My PC is Slowing Down – Help!

Is your computer slower than the herd turtlepowerof turtles stampeding through peanut butter? It’s a common and frustrating reality for millions of users. When you brought it home and plugged it in, wow, you we’re going somewhere, but now? Well a one legged dog on tranquilizers seems faster!

Microsoft Windows is notorious for slowing down over time especially the older versions up to and including Vista. Though it might seem that hidden within their constructs resides a kind of aging digital geriatric, the reality is more like the garage in the middle of a project with tools and cords strewn into an intricate trap to catch the unwary. The thing is until recently at least, Microsoft Windows didn’t know or care about cleaning up after itself. A section of the operating system that deals mainly with configuration settings called the registry just gets cluttered and disorderly like a teenager’s room. Inevitably it has to do more work to find the same stuff to make the same things run and ultimately ‘looses’ stuff it needs which causes it to stop working altogether.

slow-computer-aheadAnyway what can you do about it? Well unless you really want to use it for a boat anchor, you’re going to have to tidy up the ‘room’. To do that, like with a 17 year old’s room, you’ve got two choices, either pay someone to clean it up, or toss the lot out, repaint and reinstall everything in an orderly way.  Option one is the easiest but less effective plan. There are plethora of programs you can obtain the privilege of paying for that will clean the registry, with varying efficiency. An example is Registry Mechanic.

Unfortunately none of these software maids have the muscle to toss out the furniture and reinstall everything, which ultimately you will have to do sooner or later. So how do you do that?

Well it’s not like changing a light bulb and there are too many variables to explain it here in detail but below is the basic procedure.

  1. Backup all files photos etc.
  2. Reinstall Windows and activate it.
  3. Pull several clumps of hair out.
  4. Reinstall and test all divers.Lostalldata
  5. Pull yet more hair out while verbally abusing Microsoft or similar multInational.
  6. Reinstall all applications.
  7. Freak out because some stuff doesn’t work like it did before and spend the next week trying to figure it out.
  8. Reinstall all files (At least the ones you can find).
  9. Really freak out because you now realize you didn’t backup something important.
  10. Book in some therapy, resolve to hate Microsoft, computers and everything digital.

It can take the uninitiated anywhere from half a day to weeks to get their system back up and running so I’d suggest you spare yourself and get a professional to do it. At Itjive.com we usually do a complete reinstall within 2-3 hours.

Windows can also be adversely affected by some other less obvious and easily fixed problems. The following tips may help you squeeze a bit more juice out of the computer.

1. REMOVE FILES AND FOLDERS FROM THE DESKTOP

The desktop should only contain shortcuts to files and folders not the files/folders themselves. It’s a common practice to put files on the desktop which is kind of logical, but Microsoft never intended you do to that.  Think of a fancy shelf on the wall, it can’t take the organize-your-desktopweight of any books so you just put pictures of the books on it (which is what a shortcut essential is) and you’ve pretty much got the idea behind the desktop.  Large files like heavy books will break Windows or at least slow it down.

2. REMOVE UNUSED PROGRAMS FROM RUNNING IN THE BACKGROUND

Some software companies are under the illusion that we really can’t live without them. In an effort to keep the assumed umbilical connection their software will politely sit in the background, unawares to us, just sitting there, like an idling taxi waiting for us to use it. There could easily be a line of these taxi-like programs patiently idling waiting for our patronage. Problem is just like the taxis are burning fuel and choking the air for essentially nothing these programs use up our system resources.

You can shut down these ‘taxis’ through the msconfig app. Hold down the windows button and the ‘r‘ key. In the obliging dialog box type in msconfig and hit enter. There’s a tabbed window that opens; You want to go to the Startup tab. This shows a list of the programs that load on startup. As you’ll see it’s quite a line up. You’ll notice in the screenshot that I’ve highlighted some entries that I don’t think need to be sitting in the background and I’ve unchecked them.

msconfig

Before you get to cocky, don’t mess with this tool, it could bite you if you inadvertently disable something important and break windows. Like fixing anything more complicated than a paper weight, you need to know what you’re doing.

3. REGULARLY USE DISK CLEANUP AND DISK DEFRAG

A disk cleanup will get rid of more stuff you don’t need. The defrag will reorder almost everything on the hard disk drive to make it easier for the system to access it. Most of us have at least seen a record player, a favored number once owned one, and a privileged few still do. Just as with the record player you have the record (or vinyl if I’m trying to sound cool) and the stylus or head; *traditional hard disk drives are similar.

A traditional hard disk has a number of platters which are like records, and a number of heads to read the platters. (The platters don’t have groves in them like records; data is stored magnetically).

Can you imagine for a moment listening to a song on a record where rather than being sequential as we’re used to, parts of it were scattered across the surface and the stylus had to move erratically back and forth to make the song?  Well apart from it sounding like a bad dub-step ‘song’, it’s the sort of thing that has to happen on a hard drive when it gets fragmented. Defragging the hard drive puts most of the stuff back sequentially where it belongs which ultimately means the computer works faster.

 4. REGULARLY SCAN FOR VIRUSES AND MALWARE

You should also be regularly scanning yourScanningcomputer for viruses and malware. Some viruses and especially malware can slow down a computer. Avast and AVG are good antivirus programs that also offer a very good but stripped down free version.

If you notice your PC tends to grind down to the speed of a Lada full of elephants climbing a hill when on the internet and you know the kids didn’t use up all the download quota this month on Youtube, chances are you could have malware sharing your internet. Some studies suggest a staggering 40% of all computers on the internet are part of a bot-network. If you can imagine a computer remotely using the resources of a 1000 or more other computers without their owner’s knowledge you’ve got the idea of a bot-network. Malwarebytes is one of a handful of good malware programs.

 5. USE THE SMALLEST BACKGROUND IMAGE SIZE POSSIBLE

If you want a background picture on your screen, use a photo-editing program like Photoshop to reduce its size (in megabytes). Experiment with this finding a balance between what looks good and is small in size. Screen resolution needs only to be aprox. 1280 x 800 at 72 dpi. A modern digital camera will take photos many times larger than this which if used on the desktop without editing will needlessly use system resources.

As a final tip and one that’s not going to make a different to the speed of your computer, partition your hard drive. It’s a good practice to use a separate partition to save all your files to, leaving the C: partition only for windows and programs. The C: partition will only need to be around 120 Gb. This way you future proof the system, when you need to re-install windows, the files and folders containing your work, photos or whatever are on another partition and are unaffected. For an explanation of partitioning and how to go about it see a future post.

*A Traditional Hard Disk Drive is one with moving parts. Currently Solid State Drives that have no moving parts are becoming more common place and aren’t affected the same by fragmentation.

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