Windows XP: Using System Tools for Basic Maintenance

Lesson 16: Using System Tools for Basic Maintenance



By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define System Tools
  • Run Disk Defragmenter
  • Run Disk Cleanup
  • Open the Scheduled Task Wizard
  • Deal with an unresponsive computer

What are System Tools?

It's important to perform some basic maintenance from time to time to keep Windows XP running smoothly. Luckily, Windows XP provides you with some basic tools to make the maintenance process as painless as possible. You can access these tools via the System Tools menu.

To open the System Tools menu:

  1. Choose StartAll ProgramsAccessoriesSystem Tools.
  2. A cascading System Tools menu opens.
cascading System Tools menu

Disk Defragmenter

All Windows XP computers have at least one hard disk. The hard disk acts as your computer's storage area. Almost everything installed on your computer—applications, files, folders, and the operating system—is stored here.

With general use (creating new files, deleting files, or installing new software), your hard disk can become fragmented. This means parts of the same disk file become scattered over different areas of the disk. A fragmented hard disk slows down your computer and hinders its performance.

To keep your hard disk running smoothly, you must routinely defragment, or "defrag" the hard disk. The Disk Defragmenter tool can help you do this.

To use Disk Defragmenter:

  1. Choose StartAll ProgramsAccessoriesSystem ToolsDisk Defragmenter.
  2. The Disk Defragmenter opens.
Disk Defragmenter

To open Microsoft Management Console:

  1. Open Disk Defragmenter.
  2. Open the Action menu.
  3. Click Help.
  4. A Microsoft Management Console opens and explains how to run Disk Defragmenter.
Microsoft Management console

Note: You may need to be logged in as an administrator or as a member of the Administrators group to perform some tasks associated with the Disk Defragmenter. Disk Defragmenter should be run every three months.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup is another tool that helps keep Windows XP operating as it should. It inspects your hard disk and looks for files that can be safely deleted. Deleting unnecessary files frees up valuable disk space.

To run Disk Cleanup:

  1. Choose StartAll ProgramsAccessoriesSystem ToolsDisk Cleanup.
  2. The Disk Cleanup window opens. Click the Disk Cleanup tab if it's not showing.
  3. Disk Cleanup lists several potential files that can be deleted, as well as the amount of disk space you'll gain by emptying each one.
  4. To learn more about a file category, click it and click the View Files button. A description appears.
  5. Click the check boxes next to the categories you want to delete, then click OK.
  6. A dialog box appears asking whether you are sure you want to perform these actions. Click Yes or No as appropriate.
Disk Cleanup for C:

Disk Cleanup

The More Options tab gives you even more disk cleanup options.

Disk Cleanup's More Options tab

Note: It's recommended that you run Disk Cleanup every three months.

The Scheduled Task Wizard

Fortunately, you don't need to remember to run each of these utilities. Windows XP includes a Scheduled Task Wizard that runs each of them for you.

To open the Scheduled Task Wizard:

  • Choose StartAll ProgramsAccessoriesSystem ToolsScheduled Tasks.


  1. Choose StartControl PanelPerformance and MaintenanceScheduled Tasks.
  2. The Scheduled Tasks folder opens.
  3. Double-click Add a Scheduled Task.
  4. The Scheduled Tasks Wizard opens.
  5. Keep clicking Next to select the program(s) you want Windows to run. If the task you want is not listed, click the Browse button to locate it. Then schedule a convenient time.
Scheduled Task Wizard's welcome page

Dealing with an unresponsive computer

While performing regular maintenance on your computer should keep it running smoothly, it still may occasionally freeze up or become unresponsive to the click of a mouse or keyboard.

  • If your computer freezes, try waiting it out. Sometimes it takes your computer a few seconds to complete a task.


  • Press the ESC on your keyboard.


  • Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete on your keyboard. The Windows Task Manager opens. Here, you can monitor applications, processes, performance, networking, and users. If you need to restart your computer, choose Shut DownRestart. If you need to turn off your computer, choose Shut DownTurn Off.
Windows Task Manager's Shut Down menu


  • Locate the System Tools menu.
  • Open the Disk Defragmenter. Open the Action menu. Click Help. Learn more about running Disk Defragmenter.
  • Open Disk Cleanup. Run Disk Cleanup if necessary in order to free up hard disk space.