Is your computer slow? Perhaps it’s old… perhaps it’s not old. Are you considering buying a new one? Computers are like cars, you need to keep it maintained if you want it to run well and not suddenly conk out on you when you least expect it. In this article, I’m going to show you how you can hopefully get a new lease of life on your computer through a number of different techniques, without you resorting to buying a whole new computer.
In this series of articles I’m going to take a break away from my normal theme to relay to you how I do the “computer” things I do in an attempt to save time and minimize trouble caused by PC glitches. Prevention in this case, is far better, cheaper, quicker, than the cure.
You know it’s serious when you have a disclaimer right at the start, but here it is. You accept full responsibility for your computer if you perform any or all of the steps outlined in this guide. Do the steps in order, if at all, and hopefully you’ll come away with a cleaner, meaner PC, and not an expensive paper weight. I make no guarantees, representations or warranties to the success/disaster or lack of as a result of doing any of these actions.
Step 1: Cleaning out the closet
a) Applications and their old data
Download the program CCleaner, from Piriform, and install it. Get it at http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner
Note, that as you install there will be an options window that has 5 check boxes pertaining to short-cuts, context menus, updating, etc. Un-check all of them except the first two.
Now run the CCleaner program from the short-cut on your desktop. This program is designed to look through many of the programs on your PC and remove stale data, old web browser caches, old system files, etc. and clean (delete) them.
It’s important to note that while you can leave most things in their default state you should go through the ‘Windows’ and ‘Applications’ tabs and un-check all the things you don’t want deleted. For example, under the ‘Applications’ tab there’s a Firefox settings section (because that’s what I use) and here I un-check “Internet History”, “Saved Form Information”, “Session” and “Cookies” – I don’t want this information removed. Run your eye along all the options that are checked on and make sure you do want this information removed. We’re cleaning up here, not making life difficult for ourselves by removing information we need/use. You can always come along later and remove it if you decide you don’t need it.
Close down all the other programs running on your computer for now (including your browser that you’re using to read this) and click ‘Analyse’. Nothing is deleted at this stage, it just has a look around and will display a summary of everything to be deleted. Take one last moment to review and click “Run Cleaner”.
b) Clean the windows registry
Your registry is where Windows keeps records of lots of different items and when it gets bloated, full of useless and incorrect information, you’re gonna have problems.
Using the same program, CCleaner, click the ‘Registry’ button the left and then “Scan for Issues”. Once it’s finished click “Fix Selected Issues…”. It will prompt you to back up the registry. This is up to you, though it’s probably advisable.
After all this cleaning, it’s time to restart your computer just to make sure all is still working. =)
Step 2: Turn off unwanted services
This part can seem a bit tricky, but all you have to do is follow along and you’ll be able to save some much needed computing power that’s been hogged by things you just don’t need or even use. I’m going to assume you’re at home, on your computer/laptop and not in work where the requirements are much different.
Open the ‘Control Panel’, then ‘Administrative Tools’, and then the item called ‘Services’.
In this window you are looking at all background “services” or programs that Windows uses to do various things that you’re probably barely aware of. By default, in Windows XP, many of these are set to startup ‘automatically’ when your computer loads. Not good for you if you don’t use them. So for each one that I refer to, right-click on it in the list and go to ‘Properties’. You’re looking for the setting called ‘Startup type’; to perform the tasks outlined below. Here goes:
- ‘Computer Browser” : change to ‘Manual‘ and click ‘OK’
- ‘Help and Support’ : change to ‘Manual‘ and click ‘OK’
- ‘Error Reporting Service’ : change to ‘Manual‘ and click ‘OK’
- ‘Remote Registry’ : change to ‘Manual‘ and click ‘OK’
- ‘Routing and Remote Access’ : change to ‘Manual‘ and click ‘OK’
For the next items, if the statement that follows it is true, then do it. Otherwise ignore.
- ‘Wireless Zero Configuration-service’ : change to ‘Manual‘ (“…because I never use wireless/WiFi network – usually on a desktop computer, not a laptop“)
- ‘Printer Service’ : change to ‘Manual‘ (…because I do not have/use any printers)
- ‘IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service’ : change to ‘Manual‘ (…because I either don’t have any DVD/CD burners, or I use my own software, such as Nero etc.)
- ‘Fast User Switching Compatibility’ : change to ‘Manual’ (…because I am the only user on this computer).
That should be a good start. Now restart your computer.
Step 3: Hard disk clean and tidy
It’s important that the last thing you did on your computer was reboot/restart for this particular section and also that you haven’t, in the last week or so, added new peripherals, such a printers, video cards and other hardware that may cause your computer to crash. The first section to this is optional, but the second should be completely risk free.
a) Remove old System Restore files
System Restore is an option in Windows XP (Vista and 7) that allows you to revert back to a state your computer was in in the past, in case something terrible happens that you can boot into Windows. But it takes up heaps of disk space and that’s what we’re going to clean out now.
Go to ‘Control Panel’, then open the ‘System’ applet. In this new window, click on the ‘System Protection’ tab. Uncheck the box that will turn off the System Restore function and click ‘Apply‘
Now wait – depending on how long you’ve had your computer, this could take a long time. When it’s finished, re-check the box again and click OK. What we’ve done here is turn off the function (which deletes all the previous restores point) and re-enabled it again, ensuring that for the future you’re moderately protected against serious crashes.
Restart your computer.
b) Disk Defragment – data tidy up
When you’re using your computer files get scattered about all over the place and now we’re going to tidy them up and this should be a nice performance boost all round if it’s the first time you’ve ever done it.
Go and download Defraggler, from Pirform (again), and install it: http://www.filehippo.com/download_defraggler
As with the previous program, only check the items to install the short-cuts on the desktop and the start-menu. Once installation is complete, launch the newly installed Defraggler program from your desktop short-cut. Depending on how many hard disks you have you’ll have an array to choose from in the upper half of the window. The one you want is likely labelled C:, so just click on it and hit the ‘Defrag’ button at the bottom.
Again, now you wait. This can take a very long time on hard disks that have never been defrag’d, but it’s worth it, and it shouldn’t take too long if you’ve followed all the previous steps in this guide so far since you’re not cleaning up stuff that is wasted space.
This is a long, and somewhat heavy article, but you just need to stick at it. It will hopefully save you some performance on your aging computer and you can push back splashing out on a new one for a while longer. You can, and should, repeat these steps at least once a month to keep it tuned up.