NEW YORK -- Is your home computer bloated by little-used features that drag it down? Try putting it on a diet.
The time to start is right after buying a new machine. When installing Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software in the computer, you get choices: The default option, which installs all available features, or customizing what you use.
Most people choose all-you-can-eat. But people who mostly do word-processing and other basic tasks, may prefer custom installation, says Mike Elgan, editor of Windows magazine.
Elgan recommends that if you're customizing, be ruthless. You can always install programs later by clicking to the AddRemove icon in the Windows Control Panel.
One program, for example, enables people to send and receive faxes. The little-used feature eats up disk space because it needs related communications programs. Another feature, Microsoft Messaging, is duplicated by e-mail features in both Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator software for browsing the Internet.
"A lot of people think, `Neat!"' Elgan says. "But unless you have a real need for it, you're not going to use it."
Already installed needless features? Users can delete them using the same AddRemove choice.
Another way to slim down is using utility software, which supports the operating system by helping machines run smoother and more efficiently.
While some utility programs come preinstalled on Windows, more powerful software such as Symantec's Norton will check the system's health and performance, free hard-drive space by removing unnecessary items, and speed up the loading of programs.
Need help figuring out why your computer's acting funny? Check out Microsoft's Web site, at Microsoft.com, and click to Support Online. Users can type in a question and read written reports, albeit in technical language, by Microsoft technicians who worked previously on the problem.
More simply worded help can be found in "Windows 95 for Dummies" or "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Windows 95," books many bewildered users swear by.