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Monday, May 21, 2007

Cleaning Windows XP in a Networked Environment

If you have a computer connected to a network, it's possible that other network users could traipse through your system at all hours of the day or night. These users may leave things behind, adding to the general clutter and making your cleaning job even more challenging.

Deleting local system user accounts

Windows XP is a multiuser system, which means that multiple people can use the same computer. This lets you set up accounts for different coworkers or family members.

Each user can add programs and create unshared files. If a user no longer needs an account on your system, his programs and files take up hard drive space that you may want to reclaim. To reclaim that space, remove the user's account by following these steps:

1. Restart your system and log in as system administrator.

Windows XP created an administrator account for your system when it was set up. Since only the administrator can delete users, you need to use that account. (If your personal account was set up with administrator's rights, you can delete users when logged in under your own account. To determine whether you can do this, try. If you can't delete them, then you must log in as the administrator.)

2. Choose Start --> Control Panel --> User Accounts --> User Accounts.

If you're using the Classic view of the Control Panel, you need only click User Accounts once.

Windows displays a dialog box containing all the user accounts, along with some tasks you can perform.

3. Click the user account you want to delete.

Windows displays a list of tasks you can perform in relation to the account.

4. Click Delete the Account.

Windows asks you if you want to keep the files associated with the account.

5. Click Delete Files.

Windows deletes the files. Deleting can take a while, depending on how many files were created using the account.

6. Click Delete Account.

Windows finishes deleting the specified account.

Restart your computer after completing these steps. You don't want to stay logged in as administrator and inadvertently change other settings.

Moving frequently accessed data

Your home has areas accessible to different people in the family. If you want something to be accessible to everyone, you can place it in the middle of the living room or on a kitchen counter. If you want it to be more private, you can place it in your bedroom closet or in a closed-off area of your home office.

Your computer is the same way — you probably have data that you use for your programs. Others don't need to access that data. Conversely, some of your data may have wide appeal.

If you have data that others need, perform the digital equivalent of moving it from the bedroom closet to the middle of the living room. You do that by either setting up a shared folder on your system or moving the data to a shared drive accessible through your network. Moving the data to a network drive can help free up space on your local hard drive, which is a good thing.

Don't keep a private copy of data that others can change. Doing so, you run into data synchronization problems. If a coworker changes the public copy of the data file, that change isn't reflected in your private copy. Likewise, if you change the private copy, it doesn't show up in the public copy. Before long, lots of discrepancies exist between the two file versions. Solve the problem by making sure only a single copy of the data file exists.

Removing shared folders

Windows allows you to share data with other people on your network. It doesn't allow you to share individual files but entire directories. In other words, you aren't sharing documents, but the containers (folders) in which the documents are stored.

When you share folders on your system, people can read data from the folder and sometimes store information there. Allowing others to access data on your system can slow down your system; allowing others to place data on your system can encourage clutter. You can reduce clutter (and perhaps increase system performance) by unsharing the previously shared folder. Just follow these steps:

1. Display the folder window containing the folder you no longer want to share.

You can use My Computer or Windows Explorer to display the folder. The icon for the intended folder should be shown with an outstretched hand holding the folder.

2. Right-click the folder icon and choose Sharing and Security from the context menu.

Windows displays the folder's Properties dialog box, with the Sharing tab. Another way to display this dialog box is by choosing Properties from the context menu and then clicking the Sharing tab.

3. In the Network Sharing and Security area, deselect the Share This Folder on the Network check box.

4. Click OK.

The folder is immediately inaccessible to others. If someone is actively using data in the folder, you may see a dialog box warning you that someone else is using your data. If you want to cut off the user's access to your data, then click OK.

Cutting off another user while she has a file open on your system can result in a corrupted data file. If possible, get the other person to exit the application (thereby closing the data file) before cutting off access.

Cutting your system off the network

Just because Windows allows you to share your local resources (files and printers) on a network doesn't mean you have to share them. If you want to keep your resources to yourself, you can disable sharing all together by following these steps:

1. Choose Start --> Control Panel --> Network and Internet Connections --> Network Connections.

If you're using the Classic view of the Control Panel, choose Start --> Control Panel --> Network Connections instead. In either case, you see icons representing the different connections defined on your system.

2. Right-click the connection for your network and choose Properties from the context menu.

Windows displays the connection's Properties dialog box.

3. Deselect the check box next to File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks.

This network component controls whether resources on your system are sharable with others.

4. Click OK.

After you disable file and printer sharing, nobody can utilize resources on your system. Cutting off others won't stop you from using resources on their systems, if they're sharing.

If you don't foresee a time when you'll ever share system resources with others, then you may want to uninstall the sharing component from your network. In the Properties dialog box, select the File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks component and click Uninstall. The component is removed entirely from the operating system. If you later change your mind, you can reinstall the component by clicking Install and choose File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks from the Services area.

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