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ATPM 4.04
April 1998


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Review: TechTool 1.1.6

by Tom Iovino,


Have you ever noticed those snazzy custom icons for your South Park .wav files folder have turned to just plain old generic icons? Is your Mac, normally the most stable thing in your life, exhibiting quirky behavior? Are you double-clicking on an icon, but not going anywhere fast? Could it be time to call an exorcist?

Well, is a way, yes. Only, this one doesn't do battle with a little child named Damion. Instead, it works its magic on Desktop Folders and PRAM. It's the powerful freeware utility by Micromat, TechTool 1.1.6. <>

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Contortionist be Gone!
You may have heard that occasionally you need to do some preventative maintenance on your Macintosh. Sometimes, the invisible Desktop Folder becomes corrupted due to excessive adding and deleting of files, or system crashes. This file acts as a directory for your hard drive, letting the OS know where to locate a particular file.

Other times like the Parameter RAM, pronounced "pea-ram", needs to be flushed, or "Zapped." Believe me, it's not as dangerous as it may sound. The parameter RAM is a non-volatile RAM chip located on the motherboard of the Macintosh. The PRAM contains user and system-defined settings that must be retained after the computer has been powered off. Settings such as time of day, mouse scaling,
keyboard repeat rate, and startup drive preferences are all stored there.

In order to handle either task, Apple would require you to hold down a number of keys at startup to complete the task. Especially for zapping the PRAM. And you have to hold those keys down at the right time. And there are so many keys to hold at once, you look like a contortionist. Not so with TechTool.

Upon launching the program, you are greeted by a friendly control panel which identifies the date the computer was manufactured and the number of hours it has run. Every August 22nd, I hold a little birthday party for my Performa 6116 at work.

From there, the utility gives you single click options to rebuild the desktop or zap the PRAM. The utility smartly provides the added safety of allowing you to store a copy of the PRAM settings and Desktop file in the event something should go awry.

Additionally, the utility does a better job than the traditional methods of zapping and rebuilding. TechTool actually deletes the target file and allows the system software to start fresh, rather than just rewrite over the old information the way Apple's fix works.

Other features of this powerhouse utility are outstanding as well. You can analyze your system for corrupt system software, inventory your extensions and control panels, get the lowdown on your hardware's technical specs and, since version 1.1.4, the utility has included a routine to clean your floppy disk drive with a special cleaning disk.

And, if you are confused about how to use these features, TechTool boasts a solid help screen. It not only describes the utility in detail, but also provides a primer on how the PRAM and Desktop files function, how they can become corrupted, and how to recognize when trouble looms. It's also snappy reading, rather than just a long, dry technical text.

Is TechTool perfect? Well, it's very close. If the utility could identify corrupted font files, the bane of Desktop Publishing professionals worldwide, this would prove to be a welcome addition. Also, if TechTool could provide a survey of exactly what software was loaded on your hard drive with the version number, that would also be helpful.

But for automating that preventative maintenance, there's nothing quite like TechTool. It's a real winner in my book!

Blue AppleCopyright © 1998 Tom Iovino, <>. Reviewing in ATPMis open to anyone. If you're interested, write to us at <>.

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