Archive for February, 2010
Eliminating Bad Habits That Can Lead To A Slow Computer
What You’re Doing: Storing files on the desktop. This sneaky little habit can cause your computer to devote extra memory to your OS on top of what it’s already devoted to the file system. Each document or other item that is stored on the desktop takes up valuable operating memory.
What You Should Be Doing: Saving your files in the file system. Microsoft creates folders like your Downloads and Document folders to help you avoid storing files on the desktop. Use these folders when you download files or create documents. If you don’t like doing that, develop a structure within your file system to save your files. Don’t store anything on the desktop!
What You’re Doing: Running the standard installation routine. When you download or install a new application, the Setup.exe file or the installer file usually has a pre-programmed installation routine that stores the application files in a particular place in the file structure. It also adds the other files (like libraries) you may need to get the application to work properly. The installer routine often enters your new application into the “startup items” file set, meaning that the new application will start automatically. It also adds the application to the Start Menu and/or Task Bar, and puts an icon on the desktop.
What You Should Be Doing: Select “Custom Install” to look at exactly what the installer plans to do. Eliminate the extras like the Start Menu add-on, the startup items entry, the desktop alias and/or the Task Bar add-on. Start programs that you won’t use every day manually. The more extras you can eliminate from the standard installation routine, the better off you’ll be.
In my next post, we’ll cover three other tips that can help you change your work habits as they relate to your slow computer. Once you’ve purchased a computer, you can’t improve your hardware performance very much – at least not without spending more money. You can correct work habits that rob your computer of operating memory and lead to a slow computer, however!
Photo Credit: Domenico Nardone, via Flickr
Don’t Jump To Conclusions
When you’re trying to diagnose a slow computer, it’s important NOT to jump to conclusions about what the problem might be. An erroneous diagnosis can produce a great deal of unnecessary work, lost time and rarely gets you to the correct solution.
It’s never a bad idea to scan your computer regularly for viruses and malware. In fact, your anti-virus and anti-malware programs should be set to update themselves automatically, and should also be set to scan your computer frequently. For computers that have a reliable and trusted anti-virus/anti-malware program running on them, a viral infection is rarely my first suspect when a slowdown occurs.
I like to look at the performance of the computer to see if there’s something specific that’s causing the computer to misbehave. I also like to know what’s running at the moment. The Task Manager can give you an instant look at which applications and processes are running. A word of caution: don’t kill a process or application simply because you don’t recognize it by name. Some necessary OS processes have strange names. Take a moment to figure out what’s consuming the CPU’s time. If a process is consuming 100% or nearly 100% of the CPU, you may want to end that particular task, though.
Perfmon is a built-in tool from Microsoft that can provide a detailed graphical look at what your CPU is doing. This is a good troubleshooting tool that can help you pinpoint trouble because you can see the impact of starting and stopping applications instantly. It will also show you the impact of even simple things, like moving the mouse cursor around the screen. Use this tool in conjunction with the Task Manager to pinpoint applications that are misbehaving or that don’t get along with other applications you may have running on your computer.
Once you locate the troubled application(s), check with the software publisher to see if an update to your software has been published. If so, apply it, and any other patches to the OS that you may have missed.
If that doesn’t resolve the issue, consider running a registry cleaner like RegCure to remove registry entries that have been left behind or replaced with newer ones.
Photo Credit: Bunchofpants, via Flickr
If you’re looking for a faster computer but can’t afford to replace the computer you have, consider this: much of what slows your computer down is resolvable. You can get additional speed out of your computer by making some relatively simple changes to your start-up routine.
Why You Should Look At Your Startup File
Standard installation routines are good in some respects and bad in others. It’s easy to click a few buttons and get your latest download to install, but unless you really look at the “recommended” or “standard” installation routine, you may not know exactly what the installer will do to your computer.
Setting aside the nefarious possibilities, installers will add information to your applications folder (or whatever folder you specify); make entries to your registry; create icons and shortcuts that reside on the desktop, or in the system tray; and they may even add your new download to the computer’s Start Up file. In doing so, each of these actions requires the computer to either spend or devote some memory to this application. The application’s memory usage goes beyond the space it takes up on your hard disk. The application will claim a little bit of RAM, even when you don’t intend to use it.
To eliminate the extra memory usage, periodically review your Start Up Items file. Determine which applications you cannot (or don’t want to) start yourself when they’re needed. Leave those items in the Start Up file. For those applications you don’t need, or don’t mind starting on your own, remove them from your startup file. Your boot time will improve and your computer will have more memory available for the applications you do want to use.
While we’re on the subject of memory usage, take the time to close application windows you don’t need any longer, and close applications when you’re finished with them. Having multiple windows open can take up additional memory and slow your computer performance down. When you’re using a browser, consider opening multiple tabs in the same window instead of opening multiple windows when you need to see more than one Web page. Tabbed browsing is more efficient and eliminates clutter from your desktop.
When you finish with an application and close app windows without actually closing the application, you can use up memory. Quit an application as you finish with it and restart it if you need to. Also, don’t store documents on the desktop. Store documents and files in the file system to maximize your memory usage.
Photo Credit: Jonas Ahrentorp, via Flickr
Fixing Computer Speed and Performance Issues
In other cases, an external problem that isn’t “temporary” may be causing the computer to work harder or less efficiently. These external actors include hardware malfunctions, viruses, malware, and inappropriate hardware configurations for the tasks you’re trying to accomplish. These problems are resolvable, provided that you know what they are. Make absolutely sure that you’re working with a clean, capable computer.
In yet other cases, the culprit is infrequent or incomplete maintenance. For the most part, when it comes to computers “deferred maintenance” doesn’t have the same permanent long-term impact that deferred maintenance would have on a house or an automobile. “Deferred maintenance” can be addressed with techniques like disk defragmentation, regular viral scans, regular malware scans, and registry cleaning.
Registry cleaning turns out to be an important component of regular maintenance because leftover bits of abandoned code can accumulate the registry. These useless bits of code will slow down the computer’s performance because, even though they’re no longer needed, the computer will read them and follow these instructions to the extent that it is able.
Sometimes, these abandoned code bits cause the computer to wait for a response, or search for something that is no longer available on the computer. A registry cleaner will clear out all of this useless code and eliminate the computer’s need to read and follow these instructions. If you read regularly, you know that I recommend RegCure. Millions of users have downloaded it and trust it to keep their registries clean.
Performing regular maintenance on your computer, including defragmenting the hard disk, scanning for viruses and malware, making regular system and driver updates, applying patches, and keeping your registry clean will take care of many issues that would otherwise eventually slow your computer down.
Photo Credit: Ethan Prater, via Flickr
There Are Things You Can Do To Speed Up Your Computer!
If you’re looking for an immediate burst of speed, try eliminating open programs, document windows, and processes that don’t need to run all the time, even in the background. Don’t look for “savings” by turning off your virus or malware protection. These software packages need to run all the time. Also you can uninstall software that is unwanted, great to free up more PC resources. Also, try closing applications as you finish with them and paring down the apps that automatically load when you run the computer. Remove excess fonts, foreign language support and other items that may be part of a standard installation routine, but are for the most part unnecessary.
Add more memory to your computer. If your computer isn’t already maxed out on memory, consider installing the maximum amount of memory allowed by the computer’s design. Don’t bother installing more than the maximum and be sure you get the type of memory recommended for your computer. Too much, too little or the wrong kind of memory can cause serious performance degradations and will generally make your computing experience intolerable.
Clean, clean, clean. Clean out unneeded files from the file system. Remove all files that you’ve “temporarily” stored on the desktop. Remove unused applications, demo programs that may have come loaded with your computer when it was brand new, and eliminate temporary files. (Don’t eliminate temporary folders because many apps need those. Just eliminate the files inside.) Defragment your hard disk regularly to make the most use of your newfound disk space. Clean your registry.
Some people ask if cleaning a registry is necessary and I always say, “Only if you want your computer to run efficiently.” Cleaning out your registry periodically removes all of the “build-up” that would otherwise get left behind by applications that have been uninstalled, drivers and other components that have been replaced or upgraded, and old configurations. You don’t appreciate how quickly these can add up to diminished performance until you run a registry cleaner. I recommend RegCure for the task. It’s complete, easy-to-use and very thorough. It also makes a backup of your registry before it makes any changes, so reverting to your previous state is as easy as pie.
Photo Credit: Celine Mosnier, via Flickr
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