You don’t have to be a computer professional to get more life out of your creeping, crawling PC. You will need a basic knowledge of computers though and be able to log in as an Administrator. You should be familiar with the My Computer (Windows Explorer) program. Other than that, if you can read, click on buttons and links and follow directions, then you can get your computer running faster and more efficient, without spending hundreds of dollars doing it. What you can do yourself, will save you the money of hiring a professional.
There is no one program that will solve all of your computers problems, so it will take a few different ones to get things working nicely. Before you get started, there are a couple of things that will prevent these procedures from working properly. First off, if your computer has a hardware problem, then you’re better off replacing the hardware or just getting a new computer. Secondly, if your computer is loaded with Viruses and your Virus Protection programs can’t get rid of them, then you are better off reformatting your hard drive and starting off from scratch. Both of those issues are beyond the scope of this article and you will need to seek professional help to resolve them.
Having the proper tools to help you with these steps will drastically effect how long it takes to complete the processes, but know that this is a time consuming endeavor. It will take a few hours to completely clean out your system, but the results with be most worth your time and effort. Now don’t let the following steps intimidate you. It sounds more complicated than it really is. That is assuming that you have the proper software to do the job and we will recommend the best tools that we have found for each step.
1. Clean Out the Registry
2. Uninstall Software that is Not Needed or Used
3. Delete Temporary and Non-Essential Files
4. Run Virus/Adware/Malware/Trojan Removal Software
5. Clean out the Registry – Yes, Again
6. Defragment Your Hard Drive
Step 1: Clean Out the Registry – WARNING: The Registry is the place where Windows stores a list of all the hardware and software in your computer and the default settings for them. It actually does more than this, but that is the general idea. Messing around with the Registry is dangerous, if you don’t know what you are doing. That is why choosing the RIGHT software for this is crucial. See the bottom of this Step for a link to a list of recommended programs.
It is actually not necessary to perform this step first, but I have found that this will immediately increase the performance enough to get things moving quicker than if we didn’t do it. The software that you use for this step should automatically save the Registry in its current state before ever making any changes. That way, if something does go wrong, it can be reset to its former state. The program should be easy to use and be backed by a Customer Support team that can help you if something should go wrong. Go ahead and acquire one of the programs, in the recommended link above, if you don’t already have a program that can do this and that you trust. Install it and follow the directions.
For a list of the top 5 Registry Cleaning programs that we have reviewed, check out my blog entry for this same article at the link at the bottom of this article.
Step 2: Uninstall Software that is Not Needed or Used – Over time, more and more software gets installed onto your computer. You may use those programs for a while and then they lose their appeal and just sit there unused and taking up space on your hard drive and your Registry. If you no longer use those programs, then they should be removed. By taking up space in your Registry, they actually cause it to run slower and slower as more programs cause it to bloat up. By uninstalling these programs, you will regain space and increase the responsiveness of your computer. To uninstall the unneeded programs, you will need to open up your computer’s Control Panel. This can be found by opening the My Computer (Windows Explorer) program and selecting it from the Drive list on the left side of the screen. If you don’t see the Drive list, which just lists your computers hard drive(s), CD/DVD drive(s) and other connected devices, then you can enable it by pressing on the Folders icon or by clicking the View menu, selecting Explorer bar and choosing the Folders option. Once you click on the Control Panel, you will be presented with many items in the right pane of the screen. You will want to select the “Add or Remove Programs” or the “Programs And Features” entry, depending on your Operating System. This will open another window that will list the programs that are installed on your computer.
WARNING: If a program listed here does not look familiar to you, then you may want to leave it alone as it might be a needed program for your particular system. Such as drivers for your graphics card or crucial Windows updates. Look only for programs that you know of and no longer need. Select the program you want to uninstall and click the Change/Remove button, then follow the default prompts.
Step 3: Delete Temporary and Non-Essential Files – Many programs, that you use every day, create additional files that help them to run faster and more efficient. That, in and of itself, is not a problem and is in fact desirable. The problem comes when these programs can’t or just don’t clean up after themselves. These additional files are only needed while the program that created them is running. After that, they can and should be removed from your system. Also, while you surf the Internet, your computer stores various information and images from them in a cache. This is also somewhat desirable, because if you frequent those pages often, it helps them to load up more quickly, since your computer only needs to look on its own hard drive to find the information rather than downloading it every time you visit the page. The Recycle Bin on your computer also holds wasteful files that need to be removed. So, with all of that said, how do we do it?
There are many programs that are far more reaching than what Windows provides, but we will use their built in abilities to do this job. Open up the My Computer program and locate the C: drive in the Folders panel on the left. Right-Click on the C: drive and choose the Properties option. There are several tabs on the window that pops up and depending on your Operating System, the button we need could be on a different tab. Look for the button that reads Disk Cleanup. Press that button and wait for Windows to finish scanning your computer for removable files. When completed, you can select which locations you want to clean up and then click the OK button to start. We are still working on a preferred list of programs that do a far better job than the above Windows option and will write another article when we’ve made our determinations.
Step 4: Run Virus/Adware/Malware/Trojan Removal Software – Viruses are programs written by malicious users designed to cause all sorts of problems for your computer. You should already have Virus software installed on your system to battle these little monsters. If you don’t, then you need to get something fast. Most top of the line virus protection software programs are well known nowadays, so I don’t really have a list of the best ones, although we will do an exhaustive study of some of the lesser known, less expensive programs out there. For now, you may want to take a look at AVG or Avast. A Google search will bring you to their respective web site. Adware and Malware programs are yet another species of little beasts that can be aggressive or passive, but definitely clog up your computer, slowing it down tremendously. For a list of the top 5 Adware/Malware/Trojan Removal programs that we have found, check out my blog link at the bottom of this article.
As stated before, go ahead and acquire one of the programs, in the recommended link on my blog, if you don’t already have a program that can do this and that you trust. Install it and follow the directions.
Step 5: Clean out the Registry – Yes, Again – Why do this step again? Simply because, now that we have removed more programs from your system, via steps 2 through 4, there are more unneeded and wasteful entries in the Registry. You would think that when you uninstall programs, that they would clean out their Registry entries too and some of the better programs will do that, but not all of them do, which makes this step necessary. You might be surprised at just how much more waste the program finds this time around. See the link in Step 1 for a list of the top 5 Registry cleaning software products.
Step 6: Defragment Your Hard Drive – Your hard drive stores all of your computers programs and the Registry. OK, you knew that. What you may or may not know, is that the hard drive stores information in blocks of spaces that are a particular size. Depending on how it was formatted, these blocks could be in one of a few different sizes. Each block holds all or a portion of an installed program. For instance, lets say that it is setup to hold blocks in 4k chunks. One program may take up hundreds or thousands of these little blocks, depending on how big the program is. Logically, the programs should be installed sequentially in block 1, block 2, block 3, etc.
When your computer is new, that is pretty much how it happens. Over time, as programs are installed and uninstalled, programs will use up any available block, no matter where it might be, so if the program takes up more space than there is available sequential blocks, your computer will break up your program and install it anywhere it finds an available block. For example, lets say that you install a program that takes up 100 blocks of space. All is well until you uninstall that program and install another program of a different size. If the new program is smaller, then it takes what it needs and all is still well. If the program is bigger than the one it replaced, then the computer will use up the 100 blocks and install the rest of the program in the next set of available blocks which could be many blocks away. Now this new program is fragmented.
Meaning that some of it is installed here and the rest of it is installed on another section of the hard drive. Now we have two fragments, which still isn’t bad, but can you see if the program had to be installed in several to hundreds of fragments all over the place? That’s right, your computer has to look in all of those locations to get at your one program. The more fragmented programs you have on your computer, the more work your computer has to do to find it and get it up and running and the slower and slower it becomes. This last step reconfigures your hard drive in a way that moves these files around into the sequential order that is the most efficient and fastest for program retrieval. In this step, we will again use the Windows built in program. There are several alternatives to this, but the Windows version works just fine. To find it, click on your Start button and choose the All Programs option. Locate the Accessories folder and then look in the System Tools folder. The Disk Defragmenter program should be one of the available choices. Run this program and choose the Defragment button.
When this completes, which could take well over an hour depending on how bad the fragmentation is, you are done. It’s probably not a bad idea to reboot your system at this point, just to get a fresh start, but once you do, you should notice quite a difference in performance, if you haven’t already. If you don’t, then it is quite possible that you have an impending hardware issue that may need to be addressed.
Thank you for reading and enjoy your rejuvenated computer.
Please go to my blog for links to the recommended products, in this article: http://potentialsunleashed.blogspot.com/
Joseph Austin is an IT Professional and Software Developer, in the Merchant Services industry, and the Owner and Marketing Consultant for Potentials Unleashed, an internet based, products and services review company. He has been using computers since 1978, and has developed a passion for solving problems and helping people to get the most out of their consumer and computing experiences.
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