Wednesday, June 4, 2008

13 of the Best Ways to Speed up your PC

Say that you wake up and want to check the traffic before you head out the door. You turn on your computer and wait. And wait. Finally you give up and decide to make some coffee, toast a bagel, and maybe grab the newspaper and check out the crossword puzzle. By the time you finally return, your computer has just completed its leisurely start up. Sound a little too familiar? While a complete computer overhaul might not be too far off, there are a few things that you can do in the meantime if a new computer isn’t in your budget. Here are a few tips for giving your computer a speed boost.

Defragment: If your computer is running slowly it may be because your files are scattered all over your hard drive. When you save a file on your computer it goes to the first available space on your hard drive. When that gets filled up it stores other parts of your file in the next available place, then the next place, and so on. When files become fragmented like this, the computer has to spend time searching the hard drive to piece them back together. This process slows you and your system down. Luckily, this is a fairly easy fix. Simply follow these steps: For a PC, go to Start menu and open your Programs menu. From there go to Accessories then Program Tools. You should see the icon for the Disk Defragmentation program in that menu. Simply click on it and windows will begin the defrag process. Be advised, however, that this process usually takes a long time so it could be something you set up to run before you go to bed or before you go to work in the morning.

Clean Up Registry: Not everyone agrees that a PC registry clean-up is much of a help, but it can’t hurt to try if you’re frustrated with your computer speed. Before you do anything to your registry, however, make sure you have it backed up as making changes to the registry can have big affects on how your computer runs. Don’t delete things from the registry when you are unsure of the function, as it can wreck havoc on your computer. Be cautious and try to use a free registry-cleaning program like CCleaner, which will not only clean out your registry but it will take care of several of some other issues listed here as well.

Remove Old Programs: Have things installed on your computer that you haven’t used in ages? Do you even know what’s installed on your computer? It’s possible all these old programs could clog up your hard drive and slow your computer down. Go to your Start menu and select the Control Panel and then Add or Remove programs. It will bring up a list of all the programs that are installed on your computer and also tell you how often you use them. If the answer is “never,” you can most likely safely uninstall the programs and free up valuable space.

Keep Spyware in Check: Spyware seems to be almost unavoidable these days for anyone who uses the Internet. Virus protection programs often catch the worst culprits but there is always something that sneaks through, and these culprits can slow your computer down. If you think you might have a spyware infection, or if you just want to be on the safe side, you can use a free program like AdAware to check your computer for spyware.

Repair Disk Errors: While defragmentation might take care of the worst of your disk problems, you can also be slowed down by errors in other places on your disk drive. As you store and delete files on your hard drive, bad sectors can develop. These sectors can make accessing or saving files difficult and they can slow your computer down. You can check for problems by running another Windows utility. Go to your Start menu and click on My Computer. When the My Computer window comes up right click on the drive you want to check for errors. When the drop down menu shows up go to properties. This will bring a box up and you’ll click on Tools. Check the box that says scan and attempt recovery of bad sectors then click start. Once this is done you’ll be given the option to fix the bad sectors, and you’ll want to select “yes.” Fixing any bad areas in your drives can add some significant speed to your system.

Get Rid of Temporary Files: Windows is notorious for storing temporary files that can clog up your hard drive and slow down your computer. These temporary files aren’t going to go anywhere unless you ask them to, and that’s where the disk cleanup tool can come in handy. To run an automatic disk cleanup just go to Programs under your Start menu. It’s under Accessories and then System Tools. There you should see the icon for disk cleanup. You’ll simply need to run the cleanup program and it will determine what you can safely get rid of on your computer (this will usually be just temporary files and things you’ve yet to empty from the recycle bin). You’d be surprised how much room you can free up by eliminating these files.

Clean Up Your Desktop: Some of you, and you know who you are, have virtual desktops that are just as messy as your real desktops. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s important enough that windows will give you little nudging reminders to clean up your desktop (which, if you’re like me, you promptly ignore). Go through all the stuff you have on your desktop, delete the shortcuts you no longer use, and organize all the remaining miscellaneous files.

Clear your Inbox:If you’re using Outlook or Outlook Express as your email client you might want to check to see just how many old emails you have hanging around. These could be clogging up your memory and causing your computer to run more slowly than it should. If you haven’t checked that spam folder it could chock full of computer-clogging waste. Go through your old emails and weed out those emails that you might not actually need.

Reinstall Windows: If you’re getting desperate for a computer fix, and if you have the time to spend, a Windows reinstall can be one option to speed up your system. Make absolutely sure you’ve backed up any data that’s important to you before you begin, otherwise those files be lost. Then you can begin to wipe the slate clean, reformat your hard drive, reinstall your applications, and put your files back onto your computer from the backup. You’ll be eliminating years of junk that can slow down your system. The basic reinstallation is fairly simple if you use the recovery disk that came with your computer; but reinstalling all your applications can take a long time, so be prepared.

Check for Viruses: You can never be quite sure what is lurking on your computer, so make sure your anti-virus program has the latest updates, and run a full scan of your computer. Virus programs can often disguise themselves as legitimate windows applications so they can be hiding out in places you might not have noticed. If you don’t have an anti-virus program (shame on you!) you can try a free one like Avast!.

Stop Unnecessary Services: Often when you install a new program it will add itself to the programs that start automatically when your computer boots up. All of these unnecessary programs can slow down your startup. You can disable these programs by going to the start menu and then click on Run. Type “msconfig” in the box that comes up. Click on the Startup tab and you’ll be able to see all the pesky programs that bog down your startup time. Get rid of anything that doesn’t look absolutely necessary, but be careful to avoid any Windows system components.

Install Updates: Keeping your computers operating system and drivers up to date is very important in maintaining performance. Updates also help make your computer more secure and reliable, improving performance indirectly as well. Most Windows updates can be downloaded from the Internet and installed (mine does this automatically) but you can use the Windows Update site to gain access to the updates as well. This site is accessible only if you’re running Internet Explorer (IE).

Delete Old Network Connections: Another thing to check that might slow your computer down is old network connections. Your computer will waste time searching for old drives and ports that no longer exist. You can delete these connections by going into your control panel and selecting Network Connections. You should find a list of all the networks your computer recognizes, and you can delete those that are no longer necessary.
Technology is supposed to make your life easier, not more irritating. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you shave at least a few minutes off the time it takes for your computer to get going, whether just starting up or when you try to run a program (or multiple programs). But, if you’d tried all of these tips and your computer still refuses to kick it up a notch, it might be time to send it to the computer heaven. But don’t give up without a fight without trying all of these tips.
Unlike a new computer purchase, these tips are free, so you’ve got nothing to lose.But, if it’s time for a new computer, be smart about how you purchase one. Look for deals where you can pay over time with no interest, or use a card that has 0% APR. Then sock that monthly payment away in a savings account until it comes due. You’ll save a little money on this high-ticket item, and you’ll have a tax write-off if you use it for business. Keep this list of tips around, and you may never have a slow-down problem with your new computer