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Oct
26

5 easy ways to speed up your computer

This article can also be found in the Fall 2011 edition of the Real Estate LEADER magazine.

Remove viruses and spyware

Viruses and spyware are the most common cause of computer slowdowns. Millions are infected and don’t even know it. These unwanted programs run in the background, using your computer’s resources for their evil deeds. Not only are they a major annoyance, but they can also put you at risk. Some of these intrusive programs include keyloggers which can copy passwords or credit card numbers as you type them and forward them on to be used for malicious purposes. Recently, we have seen a rash of “fake-AV”, that is, fake antivirus software. These viruses typically pretend to be legitimate antivirus software. They will randomly pop up and appear to be scanning your computer. It likely will be a program you have never heard of, and definitely one you haven’t installed. It will inform you that your computer is infected with viruses and that you must upgrade to the paid version to remove them. In those cases, the money you pay goes straight to the virus makers. And now that they have your credit card information, you may be facing future problems.

Make sure you have trusted antivirus software that is up-to-date. It never hurts to run frequent virus scans, as virus definitions change day-to-day.

Turn off unnecessary startup programs

Too many programs think they need to run all the time. All these programs take a small amount of your computer’s memory that you can’t use for something else. Add up all the programs running in the background, and it can take a real toll on your computer’s ability to run the programs you want. Check your Tray (that is the area to the bottom right of your screen where the clock is) and browse the icons. Most programs will have an option in their settings or preferences to start with Windows. Make sure to turn that off on programs you don’t use.

Disable browser add-ons and toolbars

There are hundreds of browser add-ons and toolbars you can install to make your internet browsing more efficient. Most aren’t installed for this reason, but rather are automatically installed, sometimes without your knowledge. I have seen people with 6 or more toolbars, not knowing what they were or how they got there. They are often bundled with legitimate software you install, but are sometimes the result of spyware. These toolbars can cause your browser to open and run slower, and they reduce the amount of a website you can display on your screen. Disabling these unwanted toolbars is simple. In Internet Explorer, click on Tools, and Manage Add-Ons. Click and disable any toolbars or add-ons you don’t use. The process is similar in other browsers.

Defragment your drive

This is a problem I still run into quite often when troubleshooting a slow computer, particularly if it is several years old. As you create, edit, and delete files, you inadvertently cause files to become fragmented. Parts of a file may be on one particular spot on your hard drive, while other parts of the same file can be somewhere else entirely. Accessing that file causes your drive to work harder that it needs to, and if you have enough fragmented files, your computer will slow to a crawl. It is simple to check the status of your file fragmentation. In Windows, go to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and open the Disk Defragmenter. There is an Analyze tool that will scan your drive for fragmentation and let you know if you need to run the Defragmenter. Depending on how bad your drive is, the process could take several hours, so it would be a good idea to start at the end of the day. If you have Windows Vista or 7, you should have automatically scheduled defragmentation. Make sure to open Disk Defragmenter and verify it is running. For those interested, SSD (solid-state drives) will be replacing our magnetic drives in the coming years. These drives have no moving parts or file fragmentation problems. You can buy these drives now, but they are much more expensive. The price is coming down slowly, and eventually all new computers will be equipped with SSD.


Upgrade your RAM

RAM (Random Access Memory) is used by your computer to run the software you are using at the moment, and anything running in the background. Most computers have between 1 and 4 gigabytes of RAM. To see how much you have, go to your Control Panel and open System. You will see your RAM at the bottom. If you have less than 2gb, you would probably benefit from an upgrade. As software updates, it often gets bigger and more memory intensive. Unfortunately, you computer can’t automatically upgrade its hardware to keep up. RAM prices have been steadily dropping, making this a cheap upgrade. You could get away with a nice speed boost for less than $50. There are different types of RAM, and your computer only takes one type, so check your computer specs to see what type you need. It will be something like SD, DDR, DDR2, or DDR3.

 

If you are suffering from a slow computer, hopefully the suggestions above will help! If your computer is several years old, you might consider upgrading to a newer machine. A new computer might not be in your budget, but if it is going to improve your efficiency and make your life simpler, it might be worth it. One of the best times to buy a computer is leading up to the November shopping season. Many local electronics stores and online retailers will likely have some good deals on computers and laptops. For the deal watchers, I recommend you check out DealNews.com/tech/. Visitors submit deals at local and online retailers so you can make sure you don’t pay too much.

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