By GalTime Nerd Chick Andrea Eldridge
Does it feel like you can make a pot of coffee and clean the kitchen all in the time it takes for your computer system to boot up? Do you find yourself daydreaming of dropping it off the top of your office building while you're waiting for web pages to load? If it seems like your computer is running slower every day, here are some things to do to get your "old reliable" running in tip-top shape. Of course, budget-savvy Nerd Chicks are always looking for ways to save some dough, so we've made sure they are all free.
1. Get Rid of the Nasties
Viruses and spyware don't always break your computer, but they do always slow it down. They're more common than you may think, and can hang out in your system, gumming up the works, without you even knowing it. Microsoft Security Essentials is a great, easy, all-in-one solution to keep your computer healthy and running in top form. Download it here.
2. Update Your OS
Windows issues updates all the time. These can patch holes in the software, closing vulnerabilities that viruses and spyware exploit, and generally make Windows run better. If you're running Windows XP, right click on the My Computer icon on the desktop, select Properties and click on the Automatic Updates tab. Make sure you set them to download and install automatically.
3. Purge "Bloatware"
Still have that Norton Trial software installed from when you bought your machine three years ago? Get rid of it! Every time it pops up a window "reminding" you to buy it, I'm guessing a little voice in your head mutters unpleasant things. It's also slowing down your system as the antiquated software runs in the background. Search for "Norton Removal Tool" (or "McAfee Removal Tool") to make sure that you get the software fully uninstalled.
4. Speed Your Startup
MSConfig is a tool built in to most versions of Windows. Even novice computer surfers can use this tool to stop programs from starting automatically every time you boot up. While certain things are necessary for Windows to function, if your system is trying to turn on iTunes, your printer, and Adobe every time it boots up, the poor thing's got a lot of things to get going before it can launch your Sudoku. Click the "Start" button. If you have a search option, type "msconfig" into the search field. If you don't have a search option, but have a "Run" button on the startup menu, click that instead. When you do this, a window will appear on screen with the word "Run:" next to a blank text field. Type "msconfig" in the blank text field and press "Enter". Click the "Startup" tab at the top of the menu. Uncheck the boxes next to programs that you don't need during startup - but only programs you recognize! Click the "Apply" button, then select "OK", and restart your computer. I can almost hear your computer sighing in relief from here.
5. Defrag Your Hard Drive
Every time you save a file, or update software, your hard drive stores each new thing in chronological order. This means that when you launch Word, your system has to search all over your hard drive to find all the pieces that have been stored over the months, or years. Defragging simply means that your hard drive will take all the "like" things and put them together, allowing programs to launch and work faster. Windows 7 comes configured to defrag automatically, however Windows XP users will need to start the process manually. From the Start menu, right-click the "My Computer" option. Select "Manage" and choose disk defragmenter under the Storage section. Keep in mind that the process can take several hours, so set it to run at night. Also, remember to disable your system's hibernate mode & screen saver before starting. When the process is complete, restart your PC.
6. Repair the Registry
Your system's registry is like your hard drive's table of contents. If there are incorrect entries, it can take your drive longer to find all the pieces of data it needs to launch and run programs. Glary Utilities is a great free application that you can install to quickly and easily fix registry errors and optimize your system's performance. Download the free version here.
7. Clear Out the Cookies
Every time you visit a website, it stores little pieces of itself, or programs, on your system. The idea is that the next time you visit the site it will load that content faster. The problem is that it's rare that we return to the same sites and see the same things over and over again. Instead, the process of digging through several MBs of temporary internet files will lead all websites to load more slowly. Clear out your cache with CCleaner , a top rated free software program for cleaning out temporary files and making your system run at its best. One tip: use the cookies tab to select cookies you want to keep from sites you visit often and/or want to continue to login to automatically (like your email, or your bank).
8. Clean it, No Really!
Your computer has a fan in it that draws in air to cool the CPU and components. If this fan or vent becomes clogged with dust, pet hair, or other nasties, your system can overheat, causing it to run more sluggishly and eventually break. Grab a can of air and take your PC outside for a field trip. Don't just blow into the intake vent: open the case, don't blow air too closely at the components, and blow dust away from the case.
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9. Ditch Internet Explorer
There are many alternative browsers you can use to access the Internet. Most techies agree that Google's Chrome is the fastest option that doesn't compromise compatibility.
10. If all else fails…
A surefire way to ensure that your system is running as close to good-as-new as you can hope to get is to back up your data, format your hard drive, and reinstall Windows. Keep in mind that you will need to reinstall all of your software, including office. Don't forget to install your anti-virus and anti-spyware before surfing the net!
Getting on a regular maintenance schedule will save you, and your trusty computer, much pain and suffering. Especially if these tips keep you from drop kicking your PC off the roof! If you're struggling with any of these steps, or want more info, check out my website, www.callnerds.com.
What's your number one computer complaint or trick/tip?
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