>How to Make Your Computer Faster For Little Or No Money

February 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Posted in Article, computer and high technology | Leave a comment

>Remember when you first bought your computer… it ran so nice, right? Well over time, computers have a tendency to slow down and become frustrating. Local computer shops can seem expensive, or maybe you just don’t trust them. Despite what a computer repair company wants you to think, there are some easy ways to speed up and upgrade your computer yourself. With the economy being as it is, buying a new computer can be avoided by following a few simple steps.

A fair amount of the time, a piece of software is to blame for your computer’s performance being so slow. Sometimes this software can be a virus, or an outdated, buggy legitimate program installed long ago. A good place to start is to run a full virus scan on your computer using a reputable antivirus program. One that I like that is free is called Malware Bytes Anti-Malware. You can download it here, install it and be running a full virus scan in minutes. Kaspersky is also my favorite antivirus program. It has a high detection rate and doesn’t slow the computer down as much. You can download a free trial of Kaspersky here. As with any antivirus program, you want to make sure to update your antivirus every single time you use it. Let the antivirus software do a full scan and remove anything it deems as a security threat. Sometimes this alone can make a night-and-day difference in the speed of your computer.

Another method to figure out why a computer might be running slow is to use Windows Task Manager. You can open it up by hitting ctrl+alt+del and clicking on task manager, or by right-clicking on the Windows task bar and clicking on “task manager.” Windows Task Manager will provide a wealth of information we can use to identify and eliminate programs causing the computer to run poorly. In task manager, click on the performance tab. You’ll see two graphs, one being CPU Usage and the other being Memory. CPU usage will change and often be high and low depending on what you’re currently doing on the computer. What you want to look for is if your computer is using an abnormally high amount of CPU when you’re not really doing anything major on the computer. If your CPU Usage is at 90% to 100% for more than a few moments, there might be some software on your computer that is using all your computer’s processing power and causing it to go slow. We can find out what program this is by clicking on the “Processes” tab and looking at the CPU column. You’ll find the offending program using a high amount of CPU for an extended period. Now how do we find out what program that is? I’m willing to guess that the “Image Name” column for the offending program doesn’t seem to help you get any closer to finding the culprit. If you write down the program image name and google search it, it will tell you what that program is, and then you can decide to check for updates for that program or uninstall it completely.

Another easy upgrade that makes a huge difference is upgrading RAM. Let’s do an analogy to understand the role of RAM (Random Access Memory). Think of yourself as the CPU, or the processor of information. Think of RAM as a kitchen table you use to spread out all your paperwork you have to complete. The larger the table, the easier it would be to lay out all your papers. This makes it easier to organize and faster to work on the paperwork. When computer manufacturers
sell a computer, one typical place they cut back to price a computer lower is RAM. What does that mean to you? Your computer may be running on a minimum amount of RAM, and that can be a root cause of a slow computer. An easy way to tell if you have enough RAM is to again look to Windows Task Manager to provide the necessary information to determine if a RAM upgrade is right for you. In the Performance tab of Task Manager, take note of the Memory graph. This graph shows your current amount of RAM being used. If you look down to the “Physical Memory (MB)” chart below, it will give you a bit more details. The “Total” row shows your current amount of RAM installed. Keeping in mind that 1 GB = 1024 MB, if the number in the “Memory” chart is greater than the total installed memory, it might be time for a RAM upgrade. Also, if you look at the Physical Memory chart again, if “Free” is at 0, it might also be time for a RAM upgrade. Putting in a new RAM module is quite easy and fast. Often it takes longer to open the side of the computer than it does to install RAM. Before you buy more RAM though, you have to make sure you get the correct type. If you look up your computer specifications at the manufacturer website, it should tell you what type of RAM is installed in your computer. Most modern RAM is DDR, DDR2, or DDR3. DDR3 won’t fit in a DDR2 slot and likewise DDR won’t fit in a DDR2 slot, so if your new RAM doesn’t fit, don’t force it. There are a lot of places online and locally that sell just the RAM, and it can be quite cheap depending upon which type you need. If opening up your computer and changing out RAM is a scary thought, most of the “tech savvy” friends you have will have little or no trouble replacing the RAM for you. Local computer shops will also do it for you, and often times it can be as cheap as $20 or less for the labor.

Another reason computers run slowly is that there are just too many programs running at once. You might not see the programs themselves open, but a lot of stuff runs behind the scenes. Have an HP printer? You can bet there’s HP software running in the background. There are many more examples of programs taking up your computer’s power when they don’t have to. This is easy to fix. Instead of having these programs start up automatically, you can set them to only be started when you want or need to use that program. The easiest way to do this is by using Microsoft’s System Configuration Utility. To open it, click on the Start Menu, and click on “Run.” In the box that pops up, type msconfig and hit OK. If you’re using Vista or Windows 7, just click on the start orb, type msconfig in the search box, and when it pops up in the search results, right click on it and click on “run as Administrator.” In the System Configuration Utility, don’t touch else other than what we discuss here. Making a wrong entry or deleting the wrong thing could prohibit certain programs from running or make the computer not start!! In the System Configuration Utility, click on the “Startup” tab. Everything listed here with a checkmark is set to automatically start when the computer does. Usually what I do is click on “disable all” and then go through and re-check things that I want to start, such as Ituneshelper.exe and my antivirus program. Don’t worry about un-checking the wrong thing here, it’s completely reversible and if you uncheck a necessary Windows file, Windows will automatically re-enable it. Make your changes, restart your computer and enjoy your new found speed.

Using these techniques, even an old dinosaur of a computer can be brought back to life. With the exception of upgrading the RAM, everything else is free and fast to do yourself. As with anything, if you get confused about anything you are doing, contact a trusted local computer repair shop and ask for professional help. Of course Google is your friend with this type of stuff and there are a lot of resources that can guide you through everything. Customers frequently call my shop and we’re happy to offer advice and guidance for free over the phone on all the techniques listed above. Don’t let the computer intimidate you anymore, and save yourself the hassle and cost of buying a new computer by making your old one work like the day you first bought it.

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