Archive for August, 2010
Computers Need More Than A List Of File Names
For some users, keeping track of the file name isn’t good enough. Users, as it turns out, are terrible at remembering things… like file names. Users are better at remembering what the file contains, but a simple searchable index of file names won’t help you find content hidden inside a file. That’s where file indexing comes in. File indexing is a process whereby the computer looks at the contents of the file and makes a more detailed searchable index, based on what’s stored in a file. Users can then search files by content to find what they’re looking for.
Indexing – especially when it’s conducted for the first time – takes a lot of time. It’s one of those really good “overnight” tasks, like making backups and defragmenting the hard disk. To be worthwhile, indexing has to be done regularly. If that were left up to the user, however, indexing would never get done. Why? Indexing takes up a lot of processor time, and that means the computer has less processor power to devote to tasks that the user may be trying to complete.
If you don’t want to share your processor with the indexing function, you can disable it, either temporarily or indefinitely. Not having a file index means that your searches will be less efficient, but that may be an appropriate trade if it means freeing up valuable processor cycles.
To disable indexing in Windows XP, right-click on the C: drive and choose Properties. On the General tab at the bottom is a check-box that says “Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching.” Uncheck that, click Apply and your file indexing will be disabled until you re-enable it.
Indexing in Windows 7 is a little more intelligent. Where in XP, you only have the choice to turn indexing on or off, in Windows 7, you can decide which folders and files are indexed. To change the behavior of indexing in Windows 7, choose the Control Panel and enter Indexing Options in the search box. Select the Indexing Options control panel.
Click Advanced and then choose File Types. Enter the file extensions that belong to file types you want indexed. (e.g., .docx, .xlsx, .txt, etc.). Windows 7 will only index the file types you’ve specified. You can also control whether the file itself is indexed by its properties only, or by both its properties and its content. When you’re finished, click OK.
Your Windows 7 computer should index much faster, based on how you’ve limited it.
Photo Credit: Paul Keller, via Flickr
Not All Applications Should Be Startup Items
Most users don’t understand that standard installation routines for programs may include actions that actually slow their computers down. If one application “volunteers” to configure itself as a startup item, the performance loss may hardly be noticeable. If five applications do the same thing, the computer’s performance may slow. If ten applications are configured to start up automatically, the computer may not have enough memory to function, depending upon what the applications are designed to do.
Aside from the applications you download and install knowingly, some applications may do things you don’t fully appreciate until you see them in action. Some “freeware packages” are good examples. Don’t get me wrong; free is good. I like free as much as the next person, but “free” often comes with a hidden cost. Some freeware programs are well behaved and do exactly what they say they do. Others try to load up your computer with spyware and other malware; toolbars and other applications that run all the time and slow your computer down. Removing or disabling these “riders” will improve your computer performance.
To find out what’s running on your computer at startup, close all of your applications and restart your computer. Without opening any applications, open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del. The Task Manager will provide a list of all running processes and give you the option to end a task by clicking on the task within the list and pressing End Task.
Don’t arbitrarily end a task because you don’t recognize the file name. Instead, write down the questionable file names and do a little research to find out what the file is. If it turns out to be an important system process, leave it alone. If it’s an application, reconfigure the computer to eliminate this extra baggage from the startup routine.
If you do a lot of software removal, spend a few extra minutes and run a registry cleaner like RegCure. Keeping your registry free of unnecessary lines of code will speed up your computer and improve its overall performance.
Photo Credit: Florian, via Flickr
Replacement Schedules Are Unique
A replacement schedule shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule, unless you’ve got a real reason to stick to one. It used to be that a good rule of thumb was about five years. If your computer was still in service five years after you first deployed it, then it was probably time to replace. Today, computers seem to age a little better, but in some cases, five years is far too long to hang onto an old piece of equipment.
One of the chief complaints about old computers is their performance speed. Slow seems to be the watchword of the day. “Slow” can be caused by a lot of things. As such, there are some approaches you can take to prolong your computer’s lifespan.
Laptops age much less gracefully than desktop computers do. The first question to ask yourself is whether you’re dealing with a laptop. If so, a five-year replacement cycle is likely to be too long. Laptops typically use older processors, slower internal communications speeds, smaller complements of memory and smaller hard drives. They also go through batteries at the rate of about one per year. Under these circumstances, a five-year-old laptop becomes a distant cousin to a medieval torture device.
If you are working with a desktop computer and your tasks are limited largely to Web browsing and basic word processing, you can go much longer without having to replace the computer. You might consider upgrades like more memory, a faster processor, a larger hard drive or even a better network card. Routine maintenance like disk defragmenting and registry cleaning can also improve the performance of an older computer.
If you’re doing very graphics-oriented work – graphic design, photo editing, engineering or gaming – then you’ll want to put your computer on an accelerated replacement cycle. If you load new software frequently, check the manufacturer’s recommendations carefully to make sure your system complies with the hardware requirements. When you start seeing software on the shelf that demands more than your computer can provide, that’s the time to decide whether to upgrade or replace!
Photo Credit: Ellie, via Flickr
Defragmentation As A Green Practice
If you’ve noticed that your computer performance has waned over the months (or years) your computer has been in service, you may be tempted to replace the computer with a newer model. After all, newer models offer more hard disk space, more RAM address space and faster processor(s). Getting rid of old electronics, however, isn’t necessarily green.
Most landfills charge (by weight) to dispose of old electronics. The reason for this is simple; much of what’s inside a computer can be recycled but the recycling process is expensive. Metal cases can be recycled; gold plating in connectors and copper wiring can also be recycled. Other components (like chips) contain things like gallium and arsenide (an arsenic-based compound) that can’t be deposited safely in landfills. In addition, computers often have long-life batteries that contain toxic metals like lithium, nickel, cadmium, or lead or corrosive substances that can be harmful to groundwater. Computers are also loaded with plastics and other materials that simply don’t break down, even after hundreds of years. By getting more life out of your computer, you reduce the number of old electronics that must be disposed of.
Even before a computer is end-of-life, defragmentation can still reduce the amount of energy needed to operate the computer. Defragmentation helps reduce the time required to perform certain actions; you can see this reduction when you use the computer. This reduction in operating time can also benefit less visible operations that take place on the network, or at night when the computer is otherwise not in use.
Late night updates are downloaded faster, and use fewer network resources; client-server interactions are faster and place less of a burden on server resources; backup operations take less time and are more efficient. This can be incredibly important when you’re working with a large computer base. Reducing backup times by 25%-50% per computer can mean substantial savings; the faster the backup task is completed, the faster the network resources can enter their power-saving modes. To speed up your computer, defragmentation makes technical sense, but it also makes financial sense!
Photo Credit: aubergene, via Flickr
You are currently browsing the Speed Up Computer blog archives for August, 2010.