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My computer is slowing down, what can I do? -

by Canuck
December 3, 2005

Canuck is an administrator at Help2Go. Much of his computer knowledge has been acquired since joining Help2Go, from research, to learning from the wealth of knowledge of its members. He lives by the credo 'there is no such thing as a dumb question'.

This question comes up on a regular basis in our forums. The information given here is focused on the XP operating system, but some of it applies to other Windows systems as well. Here are some basic steps to follow:

Ideally, you should have 512 RAM. If you don't, bring it up to 512 (more if you can afford it and your PC will accept it, like 1 gig ) you'll see a marked increase in speed. Other than the following tips, this is the cheapest and most efficient way to increase speed.

How much free space do you have on your hard drive? Between 15% and 20% is ideal. XP and the other programs you have, not only require RAM memory to work, but also use your Hard Drive (Virtual Memory, which allows a computer program to behave as though the computer's memory is larger than the actual physical RAM. The excess is stored on hard disk and copied to RAM as needed.) Many large or data intensive programs and games these days require a lot of memory to operate seamlessly (no stalls or freezing).

One thing you can do to save space is go to Control Panel >System >System Restore Tab >make sure the box 'turn off System Restore on all drives' is NOT checked >move the slide bar to 4% to 6%, (this will give you more than enough restore points and free up 6% to 8% of your HD. (That's 6 to 8 gigs on a 100 gig drive) >OK.

Another thing you can do is clean up your personal files and to save the important ones to disk/CD, delete the garbage files and only keep the important current files. Also, uninstall programs you are no longer using (either use the program's uninstall process or the Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel). Remember, you're aiming for 15% to 20% free HD space.

If you need all the programs and data files, think about installing a slave hard drive and saving your files to that .. programs too (other than operating system).

In Internet Explorer go to - Tools >Internet Options >General Tab >Delete Files while there, Delete Cookies also. Note: This does not delete your Favorites, but login information to your favorite sites will be deleted. If you don't have a printed list of login names and passwords, now is a good time to make one before deleting cookies. (For security purposes, you should never keep your passwords on your PC). However, a program such as Webroots 'Window Washer' will do all this for you while protecting the login information from being deleted. If you are using other browsers, ask in a post for instructions.

Have you run chkdisk? This will check your C: drive (or which ever drive you have your operating system on) for errors, and repair any damaged or changed Windows files. You do this by going to Start > My Computer > right click C: drive >Properties >Tool >under Error Checking >Check Now > check both boxes >Start. It may say that chkdsk will run when you next reboot .. Reboot/restart now and let chkdsk do its thing. Note, if you have tweaked the registry to change some of the windows features, they will return to their default settings.

Defragment your Hard Drive. As time goes on, the information on your Hard Drive becomes displaced and scattered. Your HD has to work harder finding this data and putting it together when you need it. Defragmenting pulls the data all together, making retrieval faster and working the HD less. To defragment go to Start >Programs >Accessories >System Tools >Disk Defragment. (You can also defragment from the same window as you used when you checkdisked). You should try to do this a least once a month, more if you're a heavy user. If you haven't done this at all or for quite some time, this process can take awhile to complete. Let this be the last thing you do at night or if your not going to need the computer for an extended period. Regular defraging will not take so long in the future.  Defraging is best done in 'Safe Mode', this way there are minimal programs working in the background which slow down the process.

Have only one anti virus program running. More than one running can cause conflicts and slow you down.

Before doing any of the following steps, make sure System Restore is turned on (it should be if you have adjusted the setting to 4% to 6% above) you create a new Restore Point. Start > Help & Support > select 'undo changes to your computer with System Restore >click the radio button 'Create a Restore Point' >Next >type in a name that you'll remember should you need to restore .. something like Good Restore Point .. >Create ..a restore point will now be created and you can go on to the next steps.

Other areas that can cause slowdowns are the programs that run in the background. There are 2 built in utilities in XP that manage these. The first is msconfig .. go to Start >Run >type in msconfig >OK >Startup tab. Here you will see a listing of programs, the ones with a check mark in the box are running the second you turn on your computer. Most software companies feel that their program is so important, that you'll want it available in a split second. Most of these programs are taking up valuable RAM memory and slowing down the bootup process as well as your programs in general. With the exception of security software and a few others, most do not need to be running. You can uncheck the boxes of the ones you want stopped and click Apply >OK. It will then ask if you want to restart your computer for the changes to take effect >select to restart. When Windows starts up again, a configuration window will open. Just click the box saying not to show this notice again >OK. Your done. Should you want easy access to a particular program, you either go to Start >All Programs, or create a shortcut on your desktop (this does not take up memory). Note: by stopping the program from running, you are not deleting it, nor are you stopping access to it. You can always go back in and check the box again. If you have any questions on these startup programs.  Feel free to ask the advice of our members in your post.

The other utility is Services. You can open this utility by either Start >Run > type in services.msc >OK or by going to Control Panel >Administrative Tools >Services. Here you can have various services selected to be in automatic (running), manual (only runs when you activate the program) or disabled (not running and not available to be run manually). If you are knowledgeable in what these services do, change the settings by double clicking the line and changing the drop-down to the desired action. If you are not sure ... DO NOT CHANGE!! You can really mess things up. Again, if you have any questions about the various services ask our members in the Q&A forum.

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history./>Here's a brief description on its use, after downloading and installing Ccleaner:

Go to Start > programs > Ccleaner >Make sure the "windows" tab is selected >Under "internet explorer" tick the following boxes ...Temporary internet files - Cookies - History - Recently typed URL's (leave this unticked if you DON'T want to clear the drop down list in the address window of IE) and Delete index.dat files.

Next under "Windows explorer" > All boxes ticked except 'Other explorer MRU's' (leave this unticked if you DON'T want to clear lists such as the start un list)

Under "System" - Empty recycle bin - Temporary files - Memory Dumps - Chkdsk File Fragments - Old Prefetch data

If there are any cookies you want to keep (if you remove the cookie for a site you require a password for, you will need to re-enter your password when you next visit that site) ... click options > cookies > then keep the cookies you want. You may of course check any or all boxes as you wish, but these are the main ones we suggest.

Click the Analyze button and Ccleaner will start the scan. When it's finished, click the Run Cleaner. You will get a popup window stating that 'The process will permanently delete files from your system' click OK . A message in the upper window will now state the 'Cleaning is Complete' , you may now shut down the program. It is suggested to do this about once a week or when doing your general maintenance with the other cleanup steps.

Note: Ccleaner also includes a Registry Cleaner. Unless you have advanced experience with the Registry, we do not recommend you use this or any registry cleaners. We have found in the past that they have caused more problems than they fix.

Now, the real biggy. Malware, viruses and adware. Some of these are just a pain, but others especially viruses do not only slow you down, but some can bring you to a screeching halt. Here at Help2Go we have a Spyware forum that handles these. This forum is manned by a few very dedicated and knowledgeable members, and under their instructions you can rid yourself of these pests.

Finally, the key to having a smooth running computer is having a good maintenance routine and to be protected with a firewall, anti virus and anti spam programs. We have articles on these subjects and have a recommended utility programs page (free and retail), so please check this out. You can get to all of these articles and utility programs from the Home page.

Our members are here to help, there is no such thing as a silly question .. we are all at different stages of learning. Also, our members are scattered all over the world in different time zones .. the person who may have the answer to your problem may have just gone to bed or to work, so please be patient, your post will be answered.

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