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Speed Up Your PC

There are numerous reasons your PC may be slower than you want.  Here is my discussion on that problem.  Some of it is based on an Article in PC Magazine November 2013 issue.  In general, there is no specific order do check these items.  Use what ever order appeals to you

It can be useful to start out with a general check of you pc's speed. With windows Vista, they added a program called Windows Experience Index (WEI) which lets you see how fast the computer is in a number of ways.  You get a series of scores from 1.0 to 9.9 for such things as CPU, hard disk, and graphics.  The over all score is the lowest number.  A score below 4 is poor, above 7 is excellent.  For me use, the CPU score seems to be the most important.  If you are a heavy gamer or watch a lot of movies on your PC ,them the video score may be the most important.
To run it on Windows 7 or earlier systems, Control Panel>System and Security>System then click on the Windows Experience index to see the breakdown.
Even if you get a good score here, you may still have problems so do go through the items below.
For windows 10 they removed the program expect in a very complicated way to get to it so a number of people have developed programs to do the same thing.  The one I prefer is Winaro WEI available for free from their web site.

A way to check out a PC with any version of windows is to check  its Passmark score.  With a detailed name of the CPU, go to https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php  and look up the performance. The first number in  the column is the Passmark score.  A score of 700 is hirable, 2000 acceptable and 8000 great,  16000 is the highest number and  I saw the CPU alone listed for $1,200 so it is probably more than you want. (2015 numbers). On Windows 10 machines you can see what CPU you have by START>SETTINGS>SYSTEM>ABOUT.
I would be temped to assume that if this part was good on a computer from a recognized outlet that everything else was probably of comparable quality.

Issue 1:  Be very suspicious of free programs on the internet that you found with a Google search unless it comes from a very reliable web site like CNET.COM.  Be fairly suspicious of a speed up program that you paid for or got from a reliable site.  It probably will not infect your computer but it is probably still a waist of time or money.  If I run across a reference to a program that sounds interesting and I do not already know the site is good, I go the CNET.COM and see if they also have the program, if so I get it from them.  Note, CNET has moved their downloads to Downloads.com http://download.cnet.com/windows/

Issue 2: Your computer may be just too far out of date.  If it is over 5 years out of date be worried, if over 10 years, it is probably time to replace it unless it was a high end machine.
You might legitimately ask "Why should I replace it when I do not need to run any of those new programs?"   One of the reasons is that as viruses become more sophisticated, your anti virus software has responded by being more sophisticated and assumes it is running on a modern computer.  If that assumption is bad, then it will slow the computer down a lot.  If you are running with an operating system that is no longer supported, it may have developed problems that are not longer caught because updates are no longer coming.  For example Windows XP is no longer supported.  Vista will no longer be supported in 2017.  Windows 7 until 2020.

Issue 3: You may not have enough memory (RAM). If your computer is under 5 years old this is probably not an issue.  Windows XP runs much better with at least 2 Gigs of memory, windows Vista,7, 8 and 10 with 4 Gigs.  The reason adequate memory is so critical is that if windows is running low on memory, it uses space on the hard disk rather than RAM.  It is like keeping information in your head verses on paper.  If you have a big enough memory, you can work a lot faster because you do not have to be shuffling papers to find the information you want.
To see how much memory you have,

Windows XP or 7 machine
Start (the icon in the lower left) > Control Panel >System or System and Security > System

Windows 10
tart (the icon in the lower left) > Windows Settings (The gear icon) > System  > Then at the bottom of the left menu > About   (Or type Memory in the "Ask me anything" box in  the lower left of your screen then select "View RAM info"

  1. Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.

  2. In the System section, next to Installed memory (RAM), you can see the amount of RAM your computer has.

While opening up your PC and installing the memory is very strait forward, figuring out what kind you need is not.  You also may have no open slots so you may need to replace some memory cards with bigger ones rather than adding more.  The one good news is that memory is fairly cheep these days.
Major memory venders such as Corsair, Crucial and Kingston all offer Web tools to help you identify the exact type of memory card your PC uses.  The PC's manufacturer probably does also but getting the memory from him is an expensive solution.

You may be able to get some used memory chips from a friend or a computer you are junking but if the computer is substantially older, even 3 or 4 years, there is a good chance it will not work.  Check out the memory closely before swapping.  Usually if it is different, it will not fit but that is not always true.

Issue 4: Is the problem just with video intensive programs like action games?  You may need to upgrade your video card.  This is quite simple On a desktop machine once you figure out a few things which are not as simple.  You will need to know what kind of expansion bus the cards in your computer plug into (PCI-Express for example), whether you have any available, will your power supply handle a better video card.  The better ones draw more power.  A 300 watt power supply is marginal, a 500 watt one is usually sufficient.  Also your computer may not have a video card at all, it may be using video hardware on the motherboard.  Typically, even if it does, you can install a separate video card.  You may have to disable the video on the motherboard but not normally.
A lot of computers nowadays come with a special expansion bus slot for a graphics card.  It is typically the top one.  The better graphics cards work in special slots made for graphics cards.
Another thing to consider when buying graphics cards is that a lot of them are so fat that the adjacent slot needs to be vacant.  If you are getting a card like that, make certain the next slot is vacant or you can move cards around so it becomes vacant.
Do run the Windows Experience Index test discussed at the top of this page to verify that the problem is the video card.

Issue 5: Get rid of various temporary files that are cluttering up your system and clean up the registry.  When I just did it, I found 13.3 Gigabytes and over 6,000 files and over 200 registry issues. That even surprised me.
I run the free version of CCleaner from Piriform. The website is a little confusing as is the installation so click HERE for detailed instructions.  
Run CCleaner to delete various temporary files.  I go with all the categories of files they suggest except I click on "Applications" in the upper left then uncheck "Office 2010" or whatever your version is so it will not throw away the list of recent files that were opened.
Then select the option to clean the registry. Click "Scan for Issues".  Then "Fix Selected issues", I always fix all the ones that are found.  Let it save a backup copy of the registry.  Then select "Fix selected issues". I have never had to use the backup but better safe than sorry. I had over 250 issues when I ran it recently.  It is often a big number and fixing them never seems to make a big difference but you might as well fix them.
The reason I include this cleanup step in my steps to get rid of viruses is because sometimes, problems reside in temporary files.  Note:  If you run CCleaner again, it will still find a few problems.  They are not really problems and will continue to reappear.  Do wont worry about them.

Issue 6: Even if you know you do not have any viruses, check anyway. See "Removing Viruses Step by Step." At least run Malwarebytes.  If it does not find anything you are probably clean. Having a brand name anti-virus program that you paid good money for and have updated regularly guarantees presses little. This is as true for you as for me.

Issue 7:  Uninstall unwanted software.  Even brand new PCs have unwanted software installed by the manufacturer.  START>COTROL PANEL>PROGRAMS>UNINSTALL A PROGRAM.
This will give a long list of programs you are running.  Keep everything that says Microsoft, the make of your computer or the maker of any of your peripherals but be suspicious of others that do not ring a bell with you.  If uncertain, do a web search on the program name.  Some of the programs you will know are ones you do not need.  You may wish to do this operation with Slimcleaner, see Issue 11.

Issue 8: Disable unnecessary programs at startup.  This is for the brave at hart because it is a very obscure area and programs you do need are probably unknown to you.
Click on the START button then type "MSCONFIG" in the "Search programs and files" window.  Click on "MSCONFIG"  at the top of the pop up screen. Click on the "SERVICES" tab and review the list. Keep anything from Microsoft, your PC maker, or well-known software companies like Apple or Google.  Be suspicious of the remainder.  They may be useful programs like Adobe Reader but do not need to be installed at startup.  When in doubt, Google the name.
Do the same things with things listed under the "STARTUP" tab.  The obvious question is "What is the difference between "SERVICES" and "STARTUP"  the answer is not much.  Treat them as to lists of about the same thing.  PCDECRAPAFIER is a free program that helps doing this.  The program never gets installed on your computer so you never need to uninstall it.  To run it again you will have to re-run the file you downloaded.  Note:  Some people even think a lot of programs by Microsoft do not need to be run at startup. A major reason they run at startup is to see if there is a new version of not.  Usually if they did not run at startup, they will tell you there is a new version out when you first use them.   You may wish to do this operation with Slimcleaner, see Issue 11.
CCleaner has an easy option for checking and disabling programs that run at startup.

Issue 9:  Run Microsoft's Action Center's Troubleshooter.  Look on the lower right of your screen and you will see an Icon of a flag.  Click on the flag and if there are any issues noted, click on "OPEN ACTION CENTER" and follow their advice.  These are problems that windows has found and some hints as to how to fix them.  Most people have a few items in the list.

Issue 10:  Your computer may have been hijacked.  A slow internet connection is a particular symptom of this.  Your computer has been hijacked when someone takes control of it do do their bidding.  They typically do it so they can launch denial of service (DNS) attacks on targeted web sites by sending millions of e-mails to them.  These attacks are typically directed at companies, banks, or government web sites.  The other reason someone might want to hijack your computer is to store material on it that they do not want found on their computer like pornography and to distribute it from your computer.  Either way, you do not want to be part of their operation.  One way to check for this is to see if there are any programs running on your computer that you can not identify.  To do this close out all other programs that are running and start Task Manager by holding down the CTRL, SHIFT, and DEL keys all at once.  A menu will pop up and the bottom item on the menu is "Start Task Manager".  Next tap the "Processes" tab along the top of the window and check the box at the bottom left labeled "Show Processes from All Users".  Next tap on the title of the 3rd column, CPU. This will order the list according to which process is using most of the computer's brain. If things are normal, then "System Idle Processes" will be at the top of the list with 80 or 90% of the CPU..  If uncertain, do a Google search on the program.  It may turn out to be your anti-virus software, or some other program you have.  If the program is not crucial, consider not starting it at startup, see Issue 8.   If you do not have access to the keyboard, you can start task manager by right clicking a blank area of the System Tray.  That is the try that has the stark icon in it.  It usually is along the bottom of the screen.

Issue 11:  Run a reliable program to speed up your PC.  As I mentioned in Issue 1 above, there is a lot of bogus stuff to do this but I have found a free program that is highly recommended by PC Magazine. My personal experience is that they do not normally make any difference.  The only time it did was with a PC that was very underpowered.   It is called SlimCleaner Free by Slimware Utilities. It is also available from CNET.COM. It is only free as a trial, probably for 1 month.  If you want the pest program to speed up your PC when you have to pay, I recommend System Mechanic.
Slim Cleaner Free has the following options:
  Cleaner (similar to Ccleaner) that deletes unnecessary files. 
       It does remove about 20% more junk than Ccleaner.  I go with  all the categories of files
       they suggest except I click on "Applications" in the upper left then scroll down to
      "Productivity"  uncheck "Office 2010" or whatever your version is so it will not
       throw away the list of recent files that were opened.
  Optimize has 3 options
        Startup: which lists your programs that are launched at startup  and some comments
            about how good they are.  I a have 33 so  I should do a through look at whether they
             are all needed or not.
        Services:  This is a part of windows that I know nothing about even after Goggling it so
             as long as it does not highlight anything  as being a problem, I would ignore it.
        Restore List:  This is apparently the list of items from above that disabled so you can
            restore them if you wish.
   Software:  Works like the windows Control Panel Uninstall option but with the added
          feature that it will rate most of your programs.
          Look carefully at any that are unrated or low rated.  The unrated  ones are probably
          just not very common but you should know that you installed them from a reliable source.
   Browsers:  Allows you to select various browser options like home page and default search
        engine.  It now crashes when I select this option.
   Disk Tools:  Various disk tools like shredder and defrag.
   Windows Tools:  Various tools that are already in Windows but  scattered around such as
       Windows Update and Device Manager.
   Hijack Log:  This option creates a log of everything running on your computer and can be
        useful for a technician in diagnosing various problems.
PC Magazine April 2015 issue chose Slim Cleaner as the best free program, but if you are willing to spend money, they and I prefer System Mechanic.  Click HERE for a detailed discussion of the program. 

Issue 12:  If your computer is a laptop, consider changing the power options.  Particularly when it is plugged in, you can have it optimized for performance.

Issue 13: Are all  the drivers up to date.  Se my notes on updating drivers near the end of my notes on Routine Maintenance.

Issue 14:  Try running less programs at one time including having less tabs active in your browser.  This includes not opening very many windows in your browser.  I have a relatively new but very cheep laptop with a CPU Windows Experience score of 3.0 and it helps a LOT if I just follow these guidelines.

Issue 15:  Are there any rogue programs eating up your computer's CPU or memory.  To see what is going on, give your computer the 3 finger salute, simultaneously press the CTRL, Shift and Delete keys, then select task manager.  Next tap on the Applications tab.  they should all look like things you recognize as running.  Next click on Processes.  In the lower left corner, click on "Show processes for all users" This is a list of everything running. Many of the names will be unfamiliar but that is normal.  At the bottom of the screen you will se the CPU usage % and the Physical Memory usage percent.  To see the top CPU users click on the CPU at the top of the column.  This will sort the users by CPU usage.  You can do a similar thing for Memory usage.  Some things like multiple copies of svchost.exe are normal this is just part of windows.  If you see something hogging resources that does not seem reasonable, then Google it with something like "svchost.exe  memory usage" and see what you can learn.  An example of a problem I had was a couple of programs that had strange names that were hogging resources when I had no applications running at all.  It turned out to be programs launched by iTunes that were not closed when I exited iTunes and were incompatible with Windows 8.1.  I found that others were having the same problem and it was not going away until Apple fixed the problem. Also review the list of programs running to make certain there are not multiple anti-virus programs running.  For example I had installed Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and thought I was just running the one time version but apparently I had checked the box for the free trial of it's complete program.

Issue 16: Do you have enough free space on your hard disk.  You need about 10% free or things get bogged down.  Do see how much free space you have, bring up File Explorer and right click on C:.  Then select Properties.  C:  is along the right side on windows 10 machines.  You might as well check other drives but C: is the critical one.

Issue 17:  There may be some corrupted sectors on your hard disk.  Run chkdsk to fix these.
Click HERE for details.   It will take a few to many hours to run, good to do over night.

Issue 18: If you have a Dell computer, run Support Assist, it should already be on your machine but if not, you can get it at: http://www.dell.com/support/contents/us/en/19/article/Product-Support/Self-support-Knowledgebase/software-and-downloads/support-center

Issue 19:  If all else fails, reformatting the hard disk and reinstalling everything often helps. With a little luck, you computer comes with disks to do this or has a partition on the hard disk with all the data there.   However this cure is often considered worse than the disease.  It may be time to buy a new machine.  You probably know someone who would consider your machine an upgrade.
If you have a windows 10 or later machine, you have the option of reinstalling windows.  All your data will be retained but ALL installed programs will be lost.  If you have what you need to reinstall them, then that is an option.

 

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Rev. 4/3/17