Archive for December, 2010
Doing The Simple Things Can Really Add Up
No one likes crashes. In the past, an application crash often meant an operating system crash. That was due, in part, to the way operating systems were designed. There wasn’t a whole lot to separate a running application from certain critical parts of the operating system, so when the application got hosed up, the OS often went down with it.
Today, the operating system is more compartmentalized than in the past, so it’s possible to have an application crash without having much impact on the OS. Regardless of whether the operating system stays up or goes down, a crash is a crash, and crashes can create disk errors.
Nothing good ever comes out of a disk error, so your best bet is to get rid of them as often as possible. Set up a maintenance routine that involves checking for (and repairing) disk errors frequently – perhaps even as often as once each week. Using Disk Check regularly will help avoid crashes that occur when an application or the OS encounters a disk error, and will also help “mop up” any disk errors created during a crash that occurs for some other reason.
Make it a habit to clean disk errors whenever a crash occurs. If, for some reason, you can’t mop up right away, your weekly Disk Check routine will prevent errors from having an ongoing impact.
Disk Check is a utility that comes with your Windows OS. You’ll find it by right-clicking the disk you want to check and selecting Properties > Tools. You can ask Disk Check to fix disk errors and attempt to recover any data that may have gotten damaged. You can also schedule Disk Check to run the next time you start the computer. Be careful with scheduling Disk Check on startup, though, as the process can take an extraordinary amount of time.
Disk Check is actually a good “overnight” task or a task you can run when you’ll be away from your computer for an extended period of time. You can also run Disk Check on other drives attached to your computer to make sure they are kept in good working order.
In following posts, I’ll provide some other tips that will improve slow computer performance and help keep your computer running smoothly.
Photo Credit: Justin Marty, via Flickr
Network Connections Can Cause Slow Computer Performance
If your computer is connected to a network, you can experience sluggish computer performance. The nature of network communications is responsible for a noticeable lag in performance under certain circumstances. If you’re having trouble connecting to a server across the network, or your computer performance slows to a crawl when you have a network disk mounted, or need to use a network resource, your network connection itself may be responsible for your apparent computer problems.
In this case, try the following: unplug your computer from the network. If you’re using a laptop and a wireless network connection, try turning the wireless networking off. Restart the computer to see if you notice a performance boost. If so, your problems are likely related to your network connection or your network configuration.
Laptop users can experience this problem if they transport their laptop between a work network and a home network. If you normally log into a particular domain at work, for example, then take your laptop home, you won’t have access to the domain at work. Your laptop may spend time fruitlessly trying to contact the domain controller from work before it gives up and finishes the boot process.
Likewise, if you use the Internet at work and then move your laptop to your home network, the computer may still try to receive DNS information from the DNS server at work. This may or may not work, depending upon how the DNS server at work is configured. If it’s not configured to talk to computers outside of the business network, your laptop could spend a lot of time waiting for responses that aren’t forthcoming.
In this case, work with the technical support staff at work to ensure that you have configuration information stored on your laptop for both your office and home networks. If you travel, you may need to set up additional connection information to accommodate hotel or remote office network connections. Having these profiles available and standing by will help save time and aggravation when moving your computer between networks.
Photo Credit: nhoulihan, via Flickr
Divide and Conquer
If your computer slows down suddenly, the problem may be related to changes you recently made in the configuration of your computer. Try to recall any changes you’ve recently made. The changes could seem relatively innocent, such as changing a desktop theme. Some themes are processor-intensive. (Think Aero.) If you’ve recently changed this, revert back to your old theme, or choose the plain default theme to test your computer’s performance. If your computer perks up, you’ve probably located the problem. If you’re still in love with a memory-intensive desktop theme, adding more physical RAM to your computer may allow you to use the desktop theme you like and still enjoy fast computer performance.
Other configuration changes can make a difference in your computer performance, too. The computer needs to keep track of millions of files on the hard disk. One way in which it attempts to speed the process of finding files is by using a technique called “indexing.” Indexing requires a computer to go through the files stored on the hard disk and make quick notes about what the file is, the file name and other characteristics, like its creation date. Indexing can take a long time, and will definitely put a crimp in the computer’s available processing power.
Occasionally, your computer will start indexing new or modified files while you’re trying to do something, and that can put the hurt on your computer performance. To make sure that doesn’t happen, configure your computer to control the way Windows indexes files. Using the Windows Search Properties panel, you can completely disable indexing, limit the drives on which indexing occurs, or limit indexing to a pre-determined set of files. Limiting indexing will stop the annoying performance hit that will occur each time Windows wants to update the information it has about the stored files on your hard disk.
In my next post, I’ll have a few more quick fixes you can try if your computer performance slows to an unacceptable level. Taking time to make sure your computer is properly configured can help you avoid unnecessary computer performance slowdowns!
Photo Credit: rgourley, via Flickr
Start With The Basics
Always start with the basics when you’re trying to clean up your computer. I prefer to start by knowing that my system is operating properly, so I always recommend a thorough virus/malware scan. Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware protection up-to-date.
Depending on which product you choose, you may have to pay an annual subscription fee for updates, but in the grand scheme of things, A/V software is worth it! So Step 1 is to update your A/V software and make sure your computer hasn’t contracted a virus.
Once you have that out of the way, consider running Disk Cleanup. Disk Cleanup is a built-in tool that comes with your operating system. Disk Cleanup goes through your hard disk looking for temporary files that you no longer need. These temporary files can be things like your Web browser cache files, installation files and other temporary files. Disk Cleanup will also recommend removing software you don’t seem to use. You can have Disk Cleanup do the removal work, or you can look at what the program recommends and do the removal yourself. Either way, it’s a great way to reclaim space on the hard disk. Your computer will perform better when the hard disk capacity is below about 75%.
Remove or archive files that you’ve created or downloaded, but no longer use or need. Freeing up the extra hard disk space will enable your operating system to work more smoothly. Disk Cleanup can help you with application files, but it won’t tell you to throw out files you’ve created. Go through files that have accumulated and get rid of them. Check Documents and Downloads folders for files that are simply taking up space.
Once you’ve cleaned up, recycled and archived your files, run the disk defragmenter tool, also found in the System Tools folder. The disk defragger will clean up your disk in a different way, by consolidating file blocks within easy reach of each other. This minimizes the amount of physical movement the hard disk must make to read and write files. You’ll be surprised by how much this can speed up your slow computer!
Photo Credit: http://www.chrissatchwell.com/, via Flickr
Small Things Can Add Up
That having been said, there are a lot of things you can do to conserve the memory you have. In some cases, simply conserving memory can make a big difference in computer performance. In my last post, I talked about basic maintenance. If you’ve done the basic maintenance on your computer (getting rid of viruses, throwing away old files, defragmenting your hard disk) and you’re still not getting the performance you expect, it’s time to look under the hood.
Looking under the hood means taking a look at what’s running. Applications, toolbars, utility programs, screensavers, and desktop themes can all contribute to slow computer performance. Paring down the system, getting rid of applications that are not needed, shutting down the auto-starting applications and returning to desktop themes that conserve –rather than waste – memory can all make a difference in terms of computer performance.
To find out what’s running on your computer at the moment, use the Task Manager, which you can start by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del. Once you bring up the Task Manager, you can look at what processes and application are running. You can also look at the System Configuration to find out what programs are configured to run each time you boot the computer. If you find programs you don’t use regularly among the startup programs, reconfigure the computer to bypass these programs on startup. You can still run the program when you actually need to, but if you don’t need these programs at your fingertips all the time, don’t configure them to load automatically at startup.
While you’re in the decision-making mood, look at the icons that take up residence in the task bar at the bottom of the window. This is another good way to spot the programs that load automatically. If you don’t need these programs in the task bar, move them aside. Also consider uninstalling toolbars that you may have loaded, or that may have loaded automatically when you downloaded a new application. That, by the way, is a good indicator of spyware or adware. Getting rid of these toolbars may restore more than you think! Use the Add/Remove Programs tool to get rid of the programs, toolbars and applications you don’t want, and become a bit more selective about what you load onto your computer in the future.
Photo Credit: David Olsen, via Flickr
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