Archive for July, 2009
Thawing Out A Frozen Computer
So how do you get a handle on OS freezes? Sometimes – though not often – a freeze-up can have a readily identifiable trigger. Each time you access a certain piece of hardware, or every time you run a particular application, your computer may freeze. When the trigger can be identified, the problem is usually somewhat evident. Application freezes can be caused by corruptions in the application files that make the computer hang when it tries to access the damaged files.
In most cases, however, a frozen OS isn’t attributable to any one thing. One minute, your computer is running fine, the next it’s been stopped dead in its tracks. Here, one of the “usual suspects” is leftover bits of programming code in the computer’s registry.
These orphans have been left behind by other applications that have long since been removed. The registry becomes loaded with old instructions for allocating and configuring resources. The computer still follows these instructions because it has no way of knowing that the instructions are no longer necessary, or that the application that uses them is no longer on the computer. Perhaps the application is still there, but it’s been upgraded and now needs different resources to operate.
After awhile, the computer is left with a confusing mish-mash of old and new code. Sometimes these instructions contradict each other. When that happens, the OS is forced into an unpredictable state, and the end result is often an operating system crash.
Unfortunately, the registry isn’t a straightforward place. It is a database that is located across multiple files, and has thousands upon thousands of lines of code that mean little to anyone except the computer itself. How do you find and eliminate these little “zombies”?
Many people choose to use a tried-and-true registry cleaner like RegCure. RegCure has been downloaded more times than any other registry cleaner on the market, and it works to eliminate the root causes of poor computer performance. Run regularly, RegCure will have your computer operating as designed in no time flat!
Photo Credit: Jasmic, via Flickr
If you’re running an older version of the Windows operating system, you may be wondering if Windows 7 will speed up your computer a bit. For users like you, there’s good news and bad news.
Windows 7 Migration May Provide Cleanup Opportunity
Actually, the good news is kind of thin. If you’re already running Windows Vista, you’re probably in good shape for Windows 7. You’re likely to have all of the hardware support you’ll need, but you could still run into a few pitfalls, not the shallowest of which is Vista Home Basic. If you’re running Vista Home Basic, there’s no easy road from Vista to Windows 7 for you.
You’ll either need to reinstall the operating system or upgrade to Windows Vista Home Premium first, as opposed to just upgrading what you’ve got to Windows 7. Sorry! That means you’ll need to take special care with your files and applications. On the other hand, if you’re transferring files from your old system to a new one that runs Windows 7, Migration Day would be a great time to rid yourself of old applications, taskbar widgets and the virtual tons of stuff that takes up space on your hard drive but doesn’t perform even one useful function.
Cleaning out your old applications and re-installing the ones you still use on your new OS is the opportunity to regain some speed from your old hardware. When you re-install your applications, however, take a good look at the “standard installation” before you choose that route. Often, the standard installation will pull the old “start on bootup” trick, meaning that the application will start up every time you boot your computer. This takes up a lot of memory and will degrade the performance of your computer if you let that one slip by often enough, especially for little applications and widgets that you don’t really need.
Cleaning out your old hard drive will also give you the opportunity to leave old files behind. In many cases, these things just take up space, hastening the inevitable disk fragmentation that will occur. If you think you may need old files at some point, burn them off to a CD or store them on a USB drive. My bet is that you’ll never need these items. If you do, they can be kept handy without bogging down your computer.
If you’re running Windows XP or an even older version of the OS, Microsoft recommends that your “upgrade” to Windows 7 consist of buying a new computer with the OS pre-loaded. (Seriously!) That’s fine if you’re in a position to do that. It’s Microsoft’s way of saying that you’d need to do some serious hardware upgrades to your old computer if you really want to run the latest software.
Photo Credit: Certified Su, via Flickr
Computer slowdowns can be perceptual or actual. You can’t fix your perception of speed (except maybe by buying a new computer) but you can cure actual problems that make your computer slow down. Today, I offer five habits that, if you’re willing to adopt them, will cure actual problems and speed up your computer.
1. Clear Out The Cobwebs Periodically, go through your computer and remove applications you’re not using. While you’re cleaning up, clean out the startup items your computer loads each time it starts. Manually start the programs you need and leave the rest closed.
2. Reboot Your Computer Once In Awhile Just like you, your computer needs a break. For the computer, that means a reboot. Rebooting will clear out any misallocated memory, zombie programs that didn’t shut down correctly and runaway processes that you’re not aware of. If you shut down your computer every time you finish using it, you’re ok. This tip mainly applies to the folks who leave their computers on all the time.
3. Defragment Your Hard Drive Your hard drive space gets parceled out pretty quickly. In short order, files are broken into pieces and some parts are stored over here, while others are stored over there, or just wherever the computer can find space. Very disorganized! Like business cards for a business, your hard drive represents your computer, keep it simple, clean and organized. The computer has to jump around quite a bit just to read a single file. Defragmenting will reassemble your piecemeal files into contiguous spaces on the hard disk and eliminate the delays in reading (and writing) files. Defragging is a good overnight task, especially the first time you do it.
4. Upgrade Your RAM The more RAM your computer has installed, the faster your computer will run. There is an upper limit to how much memory your computer can take. That will depend on your BIOS and your OS. Consult the owners manual for your computer to determine its maximum addressable memory. If your installed memory is nowhere near the limit, consider installing more RAM.
5. Use A Registry Cleaner After you’ve removed your unused programs, cleared out your startup items, and defragged your hard drive, your registry may be pretty well hashed. Using a registry cleaner like RegCure can tidy up those hard-to-reach spots in the registry that frankly won’t make much sense to most users, but can make all the difference in the world when it comes to performance.
Photo Credit: Esther Dyson, via Flickr
Today, I have another registry change that will speed up your computer by eliminating a delay. Once again, I don’t advocate editing the registry if you’re a complete novice when it comes to using a computer. Editing the registry is highly effective at changing the behavior of your computer, but it makes the changes you ask for immediately, and there’s no way to “undo” what you’ve done short of restoring an unchanged copy of your registry.
I’ll again recommend that you back up your registry before you make any changes of any kind. RegCure creates a registry backup each time it operates and before it makes any changes to the computer. It will also restore registry backups if a change puts your computer into a bind.
Today’s registry edit will disable the autoplay feature that is turned on by default for CDs and DVDs that are inserted into the drive. In some cases, this feature is useful, but you may find that reading and playing a disc takes an unacceptably long time, especially if you don’t really want the disc to start playing in the first place!
This particular registry change won’t affect your ability to play discs you’ve inse rted. You’ll just have to start the discs manually. To disable the autoplay feature:
Within RegEdit, find:
Right-click New, then Key. Name the new key NoDriveTypeAutoRun. Press Enter. Right click the key you just created and select New/DWORD Value.
Enter a name for the DWORD Value and press enter.
Double-click the DWORD to open the Edit DWORD Value dialog box. Enter 000000FF into the DWORD Value box. Click OK and then close RegEdit. This change will take effect when the computer is restarted.
The computer will not autoplay discs that have been inserted in the drive. You’ll need to manually start each disc. To return to the default behavior (autoplay), use RegEdit to remove the registry key.
Photo Credit: In Veritas Lux, via Flickr
Editing The Registry Isn’t For Novices
I don’t advocate registry editing for the complete novice. It’s very possible to make a mistake, or change something inadvertently that will affect the way your computer works in an unexpected and unpredictable way. Editing the registry by hand is to be strictly avoided unless you have a feel for what you’re doing. Keep in mind that changes to the registry are immediate and unforgiving.
As always, you’ll want to back up the registry before you make any changes at all. RegCure makes a registry backup each time it makes a change to the registry, and that’s a good habit to get into if you’re of a mind to make changes to this all-important part of your computer.
Disable User Account Control One “feature” of Vista that users really complained to Microsoft about is the User Account Control (UAC) messages that Windows Vista will place on the screen when you ask the computer to do something that could be dangerous. The UAC prompts must be cleared before the computer will initiate the action the user has requested. For novice users, these prompts may cause them an unnecessary amount of angst because more often than not, the UAC warning sounds a lot more dire than it needs to. The UAC is designed to alert users to potential unsafe actions, but it does tend to become annoying. You can speed up your computer by disabling the UAC prompts. Keep in mind, however, that this change in the registry is universal; it will apply to every user.
Open RegEdit. Within RegEdit, find:
Find ConsentPromptBehaviorAdmin and change its value to 00000000.
This setting suppresses the UAC warning messages.
Keep in mind that if you make this change, the system will not alert you to potentially dangerous actions you might otherwise take without thinking. In future posts, I’ll have more tips that involve customizing the registry to boost your system’s performance.
Photo Credit: Richard Keen, via Flickr
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