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How to speed up a computer as it gets slow over time

Introduction

It’s true, computers do get slower over time, specially if they’re heavily used. There are two major reasons for that: hardware and software.

But hardware is much less of a problem. Most computer hardware nowadays is solid state, which means there are few moving parts that slow down from wear and tear. The hard disk is perhaps the only common exception to this rule, but even they are reliable enough to last years without slowing. Dust accumulations inside the computer casing, and layering on the motherboard and processor may also slow down computing to some extent, but very little. Besides, it takes just one wipe with a soft cloth before you are back.

However, on the software end, things are different (particularly if you are using Microsoft Windows: Linux is generally immune to many of the following stated effects).

Software Effects

As a computer gets used, much software is installed. Much of it may default to starting up on boot time, thus occupying precious memory resources and CU cycles. Other software clutters up the Windows Registry. Yet more software is ‘clunky’: doing just fine, but doing so in a dirty, messing, hogging way.

These effects just accumulate over time. And it doesn’t help that Windows itself fragments itself, hogging up space in “Temporary Files”, and cluttering things everywhere. Windows is not much of a housekeeper either: it has no great tools to keep these things in check.

Something to remember…

While you certainly cannot get your ‘brand new’ performance back if you intend to keep your computer in production state, you can maximize the performance as far as possible. The reason is that many of your useful programs do need to reside in the system memory all the time, make registry entries and take up disk space. That is not avoidable if you wish to to do something on your PC

There are many commercial software applications out there that claim to return to your system to the performance it gave when it was new. Take that with a boxful of salt: it cannot be done.

Moreover, there are plenty of ‘suites’ that claim to optimize performance in one-click. Be wary of these too: you can easily get a malfunction system on you hands by trusting these, oft-aggressive, utilities. Use specialist tools for each problem. Many good ones are available for free.

The ‘How to’

  1. You need to make sure your system is malware free. That means no viruses, no worms, no spyware or adware. If you had no defences already, get your self a copy of the some antivirus, and run a virus scan. Also get copies of anti-spyware and anti-adware programs, and run their scans too. Many of the best companies offer 30 day trials you can use for this purpose. My favourites are Eset NOD32, Webroot Spy Sweeper and Lavasoft AdAware. Temporarily uninstall these protection softwares after the scans.
  2. The first step is then to clean out all the junk from your system. These are the files that may once have been created by Windows, or some program, but were left there to rot. There are plenty of tools available for this task, but my favourite freeware is CCleaner.
  3. Windows uses a Registry for many functions. This gets cluttered up over time. Use a specialized registry cleaner to clear the registry of invalid and leftover entries. If your selected tool has options to specify the aggressiveness of the cleaning, always select the most conservative one to avoid problems. I use EasyCleaner.
  4. As you install many softwares over time, some start having their modules open up with the Windows start up. While some may be useful for you, others may not. To begin, look at the taskbar notification area. Make sure that there is nothing there you do not want or do not use. If there is, open up that application, and see if there is a setting that allows you to remove it from the Windows start up queue. Then check the “Startup” folder in the Start Menu: anything in this automatically loads at boot time.
  5. Some software load up on boot, but do not show up anywhere and just run quietly in the background. For XP, Start Menu > Run… > enter ‘msconfig’. For Vista, just enter ‘msconfig’ in the Start Bar. Very carefully navigate to the ‘Startup’ tab, and remove the things with tick marks, that you do not want. And if you are feeling brave, you may also want to check out the ‘Services’ tab. However, for either of those: a word of caution – Be Careful, and Be Sure Before You Remove Something!
  6. Download the free JKDefrag, and run it. This is one of the most effective disk defragmentation programs ever, free or not. And it runs from a simple executable, so makes life so much easier.
  7. Reboot your computer at least twice in a row.
  8. Invest in a good Security Suite if you didn’t already have one. My recommendation is Eset Smart Security, due to the unparalleled antimalware protection it offers. Another good choice may be Norton Internet Security. These suites may actually reduce performance a bit, but that is nothing compared to the speed you will lose if malware gets on your system.

This step-through is by no means exhaustive, but if you have not maintained your PC in a long time, this will certainly give a very noticeable boost in performance.

Any other suggestions / comment from my readers will also be welcome.

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  1. 22 December 2009 at 9:06 AM

    I just read a great article on registry and PC optimization at Ezine articles. Here is the link http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Choosing-the-Right-Windows-Registry-Cleaner-is-Crucial&id=3449283

  2. 3 January 2010 at 5:42 PM

    Thanks Abunch! I’ve been searching for this info all day today. My mac is not running like fast anymore and I need to figure out how to fix it soon. I have bookmarked your blog so other surfurs can find it too on reddit.

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