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Clean That Machine: Tips on Keeping Your PC Up and Running Fast

Clean That Machine: Tips on Keeping Your PC Up and Running Fast
November 23, 2010

by Ondrej Krehel

Keeping your computer in tip-top shape not only enhances your online experience, it can help make attacks from malware, viruses and spammers more obvious. If your computer is always running slow and choppy, i's not so easy to tell if a webpage or newly installed program is slowing things down.

These few basic maintenance steps will help speed-up your Windows PC and ultimately help you stay aware of your computer’s performance:

1.    Turn on Automatic Updates in Windows Update. This will make sure you have the latest software patches, which are usually published to fix known bugs and security flaws.

2.    Run Disk Clean Up. This Windows program, in the Start menu under Accessories/System Tools, removes temporary and system cache files that can unnecessarily take up hard drive space. There is also a good free version of CleanUP!, which can be used in unison with Disk Clean Up.

3.    Uninstall programs you don’t use. New computers come bogged down with software, often times from the computer manufactures themselves and range from special photo tools, printing software and cumbersome tech support packages. On the Control Panel in Windows there is a very straightforward place to Add and Remove Programs. Go through the list a remove whatever you don’t use. But be careful! If you don’t know what the program is ask a computer-savvy friend and don’t uninstall until you’re sure i's not needed. Combined with Disk Clean Up, this is a powerful way to free hard drive space.

4.    Defrag your hard drive. Defragmenting your hard drives puts files in order, which quickens the seek time for documents and other data. Windows comes with a basic defragmenter, also under Accessories/System Tools. Microsoft has good step-by-step directions on defragmenting and disk clean-up here.

5.    Clean your registry. As you install and uninstall programs in Windows, commands are being written to your computer’s registry, which you can think of as the directions Windows follows to get up and running when i's first turned on. Programs such as CCleaner will scan your registry for old directions, missing links and automatically clean it up for you. But beware: a poorly edited registry can cause system trouble, so always backup a copy before you clean it. (CCleaner will automatically prompt you to backup.)

6.    Disable unneeded services, including indexing services. They consume resources and decrease performance of your computer.

7.    Manage your startups. By managing your operating system startup programs you can free vital CPU resources. This is a quick and easy tweak to speed up PC CPU access time. You can access this quickly by typing “msconfig” in the Windows run bar.

8.    Antivirus, antivirus, antivirus! You’ve heard me say it before, but make sure you’re running an antivirus program, and set it to automatically update and scan your system, at least once a week. There are free online scans from the major antivirus vendors, such as Kaspersky, Eset, McAfee and Symantec. And free programs available such as AVG.

9.    Anti-Malware, anti-malware, anti-malware! Again, this is a necessary repeat. You should be running some kind of malware removal program. There are several free programs available for personal use that will scan your system, such as Malwarebytes, AdAware and SpyBot.

10.    Run a firewall. Don’t believe the myth that they slow down your computer significantly. Windows, Linux and Mac all have built-in firewalls, which are far better than nothing at all.

11.    Update your browser. Firefox is winning the browser war. Whether on a Mac, PC or Linux, Firefox is the browser of choice for security and speed. Make sure you set it to automatically update. Look at the privacy and security plugins and install ones you like— Adblock Plus and NoScripts are a good place to start.

Your computer will run as well as the time you invest in maintaining it. Being an educated user will help you increase performance and security.

Ondrej Krehel, Chief Information Security Officer, Identity Theft 911

Ondrej has more than a decade of network and computer security experience. His expertise extends to investigations of intellectual property theft, massive deletions, defragmentation, anti-money laundering and computer hacking. He led U.S. computer security projects at Stroz Friedberg and worked in IT security at Loews Corp.

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