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Keeping your PC running smoothly
When you first bought your pc chances are it ran smoothly and quickly. Yet if you're not careful, this performance can soon deteriorate to a pathetic crawl. In this article we outline the how and why, considering issues such as what programs load at startup, viruses and malware on the system, and how these can be cleaned without data loss.
Please note that whilst we have tried to use mainly end-user software, some of the software we suggest here could seriously damage your PC if used wrongly. For this reason please follow any instructions carefully. In addition to this we accept no responsibility for any loss which may result from the use of the tutorials offered on this site. These are offered gratis with no warranty, express or implied.
The How and Why
When you install programs on your computer, many of these add more things which have to be loaded every time your computer starts up. So you would expect a slight decrease in overall performance as you add more programs.
However, some programs, particularly free ones, add other 'adware' software onto your pc - one of the most common is adding options to the context menu (the one that appears when you right click) in Internet Explorer.
Some even add software that tracks your browsing habits - for example an installation of Kazaa automatically includes a number of these programs.
Another potential source of these programs is through security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Windows, which allow malicious code to be downloaded and run on your computer. One particular breed of viruses collect data fron your computer, causing a dramatic slow-down in performance.
Between all these possible sources the overall performance of your computer can be degraded considerably. Remember that the biggest source of viruses and malware is the internet. Even if you have antivirus software running, it's no guarantee that you're protected.
Cleaning off the viruses and spyware
Firstly we need to download some programs to get us started on our cleanup operation.
If possible, at this stage it is also a good idea to check your pc for viruses. Even if you have antivirus software, different antivirus vendors detect different things. Below are two online scans, and a useful downloadable removal tool for a selection of the latest viruses.
After running the scans above, install AdAware and Spybot, and update them before running any scans to ensure you have the latest definitions.
After you've finished running those scans, run HijackThis from a permenant directory on your hard drive, click scan, save log, and then paste the contents of the log into one of the many forums dedicated to analysis of these logs, such as the security forum at Daniweb. Do not fix anything with HijackThis unless instructed to do so by an expert, as it is a snapshot of your entire system.
Cleaning up temp folders etc
For this I suggest you download a program like easycleaner. Use the utilities built into easy cleaner to wipe out your 'unneccessary files', 'invalid registry entries' and 'invalid shortcuts'. Please note we do not reccomend you use the 'clean duplicate files' option, because unless you know what you're doing you can easily delete essential system files.
Further Housekeeping Tips
There a number of other things you need to do to ensure your pc runs smoothly, which we will simply list below:
- Desktop Backgrounds: Having large photo backgrounds can seriously degrade your pc's performance. A plain colour is best, or if you want to use a picture check the filesize.
- Desktop Icons: An increased number of icons can take longer to load, as each one has to be cached. Delete shortcuts you don't use, and use folders to organise the others.
- Windows XP skins: Turning off the fancy 'skin' for Windows XP can speed up your computer and free up memory. The option to do this is on the control panel.
- Defragment: On a FAT32 or 16 partition regular defragmenting can speed up your computer. However on the latest NTFS partitions some experts believe defragmenting is unneccesary, and can even degrade system performance. If you're running a computer with Windows XP and a 40GB or larger hard drive then you will probably be on an NTFS file system, so it's probably best not to bother.
- Add a firewall: In order to protect yourself from future virus attacks, download a free personal firewall from ZoneLabs.
- Clear out the prefetch folder: This is a cache of files you load on startup, that helps windows to load faster. However, since you've hopefully just cleaned out a lot of things from your startup sequence, many of the items you'll be preloading won't be needed. For this reason opening the prefetch folder and clearing it may speed up your system. Please note that the next reboot after you've cleared this will be slightly slower as all the items it does need will have to be re-cached.
Can you think of something we've missed? Use the contact us link to the right to let us know!
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