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Archive for March, 2010

Still Need Better Performance From Windows XP?

Still Need Better Performance From Windows XP?

Still Need Better Performance From Windows XP?

In my last post, I discussed one way in which you can reclaim some lost performance from Windows XP by turning off some visual effects that Windows XP can apply. Here are a few other tips for improving Windows XP performance, if you’ve decided not to upgrade to Windows 7, or are waiting for a future rollout of the newest OS.

Tried And True Will Speed Up Your Computer

I’ve often suggested that users trim their Startup Items to get better overall computer performance, and I stick by that suggestion. The more Startup Items you have, the more memory your computer must devote to these items. That means you’ll have less memory available for the programs you need (or want) to run. Carefully consider all of your Startup Items.

Some startups are no-brainers. Anti-virus and anti-malware software are two must-haves that come to mind. You want these to run all the time to help protect your computer from unwanted intrusions. Other programs, like chat clients and little utilities, probably shouldn’t be handled as a Startup Item unless you have a really strong reason to start them up each time you boot your computer.

To remove items that have previously been designated as Startup Items, start by looking at your System Tray. The items here should be inspected carefully. Right click on each item in the system tray and determine whether or not you want it to start up automatically each time Windows starts. If you find programs you can live without, check the program preferences for a checkbox that authorizes an automatic startup each time Windows XP loads.

By unchecking the box, you’ll save yourself a little memory each time you start your computer. Preventing programs from starting automatically doesn’t remove them from your computer. The programs are still in place, but they just won’t start on their own. You’ll need to start the program each time you want to use it.

You can also reclaim some lost performance in Windows XP by running a registry cleaner periodically. Your registry can become overloaded with abandoned and useless program code, all of which your OS has to read and interpret. Removing these derelicts from the registry can make a significant difference in the performance of your computer.

Photo Credit: Nick Perla, via Flickr

Speeding Up A Slow Windows XP Computer

Speeding Up A Slow Windows XP Computer

Speeding Up A Slow Windows XP Computer

Windows 7 has received rave reviews and many users who initially doubted Microsoft’s ability to release a stable OS are now having second thoughts. Just because Redmond has issued a new OS, however, doesn’t mean that users everywhere have flocked to the new OS. Windows XP, arguably one of the most successful iterations of the Microsoft Windows line, still has a huge installed user base.

Getting More Out Of XP

Corporate rollouts of Windows 7 may be months (or more) away, so how does a user who still works on a Windows XP system get extra performance out of a slow computer?

Windows XP has a lot going for it, but it relies on older programming techniques to provide a quality user experience. With Windows XP, there was often a trade-off between how the computer performed and what the display looked like. The more “eye candy” you’re looking for, the slower your computer will perform. That’s largely because the processing tasks that are involved in the eye-catching tricks make the computer work harder and slower.

So, if you want the computer to perform better, how can you balance the OS to favor function over form? One way to recapture a little bit of performance is to rein in the way Windows XP displays its menus. Turning off visual effects like shadowing and fading will help restore some performance to XP.

To adjust Windows XP’s graphics handling, right-click on My Computer and select Properties. Choose the Advanced Tab. In the top pane, labeled Performance, choose Settings.

Under the Visual Effects tab, select the checkbox labeled “Adjust for best performance.” This will eliminate all of the fancy graphics handling that Windows XP can perform. If you decide that you want the visual effects or that the switch doesn’t improve your computer’s performance enough to warrant it, you can go back into the same location and choose “Adjust for best appearance.” Whether these little visual effects really qualify as the “best” appearance is strictly a matter of personal taste, but you can decide for yourself whether the shadows and fadeouts are worth the extra processor cycles.

If you’re looking for more significant “performance economy,” consider using a registry cleaner to remove unnecessary code from the Windows registry instead.

Photo Credit: Nick Perla, via Flickr

The Care And Feeding Of Your Registry

The Care And Feeding Of Your Registry

The Care And Feeding Of Your Registry

Windows has used the registry “file” since the concept of the registry was introduced in Windows 95. The registry is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but it’s conceivable that a complete redesign of Windows may opt to use a different approach to storing and retrieving the information in the registry.

What Is The Registry?

The registry isn’t actually a file, although it started out that way (actually as four files) in its early days. It’s a database of files and information that the computer uses to interact with virtually every application, device and component of the operating system. The registry stores configuration information, application information, device information and much more. The registry can span literally millions of lines of computer code and isn’t readily readable by man or beast.

The big benefit of the registry is that it provides a central place for programs and devices to store required information. Centralizing this information means that it can be managed and optimized, something that wasn’t possible with the herd of .ini files that the registry has replaced.

It is possible to change the registry but a little snip here and a tuck there isn’t recommended. Often, when changes to the code are required, the old code is simply “commented out” or abandoned and replacement code is added. When applications are added to the computer, the registry often gets some new entries. When programs are removed, the removal is supposed to eliminate the unnecessary code, but that doesn’t always (often?) happen.

Microsoft provides tools with which to edit the registry, but that’s not a step to be taken lightly, since changes to the registry are immediate and there’s nothing to prevent a bad change from being accepted into the registry.

Then how do you get rid of the lines of useless code in your registry that build up? I always recommend that users include a trusted registry cleaner like RegCure in their maintenance plans. RegCure has been around for a long time and is one of the best registry cleaners on the market today. I like RegCure because it backs up the registry completely before it makes a single change. If you don’t like the results of the cleaning operation, you can revert to the old registry at the touch of a button.
I recommend and use RegCure regularly. When I Introduce a new user to the product, they’re often surprised by how much faster their computer works after their registry has been cleaned.

Try it! You’ll like it!

Photo Credit: Louise Docker, via Flickr

The One Thing You Can Do To Speed Up Your Computer

The One Thing You Can Do To Speed Up Your Computer

The One Thing You Can Do To Speed Up Your Computer

I’m often asked about the “one thing” users can do to speed up their computers. The question is a simple one; I wish the answer were as simple. Unfortunately, there are an unknowable number of reasons why computers slow down. Some are temporary and some are permanent; some exist and some don’t; some can be fixed and some can’t – or at least can’t be fixed without an investment of some cold, hard cash.

Speeding Up Computer Performance Isn’t A One-Shot Deal

There is no magic involved in speeding up your computer, but there are things you can do to prevent it from slowing down, or to boost performance. Ultimately, the component that governs how fast your computer works is the CPU. The more work the CPU is doing, or the more tasks it divides its time between, the slower your computer will appear to work.

You can lighten the burden on your CPU by making sure that you have the tools your computer needs to work efficiently. If you use a lot of graphics-intensive software (like games), you’ll want a good graphics card with lots of onboard memory. What the card can’t process gets handled by the CPU, so the more graphics capabilities you add to your computer, the better off you’ll be.

Your computer needs a lot of memory, especially if you run multiple programs at the same time. If you like to (or need to) multitask, you’ll want a lot of memory installed on your computer.

If you have a lot of files stored on your computer, you’ll want to make sure you have adequate storage space for these files, plus whatever “temporary” space the computer needs for applications. Defragment your hard drive often to make the best use of the space you have, and don’t store files outside of the file system – like on the desktop.

Keep your computer free of malware, viruses and other performance torpedoes. Programs that aren’t classified as malware, but run all the time deserve a careful evaluation. If you don’t really need it, get rid of it! If you can’t do that, at least configure it so it doesn’t run all the time.)

Clean your registry. Do registry cleaners work? Yes! RegCure will restore performance by removing unneeded registry code that your computer has to read and interpret. You’ll be surprised by what a difference a clean registry can make!

Photo Credit: Mrs. Logic, via Flickr

Tips To Speed Up Your Computer, Part Two

Tips To Speed Up Your Computer

Tips To Speed Up Your Computer

There are certain things you can’t change about your computer without spending some of your hard-earned cash. The processor speed is fixed; the graphics processing capabilities are fixed; the amount of memory you have installed is also fixed. You can modify all of these things, but that will require an investment. If you’re hoping to speed up your computer without having to lay out a lot of money, consider these tips.

Little Things Can Make A Difference

What You’re Doing: Keeping unneeded files and data. Over time, your file system can become overloaded with materials you no longer need. Keeping track of where these unneeded items are takes up resources and space that you could be using for other stuff.

What You Should Be Doing: Pare down your file system and archive the materials you want to keep but don’t need to keep on your hard disk. Consider transferring this kind of data to a CD or DVD.

What You’re Doing: Keeping programs you don’t use. New computers often come loaded with “demo” software that either expires after a particular period of time, or is a locked version of the full package. Software publishers have agreements with PC manufacturers that permit the manufacturers to load these programs on the computer before it ships to the end user.

What You Should Be Doing: Eliminating unnecessary programs. When you go through your computer, remove all applications that you no longer need, or have never used. Demo programs take up space and resources. Remove whatever you don’t use, or no longer use. If you like to download shareware or freeware, but decide that what you’ve downloaded doesn’t suit your needs, uninstall it right away.

What You’re Doing: Letting regular disk maintenance slip. When you delete a lot of files, your hard disk becomes fragmented, making it harder for the computer to find the necessary storage space for new files and applications.

What You Should Be Doing: Defragmenting your hard disk. After deleting so many files, defragment your hard disk using the built in Defragment tool. This tool will enable your hard disk to optimize the placement of the data that remain on your hard disk and speed up access and write times. Even after you defragment, you’re still not done!

What You Should Be Doing: Cleaning your registry. After doing some wholesale deleting and defragging, you’ll also want to clean your computer’s registry. Each time you add programs, new entries get written to your registry. Not all uninstallers are created equal, however, and useless bits of program code are often left behind. A good registry cleaner like RegCure will help clear this information out and restore performance to your computer.

Photo Credit: Andrew Griffith, via Flickr