PC tune up

Welcome to Windows PC Tune-up guide where we give you tips on software and hardware tweaks to get your computer humming again

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PC tune up
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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  June 7, 2009

On your marks

An easy way to get your computer running faster is by controlling what programs your computer starts with. Many of the programs you have installed might be slowing up your start up speed; so, take a look at the icons at the bottom of your Windows taskbar when your computer starts up and right click on them to dig deep into their settings. You should then be able to disable those programs which you deem unnecessary at start up. Alternatively, if you're battling to find the start up settings this way, you can also run the ‘msconfig' command in Windows by clicking on the Start button, choosing Run and typing ‘msconfig'. You can then click on the Startup tab and choose which programs you want to disable when you switch on or restart your PC.

Defrag

Fragmentation occurs on a hard drive or a memory module when data is not written closely enough to a drive. The result is that over time your drives have to read pieces of data from multiple areas on the drives and they cannot access the whole data as fast as they would if the data had been written on the same area of the drives. Defragmentation rearranges fragmented data on your drives so that your disks can run more efficiently. To defragment your drives then, click on Start and navigate to the Control Panel. Then click on Performance and Maintenance and Computer Management. From there you can select the Defragmentation option. It's a good idea to run this process regularly.

Reformat

Reformatting your hard drive is a last resort and should only be done if you want an absolute fresh start. You need to have your operating system's and other programs' installation CDs with their respective product keys with you. You also need to make sure that you have a backup store of all your data. (It's a good idea to get yourself an external hard drive that you can use to store all your data onto.) Furthermore, to ensure that you have the drivers you need, you should print a report from your device manager, which you access by going to Control Panel, System, Hardware, Device Manager, Action and then Print. Now you're ready for your PC's makeover.

Insert your Windows installation disk into your CD drive, shut down your PC and boot from the CD. You'll then be presented with a ‘Welcome to Setup Page' where you can press Enter and then press F8 to accept the licensing agreement. Press ESC to bypass the repair and install a fresh copy. You'll be presented with a list of your disk partitions and subsequently an option to delete the current partition on which your Windows Operating System lies. Choose to format the drive as NTFS. You now have a brand new start with your fresh install of Windows and a faster computer.

Boost your RAM

Perhaps that dinosaur 1MB RAM (Random Access Memory) configured machine of yours is just not cutting it anymore and you need an upgrade. Many computer stores can add more RAM for you, but they will charge you a service fee. You can, however, do it yourself. You'll have to first open up your hard drive to determine what kind of RAM you need to purchase and install. RDRAM is paired up (you have to put in two at a time) and has metal casing on one side, DDR SDRAM is the most popular and looks like regular RAM but has one notch, and SDRAM (which is being phased out) has two notches. You'll also have to note your RAM speed, which is usually written on the side of the existing chip. Once you've established what kind of RAM you need, it's time to add new RAM.

There are a number of things you need to do to protect your RAM when inserting it. Make sure that you don't touch the RAM with your hands (wear gloves) and make sure that your feet are not touching a carpet to generate static electricity. We also suggest that you earth yourself by touching some metal. It's then a matter of simply slotting in your new RAM and if inserted successfully, your PC will inform you of your upgraded memory upon start up.

Clean up your registry

The registry is a database in both Windows Vista and XP that stores information about your hardware, software preferences and user profiles. Whenever you change something in Windows, it is logged in the registry. But when software is deleted or hardware is upgraded, the registry isn't always updated properly, so it can end up full of outdated, useless entries. Casual deletions from the registry can cause irreversible damage, so a good software solution can help clean it out for you. Free programs such as CCleaner (www.ccleaner.com) are available for download online and will analyse the registry for "keys" left over from old applications no longer resident on your machine. These may be delaying boot time by causing the computer to scan for non-existent programs during start up. Therefore, a clean registry makes the whole process more efficient.

Disk clean

Sometimes you just need an all-in-one disk cleaning machine and your Windows PC has a facility that take care of your PC's 'house duties'. Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then Disk Cleanup. If several drives are available, you might be prompted to specify which drive you want to clean and it's then as simple as selecting which files you want to delete. Typically, Disk Cleanup allows you to remove temporary Internet files, remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets), empty your Recycle Bin, remove temporary files, remove optional Windows components that you don't use and remove installed programs that you no longer use. It's an organised way of getting rid of all the unused files and programs on your computer.

Update and eliminate

Make sure that your operating system is updated when needed and make sure you have the latest anti-spyware and anti-adware to eliminate spyware and adware that may be slowing down your computer dramatically.

Spring clean

Dust and heat can cause build up on the fans of your PC or oil breakdown on its bearings. This can be one of the reasons behind your computer slowing down. When cleaning the insides of your computer then, there are a couple of things that you should take into consideration. Firstly, some of the stuff that you will need will include: a can of compressed air, Endust for Electronics or any household plastic or metal cleaning fluid, a soft brush (such as a paintbrush) and an anti-static rag, plus a dust mask if you're allergic to dust.

Ground yourself to the computer with any professional grounding equipment you have or ground yourself by touching a metal part of the chassis. Spray the compressed air on the fan blades, power supply chassis, drive chassis and circuit boards and gently brush off dust that the forced air didn't dislodge. Then brush any remaining dust out from the bottom of the chassis. Spray Endust for Electronics or another cleaning fluid onto an anti-static rag and wipe the inside and outside of the cover thoroughly.

Barebones

All the paraphernalia that comes with the display on your computer can be one of the culprits that are assisting in slowing down your computer. You can however turn off the visual effects for optimum performance. If you're running Windows XP or Vista, it's just a matter of going into your control panel and selecting the performance and maintenance category and then choosing adjust visual effects. Otherwise, if you still have the old view, you can navigate into your control panel, select the system icon and then click on the advanced tab. From there you can select the performance tab and then click on the visual effects tab and choose the ‘adjust for best performance'.

Speed up your web

So you've got your old PC running at a slightly faster tick. Now that you're PC is running a lot faster, it's time for you to also get you're internet experience moving at one tick faster. Here's some of our top tips

Temporary files

Delete some of the temporary files that are stored on your browser. All internet browsers generally have an option that allows you to clear you're browser's cache or history folder. For Microsoft Internet Explorer click on Tools and then Delete Browsing History. For Mozilla Firefox, it's just a matter of clicking on Tools and then Clear Private Data.

Use OpenDNS

Domain Name Service (or DNS) is the service that usually attributes the typical web address names (such as www.google.com) to their relevant IP addresses (which are in number format, such as 192.23.189.23). Depending upon your internet speed, the process involved with DNS can slow your connection.

For example, if the DNS server of your ISP is slow, the time it takes to resolve the web address adds to the overall loading time of the website.One way to solve this problem involves using OpenDNS, which speeds up your Internet connection and also assists in making your web browsing safer. To use OpenDNS, all you have to do is open your Network Connections or Router's settings page and update the default DNS server to point to the OpenDNS nameservers, which are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220.

You'll also need to sign up for an OpenDNS account and remember the previous IP servers you were connected to just in case you come across problems. OpenDNS servers store the IP addresses of millions of websites in their cache. Therefore, it takes less time to resolve your requests. So if you have asked for an IP address of a website that has been previously requested by another OpenDNS user, you will get the feedback instantly.

Go with Chrome or Firefox

Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox are two of the fastest browsers out there. Put that Internet Explorer away now.

2507 days ago
rcmichelle

Hi, guys. I got same problem with you. I bought my Dell inspiron last Christmas. It worked sharp at the first few months, but got slow after that. It took about 15 mins to start up. I can even walk away and brew my coffee during waiting! I even thought about reinstall my computer! My friend recommended the software tuneup360 and Norton systemwork. I tried both. Norton did look really powerful and could do lots of thing, but it was too difficult for me and too expensive, while Tuneup360 is my type. I just need to click one big “fix now” button and get my computer fixed. Now my computer takes only 30 sec to start up.

2517 days ago
rubenS

I used eBoostr to turn my USB stick into additional RAM cache. Even works for XP.

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