Nerds On Site

5 tips on making your computer run faster

WOW! That\’s the typical response when people\’s computer boots up in half the time it did just 10 minutes ago. Chances are quite good you can have this experience. Assuming your Windows computer is spyware, adware and virus-free, there are 5 simple steps you can easily do yourself or have your favourite IT person (we hope he/she is a Nerd On Site, of course) take care of for you:

  1. MSCONFIG – every since Windows 95, Microsoft has made it fairly easy to manage all the programs that automatically start with your computer. Here\’s what mine looks like on one of my Windows computers:
    \"MSConfig
    If you are not sure which ones you need or don\’t need, it is safe to uncheck most or all of them (and restart computer) and then selectively re-enable one at a time (and restart) to enable what you really need. Often there are programs in here for multi-function printers and other devices you may have connected. In some computers, the large majority of programs that load here and take all of YOUR precious time away by taking forever to boot are completely unnecessary.
  2. 15% or more free disk space
    \"Free
    I know most of us are guilty of being pack-rats, right? I mean why throw anything away since it doesn\’t actually take up any physical space, right? As it turns out, once you\’ve reached 85% of your hard drive\’s capacity, the computer will take a turn for the worst in terms of performance so keep lots of disk space free. If you\’re past that usage now, here are a few tips to get you below that usage: 

    • Obtain an external USB drive and copy archives to that drive. Copying, and then deleting the source is always a safer bet, by the way (as opposed to Moving a file).
    • Replace your hard drive with a larger one. This has always been my choice because it seems to be the easiest route since I don\’t have to think as hard about which selection of videos or photos or large files I need to move to external drives.

    It used to be the case that defragmenting the drive increased the performance, but nowadays the performance is hardly recognizable because most drives are so fast anyway. Modern operating systems and filesystems are also better at managing fragmentation. Still not perfect, but good enough that running such a process separately will not usually make any noticeable difference.

  3. Keep a clean desktop – if your desktop looks like this, you may want to simply create a new folder on the desktop and move everything into it – something like \”Desktop Stuff\”.\"cluttered_desktop-640x480\"
    You will be amazed at how much faster your computer starts up once you have no desktop clutter. The icons on the desktop actually take time to be retrieved and displayed, and that has to happen before you are able to run any other program.
  4. Upgrade RAM
    \"RAM
    If you\’re still chugging away at 512MB or 1GB of RAM, adding more RAM is cheaper than ever and can dramatically increase not only the startup time of your computer but the speed at which all of your programs operate. In our experience, also a very common WOW! reaction follows a RAM upgrade.
    RAM upgrades you can typically obtain directly from the manufacturer, although that\’s the priciest way to purchase. Of course one of our own team members would be happy to quote you as well on a memory upgrade on any type of computer. If you\’re brave and wish to do this yourself, just make sure that whatever memory purchase you make is guaranteed to be compatible with your computer and you are able to return it if it doesn\’t work. Some considerations to make when adding RAM: 

    • Will you be able to add it to the existing memory or will it be replacing existing chip(s)?
    • Does it require pairs of chips to be installed?
    • What is the maximum your computer will take?
    • Are you running a 32-bit or 64-bit Operating System? 3 or 4GB are the maximum that 32-bit Operating Systems will recognize and/or be able to use?

    In extreme cases where some specialists operate intensive database programs such as simulations in health care research, maximizing on RAM and utilizing a 64-bit version of your Operating System may allow you to run your databases in RAM instead of the hard drive. If you spend a lot of time in front of your computer waiting, it may be worth consulting with an expert how extra RAM can result in dramatic productivity increase for you.

  5. Clean install of Windows
    \"showerThis one is not for the faint of heart. We call it a \”wipe and reload\” and it\’s like having a shower! Only it\’s a little harder and takes much longer!
    Provided there are no technical problems with the computer, this guarantees that the computer will run at least as fast as it did when it was new. The benefits of this \”clean shower\” is that your computer will feel just so very refreshed. An additional side benefit is that if you ever had any doubt about some software still lurking in there somewhere, you will now have the Peace of Mind that nothing is lingering behind. The essential process for a clean install of windows is as follows: 

    • Make a complete backup of the entire computer
    • Ensure the backup is working and accessible
    • Re-install Windows from scratch
    • Restore your programs and data

    Depending on the amount of programs and data you have, this could be anywhere from a 1-4 hour process, and in extreme cases, perhaps even longer. Most nerds apply this process every 6-12 months at the most just to make sure the computer runs optimally.

The above list is by no means exhaustive, and they imply that you have administrative access to your computers, but if you pick out one, two or three of these you can apply with the least amount of effort, you may find it very worthwhile. Whether you do or don\’t, we\’d love to hear from you in our comments section below.

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