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Copyright 1998-2024, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group

September 2002

 Dear Mr. Know-It-All 

Mr. Know-It-All has the answers to even the really tough questions.


I was reading the SCOUG-Help list and there was a long discussion on WPS (Workplace Shell) desktop maintenance tools and how to use them. I sort of lost my way in the detail. What's the best way to keep my desktop up and running?


This is OS/2. There really is no one, best way. There are many options and you should pick what works best for you. All the options have two things in common:

  • A reliable desktop backup/restore procedure.
  • Regular maintenance of the WPS data structures.
Reliable Desktop Backups and Restores

No matter how carefully you maintain the desktop, there will come a time when the desktop becomes corrupted and simply will not start up. Some piece of hardware or software will fail and the result will be a blank desktop. To recover you need a reliable desktop backup and restore procedure.

Which tool you choose to use to do the backups and restores does not really matter. What really matters is that when the time comes to restore the desktop, the restore works.

There are several serviceable desktop backup/restore tools.

  • There's the built-in tool included with Warp. It works and can be configured to backup other important system files.
  • Mr. KIA prefers the desktop backup/restore tools of UniMaint. UniMaint's tools have some advantages over the built-in backup/restore tools.
    • They seem to be more reliable (i.e. they have never failed for Mr. KIA).
    • The backup images are compressed.
    • More backup generations are supported.
    • It has flexible options to backup other important system files.
    • Backups can be scheduled or on-demand.
  • There is wpsbkup.exe from Henk Kelder's WPTools package ( on Hobbes). As a general purpose WPS backup tool, it has some limitations. However, it will backup and restore the majority of your desktop customizations. If you are using the built-in backup/restore, this can be a useful safety net.
  • There is the venerable IBM EWS RoboSave ( on Hobbes). It's highly customizable and seems to be reliable when the time comes to restore.
  • Another option is DevTech's Deskman/2. Like UniMaint, it includes desktop backup/restore tools as part of a larger package.

A search of Hobbes will find some additional options.

If you are so inclined, it's rather easy to create your own backup/restore tool. At the minimum, the backup tool must save:

  • The WPS desktop directory tree and its contents.
  • \os2\os2.ini
  • \os2\os2sys.ini
The restore tool must:
  • Run from a command line boot.
  • Delete and rebuild the \desktop directory tree
  • Restore \os2.ini
  • Restore \os2sys.ini

While it's a cumbersome solution, your normal system backup/restore tools can serve as your desktop backup/restore tools.

Mr. KIA suggests that the desktop be backed up on a regular schedule and before and after installing major applications.

As with all backup/restore procedures, you need to test the restore before you need it in an emergency.

Maintaining the WPS Desktop

The WPS desktop is often mentioned as one of the items that keeps an OS/2 user using OS/2.

Unfortunately, the WPS data structures that define the desktop are complex and subject to damage from several sources. The bulk of the WPS data structures are stored in the OS/2 profile files os2.ini and os2sys.ini so these files are often referred to as the WPS .ini files. In truth these files contain much more than just WPS data structures.

The code that implements the WPS is rather robust. A lot of internal failures are handled "under-the-covers" and the user may not even notice that a failure has occurred. However, the code that maintains the WPS data structures is not always as perfect as one might wish. It has a tendency to forget to delete references to deleted files and objects. The result is that over time the WPS slowly degrades and becomes more susceptible to hangs and crashes. The fix for these issues is relatively easy. Run one or more of the available repair tools. The best known tools are:

  • Sierra Hyperstar's UniMaint - UniMaint was written by Larry Martin and is now owned and supported by Jim Read of Sierra Hyperstar. Jim is the author of Filestar. UniMaint has a GUI User Interface and repairs a wide variety of WPS data errors.
  • Henk Kelder's Checkini - Checkini has a text mode interface and, like UniMaint, repairs a wide variety of WPS data errors. Henk no longer uses OS/2 and Checkini is now a Netlab's project.
  • Carsten Arnold's Cleanini - Cleanini is another text mode tool. While it does repair some WPS data errors, it is primarily an optimization tool. It can delete valid, but otherwise unreferenced, object handles. This can noticeably reduce the size of the WPS data structures. This will cut down search time and give the WPS a performance boost.
  • Ulrich Moeller's Xfix - Ulrich created Xfix to support his work on XWorkplace. He does not promote Xfix as a general purpose maintenance tool, but it will correct several of the common forms of WPS data corruption.

After one uses the above tools, it becomes clear that while there is significant overlap between the tools, each does some unique repairs. Mr. KIA recommends running several of the tools. This provides a maximal set of repairs.

Mr. KIA's current working tool set is:

  • UniMaint
  • Checkini
  • Cleanini
run in the above order.

During a typical repair session, Mr. KIA runs one or more of the above tools. If a significant number of repairs are being done, Mr. KIA will then do a normal WPS shutdown and reboot after running the last tool.

Other's prefer to reset the desktop after running each tool. Mr. KIA finds this to be overkill. The reasoning behind the desktop reset is that the WPS might undo some of the repairs. This is not untrue, but it only occurs if the WPS has the unrepaired data cached. There's no way to know if this is the case beforehand.

Another reason Mr. KIA prefers to bypass the desktop reset is that some desktops, for reasons that are unclear, hang when reset. While this should not occur, it does and it seems to occur most often on desktops that are in the most need of repair.

If resetting the desktop after running each tool makes you feel good and does not hang your desktop or cause other problems, there's no harm in the reset.

If your repairs do not seem to stick, then perhaps, a desktop reset is indicated. However, there are other reasons that might cause the repairs not to stick.

Mr. KIA also recommends running all the repair tools in interactive mode with no preset answers, especially when first getting started with the tools. This might be tedious if you have let a lot of corrupted data accumulate. This is especially true if your desktop is one of those that has run for several years without any maintenance. Mr. KIA has seen several of these and they are a credit to the WPS's overall robust nature.

However, on a desktop that has been regularly maintained, there should only be a few errors per repair run. If this changes unexpectedly, it's better to know this sooner rather than later.

After one gains some experience, enabling options to repair errors on remote and removable media is usually a safe optimization. However, be aware that if some remote resource is unexpectedly unavailable and you have Program Objects that reference these resources, these objects will be deleted and this may not be what you want to happen.

Allowing Cleanini to automatically delete unreferenced object handles is usually a safe optimization. The WPS will recreate the object handles the next time the objects are referenced. As long as the number of objects is not too large, the performance hit should not be noticeable.

Once you make desktop maintenance and backups a part of your regular procedures, you should notice a decrease in odd WPS behaviors such as icons failing to redraw or mouse clicks that seem to be ignored. The desktop will probably feel just a bit more responsive. Give it a try.

Curious or in doubt, you can ask Mr. Know-It-All
OS/2 is his specialty and sharing solutions is his passion
Mr. Know-It-All lives in Southern California.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 2002 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.