Optimize Windows for better performance

Author: Ioana Bistriceanu

- Part 1 -

Why should I clean my PC?

The costs of a new machine may be dropping, but a few small steps towards good PC maintenance can extend your computer's life so you can save your money for now. Even a brand new computer can still greatly benefit from optimization. Just because your PC is new, it doesn’t mean it’s running at its best. Many computers come installed with excessive software and startup programs that can quickly be removed for better performance.Proper, regular care of your computer, just like getting an oil change for your car, will greatly increase your PC's productivity. Here are some important tips and tricks to help you enjoy your computer to the max.

The suggestions below apply to Windows users, specifically Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

How often should I clean my computer?

We recommend you clean your PC once a month or at least when it starts acting sluggish.

The main steps you should follow to optimize your system:

  1. Delete programs you never use
  2. Limit the number of programs loading at startup
  3. Clean up and defragment your hard disk

1. Delete programs you never use

Your computer may come installed with certain programs that you don't use, nor need to.These should include both manufacturer-installed software (such as trial editions and limited editions of programs that software companies hope you will try, for instance antivirus programs, various utility applications, programs from computer manufacturers such as Dell, Vaio, Toshiba, Acer etc.), and also software you installed yourself but don’t want or need anymore – for example utility programs designed to help manage and tune your computer’s hardware and software, previous antivirus programs, and so on.

Here is a simple way to display the list of all the installed programs from your PC and remove the ones you no longer need:

  • access the Run command by pressing the Windows logo key + R
  • type appwiz.cpl in the Run text box and hit Enter
  • Browse the list and identify the programs you don't need, then select them one by one and click Remove/Uninstall
  • The uninstall process will begin. Depending on the software, you will have to agree to the uninstall process. Once the process is complete, again depending on the program, it might request a system restart, in which case you will have to reboot the system.
  • Repeat this process for each program until you have finished removing all the unnecessary software from your computer.

2. Limit the number of programs that load at startup

Many programs are designed to load automatically when Windows starts. For some of them the interface will show up once the system is loading, for others an icon will appear in the system tray, but there are also programs that will run silently in the background (such as backup, tune-up, or sync tools) without your even knowing about them.

All these auto-loaded programs may cause the PC to start slowly and, if they are not closed after startup, they also continue to consume memory and can drag down performance.

Autoruns for Windows is a tool that helps you view all the programs loading at start-up and disable any unnecessary items from loading. You can also do this from the System Configuration utility, but Autoruns will be easier to use.

  • To download Autoruns, go to this page: //download.sysinternals.com/files/Autoruns.zip

  • Save the file and then extract the archive (right click on the Autoruns.zip folder and select 'extract here,' or simply double click on the folder to open it).
  • In the folder you will find two .exe files: Autoruns and Autorunsc. Right click on the file named Autoruns and select 'Run as Administrator' (if you are using Windows 7, Vista or Windows 8) or double click to open it if you are using Windows XP.
  • The program will open and will display the list of apps running on your system.
  • Wait until you are seeing the “Ready” message in the bottom left corner, then expand the panels (or columns) until you are seeing everything under 'Description', 'Publisher' and 'Path' for each entry.
  • To disable the programs from loading at startup:
    1. Click on the Logon tab from the top of the Autoruns Window
    2. All the programs loading at startup will be displayed
    3. Uncheck the box next to each entry to disable them from loading at startup.
    4. Now, close the Autoruns window
  • Next time you reboot the system, the programs you have unchecked will no longer start automatically and you will notice an improvement in the system’s speed and performance.
  • If you wish to, you can always reopen Autoruns to set a program to load at start up again.

3. Clean up and defragment your hard disk

Use the Disk Cleanup utility in Windows to free up disk space and reduce the number of unnecessary files on your drives, which can help your system run faster. It may delete temporary files and system files, empty the Recycle Bin, and remove a variety of other items that you might no longer need.

Fragmentation makes your hard disk put in extra work, which can slow down your computer. The Disk Defragmenter utility from Windows rearranges fragmented data so your hard disk can work more efficiently. Disk Defragmenter runs on a schedule, but you can also defragment your hard disk manually.

How to perform a disk cleanup

  • access the Run command by pressing the Windows logo key + R
  • type cleanmgr.exe in the Run text box and hit Enter
  • click OK to select the system drive (Disk Cleanup will automatically detect the drive on which your operating system is installed)
  • Disk Cleanup will calculate the free space on your computer, which may take several moments
  • Once the calculation process is complete, a new window will come up
  • Check only the check boxes for the file types that you want to delete. We recommend you to check:
    1. Downloaded Program Files
    2. Temporary Internet Files
    3. Recycle Bin
    4. Temporary Files
  • Click OK.
  • A dialog box that prompts you, “Are you sure you want to permanently delete these files?” will come up
  • Click Delete Files.
  • Disk Cleanup will delete the files and close automatically.

How to use the Windows Defragment utility

  • For Windows XP: double click on the MyComputer icon from your desktop
    For Windows Vista or 7: double click on the Computer icon from your desktop
    For Windows 8: click on the folder icon from the lower left corner and select Computer from the left side
  • Right-click the local disk volume that you want to defragment and then click on Properties.
  • On the Tools tab, click Defragment Now.
  • In the new window that opens click Defragment.

Being a complex operation, Disk Defragmenter might take from several minutes to a few hours to finish, depending on the size and degree of fragmentation of your hard disk.

Although you can still use the computer during the defragmentation process, we recommend that you to avoid performing complex operations (removing or installing software, changing location for different files etc), as this might slow down the process and will not allow it to properly complete.

Depending on the system’s fragmentation, once it is complete you will notice an improvement in the speed of response.

Important: This process is performed and required only when using a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). A Solid State Drive (SSD) will NOT require a defragmentation process, because its physical data placement is handled solely by the SSD’s firmware.

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