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How-to Streamline Your Computer's Performance

How your startup, hard drive, ram and malware affect your computer's performance.

Steve Smith, host of your TQA Weekly, explains why a computer may slow down in performance, and explains how to streamline your computer's performance.

Episode #2-43 released on July 22, 2012

Is your work computer slow, unresponsive, unreliable, crashing a lot. No, this is not a commercial, this is a solution separated by cause. There are so many reasons why a computer can be slow, and I'll give you solutions to most of them.

Startup Applications

Turn them off. No application really needs to start at the beginning of the Windows session, much less applications dedicated to tasks like photography, music, games, office work, downloads, etc... These applications often make promises of loading faster, however, this is not fact, it only slows down the process of loading a Windows session. The slower the start up, the slower it will take to load any application. Think of when your computer has been freshly formatted with the Windows disk, how fast the computer actually starts up, this is the fastest your computer will ever be, and nothing being loaded during start up.

Fragmentation

The repeated use of a computer takes it's toll on the hard drive. Every time a file is accessed, modified, and saved, the size of the file changes, and parts of the files become scattered. The more files that become affected, the more significant the fragmentation becomes. You can minimize the effect over time by doing regular defragmentations of the hard drive, and the system files. You can achieve this using a program like Smart Defrag 2 available from iobit.com.

Temporaries

It is ridiculous how many temporary files we actually accumulate over time. I've seen a computer with over 40 gigabytes of temporary files. What does this data do for you? Nothing. Is it useful? Absolutely not. In fact, this takes up space on your hard drive you could use for yourself, and can make the drive fragment faster, and that doesn't even take into account the consequences of having a full drive and the lack of virtual memory. You can use software like Advanced SystemCare, Glary Utilities, CCleaner, etc... to rid your computer of any temporary files hiding within your system.

Viruses and Spyware

These processes can often by the leading cause of operating systems like Windows being slow. Preforming regular scans for viruses and spyware is extremely important. If you encounter any spyware and viruses, best practice is to completely format the computer and start new. Always keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions up to date. Avoid process heavy anti-virus/anti-spyware software like Norton 360 and McAfee Total Protection, as these software solutions will load the system, slowing it down worst, You may opt for the their pure anti-virus/anti-spyware solutions instead.

Virtual Memory VS Ram

The more physical ram you have, the faster your computer will run, because it will rely less on the virtual memory. This is not to say that virtual memory is not important, even I have been known to run with zero virtual memory, but how about we talk about the operating system specifications for Ram first. A 32-bit operating system like Windows XP, can only support 4GB of ram, maximum. This is due to some math, and comes out to about 3.0 to 3.5 GB of ram in reality. A 64-bit operating system allows for tons more ram, and this, in turn, means your computer becomes less dependent on virtual memory which is allocated to your hard drive, and may cause fragmentation in itself. You should, however, set your virtual memory to a different physical hard drive, if you have one, to allow the computer to treat data and virtual memory as two independent tasks. The amount of virtual memory you should allocate is 1:1.5, or for every GB of ram you have, you should have 1.5GB of virtual memory. Curious to what virtual memory is used for? Normally, unimportant information which is only used occasionally. Highly demanded data is maintained in the physical ram.

Hard Drive Space

What do you mean hard drive space, or the lack of space can actually make a computer slower. Some do not believe me, and other computer professionals when we warn them that the lack of sufficient hard drive space makes it harder to find the space to do any task. This includes when you use up your ram, and you computer tries to dump a portion of the data in the ram onto the drive in the form of virtual memory. If you do not have sufficient space, your computer WILL CRASH! All computers, regardless of operating system, require a minimum of space for all active processes, and worst of all, this number is constantly changing. You need to have a minimum of 15% of available for any task in Windows to run cleanly, and defragmentation is impossible if the you fall below this threshold. If you find yourself cramped for space on your hard drive, get a bigger hard drive. You can now purchase hard drives of up to 2 Terabytes, and you can house, provided your power supply can handle it, anywhere up to 6 hard drives in a computer tower, and connect more via USB, or use networked drives.

In short, in order to make your computer run faster, and be more streamlined, you need to run as few programs as possible on startup, reduce the amount of fragmentation of files by performing regular defragmentations on rotating hard drives, remove all the temporary files as these have little to do with you, and fill up your hard drive. Scan your computer frequently for viruses and spyware, add more ram, and set your virtual memory to 1.5 GB for every GB of ram you have, and if you have a second physical drive, use that one for the virtual memory, and lastly, make sure you have enough free space on your hard drive, to maintain the performance of your computer. It may be tedious, but it is important to do all this, to have a streamlined computer. Results will vary depending on your computer, but you will get more performance out of your computer, none the less.

Next week, we focus on multiple monitor setups, what you need, and how to setup your screens in Windows. Come back next week to learn how all this works, and how to increase the performance of your computer, as well.

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Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

Sources & Resources