Chris Cope is CEO of SlimWare Utilities. The company is founded on the premise that cloud computing and crowd-sourced applications will revolutionize the performance of personal computing.
Few activities are more frustrating than staring at your old computer, helplessly willing it to move faster. In business, and especially when it comes to small businesses, a slow computer will not help your bottom line. Equally draining are the costs of constant visits from IT consultants and technicians.
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While age is a commonly cited cause of slow PC performance, there are usually additional reasons. Many users have no idea that their computers are bogged down with unneeded applications, adware, cookies, and massive amounts of background processes. Left unaddressed, these issues hinder PC performance, decrease productivity, and increase the amount of time spent dealing with IT problems. So what can be done? Here are seven things.
1. Speed Up Boot Time
On average, more than 15% of programs that start automatically on computers are optional, which increases boot time. In addition, because these optional programs continue running in the background, they interfere with the ongoing performance of a computer. Lab testing showed that removing three resource-intensive startups decreased boot time by 41%. That's equal to a 117 second improvement. By using a built-in utility called msconfig (in Windows, type “msconfig” in the search box located in the “Start” menu) you can sort through these startups and decide which ones are necessary, and which can be removed. If you are not sure which of these items are safe to remove, there are free tools available that can identify them for you.
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2. Stay on Top of Your Updates
Software makers are constantly releasing new versions of a software you’ve already paid for. These updates can include enhanced features, and more importantly, patches against vulnerabilities. Microsoft, Adobe, Java, and others put out regular updates that contain bug fixes and help improve PC performance. In fact, vulnerabilities from using out-of-date software are one of the most common ways that malware infects a system. Software updates and patches often pop up automatically. Don't put them off, and when possible, remember to manually check for updates.
3. Keep Your PC Clean of Junk
A computer can become cluttered with junk files, temp files, logs, and browser bloat very quickly. Junk like this can affect PC performance tremendously over time. This is especially true for computers using traditional hard drives (non-SSD). By committing to regular maintenance of your drives, you can save yourself from the hassle of a bogged-down system and the sluggish performance that accompanies it. Microsoft provides a free utility in Windows called “disk cleanup” that can perform some of the Windows-related cleaning. However, there are free tools that offer more options, like scheduling.
4. Get Rid of Extra Programs
Programs take up space, and if they don't serve a specific purpose, they are essentially dead weight. This is also true of browser toolbars, plugins, and extensions. Here too, having a clear sense of what is not necessary, and then removing those items, is a big step in improving PC performance.
Unless you have already upgraded to a solid-state hard drive, defrag your disk regularly. On hard drives, as you save and delete files, the data gets placed in ”sectors” on the hard drive. This causes 'fragmentation' and can increase the time it takes for the computer to find the specific item you are looking for; defragmenting files on the disk will save your computer a great deal of time seeking what it needs.
6. Keep Your Computer Safe
Antivirus software is a critical component of any efficient computer system. AV software often comes pre-installed on new PCs, but it’s up to the user to purchase or replace the pre-installed antivirus software. Great free alternatives such as AVG, Avast, and especially Microsoft Security Essentials are powerful substitutes if you are on a budget. Just be sure not to have two antivirus applications installed at the same time -- a common cause of computer performance issues and crashes.
7. Accept That Less is More
When it comes to computer performance, one basic principle to follow is "less is more." The less time your computer wastes sorting through unused programs, unnecessary start-ups, empty space, and malware, the more efficiently it will run. If manually maintaining your PC seems like an overwhelming task, there is a range of PC optimization software that you can download, often free, that will automate all of these tasks.
While the above steps will help improve PC performance, all computers eventually become obsolete. When buying a new model, follow these steps to address the same overload issues.
- Check what's already loaded. Although we assume that a new computer comes clean and ready to go, there are a great deal of items that are just unnecessary. Check to see what's been pre-installed. Where possible, remove anything you know you won't use.
- Check the antivirus software. Most PCs come some version. Make sure you are comfortable with the product that’s on your machine. If not, or you don’t plan on paying for it, get a product you feel good about. Some good examples include, Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG, or Avast.
- Check your drivers. Every new model will have a series of updates that are necessary to help sync your new computer with your pre-existing hardware -- printer, scanner etc. Make sure that these connect smoothly and you will save yourself headaches and money.
- Backup. After you finish cleaning your computer of items you don’t need and installing all of the applications you do want, take a snapshot using imaging software and store it externally, so that if the unexpected happens (think hard drive failure) and you need to start over, you have a fresh image with everything ready to go.
More Microsoft mice than I've ever seen in one spot.
This story originally published on Mashable here.