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Breathe new life into your aging PC for much less than the cost of buying a new system...

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  February 1, 2007

1.Clean up your PC|~||~||~|A computer doesn’t run at its best when it’s overheating, so give your system a good regular dusting to clear blocked vents and clogged heatsinks. First, vacuum the dust balls out of the front and rear vents from the outside of your PC’s case. Next, buy a can of compressed air (available at most computer stores) and carefully spray the vents, fans and heatsinks. The closely-spaced prongs on heatsinks are dust magnets, and dusty components can lead to freezes, crashes and more. Also, clean the heatsink on your graphics card as this is just as vulnerable.

Whilst inside your case, route your PC’s cables along the case’s inside edges to really maximise air circulation (but not before, that is, you’ve grounded yourself by touching the case to prevent damaging components with static electricity (see pic A)). Once you’re done arranging the cables, close up your PC and make sure the newly cleaned vents aren’t blocked by a wall or the side of a desk.||**||2.Clean up your system|~||~||~|The first step to cleaning Windows is to exterminate PC pests, which can slow down your PC and wage war on your data. Start by visiting the Windows Update website
(at to make sure you have the latest patches for your version of Windows. Next, check your anti-virus and anti-spyware utilities for updates, and then run a complete check of your system with each tool.

Once you’ve made sure your PC is virus- and spyware-free, it's time to get your hard disk in shape. Having plenty of empty space on your hard drive is important for good performance, as it allows enough room for virtual memory to work. Fortunately, clearing space on your drive is quite easy. For instance, few people need anywhere near the hard-disk space that Windows sets aside for the Recycle Bin; the default is 10% of the drive’s total capacity. That’s 6bytes of a 60Gbyte hard drive! To make some room, right-
click the Recycle Bin icon, choose 'Properties', move the slider down to three percent or less and click OK.

Another space hog is Windows’ System Restore, which uses tons of hard-drive space to hold restore points that you’ll probably never need. To trim the fat, right-click on the My Computer icon, choose Properties/ System Restore, drag the slider down to three percent or less, and click OK.

Now you should run Windows’ Disk Cleanup: Click Start, Run, type cleanmgr /sageset:99, and press Enter. Check each type of file you want to look for, and click OK. Right-click the C: drive in My Computer and choose Properties/Disk Cleanup. You’ll see a list of a dozen or so kinds of files that you can delete. Check the categories you don’t need such as ‘Temporary Files’ and ‘Recycle Bin’ files, click OK, and then hit ‘Yes’.

Disk Cleanup will now spend several minutes clearing space. If you have more than one hard disk, repeat this process for each hard disk listed in My Computer.

Another important task is getting rid of apps you don't use. You've probably downloaded and installed several programs you no longer need, so like spring-cleaning your kitchen cupboard, you should clear out the thus unused rubbish. To get rid of unwanted apps, go to Start/Run, type control and press Enter. Next, double-click on the Add/Remove Programs icon. Now scroll through the list and examine each program. Windows XP lists how often you use a program and what day you last ran it. Therefore use this information to decide whether you really need an app or not. (Here's a rule of thumb: if you haven't use an app in six months, you'll mostly likely never use it so get rid of it.)

Once you’ve spotted the app(s) you’d like to uninstall, click on the app name and click the ‘Remove’ button. Follow the prompts to uninstall it.

Top Tip: When uninstalling apps, you might receive a message asking if you want to remove a shared component. Select the ‘No to all’ option, as these files may be necessary for other apps to operate.

It’s now time to clean out your registry files. There are a lot of Registry cleaners out there but our favourite is EasyCleaner (which is available at EasyCleaner helps you searches your Windows registry for entries that are pointing nowhere. It also helps you to delete unnecessary files such as temporary files and backups.
- Download and install EasyCleaner. When you start the program, you'’l get a grid
of 16 items to choose from
- Click the Registry button.
- Click the ‘Find’ button on the bottom. EasyCleaner will search your Registry for the leftovers of old programs and other detritus.
- When it’s done, click the Delete All button. (You can’t click until it's finished.)
- Click 'Yes' to confirm you want to delete the ‘bad’ entries. Click Close and let’s move on.

Once you're done, restart your PC, right-click your C: drive in My Computer, and choose Properties/Tools/Defragment Now. In the Disk Defragmenter dialog box, click Analyze. If
the Analyzer reports that you need to defrag the drive, wait until you can afford to leave your computer alone for a
few hours before moving forward (see pic D). This is a very important step as defragging your hard drive periodically does result in faster data access.

Alert! During the defragging process, don’t use your PC for anything else. Moreover, be especially careful not to accidentally turn it off. It’s essential that this procedure run its course without interference, or data loss could occur.

||**||3.Reduce startup times|~||~||~|Instant messaging programs, media players and other programs weasel their way into automatically starting when Windows loads. These slow down your boot time and guzzle up system resources.

However, you can stop these programs from launching automatically. To do this, click Start/Run, type msconfig and click OK. Click the Startup tab. You’ll see a number of apps listed. Some names are easy to figure out. But most are difficult to decipher. You can find a list of entries and explanations at Clear the boxes for the programs you don’t need, click ‘Apply’ and then OK. You’ll be prompted to restart your computer.

After restarting, you’ll receive a message stating that the System Configuration Utility is in ‘Diagnostic’ or ‘Selective Startup’ mode. Check the box next to ‘Don’t show this message again’ and click OK. ||**|| 4.Disable unwanted XP services|~||~||~|Constantly running in the background of XP are services - processes that help the OS at start-up. While you need many of them, a number are not required and can slow down your system.

You can disable services at start-up by using the system configuration utility, similar to the way that you halt programs from running at start-up, except that you use the Services tab instead of the Startup tab. But the system configuration utility doesn’t necessarily list every service that launches on start-up. A bigger problem is that disabling services is more of shot in the dark than disabling programs. When you disable a program, you can get a sense of what the program does. However, when you disable a service through the system configuration utility, its often difficult to no way to know what it does.

A better way of disabling services at start-up is via the Services computer-management console. Run it by typing services.msc in the Run windows. The Services console includes a description of all services so that you can know ahead of time whether a particular service is one you want to turn off. It also lets you pause the service so that you can test your machine and see whether that service is needed.

After you’ve run the console, click the Extended tab (located at the bottom of the screen.. When you highlight a service, this view will show you a description of each service in the left pane. The Startup Type column shows you which services launch on start-up--any with Automatic in that field. Click that column to sort together all the services that automatically launch on start-up. Then highlight each of those services and read the descriptions for each.

When you find a service you want to disable, right-click it and choose Properties. In the Properties dialog box that appears, choose Manual from the Startup Type drop-down list. The service won’t start automatically from now on, but you can start it manually via the console. If you want the service disabled so that it can’t be run, choose Disabled. To test the results, turn off any services that you don’t want to run by clicking Stop The Service in the left pane, or by right-clicking the service and choosing ‘Stop’.

Here’s a list of service you might want to disable:
- Portable Media Serial Number - Retrieves the serial number of any portable music
player attached to your PC
- Task Scheduler - Schedules unattended tasks to be run. If you don’t schedule any unattended tasks, turn it off
- Uninterruptible Power Supply - Manages any Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) connected to your PC
- Telnet - Allows a remote user to log in to your computer and run programs
- Error Reporting Service - Reports system errors to Microsoft, however seeing as how the firm rarely offers solutions to these errors, we recommend that you disable this service
- Fast User Switching Compatibility - Allows users to switch between user accounts without quitting applications and logging out. We recommend you disable this service if you only have a single user on your PC, or if you don’t use fast user switching feature at all. ||**||5.Speed up folder access|~||~||~|When you access a directory, XP wastes a lot of time updating the time stamp showing the last access time for that particular directory and for all sub directories. To stop XP from doing this you need to edit the registry. Here’s how:
- Go to Start and then Run and type regedit
- Click through the file system until you get to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetControl
-Right-click on a blank area of the window on the right, select DWORD Value (see pic G)
- Now create a new DWORD Value and label it with NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate
- Right-click on the new value and select ‘Modify’
- Change the Value Data to ‘1’ and click OK. ||**||6. Add more memory|~||~||~|If your PC’s performance is still very slow after cleaning, it’s time to add more memory.

In most cases, a RAM upgrade can greatly enhance your computer’s performance for a fraction of the price of a
new system.

Adding RAM can give a bigger performance boost than upgrading your processor for example. A faster processor promises more speed, but the processor can’t deliver that speed without enough memory. In fact, a PC with a moderately fast processor and a large amount of memory can out-perform a machine with a faster processor and less amount of RAM. For example, if your PC features a 1.4GHz CPU and 256Mbytes of RAM and your computer’s performance is sluggish, we recommend upgrading to 512Mbytes of RAM.

In this case, we recommend buying an additional 256Mbyte stick of RAM instead of buying just one 512Mbyte stick as this will cost less. (If you’re looking for more memory, be sure to check out ‘Stick ‘em up’ grouptest on page 25, where we test latest DDR II RAM modules to hit the market.)

||**||Six tweaks to speed up your rig |~||~||~|• Wallpaper
This can slow your whole system down, so if you’re willing to compromise, use a simple black or white wallpaper instead.
• Drivers
Update your hardware drivers as frequently as possible. New drivers tend to increase system speed, especially in the case of graphics cards.
• Fonts
When Windows starts, it loads every single font in the Fonts folder. Therefore, the more fonts you have, the slower the booting process. To get rid of unwanted fonts, go to the Fonts folder under C:Windows and remove whatever you don’t want. Fonts that have a red letter ‘A’ as their icon are system fonts, so don’t delete these.
• Resolutions
If you’re willing to do anything for faster performance from your PC, then try lowering your display resolution. The lower it is, the faster your PC will run.
• Faster Start menu access
Go to Start/Run. Now type Regedit and hit Enter. Now, open the folder HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop. You should see a MenuShowDelay value. Now double-click on it and enter 0 in the value data field. This sets the start menu delay to 0 milliseconds.
• Restart quicker
After you hit the Restart button on your PC, hold down the Shift key at the same time. This will launch Windows much more quickly.||**||

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