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Speed Up A Slow PC

posted 28 Jul 2013, 03:57 by Alistair Hamilton   [ updated 10 Aug 2013, 16:44 ]
Are you finding your once super fast computer is now slowing to a crawl? Are you fed up with waiting for your computer to start up or an application to fully load? If so here are some things you can do to improve things.

First up, a number of tips that will not cost you anything other than some of your time...

  1. Start Again - The most drastic of all the suggestions so I'll put it first. Backup all your data, format your disk drives and reinstall Windows. While you're at it, partition your disk in two so that one partition is assigned solely to the operating system. When you come to reinstall your applications, use the custom location option to put them in the second partition.

  2. Eradicate Malware - One of the most common causes of computer slow downs, malware are computer programs which hide in the background and can perform all sorts of malicious functions. It is important to remove these as soon as possible not only from the point of view of speeding up your computer but for security reasons as well. Make sure you use a reputable anti-malware tool such as AVG, Avast or Microsoft's own Security Essentials.

  3. Defragment Your Disk Drives - Your applications and data are stored on your hard disk. On a new computer, these files are ordered and kept together. Over time, as you create, edit and delete files or install and uninstall applications the files become disjointed and spread over the disk. This means the hard disk has to work harder to read and write files making any disk access slower. One should minimise this fragmentation by running the Windows defragmentation tools on a regular basis.

  4. Clean Up - Removing unwanted programs and files from your hard disk will help to speed things up a bit (do so before you do any disk defragmention as it will reduce the time it takes). Similarly, remove unwanted entries from the registry (the database that holds all the hardware and software settings for your PC). To do this, use a reputable tool such as CCleaner from piriform.com. Note that it is very easy to mess up a PC by incorrectly modifying the registry so take care.

  5. Check The System Tray - This is the area in the bottom right of your screen along the taskbar. The icons listed there all represent applications that are loaded on start up. These are frequently not needed and simply take up resources as well as increase the start up time. Right-click on each item and check if there are options that allow you to prevent it loading on start up. If not, you can use the aforementioned CCleaner application or the in-built Microsoft utility, MSConfig, to disable or remove those entries from the start up process.

  6. Disable Non-essential Services - Windows comes with a whole host of functionality enabled by default. This functionality is provided by small programs known as 'services'. In many situations, individual services are not required and simply take up resources slowing down the boot process and the normal operation of the computer. For example, if you are not connected to a network, then you do not need the various services that provide network functionality.

    You can disable services individually by running the services administration tool, 'services.msc'. Remember, disabling a service prevents it from working so make sure you disable the correct ones. There is excellent, comprehensive details available at www.blackviper.com.

  7. Indexing/Search Service - The indexing service catalogues your files so that you can search for them more easily and quicker. Unfortunately, it can slow things down. If you organise your files in a sensible manner then this service becomes superfluous. Disable it.

  8. Automatic Updates - Conventional wisdom dictates that the default setting of Automatic Updates being on should be left alone. I disagree as it often fires when one is right in the middle of doing something, hogging resources and slowing the machine down. I prefer to be in control of what happens on my computer and when so I have it set to notify me when updates are available. I can then start the download and install process when I want at a convenient time.

    Remember, updating your machine is vitally important so don't simply ignore the notifications.

  9. Disable Themes - Is your computer configured to display special effects like fading windows, transparency, shadows and so on? Such eye candy serves absolutely no constructive purpose and simply uses computer resources that could be used for something else. Get rid of it.

  10. Remove Fonts - Windows comes with a load of fonts and installing office software and other applications frequently add to that list. You may see a performance improvement when running such software if you delete those fonts that you never use.

  11. Optimise BIOS - Make sure your BIOS is configured so that your hard disk is the 1st boot device; ensure the memory check is not enabled; if available, make sure the BIOS quick boot option is enabled; if available, disable the hard disk 'acoustic' mode.

  12. Disable Thumbnails - By default, folders in Windows are configured to display thumbnails of the files they hold. While this my useful for folders full of photos, it servers no real purpose for anything else. Turn them off.

  13. Disable File and Folder Compression - While it might save disk space, it slows disk access. Disable it.

Now for some tips that will need you to dip your hand in your wallet...

  1. Increase RAM - Random Access Memory is the temporary storage area into which applications and data are loaded when you are working on them. Increasing the amount of memory your system is perhaps the biggest single boost you can give it and provides excellent 'bang for buck'.

    Note however that if you are running a 32 bit operating system then only 3GB of memory will be recognised and there would be no point in adding more. 64 bit operating systems do not have that limitation.

    With that in mind, I'd look for the maximum on a 32 bit OS and a minimum of 4GB on a 64 bit OS though I'd prefer 8GB.

  2. Relocate The Page File - The page file or swap disk is a special section of the hard disk used to temporarily swap data out of RAM when that RAM is needed for something else. It is usually configured on the same hard disk as the operating system. If you install a second physical hard disk, move the page file to the non-system disk as the system disk is already very busy doing other things.

  3. Install An SSD - Normal hard disks are mechanical devices and as such have a limited access speed. Solid state drives are electronic and do not have the same physical restrictions. As such, they are significantly faster than traditional hard drives. By installing an SSD and using that to hold your operating system and applications while retaining the larger, albeit slower traditional hard disk to hold your data, you will see a dramatic improvement in the time it takes your computer to boot as well as the time it takes applications to load.

    The drawback? SSDs are not cheap, though the technology is improving all the time and as such, the prices are falling.

Give some of these a try and see how you get on. If you are unsure about performing some of these tasks yourself, please get in touch and I'll be only to happy to assist.