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Archive for September, 2010

How Can Your Network Make Your Computer Slow?

How Can Your Network Make Your Computer Slow?

How Can Your Network Make Your Computer Slow?

How can your network connection make your computer slow? If you understand how a network – or more precisely network applications – work, you’ll easily see why putting your computer on a network can cause some performance problems.

Computers Have Conversations While Connected

Computers in a network environment have a slightly more complex task than those computers that are not connected to anything. Why? Computers that are networked together “talk” to each other and to other devices on the network. The “conversation” is usually minimal – “Are you there?” “Yes, I’m here.” Computers and other network devices engage in this kind of conversation all the time. These network activities are based on time – a computer or device has a certain amount of time to respond to the question. If no response is received, the asker might re-ask a certain number of times. If it receives no response, it will assume the asked device is no longer there.

This same structure applies to applications that talk to each other on a network. If you have a Web browser open and want to go to a Web site, your browser has to contact the Web server and begin the conversation.
“Are you there?”"
Yes. I’m here.”
“I want something.”
“Can we continue this conversation on my other line?”
“Yes.”
“How fast can you listen?”
“I can listen this fast. How fast can you talk?”
“I can talk this fast.
“Ok.”
“What do you want?”
“I want a Web page.”
“Ok. Are you ready?”
“Yes.”
“I’ll start talking.”
“Ok.”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Yes.”
“Ok, here’s some more.”….

Most of the initial conversation is the exchange of “control” information. The computers agree on how they’re going to talk to each other. Only after all of the “negotiations” are complete do the computers exchange information.

In a network situation, this conversation can happen very quickly, or it can happen dead slow. If the network is in heavy use, the computers may not be able to conclude their negotiations. Firewalls may prevent certain conversations from occurring, or the server might say “I’m busy. Goodbye.”

If your computer is attached to a network and is responding slowly, your computer may not be the problem at all. A network device may be claiming all the network resources, or the network server may be slow to respond. In these cases, it’s best to contact the network support staff (if you’re at work). If you’re at home and your network is slow, you could locate the source of the network interference, or reboot the network device(s) to see if that clears the problem.

Photo Credit: Horrortaxi, via Flickr

Speedier Peripherals Can Address Slow Computer Performance

Speedier Peripherals Can Address Slow Computer Performance

Speedier Peripherals Can Address Slow Computer Performance

Computer performance depends on a lot of things, but slow peripherals can make for a slow computer. The I/O speed of the computer and peripheral storage devices can make a computer seem like its running dead slow, or it can make the computer seem pretty lively.

New Speedy USB Devices Can Speed Up Computer

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard has been around for about 15 years and its I/O rates have improved a lot since the standard was first introduced. The small connector makes USB an attractive option for connecting peripheral devices to computers, whether you’re dealing with portable computers, desktop computers or even servers.

The data transfer rate of the USB protocol started out somewhere around 10 Mb/s, which by today’s standards is pretty slow. The second iteration of the USB standard moved this up to about 60Mb/s, which is a lot better but it doesn’t address the fact that today’s multi-media files are pretty big. USB memory sticks can also hold a lot of information, so when you’re trying to load up a 32Gb memory stick at 60Mb/s, you could be sitting around for awhile.

The USB 3.0 standard has effective data transfer rates about 10 times those of USB 2.0 devices. That’s great news for people who don’t like spending a lot of time doing file transfers. The USB 3.0 standard also uses a full-duplex data transfer model, which means that it can be talking and listening at the same time. The full-duplex aspect of the data transfer means that much more data can be transferred because the data transfer doesn’t need to be interrupted by the transfer of control information. It also has the potential to improve computer performance when you’re running a system from a bootable USB device. The new USB standard is also designed to minimize the draw on laptop batteries, a plus for road warriors.

Microsoft says that Windows 7 will support the new USB standard as part of the first service pack update, but you’ll still need a USB 3.0 adapter to take advantage of the new standard. LaCie is also putting two USB 3.0 external hard disks out on the market. This is a great option for users who rely on external storage and require a much higher data transfer rate than what’s currently available through USB 2.0 devices.

I/O speeds do play an important role in computer performance. If you’re serious about upping the ante, USB 3.0 devices will help you get there.

Photo Credit: oskay, via Flickr

Maintenance Schedule For Speeding Up A Slow Computer

Maintenance Schedule For Speeding Up A Slow Computer

Maintenance Schedule For Speeding Up A Slow Computer

Computers require regular maintenance in order to maintain good performance. A slow computer may be the result of an improperly maintained computer. There are many different maintenance tasks that should be done regularly – some more often than others. This post discusses a regular maintenance schedule for computers.

Regular Maintenance Will Eliminate Slow Computers

If you’ve ever sat around waiting for a slow computer to finish a task, you know how irritating it can be. If maximizing your computing time is important, then plan to put your slow computer on a regular maintenance schedule. In most cases, these must-be-done tasks can be automated, so your only time investment will be in configuring your computer to carry out these routines.

Daily, you should have your computer check for updates to your anti-malware software. Download and install anti-malware updates immediately and keep your anti-malware software subscription up-to-date. You can perform this update check either at startup or at shutdown. Shutdown is sometimes preferred because that means you won’t be waiting on your computer.

Daily, you should restart your computer. There’s no point in leaving the computer on overnight unless it’s completing a scheduled task. Restarting the computer also clears out the memory and resets the computer back to a known-good operating state.

Weekly, check for OS patches and security updates, or configure your computer to notify you immediately when a patch or update is available. Install these patches right away.

Weekly, check for updates to your major software packages, or configure your packages to notify you when an upgrade is available. Read the accompanying information carefully before you install application updates. You’ll need to make sure your system is prepared to handle the new software requirements. Apply patches right away. They’re usually small and don’t require any hardware or configuration changes.

Monthly, check your hard disk for signs of excessive fragmentation. If your disk is excessively fragmented, defragment it using the built in defrag tool. Also clean your registry monthly using a good registry cleaner like RegCure. Keeping your registry clean will help eliminate performance problems.

Monthly, run your disk utility to check your hard disk for bad sectors and other failures that can cause data loss. The disk utility will flag and lock out bad disk sectors to prevent them from being used. It can also repair file structure problems that can slow computer performance.

Photo Credit: My name’s Axel, via Flickr

You’re Not Imagining Things; Your Computer Is Slow

You're Not Imagining Things; Your Computer Is Slow

You're Not Imagining Things; Your Computer Is Slow

Computers slow down for a number of reasons, some of which you can fix easily. Others, you may have to work at a bit to get better results. Slow computer performance is as much about how we use our computers as it is about what’s on them or what they’re doing at any given moment. Some habits we get into will slow our computers down. Changing the way we use the computer can help preserve performance.

Guaranteed Performance Killers

Keeping A Lot of Windows Open At The Same Time. If you open a lot of windows on your computer, you can expect a performance hit. Sometimes, having multiple windows open is necessary, and switching between applications will slow things down. The key here is to have open only the windows you need. Close windows you aren’t using. If you’re browsing, open new pages in different tabs within one window, rather than opening a bunch of different windows.
Keeping A Lot Of Applications Open At The Same Time. Similar to the performance killer above, keeping a lot of applications open, or allowing your computer to open up applications at startup will sap your performance. Each running application reserves a segment of your operating memory. The more apps you have running, the more memory you have to give up. In the worst case, your computer will run out of installed RAM and will start “swapping to disk.” That means it substitutes hard disk space for RAM. (Bad.) Close all unneeded programs and rethink your startup routine. Eliminate the stuff that doesn’t need to run right out of the gate.
Running A Lot Of Toolbar Applets. Yet another good way to waste memory. Some toolbar applets are notorious for delivering a nice spyware/adware/malware load to your computer, too. If a “free” application wants to install a toolbar, understand that the toolbar will operate all the time, whether you use it or not. Running all the time means that it will also take up memory. If it’s a spyware/adware/malware delivery vehicle, that software will also be running all the time. My advice: bag the toolbars altogether.
Messy file systems. Don’t store files on the desktop. Don’t hang onto stuff you don’t need. Messy file systems will affect computer performance. Keep your hard disk defragmented and keep your registry clean. Use a trusted registry cleaner like RegCure to remove leftovers that can slow your computer down.

Photo Credit: ThisIsBossi,via Flickr

Harris Poll Shows People Frustrated By Slow Computers

Harris Poll Shows People Frustrated By Slow Computers

Harris Poll Shows People Frustrated By Slow Computers

A recent Harris Poll sponsored by Intel shows that more than 80% of people get frustrated by slow computers. Just over half of all respondents admit to “doing something out of character” to express their frustration with slow computers and technology. This “out-of-character” moment could include yelling or swearing at the computer; hitting it or banging the mouse.

Study Shows Speed Is Important To User Experience

One-third of survey respondents say they’ve missed out on something while waiting for their technology to respond. What are they missing? Losses include things like online sales, auctions and tickets for sporting events and airline travel. The survey was conducted online, so the results are not considered scientifically valid, however, most people can attest to the fact that a slow computer is frustrating.

In the case of users who believe they’ve lost out on something online, it’s hard to say that slow computers alone are responsible. Internet connections can make a fast computer seem slow because when you’re using the Internet, your computer is going through a complex conversation with another computer elsewhere on the Internet. The conversation can sometimes be interrupted or delayed, causing the computers at either end to appear as though they’ve frozen or simply stopped responding.

Nonetheless, slow computers can pose a major hazard to your productivity and (at times) your mental well-being! There are certain slowdowns you can’t really manage, reduce or eliminate, but you can control much of what happens on your end of the computer. Basic maintenance is a must if you want reliable computer performance.

Basic maintenance includes protecting your computers from spyware, malware, adware and viruses; preventing Trojan infections that could give others access to your computer resources; making sure your network and firewall configurations are correct; defragmenting your hard disk and providing adequate storage space for your files and applications, and using a registry cleaner to keep your computer in good working order.

Some people I work with have a hard time believing that regular, simple maintenance can have such a profound effect on computer performance. The lesson here is that while simple things can make a computer speed up, simple – even mundane – things can also cause your computer to slow down. I once had a supervisor who counseled, “Take care of the cheap stuff first.” By that, he meant “Don’t overlook the obvious but seemingly small stuff, because it really does add up.”

Photo Credit: Fauxto_Digit, via Flickr