Geeks in Phoenix

Geek Blog


How to quickly free up space on your hard drive

Are you getting a low disk space warning in Windows? Or maybe you have been prompted to delete a previous version of Windows to gain some disk space? If so, here's how to quickly free up space on your drive.

How to quickly free up space on your hard drive

We have all been there. You are working along, and all of a sudden, a little dialog box pops out and tells you that you are low on disk space. It used to happen a whole lot more years ago when drives were smaller. But it is scary when it does pop up.

Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup user options in Windows 10

Now one way to free up some disk space quickly is to use the built-in Disk Cleanup utility. If you click on the Low Disk Space warning, it brings up Disk Cleanup with default settings.

The default settings for Disk Cleanup are pretty good and will do the job. But there are more advanced settings that can clean up even more files; you have to know how to get to them. You can also run Disk Cleanup as a Scheduled Task. Check out the links below.

Clean up Windows 7 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up Windows 8.1 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up Windows 10 with Disk Cleanup

Manually delete temporary files

The Run dialog box inside of Windows 10

If you are looking to delete the temporary files/folders quickly on your computer, here's a down-and-dirty quick way to do it. All you have to do is bring up a Run dialog box.

How to open a Run dialog box

All versions of Windows:
On the keyboard, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R

Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10:
Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X and then select Run

In the Run dialog box that appears, cut and paste or type either:

  • %temp%
    (user temp folder)
  • %systemroot%\temp
    (system temp folder)
and then select OK. If you get a prompt telling you that you do not currently have permission to access the folder, click on the Continue button. File Explorer will open and display the contents of that folder.

Now highlight one of the files and then press the CTRL + A keys at the same time to select all of the files/folders. Right-click on them and select Delete. If you get a prompt about permanently deleting the files, left-click on Yes. If you get a prompt telling that a file is still in use, make sure the Do this for all current items checkbox is selected and then left-click on Skip.

Turn off hibernation

Turn of hibernation

If you still need to free up some space, you can disable hibernation and delete the hilberfil.sys file. That should give you a few more gigabytes of free space. You will need an administrative command prompt to run these.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

Once you have an administrative command prompt open, just cut and paste or type the following into it:

  • powercfg.exe /hibernate off
    (turn off hibernation)
  • powercfg.exe /hibernate on
    (turn on hibernation)

Graphic Visualization Tools

Now when it comes to finding large files or folders, nothing can beat an excellent visual treemap. Instead of the usual file/folder data like you see in File Explorer, a graphic visualization tool shows file/folder information using blocks. The larger the square, the bigger the file/folder.

SpaceMonger version 1.4.0

Years ago, I started using a graphic visualization tool when I had a client that all of the desktops began running out of disk space. Using a visualization tool, I found the network deployed anti-virus clients were downloading new virus definitions, but they were not deleting previous versions.

Now there are a couple of different graphic visualization tools out there. I first started using SpaceMonger but have since moved over to SpaceSniffer. It does not require any installation (unzip and go) and is entirely free (but donations are recommended).

SpaceSniffer Version 1.2.0.2

Now right out-of-the-box SpaceSniffer can be a bit overwhelming with all of the information it provides. But with a couple of changes to the configuration, SpaceSniffer can open up just the way you like.

Now be careful not to go crazy and start deleting folders/files in the Windows folder. I know that it is one of the largest folders on the C: drive, but resist the urge to delete anything inside of the Windows folder. I would focus on the size of the user(s) folders/files. For more information on SpaceSniffer and how to use it, follow the link below.

SpaceSniffer, find lost disk space the easy way

How to clean up an old joystick or game controller

Do you have an old PC joystick or game controller you haven't used in a long time? Did the buttons or the gamepad start to stick? Here's how to clean up old PC joysticks and game controllers.

If you're like me, you hate to get rid of anything that still works. So when I wrote the DosBox and Internet Archive articles, I started to think about the old game controllers I have. There is nothing wrong with them, just a little dirt and grime.

And how much fun would it be to play the original DOS version of Doom with an original Gravis Gamepad Pro from the mid-'90s? Gravis made a couple of variations of the gamepad with a couple of different connectors (USB and joystick port). I had both types but only have the USB version now.

After a little research, I found I could use a Gravis Gamepad Pro, as long as it had a USB connection. Microsoft still includes support for the Gravis Gamepad Pro inside of Windows 10.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers
The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers

And to top it off, DosBox does support USB game controllers, so I am almost ready to start playing games with my gamepad. But first, I need to clean it up, as some of the buttons have gotten sticky.

Now when you start talking about disassembling and reassembling any piece of electronics, always remember to never work on anything that is plugged in (energized). Always disconnect the device from any connection and de-energize it before working on it. Never work on a device that is connected and energized!

The following procedures are the same for almost any computer device, except for Hard Disk Drives (HDD). HDD's have to be disassembled/reassembled in an environment free of contaminants, like a cleanroom.

Now before I start tearing down my gamepad, I will need some necessary tools. First and foremost is a digital camera or smartphone w/ camera and a notepad. Remember the old saying 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? The same holds here. With no service manual or online instructions, I'll be tearing down the gamepad blind. The photos and notes will be my guide for reassembly.

The teardown will be simple, and I'll only need a Philips head screwdriver (Ph.1), a couple of brushes, some cleaning solution, paper towels, and some compressed air. Tweezers or needle-nose pliers may also come in handy but are not required.

The first thing I'll do is take photos of the top, bottom, and sides of the gamepad. That way, I have a record of how the wholly assembled gamepad should look. Next, I'll start removing the screws on the bottom and checking to see if all of them are the same size. If any are different, I'll note it and place them separate from the rest.

Screw hole locations on bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro
Screw hole locations on the bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro

Once I have all of the screws out of the bottom, I can carefully separate the top and bottom of the gamepad chassis. I can see there are two (2) screws that hold the main circuit board in place. After I remove the two (2) screws, I carefully remove the main circuit board from the chassis. Remember to take photos of everything you do!

Main circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro
Central circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro

Now I can access all of the buttons and the rubber castle switch tops. I first inspect the heads of castle switches for any damage. They have no physical damage and appear to be pretty clean. Since they are almost twenty (20) years, I've decided they don't need cleaning.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled
The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled

Now on to the buttons. As I remove them, I can see some gunk built-up around the sides of the buttons and the adjacent holes in the chassis. Quick cleaning of the button and frame will take care of this and should fix the sticky button problem.

A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro
A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro

When it comes to drying all of the parts off, I usually use paper towels to get the majority of moisture off and then use some compressed air to get any moisture out from the cracks and crevices.

Once all of the parts are clean and dry, refer to your photos and notes to reassemble. Remember not to overtighten any screw or nut; you can always make a second pass around and snug up any screws and nuts that need it.

The Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use

Nobody likes to have to reinstall Windows. Nobody. It has been a significant headache with finding or creating the recovery/installation media and finding or reading the product key from the Certificate of Authenticity (COA). But with the Windows 10 online upgrade, things just got a whole lot easier.

 Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use

There may come a day when you may need to repair or reinstall Windows 10. In previous versions of Windows, you had to create the manufacturer's branded recovery disks or use the hidden recovery partition to reinstall Windows. Or maybe you were one of the lucky ones that got an OEM disk. Either way, you had to have the original operating system installation media from the manufacturer to perform a reinstallation.

The huge problem was a lot of people didn't know they needed to make the recovery disks. They only found out after their hard drives crashed. At that point, they have only two choices; contact the manufacturer to find out if they sell the recovery disks. Some do, some don't. But the cost for replacement recovery disks will be less than the second option, which is to purchase a new installation disk.

If you're one of the millions that have upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 online, you now have a digital license. You can use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft to create either a bootable USB drive or an ISO file. You can then use the ISO file to create an installation DVD. And the cool thing is that you can make the installation media on another Windows 10 computer, just in case your computer will not boot.

All you need for hardware is a USB drive (8GB or larger) or DVD burner and a blank single-side or double-side DVD. What you need to know about your version of Windows 10 is what language, what edition (Home, Pro, etc.), and what architecture (32-bit or 64-bit). Most consumers use the Home edition as the Pro edition does cost more. Unless you specifically order your computer with the Pro edition or your computer is part of a domain, it's probably the Home edition. And most computers nowadays run 64-bit versions of Windows.

The next thing is the product key. In previous Windows versions, when you installed the operating system, the product key was stored on the hard drive. With Windows 10, when installing the operating system, the product key is stored on the cloud. So, if you are doing a clean/repair installation and Windows 10 has already been activated on that specific computer, you will not need to enter a product key when prompted. You can click on the I don't have a product key link, and Windows 10 will automatically activate when it gets online. It's one of the coolest features of Windows 10 you hope you never have to use.

For more information on the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft, follow the link below.

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

My digital toolbox 2

My Digital Toolbox

When it comes to computer repair, every technician has a collection of software that they use regularly. Whether on a CD, DVD, or USB drive, these programs are essential to diagnosing different computer-related issues. Here are just a few of my favorite programs that I keep in my digital toolbox.

Recuva

The main screen inside of Recuva

I get many calls from customers that say they accidentally deleted a file and want to know how they can get it back. When it comes to simple data recovery, nothing beats Recuva. From photos on memory cards to documents on your hard drive, the easiest way to recover a deleted file is with Recuva. So if you have accidentally erased a files, give Recuva a try.

Click here for more information on Recuva

Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD)

The Ultimate Boot CD main menu

Another of my favorite diagnostic tools is UBCD. It contains a bunch of useful programs that run from a Linux based CD. All of the applications provided on the UBCD are free of charge. The programs included in it range from memory diagnostics to hard drive erasers. And it has the best selection of hard drive manufacturer's diagnostic programs you will ever find. UBCD does come as an .ISO file that you can burn to a CD, or load it on to a USB drive. Their website has all of the instructions on how to do it. UBCD is a private fund project, so if you find it useful, please donate.

Click here for more information on UBCD

Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT)

The main screen for the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset

My all-time favorite set of diagnostic tools is DaRT. It is not just one program but a complete set of diagnostic tools that boots up on a version of Windows (depending on what version of Windows you build it on). It is similar to the system recovery disk you can make inside of every version of Windows, but it also includes various programs that you can use for diagnostics.

DaRT has quite a few programs straight out of Windows, like File Explorer, Registry Editor, and Computer Management. It includes Crash Analyzer, SFC (System File Checker), and Locksmith (resets passwords for local accounts). When you create the DaRT media, you can configure what programs are going into your DaRT build.

Now here is the downside. DaRT is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and is only available to Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service, MSDN, or Action Pack subscribers. But if you or your company has one of these subscriptions, DaRT is one tool you'll be glad you have in your digital toolbox.

Click here for more information on the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT)

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

Updated July 7, 2020

When it comes to repairing Windows computers, there seems to be a couple of problems that I get a lot of help requests. One of them is when a computer cannot get updates to Windows. So here are a few of my favorite resources for fixing Windows Update.

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

There are several reasons why Windows Update can fail. There could be corrupted files or folders; the different services that Windows Update requires are not starting, registry errors, etc. The following is a list of some of the procedures I use to repair Windows Update.

Remember to always restart your computer after running any of these procedures before trying Windows Update again.

Windows Update Troubleshooter

This is probably the easiest and most common way to repair Windows Update. Microsoft has a Windows Update Troubleshooter for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 online. Just follow the link below and then click on Update Troubleshooter for Windows 7 and Windows 8. You can either run the troubleshooter or save the file. I recommend saving it to your hard drive. That way, if you need to rerun it, you will already have it ready to go.

Windows Update Troubleshooter

Windows 10 has several troubleshooters built-in, including one for Windows Update. All of the Troubleshooters are located in Windows Settings. There are a few different ways to get to Windows Settings.

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and left-click on Settings (the gear icon)
  2. Right-click on the Start Windows logo menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo + X and select Settings from the Power User menu
  3. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + I

Once you have Windows Settings open, select Update and Security, then Troubleshoot in the left-hand column, then select Windows Update in the right-hand column.

So if the Windows Update Troubleshooter (repair) did not fix the issue, you could try resetting all of the Windows Update components. The following link has a PowerShell script for resetting the Windows Update components automatically. It also has instructions on how to reset the Windows Update components manually. I recommend using the PowerShell script unless you are comfortable with going through all the manual procedures. When prompted to run or save the script, I recommend that you save it to your hard drive, just in case you need to rerun it.

Reset Windows Update components

There is another way to reset the Windows Update components. The Reset Windows Update Tool is s script-based application that performs the same functions as the script above. Along with resetting Windows Update components, it can run Secure File Checker (see below), repair invalid registry keys, and repair the Windows system image using DISM (see below).

Reset Windows Update Tool

Check your drive for errors

If you have run both of the Windows Update troubleshooters (repair/reset) and Windows Update is still not functioning correctly, it's time to do some general system checks. Sometimes there can be an error(s) with the file system that does not allow the troubleshooters to fix the issue(s). I have had this problem many times before. Nothing worse than feeling like a dog chasing his tail. At this point, I recommend checking your hard drive for errors by running checkdisk.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 10

Once you are done with a checkdisk, go ahead and rerun the Windows Update Troubleshooters. First, run the repair troubleshooter and try checking for updates. If it doesn't fix it, run the reset troubleshooter. If Windows Update still won't work, then it is time to check to system files.

Check system files

SFC

Windows has a built-in program called System File Checker (SFC) to check system files for corruption and incorrect versions. SFC is run inside of an administrative command prompt. Just follow the link below for your version Windows for instructions on how to bring up an admin command prompt.

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows Vista / Windows 7

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 10

SFC is the same in all of the currently supported versions of Windows. Here is the link to the most detailed instructions for SFC (Windows 10).

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

Once you are done running SFC and have corrected any problems it may have found, try running Windows Update. If it still doesn't work, try running the troubleshooters (repair/reset) one at a time, running Windows Update in between. If you again cannot run Windows Update successfully, it may be time to run the most advanced system corruption repair tools.

DISM (Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10) / SUR (Windows Vista, Windows 7)

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) and System Update Readiness tool (SUR) are the complete way of checking for file corruption in Windows. The link to the instructions on how to run both is below. DISM and SUR are meant to be used by advanced users, so if you don't feel comfortable running either one of these programs, please contact a local computer repair shop like Geeks in Phoenix for assistance.

Fix Windows Update errors by using the DISM or System Update Readiness tool

After running either DISM or SUR, check again to see if Windows Update will work. If Windows Update still does not work, it may be time to reset or reinstall Windows. The instructions on how to do this can be found online. If you require assistance with this process, please contact a local computer repair shop like Geeks in Phoenix.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

Check out our reviews

Geeks In Phoenix LLC, BBB Business Review

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (602) 795-1111  and talk with one of our Geeks. Or you can send us a message from our contact page contact page , and one of our Geeks will get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can stop by and see us. Here are our hours and location.

Like Geeks in Phoenix on Facebook

Follow Geeks in Phoenix on Twitter

Watch Geeks in Phoenix on YouTube