PC Utilities

Optimize your computer for peak performance

Optimize your computer for peak performanceOur personal computers are like fine automobiles—they need preventive maintenance to run efficiently and avoid major breakdowns.

The following tips can help improve your computer’s performance. These examples use Microsoft Windows XP. Some of the screens may differ from version to version, but overall you’ll find these tips work for all versions of Windows, including Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition (Me), Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista.

By the way, in no way can you blow up your computer or files with any of these procedures. These tasks use utilities provided within the Windows operating systems to aid you in achieving the best system performance. This article does not address tinkering with the registry files.



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Clean up disk errors Clean up disk errors

Clean up disk errors

Run once a week

Whenever a program crashes, or you experience some power outage, your computer may create errors on your computer’s hard disk. Over time, the errors can slow your computer. Luckily, the Windows operating system includes a Disk Check program to check and clean any errors on your computer and keep it running smoothly.

To run Disk Check:

1. In your Start menu, click My Computer.

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Remove temporary files

Run once a week

Your computer can pick up and store temporary files when you’re looking at Web pages and even when you’re working on files in programs, such as Microsoft Word. Over time, these files will slow your computer’s performance. You can use the Windows Disk Cleanup screen to rid your computer of these deadbeat files.

To run Disk Cleanup:

1. In your Start menu, click My Computer.

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Rearrange your data

Run once a month

Don’t be shocked, but your computer can get sloppy. Your computer often breaks files side by side to increase the speed of access and retrieval. However, as files are updated, your computer saves these updates on the largest space available on the hard drive, often found far away from the other adjacent sectors of the file.

The result: a fragmented file. Fragmented files cause slower performance. This is because your computer must now search for all of the file’s parts. In other words, your computer knows where all the pieces are, but putting them back together, and in the correct order when you need them, can slow your computer down.

Windows includes a Disk Defragmenter program to piece all your files back together again (if only Humpty-Dumpty had been so lucky) and make them quicker to open.

To run the Disk Defragmenter:

1. In your Start menu, click My Computer.

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Make Internet Explorer run faster

The Web is a sparkling achievement of modern society. It’s everywhere—from the home to the classroom. We use it to communicate, to work, to play—even to waste time when there’s nothing else to do.

Yet there’s nothing more frustrating than having this technical marvel at our fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, only to watch our computers access the Internet at a crawling pace. Thankfully, Microsoft Internet Explorer provides some useful options for quicker Web surfing. Let’s look at these options now.

Reduce the size of your Web page history
Internet Explorer stores visited Web pages to your computer, organizing them within a page history by day. While it’s useful to keep a couple days of Web history within your computer, there’s no need to store more than a week’s worth. Any more than that and you’re collecting Web pages that will slow down your computer’s performance.

To reduce your Web page history:

1. In Internet Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Internet Options.

Don’t save encrypted Web pages
Encrypted Web pages ask for usernames and passwords. These pages scramble information to prevent the reading of this sensitive information. You can define Internet Explorer to not save these types of pages. You’ll free up space by saving fewer files to your computer, as well as keeping secure information off your computer.

To not save encrypted Web pages:

1. In Internet Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Internet Options.

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Automate Microsoft Update

Configure once

Microsoft works constantly to release updates to Windows and other Microsoft products, including Office. At Microsoft Update, you can find and install all these updates—not just the critical ones. Often, these updates will improve your computer’s performance.

You can make life easier by automating Microsoft Update so your computer downloads and installs all the updates without you having to worry about them.

To automate Microsoft Update:

1. In your Start menu, click Control Panel.

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Install antivirus and antispyware programs

Computer viruses and spyware (hidden software that gathers information about you without your knowledge or consent when you’re using a computer) both reduce system performance. Computer viruses can not only reduce performance, but they can also destroy data. Any computer that accesses the Internet should have antivirus and antispyware programs installed.

Antivirus programs: Two of the most reliable computer virus programs around are Norton Internet Security and McAfee Internet Security Suite. Find additional antivirus programs on Windows Marketplace.
Antispyware programs: For a great antispyware program, check out Windows Defender.

Smooth running
Follow these steps and you’ll have your computer purring like a vintage Porsche (or whatever your dream car of choice is). And the best part—maintaining your computer is a lot less messy than an automobile. You don’t even have to roll up your sleeves.