I first came across “Degunking Windows,” by Joli Ballew & Jeff Dunteman, at a friend’s house last summer. I picked it up out of curiosity and quickly learned several things about Windows — the difference between the quick launch bar and the system tray, for example. As I paged through it, I developed a list of things to do to Kermit the Gateway Laptop when I got home. When I decided Kermit needed a big overhaul this summer (I reinstalled XP a couple of weeks ago and he is feeling much better now, thank you) I picked this up to see if there was anything of use at this point.
This is a useful book for novices and for someone who’s self-taught like me. I know what I know about computers because I’m not afraid to dink around and figure out how to do things. Learning in that way is great, because I find I generally retain things better, but this method leaves a lot of holes. So, I still picked up a lot of great tips from this book.
The authors don’t just tell you what to do to make your computer run better & faster — they tell you why it matters, which to me makes a big difference. I firmly believe that you can’t retain information without knowing why it matters. (This leads me to, perhaps, explain a little too much in my workshops sometimes). It covers everything, and I do mean everything. Why you should keep your files and folders well organized (and points out that you aren’t just stuck with the default folders — you can make more). Why you should keep your email organized and how to set up spam filters if you don’t have any already. Why and how you should back up your computer. How to properly uninstall something. Why you should set up Windows Update. With lots of warnings, it shows you how to do a couple of things to the registry. Here’s how to use the installation CD to repair Windows, and how to re-install if you absolutely need to.
They do all of this in a friendly and self-deprecating way. For example, in talking about cleaning up a cluttered desktop, the authors say “we’re all guilty of this, look at this screenshot of my desktop,” which is filled to capacity with junk. Now, you can question whether or not that’s acutally their desktop, but that’s not the point here. They aren’t talking down to their readers, which is great for someone who’s bravely trying to figure out what they can fix on their own.
In any case, I liked this book, though I didn’t find as much that was useful this time around. It did remind me that I wanted to download the TweakUI Microsoft PowerToy, which is for some reason refusing to work on my laptop. Oh well. If you don’t have much experience with computers, or if your self-taught and feel like there’s more to know about maintaining Windows, this is worth a look. But if you have a pretty good grasp of how to tweak and troubleshoot XP, you won’t find much of interest here.
As it turns out, this is one book in a “degunking series,” which includes a strange array of titles to help you degunk: your home, your personal finances, your mac, Ebay, Linux, your email, and Microsoft Office. (Two of these things are not like the other ones . . . )