Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 130 / JUNE 1991 / PAGE 79

Out of room? It's time to send files packing. (hard and floppy disks management) (column)
by Tony Roberts

No matter whether your system runs from a hard disk or floppies, disk real estate is always a precious commodity. There's never enough room, and there never will be. Computer users must continually cull unneeded files from the disk, and the first place to look should be your DOS subdirectory. Although it's possible to gain a fair amount of space by eliminating DOS files from disks, few make this move for fear of erasing something important.

The basic rule to follow in weeding out DOS files is that if you don't use it, you should lose it. Keep programs that are referenced in your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files, keep files required by application programs, and keep programs you run regularly from the DOS prompt, such as CHKDSK and FORMAT.

Bear in mind, through, that most of the commands you type at the DOS prompt -- instructions such as DIR, DEL, COPY, CHDIR, CLS, DATE, and TIME--are not kept in separate files. These commands, which are called internal commands, are all part of the system's command processor, COMMAND.COM.

Here are some general guidelines for what to keep and what to pitch. Don't be overly concerned about making a mistake. You're only deleting files from your working disks. If you learn later that you need a certain file, it's a simple matter to go back to your DOS masters and copy that file to your working disk.


If you use a hard disk, keep FDISK.COM, FASTOPEN.EXE, BACKUP.COM, and RESTORE.COM. Most hard disk users, however, prefer commercial disk backup programs to the BACKUP and RESTORE commands offered by DOS. If you use such a commercial program, send BACKUP.COM and RESTORE.COM to the showers.

Files such as ANSI.SYS, DRIVER.SYS, RAMDRIVE.SYS, and SHARE.EXE may be needed for certain configurations. Generally, these files will be put into play by the system startup files. Check CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT and keep the files your system needs.

Just these few files will keep 90 percent of computer users working smoothly and happily. The rest of the programs included with DOS are either designed for a specific need or have outlived their usefulness and are included with new DOS releases mainly for the sake of continuity and compatability with older versions.

Consider the special tasks your system performs and retail only the files that will help you accomplish your goals. For example, programmers may need to use GWBASIC.EXE, DEBUG.COM, EXE2BIN.EXE, MEM.EXE, and LINK.COM, but others can safely eliminate those files. Another whole set of programs and files that can be eliminated consists of those that support code page switching, the process of switching in and out character sets for different foreign languages.

Since most of us live and work in the United States, we can ignore code page switching and all of its attendant files: COUNTRY.SYS, DISPLAY.SYS, GRAFTABL.COM, KEYB.COM, NLSFUNC.EXE, KEYBOARD.SYS, PRINTER.SYS, SELECT.COM, and any file using the CPI extension.

Among the files you may or may not want to keep on disk are the three DOS filters--FIND.EXE, MORE.COM, and SORT.EXE. These programs perform valuable functions, but their usefulness has been eclipse by increasingly powerful application and utility programs.

The files ASSIGN.COM, JOIN.EXE, and SUBST.EXE and DOS's "smoke and mirrors" commands. With the command ASSIGN A B, you tell the system to access drive B any time any program or user asks for drive A. SUBST allows you to define a shorthand name for a long pathname. These commands come in handy when you have a specific problem, but few computer users have a compelling need for them.

There are several files you may be better off without. RECOVER.COM is designed to help pull data off bad disks, but it has a reputation for making matters worse. EDLIN.COM is a terrible line-based text editor. TREE.COM attempts to show your disk's directory structure. PRINT.COM was handy years ago, but today's applications software has assumed the burden of printing and does a better job.

COMP.COM and DISKCOMP.COM compare files and disks to make sure they're identical. If you do need to compare files, use FC.EXE.GRAPHICS.COM is a memory-resident utility that must be loaded to print hardcopies of graphics screens. Some older software needs this support, but today's applications generally handle these details themselves.

LABEL.COM lets you assign an 11-character name to your disks, but most people simply label their disks when they format them.