Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tutorial -- Speeding up Your Computer

Because this is a large tutorial, use the following if you are looking for a specific section:

Target Audience -- Who this tutorial was written for:
Novice Windows XP (probably applies to other windows flavors) users who want to speed up their computer.

It happens so slowly that you usually don't notice until it is outright debilitating. Your brand new computer that you paid an arm and a leg for, maybe even made payments on for years – worse yet, are still making payments for; the speed machine you first blazed through the Internet with, used for school/office work, or maybe just played solitaire on while you downloaded your not the beast it first was. The time has come to give it a tune-up. We will discuss mostly (free) software solutions, but will mention basic hardware upgrades, as well.

The Reason:
There may be many reasons that your computer is slow. One is hardly avoidable. If you run Windows, and you use the Internet often, you probably keep your software up to date. This helps you defend against viruses, buggy software, intruders, and numerous other things. It ALSO slows down your computer. The big updates (SP1, SP2), while very helpful, add much functionality to your computer which consumes larger quantities of resources. This is unavoidable. Hardware upgrades help with this problem, and will be mentioned later.

Installing programs on your computer, downloading files, even removing programs on your computer, can all cause your computer to slow down. This is a consequence of use, but the problems which they case are easily fixed. Enough chit chat, let's get to cleaning.

Keep in mind that slow Internet activity is not generally caused by your computer, but by your Internet Service Provider. If you are still using dial up. I'm sorry, there is no helping you. General slow computer response (non Internet related), however, may be successfully addressed.

Common Problems:
  • Too many running programs

  • Mal-ware (adware/spyware)

  • Unused Software

  • Disk Space Shortage

  • Registry Problems

Advanced Problems:
  • Dynamic Paging File

  • System Restore

  • Shortage of memory

  • Insufficient hard disk space

Step-By-Step Guide

Each problem will start with a short description of the problem, followed by a means of determining if this problem is applicable to your system, and concluding with instructions on how to correct the problem.

Too many running programs
Many computer programs, with the intent of making your computing experience more enjoyable, run when your computer starts up by default. This is very often not necessary, and each program takes up valuable memory that you could be using more effectively. Some brand new computers even have pre-installed software which can slow your computer down.

  1. The first step to resolving this problem is to open the 'System Configuration Utility'. This can be done by holding the 'windows' key on your keyboard and pressing the 'r' key. (alternately, the 'run' dialog can be found in your start menu or by holding 'ctrl-alt-del' and clicking 'file' then 'New Task (run)' option).

  2. In the run dialog box, type 'msconfig' and click 'ok'. This should bring up the 'System Configuration Utility.'

  3. the run box -- open with 'windows'+'r' and type msconfig

  4. In the 'System Configuration Utility,' under the 'General' tab, ensure that 'Selective Startup' is selected. There is no need to change any of the other options in this tab. Next, click on the 'Startup' tab.

  5. click 'Selective Startup' and then the Startup tab

  6. Every program with a green check mark by it is running at startup. Next, in your favorite web browser, go to and type in any 'Startup Item' you are having second thoughts about. As an idea, everything can be disabled and the system will run just fine. The things I would recommend to leave running are antivirus programs (nav for Norton Antivirus, avg for AVG Antivirus), firewall files (zlclient for ZoneAlarm Personal Firewall), and printer driver files (often contain hp or epson, cannon, etc). Of course, any other program you use very frequently can likely be left 'enabled.' Keep in mind that disabling a program doesn't remove it from your system, only prevents it from running by default on startup. There is likely a shortcut on your desktop or in your start menu to any program you disable. Any file you disable can be re-enabled in the event of a problem. Also, after disabling any start up items, the computer must be restarted before the changes will be made.

  7. remove the check from the items you don't want to startup -- i've only allowed antivirus, firewall, and AMD dual core optimizer to run here

    use this site to find out information about files you are uncertain of --

  8. When you hit 'Apply' or 'OK' after making changes, you will be informed that the system must be restarted to make changes.

  9. click 'Exit without Restart' unless you feel like restarting immediately

  10. When you start your computer up next time, a pop up dialog window will appear telling you that changes have been made to the 'system configuration utility.' you know that because you did it. Check the box that says not to bother you again and then click 'ok'.

  11. Enjoy your streamlined startup.

This is a very general term which literally means 'bad'-ware. Any software which the user does not benefit can be considered malware. While the most common are adware and spyware, other software may be installed which just bogs down your computer and takes up space.

  1. First, you should download and run the following programs: Ad-Aware Free and Spybot Search and Destroy. Click the links to be directed to the download page. Either of these programs alone will get rid of over 90% of spyware and adware, but together they take care of most everything, and are completely free (for personal use). Spybot allows you to donate through Paypal if you use the software regularly, which seems fair.

  2. Both programs are pretty straight-forward. I'd recommend doing basic installs of each program, but not running the 'active protection'/'realtime protection' options, which are offered. The software is effective, but if your computer is already running slow, we don't need more to slow it down when a regular scan every two to four weeks will keep your computer running well.

  3. be sure to update your 'definitions' file often. the software updates are less important, imo

  4. If you aren't patient, be sure to use the software (each program's) scan at night before you go to sleep or before a movie so you don't have to sit there and wait on it to finish. The more files you have, and the larger your hard disk, the longer it will take.

  5. Remember that deleting cookies is smart, but they often store data about you which makes Internet browsing more convenient. Sites such as ebay and amazon likely keep track of your credit card information so you don't have to enter it every time. Of course, allowing Ad-Aware or Spybot to delete these files will keep you a little bit safer, but they increase the amount of work you have to do. Reputable sites such as these don't really pose much of a threat to your identity.

  6. The computer should run much faster, now.

Unused Software
This section is less essential (speeds up your computer less) than the others. Still, if you need hard-drive space or just want to do all you can to speed up your computer, it can help.

  1. Open the 'Add or Remove Programs' application by opening the 'run' dialog by hitting 'windows key + r'. Type 'appwiz.cpl' and hit 'enter'. Alternately, it can be accessed by opening the Control Panel (can be found in the start menu) and clicking on the 'Add or Remove Programs' option.

  2. the run box -- open with 'windows'+'r' and type appwiz.cpl

  3. Now, the subjective (read: fun) part. Look through the programs you have installed. If you don't use the program, remove it. Keep in mind that the size of the program and the last used date is listed to the right.

  4. remove programs you know that you don't use. reference the 'size' and 'last used on' for importance

  5. Hopefully you opened up some disk-space.

Disk Space Shortage
If you have less than 10% of your disk drive free, your computer could be drastically slowed down. Downloaded media files (music and movies) are often the culprit and should be managed accordingly. The next step we will take is to utilize software which finds temporary and cached files that can be removed with no consequences. There are many software programs available, but a free, easy to use one I recommend is called CCleaner. They accept donations for regular users via Paypal.
  1. Download and install the latest version of CCleaner.

  2. Run the Software. You begin in the 'Cleaner' tab and 'Windows' sub-tab. Browse the options if you would like, but the standard ones worked for me.

  3. under the 'Windows', then 'Applications' tabs, click 'Run Cleaner'

  4. Run Cleaner.

  5. When it is done, read the summary to see how much space was made available.

  6. Click on the 'Applications' sub-tab. Run Cleaner.

Registry Problems
This is the end of the Disk Space Shortage section, but since this software offers additional functionality, it is easy to go right into that from here as it just takes a few additional clicks to cleanup your Registry, the source of loads of common computer problems. If you are starting with this section, review the previous section to catch up.

  1. Click the 'Registry' tab.

  2. Scan for Issues. Click 'Fix Selected Issues'. Backup your Registry when asked if you want to do so. The default location should be fine. Click 'Fix all Issues' when the option appears.

  3. click 'Scan for Issues', then 'Fix Selected Issues'. Finally, 'Fix all Issues'

Defragment Your Hard-Drive
Although the exact means of how a information is stored on a hard-drive is beyond the scope of this tutorial, it is stored sequentially. If files are often added, then removed, from the hard-drive, files can become fragmented. Basically, it means that part of a file may be stored at the beginning of the hard-drive while another part is in the middle, and the rest of it is at the end. This makes accessing the file much more difficult. There are many good third party defragmentation tools, but the one that comes with windows isn't horrible and should get the job done.
  1. Run the 'Disk Defragmenter' Application by pressing 'Windows Key + r' to open the run dialog and typing 'dfrg.msc' and pressing enter.

  2. use 'ctrl + windows key' and type 'dfrg.msc' then hit enter

  3. Select each available drive (one at at time) and click 'Analyze'.

  4. click 'analyze' on each drive

  5. If recommended, 'Defragment' the Hard-Drive. This may take a while, and will slow your system down should you choose to work while in progress.

  6. 'defragment' if recommended. this may take a while

Advanced Problems:
The following steps are for those willing to go the extra mile to get their computer running fast. I don't recommend these steps for the average user, but for those who want to further enhance the performance of their machine, I wish you the best.

Dynamic Paging File
Windows uses a hard-disk space as a backup in case your system requires more memory than you have. This is mostly a precaution, and the most effective fix is to increase the amount of memory installed in your system. A bad design in the 'Page File' (also called Virtual Memory) causes the page file to be dynamic, or change according to the current demands of the system. While this sounds like a good idea, a file changing its size when you are trying to do something else (or three other things) can slow down your system considerably. To avoid this, you can set your Page File to a static size.
  1. Run the 'System Properties' Application by pressing 'Windows Key + r' to open the run dialog and typing 'sysdm.cpl' and pressing enter.

  2. Click the 'Advanced' Tab.

  3. Click 'Settings' under the 'Performance' area.

  4. Click the 'Advanced' Tab.

  5. In the 'Virtual Memory' area, click 'Change'.

  6. There should be a 'recommended size' listed at the bottom of the window. Click 'Custom Size' and enter that number as the 'Initial size' and 'Maximum size'.

  7. Click 'Set', then 'Ok'. Close any other open windows. You will likely have to restart Windows to use the new Static Page File.

Disable System Restore
Windows, by default, runs System Restore on your computer periodically. This is a precaution which makes a copy of all essential files / processes at a given interval, and offers the option to 'restore' to those settings in the event of an error. This has helped many people many times, I am just not one of those people. The few times I've had problems with windows starting up, I was able to fix the problem in safe mode and didn't have to restore previous settings. That said, when Windows creates a restore point, it slows your computer down noticeably while it is copying the files. System Restore also takes up disk space (where it stores the files). If you would like to disable system restore, follow the following steps.
  1. Run the 'System Properties' Application by pressing 'Windows Key + r' to open the run dialog and typing 'sysdm.cpl' and pressing enter.

  2. Click the 'System Restore' Tab.

  3. Click the box that says 'Turn off System Restore on all drives'.

  4. Alternately, the 'Settings' button here allows you to customize the amount of space dedicated to restore points. This could clear up some disk space without totally disabling System Restore.

There is no substitute for adequate hardware. If you need increased performance, and have to pick one component to upgrade, I would recommend purchasing additional memory for your system. It is relatively cheap and the performance gain is usually noticeable. If Disk Space is your main concern, consider storing files on DVD or CD, or storing files online. There are quite a few sites which allow up to 2GB or even 5GB of space to be used for free. Also, 500GB external hard drives can usually be purchased for around $100 at many online stores such as NewEgg.
tutorial featured on TheHiddenWeb.Net
and was originally posted here

1 comment:

Agamemnon the builder said...

I guess this is pretty old, but i'd like to add that, a system restore file when made takes up only about 40-70mb depending on programs installed etc, but grows to a pretty large size(mine goes up to 4 gigs in under 3 days) without any installs or new restore points created.
This is when you use restore to back up system stuff and previous versions of files(which is the default setting).

Windows 7 allows you to delete all current restore points and create a new one manually saving you upto 2-3 gigabytes in the process. (unlike the disk-cleanup option this cleans up the restore point even if there is only the latest one which is not possible with disk cleanup).
NOTE: make sure to create a restore point as soon as you delete it so you are not caught without one by mistake.

Both options are present in the system protection tab of your system properties along with other restore options.