NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2010
Improve PC Performance with PerfectSpeed
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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One of the most common pleas for help from readers of this column is to improve the performance of their computers. A common thread is that the computer was fast when new, but is now frustratingly slow. Common solutions include performing normal maintenance tasks such as deleting useless files on the hard drive, defragging the drive, cleaning the registry, and tweaking Windows settings. I recently had the opportunity to try a $30 software product “PerfectSpeed” from Raxco Software.

One of my daughters recently brought me her five year old Compaq notebook computer, a relic with the old style Celeron processor, XP Home, 40 gig hard drive, and 512 megs of memory. It was very slow to boot, sometimes taking up to 10 minutes to boot, and when shutting down would take a like amount of time, or not shut down at all. Loading programs such as Word were agonizingly slow, her browser (Firefox) would take several minutes to load, and overall performance was dismal. When new, the computer was comparatively fast as I had doubled the memory from its factory installed 256 megs, to 512. With the price of memory being fairly reasonable, I had considered purchasing another stick or two of memory, and replacing one or both of the 256 sticks with a 512 meg or 1 gig stick; there are only two memory slots on the motherboard.

My first step was to do what I do on all computers that I work on, and that is to do a comprehensive scan for malware. I performed a full scan with an updated MalwareBytes AntiMalware, and other than several tracking cookies, her computer was clean. For verification, I then ran a freshly updated a-squared, which is both anti-malware and antivirus, and other than some more questionable cookies, and some suspicious traces of malware that had likely been removed previously, her computer was clean. She does have a major security suite installed which is auto-updated frequently, and performs scheduled scans, a most worthwhile precautionary activity. I used MSCONFIG to check her startup files, and found an excess of unnecessary programs loading at boot, which I unchecked; since they will not be loading at subsequent boots, her boot process will be faster, performance will be improved because less system resources are used and therefore free, and there will likely be fewer software conflicts and crashes. Since fewer programs will be loaded, shutdown will also be faster.

My next decision that I had to make was what utilities to use to conduct performance improving maintenance on her computer. There are several utilities available that can perform that function, but I was tempted to try something new from a Maryland company that I knew from prior experience published excellent quality software, Raxco Software. Raxco recently released its PerfectSpeed PC Optimizer 2.0, retailing for about $30 for a single license, with a 3 license pack currently on a promotional price of $39.99 (regularly $59.99), and a 10-pack for $99.99. A fully functional 15 day free trial is available for download from http://www.perfectdisk.com/products/home-perfectspeed/free-trial. I installed PerfectSpeed PC Optimizer on her computer, and put it to work.

The first task is to click on the “Performance Check” button which scans the registry for errors, checks for useless clutter and duplicate files on the hard drive (Free Space check), looks for “privacy traces” such as cookies, and then checks the hard drive for fragmentation. After running the Performance Check, the performance status gauge on the top right corner showed her computer’s status as “Poor”. Her registry had over a thousand errors, there was about 2 gigabytes of useless files on her hard drive, she had hundreds of cookies and other privacy traces (but no tracking cookies as they had been deleted by the previous malware scans), and a terribly fragmented hard drive.

With my approval, I allowed PerfectSpeed to clean the registry. It uses a proprietary system to safely clean the registry without threatening the performance of valid programs. This process removes obsolete registry entries that can degrade performance, and lead to a host of other problems. A corrupted or bloated registry can also lead to slow boots and difficult shutdowns. After PerfectSpeed cleaned the registry, I allowed it to reclaim space on the hard drive by deleting hundreds of obsolete temporary files, thousands of old browser cache files, useless duplicates of files, and other debris left on the hard drive. The “Traces” scan detected data on her hard drive that could be a privacy issue, such as browser cookies, internet history, and other privacy threats. In this case, I chose not to delete the browser history, and many of the cookies, as their convenience value outweighed the small amount of space they take up on the hard drive. It is a proven fact that the more fragmented a hard drive, the longer it takes to read and write files, a major drag on performance. PerfectSpeed has a Microsoft certified defragmentation utility that optimizes the hard drive for maximum drive performance. By rearranging files on the hard drive, and writing them in contiguous sectors and tracks, the drive does not have to work as hard when reading and writing data. This speeds up all of the drive related performance issues, often resulting in significant increases in speed. It took about 40 minutes to defrag her hard drive, a time no doubt increased by the high degree of fragmentation present on her drive before the optimization. Raxco is recognized for the excellence of its PerfectDisk series of disk optimizers, and that pedigree was evident in the defragger in PerfectSpeed.

After I completed the optimization process, which took about an hour in this case, I shut down the computer and asked my daughter to turn it on. It booted quickly, much to her surprise. I asked her to load Word and Firefox, which loaded very quickly, compared to before the optimization. I asked her to shut down the computer, which she did; the blue shutdown screen appeared, and in a matter of seconds, it disappeared, and the computer turned itself off. The grin on her face was all of the compensation that I needed.

PerfectSpeed is not just for running on demand, as it also has an “AutoPilot” feature which will periodically run the optimization utilities at scheduled times, and when the computer is on but idle or in a state of low system activity. With AutoPilot engaged, the computer will be re-optimized on a regular basis, maintaining a high level of performance.

There are many tweaks which can be implemented in Windows to make incremental improvements in performance, security, and appearance. PerfectSpeed has a “Tweak Your PC” button which displays the tweaks that are available, with a “Learn More” link adjacent to each one which will open a balloon-window with a description of the tweak.

PerfectSpeed PC Optimizer worked well on her computer and made a dramatic improvement in its performance. While the features offered by PerfectSpeed are comprehensive and appropriate, and do an excellent job at what they do, the one feature that it is lacking that would also contribute to PC optimization is a startup manager. If Raxco will include a startup manager in its next version, PerfectSpeed may be unbeatable as an optimizer. Still, as it stands in its current version 2.0, PerfectSpeed PC Optimizer did an outstanding job in cleaning up my daughter’s computer, and dramatically improving its performance. Based on my experience with it, Raxco’s PerfectSpeed PC Optimizer is a winner, and should be strongly considered by anyone who wants an optimized PC getting all of the performance he paid for in a machine. I recommend that readers download the free 15 day trial version (http://www.perfectdisk.com/products/home-perfectspeed/free-trial) and experiment with it. Once you find that it will likely improve the performance of your computer, an affirmative decision to purchase PerfectSpeed will be an easy one to make.

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