10 Ways to Improve System PerformancePosted by Gary Keorkunian | Thursday, February 4th, 2010
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I often find myself working on a client’s machine and thinking, “Boy is this thing slow.” Because I usually work by the hour my clients aren’t always so keen on me spending time outside the scope of my assignment. I try to convince them, however, that by taking some time to improve the system’s performance I can be more productive and, therefore, more cost effective. I believe the same holds true for all computer users. So here are a few tips that can help speed up your PC.
NOTE: Most of these tips apply to Windows XP Users.
1. Eliminate Spyware and Viruses. Spyware and Viruses, i.e. Malware, is often the most significant contributor to performance degradation. They consume system resources and often disable multiple functions. If your machine is infected clean it. Keep your AV and other security tools up to date. Run scans on your machine often. See Securing Your PC for Free for more information.
2. Stop Automatic Loading of Non-Essential Programs. Many software packages like to install a background service that checks for updates. While this is essential for your AV program, you don’t really need it for QuickTime, the Google Toolbar and things like that. These programs do little except hog up your memory and, therefore, negatively affect performance. Many of these background services display themselves as icons in the system tray (next to the clock on your Start Bar), where you can right click on them and close them. However, it is usually best to stop these services from loading in the first place. Some will offer you the option to do that in their preferences or options dialog. Others simply load themselves in various ways with or without your permission.
The first and easiest way to deal with this is the Startup Folder in your Start Menu. If you are not familiar with a program that you find there, then you probably don’t need it. Since these items are just shortcuts, you can delete them safely.
The next place programs are automatically started is the Registry. The Registry is a data file that stores various system and software configurations. If you are familiar with editing the registry using RegEdit then check these keys for startup programs that you might like to eliminate:
If you are not familiar with editing the system registry, then you should probably get help from an expert.
The third most common place programs start automatically is via Windows Services. Deciding which services to disable, however, can be a tricky task that most users should avoid. The best way for most users to handle this is by uninstalling programs that you no longer use.
3. Defragment your Hard Drive. The disk defragmentation tool can speed up system performance by reorganizing files for more efficient disk access. The faster files load, the faster your system will be. You can find the defrag tool under the Start | Accessories | System Tools menu or by right clicking on your hard drive in My Computer and selecting Properties | Tools.
4. Clean Up Your Desktop. Your desktop is similar to any other folder on your machine. The main difference is your desktop is always open. Too many files (including shortcuts) and a large background image on your desktop consume memory. By removing the background image and unused icons you can free up some of that precious memory. If you keep documents on your desktop consider moving them to your My Documents folder. This also helps to make backup procedures easier.
5. Eliminate Unused Browser Extensions. If you use too many browser extensions like toolbars, it can negatively affect the speed of your web surfing. Do you really need the Yahoo! Toolbar and the Google Toolbar and the AOL Toolbar? Identify the ones you really need and get rid of the rest.
6. Ensure Your Performance Settings are OK. Right click on My Computer and select Properties. Select the Advanced tab and go to the Performance Settings. Most users will want to “Let Windows choose what’s best …”. If you have special needs you may want to create custom settings. Also, you could do some trial and error here. Change a setting and see how it affects performance. Do this until you find a configuration that works for the way you use your PC.
7. Reduce Multi-Tasking. One of the best things about a multi-tasking operating system is the ability to keep several programs open at once. Unfortunately, it does adversely affect performance. If you don’t need to keep a program open then you should close it.
8. Uninstall Drivers for Devices You No Longer Use. Many devices such as web cams and wireless keyboards require special device drivers to work. These drivers consume memory. If you no longer use a device make sure you uninstall its accompanying driver.
9. Be Patient. When starting a program that seems to take a long time it is usually best to be patient. Have you ever started IE, wait a few seconds, start it again, wait a few more seconds more, start it again and then all of the sudden you have three IE windows open? I assure you that all of that took longer than starting IE once and waiting until it opens.
10. Add Memory. No single upgrade – other than replacing your entire computer – enhances performance like a $100 memory upgrade will. This is especially true for those who multi-task. Use the Memory Upgrade Advisor to find the best options for your PC.
It’s hard to determine exactly what type of performance enhancement you will achieve when you apply this advice, but I find that most users do see a difference. If anyone would like to add to these tips, please post your comments. I would like to hear about your experiences with these tips as well.