Archive for December, 2011
How Old Is Old?
For businesses, three years is getting a little long in the tooth for desktop computers, but a three-year old computer is still quite serviceable. Such a computer can generally run the latest version of the operating system and can manage most, if not all, peripheral devices. The form factor should be relatively small, so it doesn’t take up much room on the floor or on the desktop.
If a three-year-old computer is running slowly, try the usual maintenance tricks like freeing space on the hard drive, defragmenting the hard disk and performing some clean-up maintenance tasks. Don’t forget to use a registry cleaner like SpeedUpMyPC. SpeedUpMyPC not only cleans the registry, but also optimizes the computer for the kind of work you do. It makes a real performance difference!
For businesses with a four-year-old computer, replacement is a gray area. If the computer has been updated to the latest operating system and is performing well, there’s no reason to get rid of the computer based solely on its age. Many businesses choose to take their oldest machines out of the line of heavy fire and relegate them to softer duties at this point. That’s always a good option. Again, if the PC is performing slowly, give SpeedUpMyPC a shot at cleaning out the registry and optimizing the computer’s performance. If the computer isn’t running the latest operating system and there’s no real likelihood that you’ll upgrade the OS, it may make sense to upgrade the OS simply by replacing the computer.
For businesses with five year old computers, you’re more likely to benefit by replacing the computer with newer models. This is a great opportunity to preserve the performance of a new computer, by the way. Load SpeedUpMyPC onto a new computer and keep your computer is new operating condition, even as you use the computer.
For personal computers, I dispense the advice I always give: if the computer does what you need it to do and you’re not inclined to replace it, don’t. Use SpeedUpMyPC to keep your older computer running in tip-top shape and perform regular maintenance tasks as needed. Replace your computer when you want to upgrade, rather than by looking to the calendar for guidance.
Photo Credit: Alan Light, via Flickr
Consider These For Your Computer
One of the reasons your computer may be slow is that it relies on a physical hard disk to store and retrieve data. Don’t limit your definition of data to just the files you store. When you’re working on your computer, your operating system is stored on your hard disk, so every time you call on your OS to do something, you increase the risk that your computer will need to activate its hard disk to complete your request.
Mechanical items are comparatively slow, so when the hard disk gets involved, your computer will slow down. So how can you avoid this? Well, consider switching to a solid-state drive (SSD). They’re much faster than a mechanical hard disk and the all-around speed of your computer will improve remarkably.
Solid-state drives aren’t without their faults, but if speed is what you’re going for, this is definitely one area in which you can recover some otherwise “lost” time. The use of solid-state memory isn’t new. After all, that’s essentially what a USB drive is. As a replacement for mechanical hard disks, SSDs have been around for laptops for awhile. In the laptop environment, SSDs actually make a lot of sense because they’re at a lower risk of accidental damage from being dropped or mishandled.
They’re also really lightweight – a big plus when you’re lugging around a laptop! But how do they perform? In some operations – like read and write – SSDs typically outperform mechanical hard disks. They also offer marginal improvements in power consumption on laptops, though not significant enough to write home about. Another big bonus – they don’t generate a lot of heat, which can be uncomfortable for the user and can lead to early component fatigue in some configurations.
So what are the three main disadvantages of solid state drives? Cost, cost, and cost. Solid state drives are significantly more expensive than regular hard disk drives, so right now, the only opt-ins for SSDs are for those users who need the advantages of SSDs more than they need the several hundred dollars’ difference in price. The good news is that if you do opt for a solid-state drive, Windows 7 is optimized to make the best use of the device, so you can be assured that you’ll get excellent performance for your outlay.
Photo Credit: IntelFreePress, via Flickr
A Few More Efficiencies
Eliminate the fonts you don’t use. If you have a large font collection on your computer, you should know that these extras come at a cost to you. Windows loads these fonts each time your system boots, so it’s really in your best interest to keep your font list trimmed to those you might reasonably – or even possibly – use in your normal course of work or play. You can safely eliminate all of the foreign-language fonts (and foreign-language support, for that matter) on your computer. If you never use Mandarin Chinese, get rid of the font. You can also trim out the fonts you can simply never envision yourself using! Cut back your font collection to what you really use, might use, or could possibly use and get rid of all the rest. That, by itself, will speed up your computer.
To eliminate fonts, go to the Fonts selection in the control panel. You’ll get a nice display of all of the fonts loaded on your computer. Select the ones you want to get rid of and fire away. Please note, however that there are certain fonts which Microsoft has designated as “protected system fonts.” These are not easily removable, so you may have to live with certain fonts you’ll never use and don’t want, compliments of Microsoft.
Boot from your hard drive first. It sounds silly because what else would you boot from, right? Well, your BIOS – that most basic operating system your computer uses to get itself going – has some options for boot up that you may want to consider. To access the BIOS, you’ll need to restart your computer and press whatever “F-key” leads you to it. Some computers are F2, others are F10. Still others want you to press the Delete key. However you do it on your computer, access the BIOS.
Look at your boot options. If your computer is set to check a CD/DVD or external media like a USB device first, set your computer to boot from the hard disk first, then look for other bootable media if your hard drive has gone the way of the dodo. This step will eliminate a short timeout delay that you’ll endure if your computer is waiting for disk media or a USB device to provide boot support. You can adjust your boot preferences so that you can still boot from alternative media if you’re troubleshooting or just plain in trouble, but you’ll get down to business faster if you first try to boot from the hard disk.
I’ll wrap this series up next week with some final tips for speeding up the process of booting your computer.
Photo Credit: warrenski, via Flickr
Other Places To Look For Efficiency
Making sure you’re not loading the kitchen sink is one way to pare down your startup. Disabling unused services is a good move anyway because it can reduce the potential that you can be affected by vulnerabilities. Other changes you can make can also skim a little time from boot up. These include:
Eliminating the little Windows animation at startup. This seems like a pretty innocuous little display, but believe it or not, it adds time to your startup routine. You can shut this off by opening up msconfig using the Run box, and select the Boot Tab of the System Configuration Tool. Select No GUI Boot. Your computer screen will remain black at bootup, but your computer is doing all of the things it always does – just without the entertainment.
Reduce the boot timeout value.While you’re at this point, you can reduce the boot timeout to about 5-10 seconds – more if you’re really impatient. This is the amount of time Windows displays the boot menu after a faulty shutdown/crash. If you’re paying attention, you can make a menu choice. If you’re doing something else, the computer will adopt the “Start Normally” default choice after the boot timeout value has been reached. By reducing this to some smaller value, you can recover faster after a crash or bad event. It won’t affect normal restart times.
Identify the number of processors you have. If you have a dual core processor or better, you can configure your system’s boot parameters to include this information. You’ll find this under Advanced Options. Activate the Number of processors flag and change it to the appropriate entry for your computer.
Re-evaluate your startup programs. There’s a good chance that if you just use the default startup load on your computer, you’ll end up with some programs in your startup file that you don’t really need. Restart your computer and enter msconfig into the Run box. Choose the Startup tab and take a look at what’s running. If you never use iTunes, for example, but it’s listed in your startup file, uncheck iTunes. If you need the software at some later date, it’s still there – you just start it manually – like you would any other application.
In my next post, I’ll look at a few other tricks you can use to speed up your computer at boot time.
Photo Credit: acidpix, via Flickr
Getting The Most From Boot Time
People always want to “get the most” out of their computers, but for each person, the “most” is something different. In terms of speeding up your computer performance, getting the “most” may mean making configuration adjustments to your computer’s boot routine.
By making some simple changes, which may include disabling services you don’t need, you can reduce the time it takes your computer to boot. You may also be able to improve its operating performance by unloading the services you don’t really require.
The good thing about making configuration changes is that if your needs change, you can always reconfigure your computer to re-enable the services you’ve turned off. You haven’t permanently gotten rid of your computer’s ability to work; you’ve just gotten rid of the things you don’t need that currently give you a slow computer.
The services that run on your computer can cause an increase in the time it takes to boot the computer, so this is one area to consider when you’re looking to speed things up. You can access a list of the services that are running on your computer by typing msconfig into the text box at the bottom of the Start menu. If you’re squeamish about turning of system services, you can activate the “Hide all Microsoft services” checkbox at the bottom of the Services box. That will remove Microsoft services from the menu, leaving only services that are enabled via your applications.
You can evaluate each service independently. Often, your computer manufacturer will have services and utilities that start automatically, but aren’t really needed all the time. These services are prime candidates for “turnoff.” The services will still be on your computer; you’ll just need to start them manually if you really want to use them.
You can also take a look at some Microsoft services that you may not really need. Remote access services (like remote login) are good removal candidates if you never access your computer remotely. Disabling this service might also afford you a little extra protection from malefactors who may otherwise be able to access your computer using the remote login capabilities. If you use Microsoft Office, you may also find some services that you can disable. Also, some other Microsoft applications may enable additional services. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t use an application, you don’t need the extra services that come along for the ride.
In my next post, I’ll look at other elements of your boot up routine that you can modify to get back a little time and a little performance.
Photo Credit: julianlimjl, via Flickr
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