. There is no documentation nor help with Power Defragmenter. .

Lastly there is a second Sysinternal program that defrags just certain files that many defrag programs avoid called . To quote the source: PageDefrag uses advanced techniques to provide you what commercial defragmenters cannot: the ability for you to see how fragmented your paging files and Registry hives are, and to defragment them. In addition, it defragments event log files and Windows 2000/XP hibernation files.

PageDefrag uses a GUI, and is setup to run on either the next boot or scheduled to run at every bootup. I found the Contig program apparently defragged all four of the files PageDerag tackles so I am not certain the benefit other than presumably it would take far less time to defrag a subset of files.


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 Post subject: Re: Software recommendation?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:53 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2008 11:51 am
Posts: 316
Thanks, I'll check those programs out, especially the page and registry defrag. BTW, when you defraged the registry and page file, did you notice a real performance improvement? If so, was it at boot-up, running programs or both?


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 Post subject: Re: Software recommendation?
 Post Posted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 9:19 am 
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Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:50 am
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Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA
Sorry to say I perceived no improvement.


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