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Archive for April, 2010

Competing Anti-Virus Programs Could Cause Slow Computer

Competing Anti-Virus Programs Could Cause Slow Computer

Competing Anti-Virus Programs Could Cause Slow Computer

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, but there are many, many reasons a computer can slow down. The biggest culprits are a lack of physical memory, lack of hard disk space (which includes badly fragmented hard disks), slow network response, and registry errors. I see certain situations that can cause computer slowdowns often enough that they bear repeating, however.

AV Programs Do Compete With Each Other

Anti-virus (A/V) programs are a godsend when they work properly, and a slow torture when they don’t. Most computers come with a trial-version of any of a number of A/V programs; some computers come loaded with multiple different A/V applications. Layer on top of that the specialized anti-malware applications and you should be able to build yourself a pretty hardened computer, right?

Well, not exactly. A/V programs are indispensible, and I would never recommend that a user go without some type of ant-virus protection. Microsoft now includes a malware detection tool with its operating system, however the Microsoft tool isn’t meant to prevent malware infections in real-time. The Microsoft tool only detects and removes active infections of the most “popular” malwares making the rounds. It isn’t a substitute for full-blown A/V protection.

If some protection is good, more must be better, right? Again, not exactly. Layering multiple different A/V software programs onto your computer can be a recipe for disaster. A/V programs do compete with each other and can shut down themselves or the competing program. In addition, these programs can interfere with each other. This interference can absorb a lot of CPU time and may actually reduce the overall effectiveness of your A/V protection.

When it comes to A/V software, your best bet is to buy one and stick with it. If you’re unhappy with the program, or find something more to your liking, uninstall the old A/V software before installing the new software. If you’re not sure you want to go that route, at least disable one A/V program before you try out the other. When you’ve made your choice, eliminate the program you decided against and keep the winner updated at all times.
Photo Credit: Taber Bain, via Flickr

A Few More Tips For Computer Performance Improvement

A Few More Tips For Computer Performance Improvement

A Few More Tips For Computer Performance Improvement

Lots of users are trying to stretch an extra year or more out of their current desktop or laptop computers. I find that it’s actually easier to get better computer performance improvements from a desktop computer than it is from a laptop computer. The reason for this is simple. Most laptop computers were designed with slower processors, stricter memory limitations, limited graphics processing abilities, and lower-volume hard disks. They were designed to conserve battery power, so their processors and video cards are typically underpowered and overburdened.

Removing Toolbars Can Help Speed Up Your Computer

Some Web applications offer you the “opportunity” to install toolbars that enable you to access the application’s functions and features from your desktop. Be warned that these toolbars and taskbars, including the Microsoft Office Task Bar, slow the performance of your computer substantially. These mini-applications run in the background at all times draining away your computer’s memory and CPU resources.

Worse, some of these add-ons contain viruses and other types of malware that will create even worse problems for your computer. Remove the toolbars and recapture your performance. In the future, avoid adding new toolbars or taskbars to your desktop. If you find that removing a toolbar is a chore, search for a software removal tool that can help.

Start and stop programs as needed, rather than configuring them to run at startup. If you don’t know what your computer is running at any given time, you can visit Programs > Startup to see what your computer runs each time you boot up. These programs each represent a drain on your system’s memory, and in some cases, an additional drain on the free space on your hard disk. If you have several programs that are configured to start up when you turn the computer on, you could experience a significant performance drain, especially when you start yet-another application.

Turn off the applications you don’t need and reconfigure your startup items to include only those programs that are absolutely needed all the time. Starting up a program doesn’t take as much time as you think it does, and you can give your computer a performance boost by starting programs manually. By the same token, you should close and exit programs you are finished with. That will enable the computer to allocate the newly available memory to something else.

Photo Credit: Chris Metcalf, via Flickr

Add Some Speed To Your Computer

Add Some Speed To Your Computer

Add Some Speed To Your Computer

If adding speed to a computer were only as easy as downloading a program… (Well, in some cases, it is – more later.) As I’ve said before, there are literally an uncountable number of things that can cause your computer to slow down, either temporarily or long-term. There are also a number of things you can do to either speed up or slow down your computer’s performance.

Computer Speed Isn’t Always Relative

Computer speed is sometimes related to what you’re doing at any particular moment. If you’re opening a program or performing some very complex action, your computer may need to devote the bulk of its memory or processing power to that task. That will make the computer seem sluggish or otherwise unresponsive. It’s also possible that your computer is doing something you don’t know about, such as running a program or process in the background. This can temporarily steal performance from your computer, too.

Your computer may be underpowered for the task at hand, or you may be asking it to do too much at once. This kind of performance problem can sometimes be cured by reducing the number of programs running at one time or increasing the amount of memory in your computer.

Many people don’t realize that computers can also be slowed down by the lack of adequate free space on the hard disk. If you don’t have enough free hard disk space, your computer may find it difficult to write to temporary files that some applications need to run properly. This problem can be addressed in a number of ways: first, remove programs and files you no longer need or want. Following a major cleaning, defragment your hard disk using the built in defragmenting tool provided by Microsoft. You’ll find it under the System Tools section.

If you still can’t get the available hard disk space up to at least 25% of the total volume space, consider purchasing an external hard disk to provide additional file storage space. Alternately, if your computer has a writeable CD-ROM or DVD drive, you can move some of your files off to disc in a permanent archive without having to get rid of them. This is a great way to handle video and audio files, as well as photo images that you want to preserve, but that may be robbing your hard disk of precious space.

As I mentioned earlier, you can also recover lost performance by downloading a registry cleaner program such as RegCure. If your hard disk is nowhere near full and you’re still experiencing performance problems, a good registry cleaning may be in order. RegCure does a wonderful job of locating and eliminating abandoned code that may be clogging up your registry and causing computer performance problems.

Photo Credit: Luis Argerich, via Flickr

Publicity Will Speed Up Computer Patching

Publicity Will Speed Up Computer Patching

Publicity Will Speed Up Computer Patching

So as it turns out, Windows users patch their computers much more quickly if they’re responding to a zero-day vulnerability than to unhyped, regular old Patch Tuesday patches. Microsoft normally releases patches to its operating systems once per month on what’s affectionately referred to as “Patch Tuesday.” MS will break out of the routine for vulnerabilities that it determines are “critical” so it still maintains its emergency response capabilities. Users speed up computer patching if Microsoft releases an “out-of-band” patch, that is, a patch on a day other than “Patch Tuesday.”

Publicity Makes All The Difference In Patching Speed

Microsoft recently released an out-of-band patch to repair ten critical vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. According to research firm Qualys, that patch was applied to 50% of the affected operating systems within nine days. A similar out-of-band patch released in December 2009 hit the 50% watermark in ten days. By contrast, Patch Tuesday releases that have no particular security urgency reach the 50% mark in 15 days. According to Qualys, some ordinary patches languish for more than 30 days before being applied. (“Within thirty days” is Microsoft’s recommended patch application window for non-critical vulnerabilities.)

According to Qualys, the difference for critical patches isn’t their inherent critical nature; it’s the amount of coverage the patches get from media outlets. Qualys speculates that the increased media attention surrounding critical updates tends to reach higher-level executives and managers, who then put increased pressure on IT support staff to apply patches.

For the most part, patches are issued to correct or close security vulnerabilities in the code of the operating system or in a component like Internet Explorer. Another report just issued by security consulting firm BeyondTrust says that many Windows vulnerabilities could also be minimized by removing administrator privileges for most users.

In many corporate settings, users don’t have admin rights to their computers. That is, they can work on the computer, but don’t have the authority to make changes to the computer’s configuration, or add/remove applications. By closing down administrative rights, even on a home computer, you can increase the security of the system. Most home users choose to run with administrative rights available. BeyondTrust’s estimation of a 90% reduction in vulnerability for Windows 7 makes this strategy of having separate admin and user accounts worth considering, even if it does create a minor desktop management nuisance now and then.

Photo Credit: Christian Halderman, via Flickr