- Computers & Software
Speed Up Your Computer - Some Simple Tips
Speeding up the running of your computer is possible, here are some ways in which you might be able to do it. This assumes you've read my Hub "Computer Running Slowly – Why? - Ignoring Common Computer Myths" and you have sorted out whether it is an internet connection, Virus or Anti-Virus problem, if not I strongly recommend that as a starting point before trying any of this.
Hard wired or Wi-Fi
Lastly before looking at the computer itself, how you connect to the internet can make a speed difference. The fastest connection will always be a hard wired connection using a USB or ethernet connection. If you are using a Wi-Fi connection with a poor signal, this can slow things down too. I fitted a TP Link High Gain USB Network Adapter to great effect when my father had problems, it was well worth the $19 it cost from Amazon.
It is normal for computers to slow down over time when more programs are added, but if your computer now seems to takes ages to start or "boot up" and run slowly there can be a number of causes.
Slow to "Boot Up" or Start
The most common reason is that over time you tend to add more and more programs onto your computer (or they came preloaded), some of which will automatically add themselves into your computer's "start up" sequence whether you need them to or not. Starting up all those programs takes extra time, depending on the programs quite a lot sometimes. It causes Slow Running Too. As well as slowing down the boot up sequence having unnecessary programs running in the background will slow your computer down.
Using System Configuration Menu To Help
You can use the System Configuration Menu to check and change what programs automatically start and run when you turn on the computer.
Getting to the System Configuration menu varies depending on version of Windows:-
In XP go to the start menu and select run, type in msconfig and press ok.
In Vista click on Start Menu, type msconfig into the "start search" box and enter it to get to the System Configuration menu. You can also do this through Windows Defender from the Control Panel which requires a longer path I'll not describe here.
In Windows 7 from the Start menu select Control Panel, then select Administrative Tools, from the list displayed double click on System Configuration.
At the System Configuration select the "Startup" tab, here you will see a list of items, most of which will mean nothing to you, look for programs you recognize first, such a word processors, spreadsheets, Skype, Messenger Adobe, etc., do you really need these to start up every time you use the computer? In most cases probably not.
So uncheck any you don't need in the left hand box, you can always start them as required, then "Apply" the changes. These changes will take effect on the next restart. You will also get a message telling you that you are using a selective startup, just click "don't show me this message again" and you're finished. Now only the programs you chose will automatically start and run when you turn the computer on.
You can experiment with the start menu and try stopping other items too, best do one item at a time, then if it causes problems you simply come back and change it again. Don't worry about making these changes they can always be reversed.
Automatic Updates Can Be A Real Nuisance
Automatic updates to programs can be another nuisance, they always seem to start up just when you are in rush and can leave you wondering why your computer has suddenly slowed down.
Apart from my anti-virus program and Windows Updates, where possible I always set other programs to inform me when update is available and not automatically install it. I still get an update message, but I choose when to install it.
Browsers, Plugins, Add-Ons, Extensions and Toolbars
Choice of browsers is a personal thing, they should all do the same job, but be aware they can differ in the way they open websites that can affect performance. I generally use Firefox as it has some add-ons that I find very useful, but I have come across sites where it seems slow and won't let me download PDFs, I wasted a lot of time trying as not thinking it was the browser, but Internet Explorer worked fine. Now if a get unexplained problems on the internet I'll switch browsers quite quickly to see if that helps.
Browser add-ons although useful can can cause conflicts resulting in poor performance, so if you've added something recently and have noticed a drop in performance try disabling it to check. If you use the Help tab in Firefox you can select to restart Firefox with add-ons disabled, then see if there is a difference.
The same thing is true of Toolbars that often sneakily get added to your browser when you download a program and don't notice a checked box agreeing to have it that was on the download page. These toolbars can introduce advertizing and send information to third parties about your browsing habits too.
The more you add to your browser the more chance there is of conflict and performance issues.
Defragmentation or Not
"Defragmentation" is a Windows utility that tidies up your hard drive if you run it. Over time bits of isolated and useless information or "fragments" gets left on your hard drive. This takes up space needlessly and in theory can slow down your computer's handling of information there. Information is accessed fastest when in contiguous blocks rather than more randomly spaced all over the disk. Defragging the disk deletes redundant fragments data and moves the rest closer together for better access where possible.
This in theory will make your computer run faster and give you more space on the hard drive, but I have personally never seen a speed change I could detect. However, I have read if you do a lot of video editing it can be helpful. Also if your hard drive is too full it can't be done, so don't leave it too late. I think it is still worth running defrag, it can't do any harm and it might do some good, but it can take a long time, so do it when you don't really need the computer.
How often Registry errors are a likely cause of slow computers is difficult to say, but they can certainly be a cause of system crashes. Be warned that there are programs out there that will claim to check and repair your Registry that are malicious software themselves. Because scans show errors doesn't really mean they are problematic or even real errors.
So if you go down this route do so with caution and only use an independently recommended registry cleaner, this is basically going to be one you have to buy, free ones are too risky.
If you don't mind spending a few dollars "System Mechanic" is a very useful bit of software for tuning up your computer including registry problems, plus a lot of other tools to improve or maintain your computer, I can recommend this as it's the only paid for system tool I've used and only recommend things I've done or used myself.
Malware, or MALicious softWARE, can be a cause of a sluggish computer on occasions, some anti-virus programs will also try to protect you against these in real time, but Microsoft have a free downloadable scanner to enable an on demand scan.
Search for "Microsoft Safety Scanner" and it will only work for 10 days, you can just download it again after, this is so that it is kept up to date. It gives you on-demand scanning and will remove malicious software, viruses and spyware. It shouldn't conflict with your existing antivirus software.
Deleting Temporary Files and Cache
This I feel is worth doing and can be done using a free program from Piriform called "CCleaner", still known and referred to by some as "Crap Cleaner" although no longer by the company! Just search for "ccleaner" and download it from Piriform's site where you can also learn more about it.
This is not for everyone, but when after a couple of years heavy use and the installation and un-installation of many programs I did do this, because it was taking 4 - 5 mins to boot up, even with a selective startup.
The process involves backing up all your data, which of course we all do anyway, right? Then re-formatting the hard disk that deletes all programs and data, then doing a fresh install of Windows.
If you use Mozilla Thunderbird and or Mozilla Firefox there's a very useful free program called MozBackup that will back up all your data and settings, so you don't lose your bookmarks, emails etc. and then re-install it again very easily, on the same computer or another using the same program. You can download it from here http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/download.php
Followed by installing all the programs you want again, then importing saved data. Probably time required of between a day to a day and a half, so not something to do on a whim, it requires some planning and a certain amount of confidence too.
The result was a computer that then took 50 seconds to boot up instead of 4 - 5 minutes, a lot more space on the hard drive and only programs there I actually use.
One good thing about doing this is it makes you think about what programs you really need!
Although not quite as effective as a fresh installation you can simply uninstall unused programs using Window "add-remove programs" utility.
I've tried to keep these ideas to low cost fixes and not too technical as far as possible, I hope I've succeeded.