Tighten up!

April 1, 2003
It's time for spring-cleaning! Open those supply drawers and throw out the old tubes of P30. It's also time to have a look at your computers.

Paul Feuerstein, DMD

It's time for spring-cleaning! Open those supply drawers and throw out the old tubes of P30. It's also time to have a look at your computers. Many of you are committed to upgrading and adding pieces to your networks. But when your system has been running flawlessly for two years or more, it's easy to be complacent — until something breaks.

All of the processes I am about to recommend are simple and can be done on any Windows 98 computer. (I am, of course, assuming that most dental offices are using Windows 98 or better. However, if you're using Windows 95 or DOS, ignore this discussion — and go buy a new computer system!)

The first essential step is to backup your critical files. None of the following steps should damage or corrupt files, but "never say never." If you spend a lot of time looking at Web sites, there will be a lot of unnecessary files that clog up your disk. Windows has a simple program to get rid of your unnecessary files. To access this program, double click on "My Computer" which usually is in the upper left area of your main screen. You will see a list of your hard drive(s) as well as floppy, CD and others (such as card readers). Right click on "C" drive and then left click on "Properties". You will see a button called "Disk Cleanup." Left click on that and you will be amazed at how much space can be retrieved. If there are multiple hard drives in your computer, you can repeat this for each one.

Note that your disk drive is constantly humming. That's because information is added and removed throughout the day. Although the data is sorted into folders and file areas, things can get electronically misplaced. As the next part of your spring-cleaning, use the program "Scandisk" to check your drives for errors. To find this program, go to the "Properties" box and find the "Tools" tab. It will tell you when you last checked for errors. When you click on "Check Now," it will run Scandisk. Check the box that says "standard" and the one that says, "automatically fix errors." If you have more than one hard drive listed, perform Scandisk on each one.

On that same "Tools" box there is something at the bottom that says "Defragmentation Status." It may show that you have not done this in over a year or more. This lengthy process is very important for keeping your disk drive healthy and fast. As you write and delete information on your disk, it gets scattered all over the place.

Although Windows and your disk drive are very smart and know where to find everything, it takes more work and time to find things if the data is "fragmented." The Defragmentation program re-sorts the data and lines it up nicely on the tracks of the drive. A couple of caveats: First, this program can take hours to complete; run it over night (make sure you have a backup battery UPS on the computer). Second, disconnect the computer from the Internet and turn off your antivirus software prior to running it. (Many people recommend that you do a full virus disk scan before defrag — not a bad idea for your spring cleaning.)

While you are looking at this area of Windows, you will see a pie chart of your drive. It tells you how much space is left. You should have at least 20 percent of free space since many programs use the open areas for temporary storage. If you show less, start thinking of adding another drive, or perhaps deleting or archiving some of the older data. One method of storage is writable CD drives. Many office systems have at least one of these drives on the network. If they are over a year old, you can buy yourself a present for under $80. The new writable CD drives have speeds over 50x. This means you can burn an entire 800 MB disk in less than four minutes. CD drives are simple to install; it's just a matter of unplugging and sliding out one drive and putting the same plugs into the new ones, then running a setup disk for the new speed. However, if need help, most retailers can install them.

Computers are amazing tools, but they are not maintenance-free. These tips also are handy for home computers. And, if you need advice, my contact information is below.

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers when he placed a system in his office in 1978, and he has been fascinated by technology ever since. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions in New England, including annual appearances at the Yankee.Dental Congress, and has been a part of the ADA's Technology Day since its inception. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersinden tistry.com) and can be reached by email at [email protected].

Sponsored Recommendations

Clinical Study: OraCare Reduced Probing Depths 4450% Better than Brushing Alone

Good oral hygiene is essential to preserving gum health. In this study the improvements seen were statistically superior at reducing pocket depth than brushing alone (control ...

Clincial Study: OraCare Proven to Improve Gingival Health by 604% in just a 6 Week Period

A new clinical study reveals how OraCare showed improvement in the whole mouth as bleeding, plaque reduction, interproximal sites, and probing depths were all evaluated. All areas...

Chlorine Dioxide Efficacy Against Pathogens and How it Compares to Chlorhexidine

Explore our library of studies to learn about the historical application of chlorine dioxide, efficacy against pathogens, how it compares to chlorhexidine and more.

Enhancing Your Practice Growth with Chairside Milling

When practice growth and predictability matter...Get more output with less input discover chairside milling.