Archive for February, 2012
Room to Roam
Although most people are concerned with running out of RAM, slow computer performance can result from not having enough disk space, too! Computers use disk space as temporary storage. When disk space is running low, the computer is hard-pressed to cope. The solution? Keep your disk space tidy and be sure to leave enough room for temporary file storage.
When it comes to your files, there are several likely candidates for removal. Temporary files and cache files that some applications use are good starting points. Temporary files are created by applications when they’re performing a particular task. Other times, temporary files can be created when you download a zipped file from the Internet. Your computer may open the zipped file, but now you essentially have two copies of the download: the zipped version and the unzipped one. You really don’t need the .ZIP file anymore, so getting rid of these artifacts can clear up a lot of space.
You can use the Disk Cleanup utility that comes with Windows to locate and remove these tumbleweeds. You may find that you loosen up several hundred megabytes of disk space just by performing this maintenance task.
If you’ve removed your temporary files and still need (or want) more space, you may have to get down and dirty with your files. Photographs, videos and audio recordings take up a lot of space. If you want to preserve these, consider storing them on an external hard disk, a USB drive or even a CD-ROM or DVD.
Here’s another suggestion: consider storing your files “in the cloud.” Cloud computing is becoming a big deal and it may work as a storage option for you. Cloud storage providers will allocate a certain amount of disk space to you and you can put your important files in storage. They’re accessible from any computer via the Internet and they’re backed up and stored safely. You can quickly unclutter your hard disk just by taking advantage of low-cost, online data storage.
As a rule of thumb, your available space shouldn’t drop below 20%. If your stored files exceed this buffer, you should consider your hard disk to be full and take steps to either reduce your disk usage or add more storage space.
Photo Credit: TwicePix, via Flickr
Simple Fixes Can Help
What can you do to address a slow or non-responsive computer? If the problem has just cropped up, slow computer performance may be resolved by a simple reboot of the computer. Although it doesn’t seem like it, a reboot can clear out a lot of problems that develop either without warning or very slowly over time.
Rebooting as a remedy can be very effective, especially for computers that are left on 24 hours a day. If you normally leave your computer on, over time, your computer can accumulate processes that have gotten out of control. The computer can also show the effects of a memory leak caused by programs that don’t manage their memory consumption properly.
Rebooting the computer takes it back to a “known good state.” All applications are shut down and the memory is cleared. Processes that may have gotten out of hand are shut down, and the processor is reset to its factory state.
This is an excellent way to clear out unwanted problems, but surprisingly, it isn’t the first remedy people think of. You might wonder, “Can I get the same effect simply by shutting down applications?” The answer is, “Not always!”
If an application is not handling memory allocation properly, simply shutting it down may not solve the problem. The program may not be able to return the RAM allocation to the computer properly, even when it is shut down. Further, processes that you – the user – are unaware of, may still be running. Shutting down applications should – but doesn’t always kill the processes that are associated with the program, and some “programs” can’t be shut down, especially if they’re part of the operating system, or they’re designed to run all the time (like plug-ins).
Other processes are deliberately malicious – like viruses – and they won’t shut down on their own. On reboot, these processes may restart themselves, but it will be much easier to detect their presence after a fresh reboot.
For consistent performance, I recommend SpeedUpMyPC 2012. This product not only manages your computer registry and ensures that unnecessary code gets removed, it also optimizes your computer to deliver ideal performance based on the way you use your computer. Optimization is key to good performance, and you’ll get optimized performance with SpeedUpMyPC 2012.
Photo Credit: wetwebwork, via Flickr
Looks Aren’t Everything!
There are OS features worth having and then there are features that might look nice, but don’t really contribute to the overall health or well-being of your computer performance! Certain desktop themes in Windows – noticeably Aero – can really deliver a hit to computer performance.
A slow computer can be caused by many things, but any time you tie up a computer’s memory or its processor, you run the risk of slowing down. To avoid that, you generally want to avoid things that take up too much memory or overtax your processor.
Sadly, Aero does both. Aero provides that cool little effect that allows you to “see through” the window frames to the images and windows that are behind the active window frame. “Visual effects” in Windows don’t really improve your user experience and they certainly don’t help your computer performance. In fact, they reduce performance – often noticeably – because they consume both memory and processor cycles.
To get your computer back to business, you’ll want to optimize it for performance, rather than for “visual effects.” To do this in Windows 7, right-click your Windows Desktop and choose Properties>Advanced. From there, adjust your settings to provide the best performance, and you should notice that your Windows experience speeds up. If you still like some of the “eye-candy,” you can also choose a Custom setting to balance between the slick visual effects and the need to get work done.
Check out this tip, especially if you’re still using the factory configuration for your laptop computer. Most laptops start out with two strikes against them: an out-of-date processor and limited physical memory. Depending upon the make and model of your laptop, you may also be contending with hard limits on the amount of memory you can add or the kind of processor your computer can run.
Knowing your hardware limits will help you determine whether or your laptop can provide you with some interesting effects to look at. Desktop computers are less likely to be processor-challenged, but if you’re looking to tune up your performance, Windows’ visual effects represent a few processor cycles that you can claw back.
Photo Credit: woolennium, via Flickr
Is The Problem Temporary?
The first step in finding a fix for your slow computer is to figure out whether your problem is temporary or chronic. Temporary problems that can slow down computers include processes that have gone wild or gotten stuck, transient instabilities in the operating system, memory allocation problems, and overload.
All of these problems are the “quick-fix” types, which can be cured with a reboot. Sometimes, rebooting isn’t even necessary to kick your computer back into high gear. This is true when processes get stuck or when you’re simply asking your computer to do more than it can handle.
There are a few ways to find and root out process problems. The Task Manager, which you can access using Ctrl+Alt+Del, will help you view processes that are currently running, those that are stuck and those that are consuming a significant amount of memory.
What’s “significant?” Sustained memory or processor consumption in the range of 80%-90% is definitely a suspicious sign of trouble. Processes can briefly consume a lot of CPU cycles or available memory, especially if they’re doing something heavy-duty, but if the processor or memory usage remains high, try shutting down the offending application. If the application won’t cooperate, that’s a good indication that something’s gone wrong. You can use the End Task function in the Task Manager to shut the errant process off. If your computer operation returns to normal, you’re probably going to notice an improvement in your computer performance.
While you’re looking at your processes, take a look at what’s running. If you notice that you have a lot of applications running that you’re not using, close them and see if that helps your computer performance. Each application takes up a certain amount of RAM. If you open too many applications, or your applications take up too much memory, your computer can slow down noticeably as it tries to accommodate all of your applications.
If you have applications running that you didn’t specifically start, chances are good that you have your computer configured to start your applications automatically. This also can chew up a lot of your RAM.
Next week, I’ll have more suggestions on what you can do to speed up a slow computer.
Photo Credit: denharsh, via Flickr
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