Mostly Free Ways to Speed Up Your Windows Computer

2253970116_1f77b9084a_bThis CyberKenBlog post explains several steps, many of them free, to making your Windows computer run faster, perhaps almost as fast as when you bought it.

A computer’s speed is determined by several factors:

 

 

 

  • The protection of your computer from malware from the internet, which may be using your computer to do things of which you are unaware, thus, robbing your computer of the full benefit of its operating capacity.
  • how much random access memory (RAM) is available for providing applications the memory they need to run crisply
  • how quickly the hard disk is able to locate information that is needed for the tasks at hand
  • whether or not you have cleaned your computer to get rid of unnecessary and unwanted files
  • how many programs are running “in the background”
  • how many applications on average you use simultaneously at any given time
  • the speed of your computer’s connection to the internet
  • the power of the processing chip to perform the tasks required

Let’s look at these factors, which I have listed in the order of their importance and your ability to make much difference in improving them.

First of all, run your computer’s security software to make sure that you your computer is not hosting a malware parasite.  Do a scan and follow the steps for correcting any problems detected. Norton and McAffee are commonly used security suites.  There are many other good ones, including AVG, a free one which is highly regarded by many users.

Increasing your computer’s random access memory by installing either one or more RAM chips is the most efficient way to improve your computer’s speed. RAM chips are getting less and less expensive.  Consult your computer’s specifications at the manufacturer’s website to find out whether you can add RAM, and if so, the make and model of chip(s) required.  Be aware that RAM chips must often be installed in pairs, so make sure that you purchase the correct number and combination of chips for your computer.  You can install RAM yourself , but if you’re anxious about this give the job to a computer technician.  It’s so simple that you can probably wait while he/she does it.

Now, for the next factor, you can speed up the rate at which your hard disk reads and reports information by defragmenting it.  Over time the files on your hard disk get fragmented, because the disk records information where it can find empty places, and those empty places are not always contiguous, so it separates a file into pieces that are scattered.  Reading the scattered pieces takes more time than would be required if the pieces were all in one place.  That’s what defragmenting does.  It puts all the pieces of files together so that they can be read faster.  This decreases the speed with which your computer operates, not much, but maybe enough that you’ll notice the difference.

To defragment, go to “Start”, then “Help”, then type “defragment” in the search window, then follow the relevant links. You might want to schedule some other non-computer work to do while you’re waiting for the defragmenting to finish.  It may take quite a while!   If you’re running Windows 7 there are also some tweaks that will help your computer run faster under the “optimize performance” link.  That link comes up when you summon the defragment instructions, but you can find the same help by going to the Optimize Windows 7 for Better Performance page on the internet.

The next two factors, unwanted files and programs running in the background, can be easily addressed using the free program, CCleaner .  What does CCleaner clean?  The hundreds or thousands of small files that your computer acquires over many months of interaction with other computers on the internet.  Even if none of these files are malign, your computer still has to index them, and keep track of them, and this puts a demand on the processor which is totally unnecessary, and correctable.  Many of these files are located in your internet browser’s cache.  CCleaner will find them and erase them at your command.  It will also conservatively clean your Windows registry, which is a large data base containing pieces of information related to hour computer’s operation instructions.

Finally, CCleaner will help you identify which programs launch automatically at startup.  When you install a new application, often the installer automatically configures that app to run in the background at startup.  Many users don’t realize how many applications they are running in the background, which put a drain on their computer’s processor.  CCleaner will show you which applications your computer is launching at startup, and permit you to exclude any you don’t wish to run then. If you exclude one and then find that you need to launch it later, you can always do that manually by going to the “Start” menu, searching through your applications, and clicking on the icon of the one you want to launch, or launching it from the task menu at the bottom of your screen, provided you have an icon for it there.

Before we leave talking about CCleaner, be advised that a geeky Indian colleague doing web literacy education warned me that some copies of CCleaner have been altered to implant malware.  Sanjay says make sure that your copy is authorized by Piriform, the company that produced it, and also, check the size of your downloaded installation file before you runl it.  A current  safe download of CCleaner (dated July, 2011) should show a size of 1.94 MB. Copies that have been tampered with will likely show a larger MB size.  Free copies of CCleaner can be downloaded from FileHippo.com .  If you go to Piriform’s website they will ask you to pay for the program, but since it’s open source they are required to provide free copies, which they do in a round-about way through Filehippo.

Next, decide what application is the most important one to run at a given time.  If you have ever used an application that takes a lot of computing power, like a scanning application, or a sophisticated video editing application, you may have noticed that the processor is hard pressed to do much more than run that one app.  If you try to do something else simultaneously things come to a crawl, and maybe an application “hangs,” i.e., it stops running altogether.  Too much demand on the available random access memory!  If you have already taken the step of installing the maximum possible RAM on your computer, then you must decide which task is the essential one and shut down other applications that don’t address it.  For instance, if you’re scanning a picture, don’t try to also edit a movie at the same time.  Close one application or the other.

Next, if you’ve taken all these steps and you still find your computer crawling while you’re connected to the internet, here are some other things to consider:

If you’re connected to the internet by cable, it could be that  there are a lot of other cable users in your vicinity, and when many are on the internet at rush times, say at 8:00 in the morning and 6:00 at night, you’re all competing for the data coming through the “pipeline” to your neighborhood.  In a densely populated area this decreases the speed of each user’s interface. Verizon users should not experience this difficulty, since the data is delivered differently.  There’s not much for cable users to do except  use the internet at off-peak times.  In any case, if you suspect that the slowness of your computer on the internet is due to a problem on the delivery-of-data side, then report the problem to your Internet Service Provider (Comcast, Verizon, etc.)  It could be that the wire connections to your own residence need repair, or that there’s something wrong with the internet signal transmission wires inside, or your router is defective (if you use one).  An ISP tech rep can diagnose such problems and help you solve them.

Now, perhaps the most influential speed factor is the power of your computer’s processor or Central Processing Unit (CPU).  That’s fixed.  You’re stuck with the one that came inside your computer.  Well, you could put in a new motherboard with a more powerful chip, but that would necessitate other adjustments, perhaps the reloading of some drivers for devices that were configured to the previous chip.  The ramifications are too troubling to contemplate!  And besides, it probably would make more sense economically to buy a whole new computer rather than just a new motherboard, since the industry is very competitive and the price of new computers continues to decline.

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