Monday, May 31, 2010

Tip: MRT, Disk Cleanup and Windows 7

The joy, if one could call it that at times, about using a new Operating System is that you find out the most fascinating quirks and faults the longer you use the software. I’ve been using Windows 7 Ultimate on my trusty dusty Dell XPS 400, now more than four years old, for the main 7 testing rig since the retail copies were released to the public in October 2009. And in all that time I’ve been very happy with 7.

Like all versions of Windows before it, however, I’ve started to notice some slowdown and lag in all the typical areas generally associated with Windows. And to that end I broke out the usual skill set to combat the tarnish on my shiny new OS. I found out that some tools work a little differently though. More on that in a second. . .

Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

The first tip I wanted to share actually works in XP, Vista and 7. I found it on an older Security Now podcast, promptly forgot about it and recently unearthed it again in a file marked “Stuff I should really get back to one day’. Last Saturday, a year and a half later, was the faithful day where I used the options in the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.

Options you say? There are no options to that tool right? Well there are but you have to know how to get at them. A word of advice though before I list how to get to the tool. I would make sure you have a recent System Restore point ready to go in case something goes wrong. And, this is most important, you may want to run this overnight as it takes up lots of resources on older systems. A 160 GB drive took more than three hours to scan. Not something you may want to do before an approaching deadline.

To get to the tool do the following..

Bring up the Run command. Either perform the keystroke Windows Key plus the letter R or, if you have it active, select it from your Start menu.

Next, type in “MRT.EXE” without the quotation marks. Hit ENTER.

If you are using Windows Vista or 7, expect a User Account Control [or UAC] box. After the UAC, you should get a wizard informing you about the tool with links on learning more. After you select Next, the box with the options should appear. Options for Quick Scan, Full Scan and Custom Scan are available as radial buttons. A Quick Scan is what Windows already does from time to time. A Full Scan is the option I warned you about that could take hours. A Custom Scan allows you to target a specific folder, say Outlook emails, for a detailed scan in a particular area. Selecting your option and choosing the Next button will begin the scan.

The scan has a progress bar, that moves ever so slowly in Full Scan mode, and below it text will race by with the up to the second status on names of files being scanned. There is also an ominous “Number of files infected” line below the changing list of scanned file names. The line below that tells you when the scan began and the line below that tells you how long the tool has been scanning. This is follow by the Cancel button.

After the scan is complete, you will be offered a box with items found to have malicious behavior. You can select items via a checkbox control and each checkbox lists the area where the item was found. If you do have items listed in this box, and you have selected them for removal, clicking Next will begin the tool’s ability to delete these infected files.

Do you need to use this tool? No. Does this tool replace other solutions like Spybot and others? No. But like those other options, this tool is free and it comes in Windows already. And, the most important part of all, it is constantly being updated on a regular basis through Windows Update by Microsoft. So, I guess, it can’t hurt to look eh? You don’t have to delete anything if you aren’t sure and that is the beauty of this free tool.

Putting the “More” back into your Disk Cleanup options

Some options in Windows 7 are hidden in plain sight. Take the ability to delete the System Restore Points for example. In XP and Vista you can find the button to delete these older files right from Disk Cleanup via the “More Options” tab. Except in 7 there isn’t a “More Options” tab right? Actually there is one. Here is how to get to that tab.

Run the Disk Cleanup tool as normal.

In Disk Cleanup, tab over to the button labeled “Cleanup System Files”.

Hit ENTER on this button. The Disk Cleanup Utility will run again, however, this time it will give you the ability to use the “More Options” tab.

Deleting older System Restore Points helped out my system performance a great deal. For starters, I got back 20 gigs of space. All my points since October took up that much room. . . at default levels for System Restore mind you. I also noticed my hard drive thrash less, defrags took a bit less time to complete and a few other slow downs were now diminished as well.

If you have been running Vista or 7 for a long time now, these tips may help you get that desired boost back in your system. Both are free and both are already in Windows. A great combo meal that loses weight rather than gaining pounds in the drive through.