Creating a phantom user for maintenance
by George Skarbek - 25th October 2005

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Q: I am the only user on my computer and some general system maintenance options will not run as resources are low until reboot (defrag being one). It occurs to me that I can create a user (fictional) and strip every unneeded task. Just the bare minimum background tasks. But the rub comes when trying to decide what the minimum tasks are. They are cryptically named and other than trial and error (kill and see if the system dies, too), it's hard to determine what they do. Is there a list of such programs absolutely required for basic operations? 

A: Having a fictional user may help with debugging problems but will mean you cannot log in automatically and will have to select the real user when booting.
There are no programs that are essential and all can be removed from Startup. Click on Start, Run, type MSCONFIG and remove all from Startup. However, I recommend leaving the anti-virus and the firewall if on broadband. On dial-up, the firewall is not as important and using the Microsoft one is OK.

Deciding what the programs do is made easier by using a very good program, Startup Inspector, from: It works similar to the MSCONFIG program, in that you can untick items that you do not want to run at Windows startup but it has the added benefit of a key stating which ones are not recommended and should be removed, giving the user the choice of system required and should not be removed. It also shows the memory that a program uses. Pressing the Consult button will interrogate a database and for many commonly used files will give a description of what the file is and what it is used for.


Q: Can you tell me how to overcome a problem with Windows XP: I have seven eps files sitting in the recycle bin that keep giving the following error when trying to clear the bin: "Cannot delete Dc278: It is being used by another person or program. Close any programs that might be using the file and try again." Is there a way to delete the recycle bin and let it re-establish itself on reboot?

A: I am not aware of how to delete the recycle bin as this is a protected system resource. However, I can make two suggestions. The first is to use a program called MoveOnBoot, from It can copy, move or delete files and folders on the next system boot. This is useful in a case such as yours when you need to delete files that are locked by other applications.

Alternatively, you should be able to delete these files in Safe Mode because then the program that keeps open your files will not be running. To start in Safe Mode, repeatedly press F8 (every half second) while the computer is starting and select Safe Mode prompt on the menu.

To look at the book, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here