Archive for June, 2010
Making A Few Adjustments Can Help Speed Up Your Computer
If you plan to pack a laptop computer, keeping in mind these things may help you spend more of your vacation time enjoying the scenery and less time performing technical support on your computer.
Don’t Expect Much Out Of The Hotel’s Internet Connection Some hotels offer free in-room wireless connectivity but that doesn’t mean you’ll be blazing along as you might at home or work. Often, hotel connections are limited to 128K/s or less. Good for checking email and not good for much else. Also, you may need to create new network settings for your computer in order to get an IP address and DNS service.
Don’t assume that paying for a connection will get you … well… a better connection. Some hotels charge for Internet service, but the service they provide isn’t any better than what you’d get from a free wireless connection. Check the hotel’s information about guaranteed upload and download speeds, and whether or not the maximum advertised speed is guaranteed or not. Some hotels charge by the hour for Internet access, while others charge by the 24-hour period. If you can get away with paying for service by the hour, time your connections to the Internet carefully to minimize your out-of-pocket costs.
Turn Off What You Don’t Need If you can, turn off the network services you can’t use on the hotel network. This might include Bluetooth and wireless networking capabilities. If you can’t use these services but leave them on all the time, you’ll soon find that your battery is drained. The same is true for brightness and volume controls. Turn them down to conserve your battery life.
Check your A/V before you go Hotel networks and public networks may not be terribly secure. Check your A/V software and apply the latest virus and malware definitions before you leave. Avoid connecting to your bank and credit card accounts using a wireless network or the hotel’s public workstations, while you’re at it.
Defrag your hard disk and clean your registry . In preparation for your trip, defragment your laptop’s hard disk and clean out the registry. That should help speed up your computer, even when you’re working in trying circumstances!
Photo Credit: Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
Why Is 75% Full Really Full?
Computers use hard disk space for more than long-term file storage. Computers write plenty of temporary files when you’re using applications, browsing the Internet and performing other computer-related tasks. In addition, computers use hard disk space to make up for a shortage of RAM. When you have lots of applications open, your computer uses its RAM first; once your RAM is full, it switches to disk space to “swap” information in and out of RAM. The more you ask your computer to do, the more swap space you’ll need. This is especially true of graphics intensive programs like games, modeling software, and graphics editing programs.
The impact of not having enough available hard disk space is slow computer performance. In addition to speed problems, you’re likely to end up with more serious performance issues like crashing and loss of data. If you have a limited amount of money to spend, your first choice should be to delete files you no longer need. After all, deleting files is free! Go through your file system with a fine-toothed comb and clear out old files you don’t need. Temporary files and download files are prime targets.
If you’ve removed all the files you can, and you still need additional space, consider moving file “collections” to some other storage medium. For example, if you have a large collection of photographs or music that is stored on your hard disk, consider moving it to a CD or DVD to clear space on your computer. You can keep your storage DVDs handy, and eliminate space on your primary hard disk at the same time. You could also accomplish the same thing using a few low-cost, high-capacity USB drives.
If you do have a few dollars to spend, you can pick up a TB of external storage space these days for around $100. External storage is great for files you want to keep handy, and perhaps even add to, but don’t need to store on your primary drive. If you store large graphics files or lots of music, a “nearline” storage solution may clear up your drive for immediate operational use.
Photo Credit: whyohwhyohwhyoh, via Flickr
Getting Rid Of Broken Files With Error Checking
We all make mistakes, and “we” includes computers. Corrupted files aren’t so much mistakes as they are accidents. Sometimes, files don’t get written properly, or the area of the disk they’re written to is of questionable value. A bad disk sector is the computer equivalent of a pothole in the road. The end result of these potholes is that information may get written there, and later, the computer is unable to read it.
The Error Checking utility is designed to find these worthless disk sectors and lock them out, so the computer doesn’t make the mistake of writing to them again. Although this activity takes a bit of time, it saves time and aggravation in the long run because the computer is able to avoid the potholes that would slow it down.
The Error Checking utility is another built-in utility from Microsoft. You can run the Error Checking utility on any disk but you’ll definitely want to run it on your C:\ drive. To run the Error Checking utility. Before you start your scan, you’ll need to close all open files and quit any running applications.
In the My Computer window, right-click the hard disk you want to scan, and choose Properties > Tools. Choose Check Now.
Select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box, and then click Start. You can also check “Automatically fix file system errors” though some users prefer to have the computer identify bad sectors first, then go back to fix them on a second pass. Once a disk sector is bad, it’s bad. Windows will try to recover the information from the bad sector, but this isn’t always possible. Error checking typically results in a few unusable files, but keep in mind that Error Checking didn’t cause the problem; it’s just letting you know that something less-than-optimal happened.
You can restore corrupted files from a backup, if you make them (that’s a different post for a different day), and system files that have gone bad can be restored by Windows. Marking bad disk sectors, however, will help prevent slow computer performance and computer crashes.
Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives, via Flickr
In my last post, I covered the importance of using a tool like Disk Cleanup to speed up your computer. If you remember, Disk Cleanup is used to remove temporary files, unused Windows components, the contents of your Recycle Bin, etc. An old supervisor of mine always used to counsel, “Do the cheap stuff first” and Disk Cleanup is a handy tool that can get the basics out of the way in a hurry.
More Disk Space May Not Be Useful By Itself
What does Disk Cleanup get you? Free disk space. Sometimes, that’s worth more than gold when it comes to computer performance. By ensuring that your computer has adequate free disk space, you allow the computer to operate the way it was designed to. As a rule of thumb, your hard disk should always have at least 20%-25% of its available space free. If your hard disk is mostly full, it’s time to consider adding more space or reducing the amount of data you’re carrying around.
Disk Cleanup also leads to the second thing you can do to improve or preserve your computer performance.
Defragment Your Hard Disk
Disk space is only really useful to the computer if it’s clustered together on the hard disk. A few empty bytes here or there may add up to free space, but if the free space on the disk isn’t grouped together, the computer won’t use it unless it has no other option. A build in tool called Disk Defragmenter can organize the information on your hard disk and cluster the free space on your drive together. The computer will find the free space and use it to write larger files. The more clustered available space your computer has, the happier it is.
When you create files, you use free space on your computer. Likewise, when you delete files, you open that space back up. Each file space is tailor-made to fit the file you’re creating, so it’s unlikely that a new file will fit perfectly into a deleted file’s space neatly.
When a space isn’t big enough on the hard disk to hold an entire file, the computer must write a bit of the file in one place, stop to find an available spot, pick up and move its writing equipment, and finally write the rest of the file somewhere else. The computer is slowed by having to write, then stop to look for more space, then write again. The computer encounters the same problem when reading the file. It reads, stops to locate the rest of the file, moves the read/write hardware to the new space, and finally gets back to reading the file.
Disk Defragmenter, located at All Programs > Accessories > System Tools can help keep written information organized and neat, while minimizing the amount of time the computer has to spend looking for available hard disk space.
Photo Credit: Teresa Trimm, via Flickr
An Old Computer Isn’t Necessarily A Slow Computer
You can preserve the operating speed of your home computer by keeping it in good shape. A little maintenance and good user habits can go a long way toward making sure you get the most out of your home computer.
So, exactly what’s involved in taking care of your home computer? In this and the next few posts, I’ll discuss the periodic maintenance that you should be performing on your home computer. Ultimately, nothing will take the place of a faster, newer processor, but you can preserve the computing power you have and extend your PC’s useful life by following these tips.
Keep Your Disk Clean. No one likes cleaning, even digital cleaning. Keeping your computer free of accumulated unnecessary files will enable your computer to make the most of its disk space. Additionally, some useless files are useless because they’ve become corrupted. Corrupted files can cause major slowdowns and poor performance for your computer. It’s essential that you find these clunkers and get rid of them.
Before you get to the heavy-duty lifting, you should run Disk Cleanup, a built-in tool that Microsoft has provided. Disk Cleanup will remove temporary files, empty your Recycle Bin, optional Windows components that you’re not using, and eliminate old backup/restore files that are no longer needed. Removing the temporary files is something like removing cobwebs. These files were once useful and they’ve been replaced by something else or are no longer needed. Removing these ghosts will free up disk space and give your computer more performance options.
To access Disk Cleanup, choose Start > All Programs>Accessories>System Tools and choose Disk Cleanup. Use the wizard to help you choose the drive(s) you want to clean. Disk Cleanup will identify files it thinks you can do without and will wait for your OK to go to work.
Running Disk Cleanup is one of the easiest ways to start maintaining your PC. In future posts, I’ll cover other surefire ways to preserve your computer’s performance.
Photo Credit: Colin Howley, via Flickr
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