Archive for August, 2009
Disabling Pop Up Windows Won’t Cure Malware Infections
Disabling pop-up windows might cause certain sites to misbehave. For example, my banking site uses a pop-up window to provide access to my credit card information. I have to specifically allow pop-up windows from my banking site in order to access all functions on that site.
These aren’t really the pop-ups I’m talking about when it comes to slow computer performance. The pop-ups I’m talking about are malware extremists that put up windows as fast as – or faster than – you can close them down. The computer spends so much time opening new windows that it has no time to do anything else. These pop-ups are more than simple annoyances. They often signal the presence of a malware infection. When your computer starts misbehaving like this, it’s time to get serious about scanning and cleaning up your hard disk.
First, make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware software programs are on and up-to-date. If you’re under the impression that you’re using A/V and anti-malware software regularly, and you’re still having this kind of trouble, something’s not right. Some of the nastiest malware disables A/V and anti-malware programs. If possible, boot your computer from bootable media like a flash drive that’s protected from infection. Beware, however, that there are a few viruses that can infect USB drives – Conficker being one of them.
Scan your drive for viruses and clean up whatever you find. Don’t assume that you’re done, however. You’ll also want to scan for other types on non-viral malware that can be just as annoying. When you’re finished, run a registry cleaner to remove the leftover bits of gunk from your registry. Before you get back to work, make absolutely certain that your A/V software is working and that your virus and malware definitions are up-to-date. If you still suspect that you have a problem once you’ve cleaned up your drive, you can employ additional strategies to locate and fix the problem. Some users run two or more A/V programs. This may work, but many A/V programs don’t work well together, so if you’re going to go this route, make sure you get two compatible A/V programs.
Photo Credit: MDaniels7 via Flickr
Three Things That Might Speed Up Your Computer
If speed and performance are your only considerations for a computer, you’ll want to work with a minimal set. Take a good look at your computer and remove absolutely everything except what you need to get your work done. This includes paring down to the basic desktop themes, removing old applications, updating your virus and malware scanners, cutting out all extras that will hog memory and slow your computer down. Use the Task Manager after you boot up to see what’s running. Certain programs may be configured to start up automatically. If you don’t run these programs every time you use the computer, there’s really no reason to let these programs load up. Get rid of as much stuff as you can.
Scan your computer for viruses and malware. These nasties can easily steal memory and disk space. They also leave behind an exceptional amount of trash. They often write their malfeasance to the registry, leaving a big mess to clean up. Get your virus definitions and your malware software up-to-date. Scan the daylights out of your system and remove anything you find. If your A/V scanner finds something and you don’t know what it is, do a little research. When you know what you’re dealing with, get rid of it. If you’ve found something that’s written itself to the registry, use a reputable registry cleaner like RegCure to mop up the leftovers this malware leaves behind.
Don’t upgrade your computer. At least not yet. Check your system carefully to find out what kind of performance improvement you can get from upgrading your OS. Depending upon what you’re running – hardware- and software-wise – an upgrade may not be in your best interest. Upgrades to hardware or software can require additional memory. If a memory upgrade isn’t part of your upgrade plan, installing new hardware or software might simply make your performance problems worse. Always check out hardware and software requirements carefully before committing to an upgrade of any kind.
Photo Credit: Blake Patterson, via Flickr
Will Windows 7 Speed Up Computer Performance
I happen to be one of those people who think that Windows 7 will tend to perform more or less as advertised. I also think that users who expect to hang tight with an operating system that has been in office longer than any sitting president since FDR will be in for a rough ride.
Microsoft has improved many things in Windows 7, from its speed and stability, to its look and ease of use. Certain elements are still around – like the registry, for example. I expect the registry to behave much like the registries we’ve seen in other versions of the Windows operating system. I also suspect that there will still be a need for registry management tools like RegCure.
I think users can expect better driver performance and better driver policing on the part of Microsoft. Users will have drivers for the most common peripherals available right out of the gate. (Microsoft won’t want to break its corporate leg on the same step twice, especially since the company’s initial response to Windows Vista driver issues amounted to a permanent turn-off by most consumers.)
I believe you’ll see better performance from Windows 7 than you did from Vista. In most cases, Windows 7 outperforms both Windows Vista and Windows XP. That’s good for users who are looking for some guidance on whether to upgrade to Windows 7 or to update their computers.
My personal take on the upgrade v. update debate is this: if you’re working on a computer that’s three years older or more, you may get more efficiency out of updating your computer to a compact desktop model, like Dell’s Studio Hybrid computer that comes pre-loaded with Windows 7, rather than struggling with upgrading your hardware and then installing the new OS. The Dell Studio Hybrid (and others just like it) take up very little desktop space and can be had complete with OS for about $500. Given the cost of an upgrade, a low-cost update option would still allow you to use your old XP/2000/ME/NT/98/95 (or dare I even say Windows 3.x?) computer and allow you to get to know Windows 7 for about the same amount of money.
Photo Credit: Tripu, via Flickr
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Graphics Memory Handling
Windows 7 takes a different approach to managing graphics memory usage. In previous versions of Windows, the graphics memory allocated to a particular application was reserved, whether an application window was open on the desktop or minimized. With Windows 7, the only time graphics memory is allocated to an application is when an application window is active. By itself, that will speed up computer performance.
One “feature” of Windows 7 that may seriously impair performance is the Aero theme. Yes, the same Aero theme that made its appearance in Microsoft Vista is back in Windows 7, along with a few partners: Aero Peek, Aero Snap and Aero Shake. The Aero theme gained a reputation as a memory hog. That’s the desktop theme with the see-through Window frames. Aero Peek, which is enabled by default, will give you a thumbnail view of an application window you have open on the desktop when you mouse over its tab in the task bar. Peek will also make the previewed window active and fade out all other application windows when you mouse over its thumbnail.
Aero Snap allows you to neaten up your desktop by dragging and dropping unused windows to the screen corners. This will enable you to resize and reshape the Windows automatically. A window moved to the side of your screen will shrink by 50%. It will return to its normal size when you drag the window back to its original location.
Aero Shake is a new feature that will enable you to minimize all other open windows on the desktop by selecting one window, holding down the mouse button and shaking it. Only the window you’ve selected will remain open. To re-open the other application windows, grab the one open application window and shake it again.
On the surface, the Aero features seem like they could be useful, but they also have the potential to take up a lot of memory, unless Microsoft re-engineered Aero to be more efficient. On the other hand, Microsoft should be commended for taking some time to create features that users might actually like.
Paging Memory Can Help Your Computer Juggle Items In Use
As with the RAM cache on the USB drive, the memory that you set aside on your hard disk won’t be available for file storage. By default, Windows sets up a paging file that is equal in size to the amount of RAM the computer has installed plus 300 megabytes. The default paging file has a maximum size of three times the installed RAM.
You can change the minimum and maximum sizes of your paging file, provided that you have the disk space to set aside. You can disable or delete the paging file, but that’s not recommended. That approach as the potential to seriously slow things down! If you’ve disabled or deleted your paging file, you can (and should) re-enable it for better performance.
To alter the settings on the paging file, go to Control Panel and select System and Maintenance, then choose System. In the console window on the left side, choose Advanced System Settings. Choose the Advanced tab, and locate Performance, then choose Settings. Click the Advanced tab here too, and locate Virtual Memory, then choose Change.
Deselect the checkbox labeled Automatically manage paging file size for all drives. This setting, when active, will allow Windows to change the upper limit of the paging file as needed.
Under Drive, choose the drive whose paging file you want to adjust (each drive has its own settings) and choose Custom size. Enter the new minimum size for your paging file. Some people set their paging files to be a minimum of 1.5 times the default paging file size and report a performance improvement. You can also increase the maximum page size.
You don’t need to restart the computer if you’ve increased the minimum or maximum paging sizes, but you will need to restart if you’ve decreased either the minimum or maximum file size allotments.
Photo Credit: Andy Hares, via Flickr
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