The official home of It's Geek to Me on the web!

Issue #3: August 9, 2007

As the column hit its stride this past week and the questions started pouring into my inbox, the issue of computer performance was by far the most popular topic.  I’m sorry I don’t have room to print everybody’s questions, but thanks for writing.  In an effort to speed things up in your cyber world, here are my top five recommendations for maximizing your computer’s performance:

#1 – Know what’s running on your computer.  People often tell me “I only run a web browser and e-mail, but my computer is still slow.”  Then I look at their computer, and discover that they have a dozen or more programs running in the background that they installed at some point then forgot about.  Virus scanners, chat programs, cool desktop gadgets that show the weather forecast or stock quotes – all of these take a slice of your computer’s processing power and can add up to a big performance drain.  Uninstall the ones that you don’t absolutely need.

#2 – Run regular, full system scans for viruses and spyware.  Today’s Internet is littered with websites that can infect your computer.  Recent studies have shown that over 80% of computers are infected with at least one piece of spyware, and some have dozens.  These malicious programs not only eat up CPU time, but they can compromise your personal information to the unscrupulous people that originated them.  There are many good virus and spyware scanners available online, some for free.  Be careful though!  Some programs that advertise themselves as spyware scanners are actually spyware themselves.  Stick to the most reputable ones.

#3 – Maximize your computer’s random access memory (RAM).  Your computer has a finite amount of RAM that must be used by all running applications (even the spyware and viruses).  When the demand exceeds the amount of installed RAM, the operating system uses your hard drive as “virtual” memory.  However, disk access is way way WAY slower than RAM chip access, and this slows down the whole system.  Most modern computers are capable of running up to 2 gigabytes of RAM (a gigabyte is 1000 megabytes), and the price of RAM has come down markedly in recent years.  I just upgraded Spouse Peripheral’s computer with two brand new 1 gig DDR2 SDRAM chips, purchased locally for under $80.  So make sure you have the maximum amount of RAM that your computer (and your wallet) can handle.

#4 – Clean up and defragment your hard drive.  A poorly maintained hard drive is like a cluttered closet.  It’s simply more work for the computer to find what it needs, and it takes longer.  Regularly emptying the Recycle Bin and running the Windows defragmentation tool will help keep things more organized.  While you’re cleaning things up, try uninstalling programs you haven’t used in a while, and check out the Windows Fonts directory.  Do you really need 10 different script fonts, or those scary Halloween fonts you downloaded last year?  Delete the ones you don’t need.  They just add clutter to the closet.

#5 – Minimize Visual Effects.  Windows contains many features that are intended to add depth and feeling to your computing experience.  Sure, animated menus with shadows under them look cool, but drawing them takes more computing power.  In XP, right click on My Computer and select Properties.  Click on the Advanced tab, and under Performance, click Settings.  There you’ll find well over a dozen effects that use extra CPU power.

Please note that these suggestions are only the “tip” of the iceberg for tuning up Windows.  Depending on your level of expertise, there are many other things you can do to try and wring every last bit of performance out of your computer.  Try Googling “Optimize Windows” for more ideas.

Leave a Reply

May 2024

Search the site


Copyright Notice

All content on this site is Copyright © 2007-2024 by Jeff Werner – All rights reserved.