NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2011
Gerry Says
By Gerry Gerstenberg, 1st Vice President,
Broward Personal Computer Association, Inc., Florida
tutor101( at )earthlink.net (click to email author)

Here are some suggestions to get your computer back up to speed.

Check your system for viruses and Trojans, make sure that your antivirus definitions are up to date. Viruses, worms, and Trojan Horses can all create serious system slowdowns.

If you're already running anti-virus software, make sure the virus definitions are up-to-date. I use AVG from http://www.Grisoft.com. It is free as is Avast at http://www.Avast.com. Only run one Virus Checker at a time.

Second, check your system for spyware and malware. This can be done by using a spyware detector like Ad-Aware found at http://www.Avast.com and/or Spybot Search and Destroy, found at http://spybot.com/en/index.html. Keep them up to date. I also use Microsoft Antispyware. It can be downloaded from http://www.Microsoft.com.

Improve Online Security
Install and configure a firewall. Turn off unnecessary networking software. Download and install Windows updates on a regular basis. Secure your Web browser by using such options as setting its “security zones.”

Remove System Clutter
Delete any unneeded icons from the Windows desktop and Start menu tree. Each one requires a little time to process when the system is booting up, and each one eats a little bit of system memory. It seems like every bit of software you install these days wants to claim its space on your desktop, whether you need the program or not. Right click on Start then Properties then the Start Menu Tab.

Clean out fonts.
Fonts are wonderful things. But unused or useless fonts are a drag on system performance. Windows loads all your fonts at bootup, just to keep them handy in case an application needs them. But the more fonts you have, the more resources Windows consumes in keeping track of them. You probably have dozens of fonts you won't ever need. Periodically go into Windows Fonts folder – Start then run and type in (C:\Windows\Fonts) and remove any unused Fonts. Select each font (hold down SHIFT or CTRL while clicking to select contiguous or noncontiguous groups, respectively) and choose Delete from the File menu. Double-click a font to view a sample.

Do a disk cleanup.
This will remove some of the junk that is cluttering up the temporary file folder. Click on Start then All Programs then Accessories then System tools and finally Disk Cleanup. Follow the instructions. This process will take a few minutes.

Uninstall any software you will never use.
Examples are the AOL and other ISP installations preloaded at the factory and any other preinstalled software. Access the Control Panel, select Add/Remove Programs (Add/Remove Programs in Win98 and WinMe), and systematically remove anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. You need to decide what is necessary to you. Reboot after each uninstall for the best results.

Go to Start then Run. Type in msconfig and click on the startup tab. Then uncheck any program you do not want to start when the com­puter starts. These programs take time to run when the system starts up, and they take up precious system memory. This will keep the icons from appearing in the Windows Navigation Tray on the right side of the task bar.

Defragment the hard drive.
A full hard drive isn't your only potential problem. Even with plenty of free space on a drive, the file system can become so fragmented that Windows can't efficiently access and store data. The OS stores information on a hard drive in sectors. When there aren't enough contigu­ous sectors available, Windows stores parts of files in different places on the disk and then keeps track of them all in a file allocation table. Removing files and applications further scatters sectors on the disk. Thus, over time, fragmentation occurs as more and more files are split up and stored in more and more places. And, because the system has to search more places to find files and work harder to put them together, fragmentation is a major drag on system performance. Run Windows Disk Defragmenter tool to rearrange files in the most optimal way. You may have to reboot and defrag several times to get the hard drive defragmented and the files compacted completely. From the Start menu, open Programs, Accessories, and then System Tools. Open the Disk Defragmenter utility. In WinXP, let the utility analyze each drive to assess its level of fragmentation and determine whether it's worth defragging.

Do you have any running processes that don't need to be running?
Check this by doing Ctrl, Alt, Delete, choose Process tab, make sure that everything that is running is necessary. You can also try this to see what is preloading: Start > Run, type in "msconfig" (without the quotes) Click the Boot.ini tab and then select the /SOS switch. Now instead of seeing that black and white progress bar you will now see in real time what files are being loaded. This can give you a clue where it is hanging up.

Keep it simple.
WinXP's default set of animations and transitions is pleasing to the eye. But it doesn't do your PC any favors, especially if your hardware is a couple years old. All that sliding, fading, and shadowing takes a toll on memory and processing power. But WinXP animations aren't an all-or-nothing proposition. You can customize which effects to use or let Windows handle the decisions. Access your System Properties from the Control Panel (or by right-clicking My Computer and selecting Properties). Select Advanced then select Settings under Perform­ance. Select Adjust for best performance. All entries will be unchecked. You can then selectively check any animations and transitions that you would like to keep. Click apply and OK.

Windows' Disk Cleanup utility will help you free up hard drive space, giving Windows and other applications more room to work.

Navigate to the Advanced tab and select the Settings button in the Performance category. Prioritize performance, appearance, or let Win­dows choose a middle route. Alternately, choose the Custom option and enable or disable specific visual effects by checking or uncheck­ing their respective entries.

File System.
Organize and maintain your files to keep your PC running smoothly. Here are some tips for the specific areas.

Make room.
A full hard drive will bog down your system on all fronts. For one, as the drive fills up, Windows has to search more and more data to fulfill each request. More importantly, though, a full disk hinders the OS' ability to move files around temporarily and to manage virtual memory. First, empty the Recycle bin. You can easily lose hundreds of megabytes to files just sitting around waiting to be fully deleted. Then, run Microsoft's Disk Cleanup utility. From the Start menu, you will need to go to Programs, Accessories, and System Tools. Open Disk Cleanup, select the drive, and click OK. The utility will analyze the system and offer suggestions. Check each box and click OK. Next, uninstall un­used applications. From Windows' Control Panel, select Add/ Remove Programs. Remove any programs you don't use, especially applica­tions preinstalled by the manufacturer. Finally, archive infrequently used data to removable storage.

Remove temporary files.
Disk Cleanup doesn't get rid of everything. Free up even more space by manually searching for and deleting temporary files. Most applica­tions use temporary files to store session-specific information, back up active files, and (in theory) delete them when you close the program. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, temporary files aren't deleted. So they sit, taking up valuable disk space, and not doing anything remotely useful. Open Windows' Search tool (called Find in Win98) from the Start menu. Find all files beginning with a tilde (~) (search for "~*.*") and all files with a .TMP file extension (search for "*.tmp"). Remove any that aren't immediately associated with an open file or application.

Perform regular maintenance.
Don't make Disk Cleanup, temporary file removal, Disk Defragmenter, and antivirus scanning one-time activities. Without proper mainte­nance, system speed will continue to degrade needlessly. Schedule these activities using built-in tools (as with most antivirus programs) or using Windows' Task Scheduler. From the Start menu, navigate to Programs, Accessories, and System Tools. Open Scheduled Tasks. Double-click Add Scheduled Task to launch the Scheduled Task Wizard. Choose an application you want to run (Disk Cleaner, for exam­ple), set the schedule, and enter the login information of a user with permissions to run the program.

A Little Goes A Long Way
The secret to optimal PC performance is recognizing that every little improvement helps. By implementing a variety of techniques, includ­ing those we just described, you’ll slowly but surely see system performance improve and maintain itself at a peak level.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

Happy storage days !!!

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