PC and Hard Drive Maintenance

One of the most common questions I've been asked from clients is, "Why is my computer so slow?" and (usually in conjunction), "What can I do to speed up my computer?"

The answer can depend. The solutions can range from some simple maintenance to hardware repair/upgrades or even a combination. Here are some common things you can do to improve system performance which I've chosen to call PC and hard drive maintenance.

1. Ensure your anti-virus and anti-spam/spyware/malware software is up-to-date. I've recommended the free ones for a number of years now. I also recommend you use them together (like a one, two punch). You can go to spyware.htm to see what I recommend.

2. Next you want to remove your temp folder/files as well as Internet files. To do this, just right click (while in Explorer) on the drive you want to clean up (i.e., drive C) and click the Disk Cleanup button:

3. Once that's done, look at what's loading when your PC starts up. There are a couple of ways you can do this. I recommend the easiest which is to choose Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and finally System Information. Open up the box Software Environment and finally click on the Startup Programs folder. I've copied below an example:

Go through each and every line. If you're unsure of what's running (especially if you don't recognize it as a legitimate file), do a comparison with Startup Applications List to verify. This same information is located in the registry at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run and HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run.

4. Once you've completed that, it's time to check your disk. While in Explorer, right click the drive and choose properties the click the Check Now... button:

Click both boxes in the next dialog box and finally Start:

You will be prompted with a dialog box below that asks if you want to do this the next time Windows restarts (choose Yes):

Once your system restarts, it will start checking the drive. This can take a while (depending on the size of your drive, the amount of files you have and the last time you've done this). Once it's complete, it will refresh and return to your normal log in prompt.

5. Once this has completed, you need to defrag your hard drive. From Explorer, right click on the drive and choose properties. When you receive the below box, click on Defragment Now...:

You can choose to analyze first or just click defrag:

6. I recommend doing this at least once a month.

** Keep your computer clean. It seems too simple but just having a dirty computer can slow it down. If there is an excessive buildup of dust inside your computer, it will cause a heat buildup. This heat buildup will degrade performance as well accelerate wear and tear on the parts inside your computer which can lead to the premature failure of a critical part. Remember to unplug your computer before opening the case. Also, remember to NOT bump any of the internal parts with the vacuum (or air can) to prevent damage.

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