UPDATE 12-30-16 – Even years after publishing, this post is still helping a lot of people.
However, since the post is so old, we think it’s important to note that some of the items below may no longer exist, no longer be applicable to mulodern computers and operating systems, or just plain not work anymore. Use at your own risk.
Of course, many of the tips are universal and timeless, such as keeping your hard drive clean of application and file clutter, using modern browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome.
These steps are for computers running MS Windows Vista or earlier. Steps can also be used for Windows 7 OS computers, but the process paths may be different. Of course, we need to mention that you should not mess around with system files or registry entries unless you know what you are doing. We are not responsible if your computer grows legs and runs away from you after performing these steps. However, if it does, feel free to comment or contact me directly for further assistance.
1) Remove old or unused programs from your computer: Navigate to Start -> Control panel -> Programs and Features. Let the list generate, then slowly scroll through the list. There are a lot of programs you DO need here, so be careful what you uninstall. Things like “SuperCoupon” or “WebSearch” (things that look like web related shopping or assistant programs) can be removed safely. Do not remove any programs that starts with “Microsoft”. After this is done, close the Control Panel window.
2) Run a hard drive health check: Navigate to Start -> Computer -> Right click on your hard drive and choose properties. Switch to the Tools tab and click on the ‘Check Now’ button -> Continue. Select both boxes and click Start. May be prompted for restart, then restart.
3) Free up some hard drive space: If your hard drive is getting close to maxed out, it will certainly slow down your computer. Free up some space by removing files that you may not be using. This can be as simple as emptying a Recycle Bin, that hasn’t been emptied in a while or removing temporary internet files from your computer.
Remove Temp Internet Files by navigating to Start -> Control Panel -> Internet Options -> Click the ‘General’ tab, then click ‘Delete’ under Browsing history. Click ‘Delete All’ -. Click ‘Yes’ -> Click ‘Ok’.
Large files (like music files) can take up a lot of space. If your using iTunes, do not move all of your music files or iTunes will stop working. However, audio or video files not used by iTunes….move them or get rid of them. A good program for Disk Space analysis is ‘WinDirStat’. It will scan a drive and give you detailed info on what’s consuming the drive. It’s easy to use and very helpful at manually recovering Disk Space.
4) Let Microsoft FixIt help you out: If you are using Internet Explorer, trust in Microsoft to help diagnose issues that may be slowing you down. Run the ‘FixIt’ utility at http://support.microsoft.com/mats/ie_performance_and_safety/en-us?entrypoint=lightbox
5) Monitor what programs are running: If you have many known, or unknown programs running on your computer, then your RAM is being consumed. Memory specifics and types are too deep to get into. However, in many cases of “My computer is running dog slow”, one of the culprits is lack of RAM, because it’s being consumed by programs running in the background. Additionally, if you are running many memory intensive programs, your computer may just need a memory upgrade. 2Gb -4Gb of memory is standard in most computers sold today. If you don’t have at least 2Gb of memory in your computer, then it may be time to upgrade memory….or your computer. Windows Task Manager is a good (default) program to monitor your system performance. Task manager can be loaded three different ways:
1) CTRL + ALT + DELETE, click on the Task Manager on the Security dialog.
2) Right click on the taskbar and chose Task Manager
3) CTRL + SHIFT + ESC
Click on the ‘Processes’ tab to see all processes running on your computer. Click the ‘Memory’ column to sort the processes by memory usage. Take a look at the programs running (Image Name). Processes that are not recognized may be running from malicious software. If your not sure, just Google the process name (ex; dwm.exe, chrome.exe …etc.) If you think your computer may have viruses, well your probably right. Keep moving through all points here and get viruses removed.
6) Defrag your Drives: Defragging the Drive may be time consuming, but should be completed every now and then. I have found the best way to do this is using a great third-party program called BoostSpeed5. Install the defrag tool at www.auslogics.com, with all the default install settings. Launch the program and navigate to -> Settings -> Program Settings -> Algorithms Tab -> Click on ‘Move system files to the beginning of the disk’ – > Click ‘Ok’. Choose View -> Auto Defragmentation -> Click both ‘Auto defrag…’ boxes -> Click ‘Back to disks. Analyze and defrag as further recommended, by selecting Defrag & Optimize.
7) Disable Windows Search Indexing: For slow computers, it’s beneficial to disable the Windows Search Indexing. Navigate to Start -> Computer -> Right click on your hard drive and choose properties. Uncheck ‘Index this drive for faster search’ -> Click ‘ok’.
Further indexing options can be adjusted: Navigate to Start -> type ‘indexing’ hit Enter -> Double click ‘Indexing Options’ -> Click ‘Modify’ to remove unused folders.
8) Ensure Microsoft Security Essentials have been installed: Ask about FREE virus scanning software is best and you’ll get 20 different answers. I use MS Security Essentials, and install it on my clients computers. There is not such thing as 100% virus protection (or 100% anything for that matter). Install and run MS Security Essentials from http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials
9) Run MSCONFIG to disable harmful programs from Startup: Navigate to Start -> Hit ‘Run -> Type ‘MSCONFIG’ -> Hit Enter. Click on the ‘Startup’ tab when the System Configuration window loads. These are all of the programs that start running when your computer starts up. If the Startup Item does not look like it’s from a trusted or an ‘Unknown’ Manufacturer, you should disable it. Disable items by ‘unchecking’ the checkbox. When finished, click ‘Apply’ -> Click ‘Ok’. A prompt will popup. Select to ‘Restart’. Move on after your computer starts back up.
10) Restore the HOSTS file: Some malicious software will update entries in your Windows HOSTS file. This is generally what will cause your Internet Explorer to load website URLs, other than what you have set as your homepage. Restore to Windows Vista Default by Running Notepad as Administrator. Navigate to Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Right Click on ‘Notepad” -> Run As Administrator -> Acknowledge the Security Prompt. With Notepad open, go to File -> Open -> navigate to C:WindowsSystem32driversetc. The file type should be set to “All File (*.*), then select ‘HOSTS’. The contents of the file should look like below. Any item that does not have the pound sign ‘#’ in front of it…is being used by Internet Explorer.
# Copyright (c) 1993-2006 Microsoft Corp.
# This is a sample HOSTS file used by Microsoft TCP/IP for Windows.
# This file contains the mappings of IP addresses to host names. Each
# entry should be kept on an individual line. The IP address should
# be placed in the first column followed by the corresponding host name.
# The IP address and the host name should be separated by at least one
# Additionally, comments (such as these) may be inserted on individual
# lines or following the machine name denoted by a '#' symbol.
# For example:
# 126.96.36.199 rhino.acme.com # source server
# 188.8.131.52 x.acme.com # x client host
You can copy the code above and paste it into the file, then Save it and your done with this step. Close all sessions of Internet Explorer, then re-open IE to make sure your homepage is back.
So with the 10 pieces of advice above, your computer should already be operating better. I carry a USB Drive with me everywhere. On it has a folder called “Fix Computers”. In this folder I have my tools, that perform some of the things above, or help remove viruses and speed up computers for my clients. Here is what’s in my toolbox:
- Firefox Setup 3.6.exe – Many times IE is disabled and command line takes too long to try to download Google Chrome, so I have a Mozilla Firefox browser installer. This helps when malware has disabled things and you need to surf for solutions. Download it from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/download.html?product=firefox-3.6.13&os=win&lang=en-US
- HJTInstall.exe – HiJackThis is a program from Trend Micro that generates registry reports and can allow you to fix issues immediately. This can be quicker (and safer) to use than navigating through and correcting registry entries manually. Download it from http://free.antivirus.com/hijackthis/
- procexp.exe – Process Explorer is basically Task Manager on steroids. It provides a lot of information regarding computer processes and resource usage. A good tool to help identify what is actively going on, on your computer. Download it from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653
- windirstat1_1_2_setup.exe – WinDirStat analyses and reports on disk usage for your computer. It’s a good tool to cleanup your computer of unwanted files. Very user friendly and very easy to use. Download it from http://windirstat.info/
- MSSecurityEssentials.exe – Free virus and spyware protection software from Microsoft. Download it at http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/
- boost-speed-setup.exe – A user friendly tool that helps maintain computer health. I use this specifically for Disk Defrag and file recovery, but the program has many other useful tools to keep your computer running up to speed. Download it from http://www.auslogics.com/en/software/boost-speed/
- ChromeStandaloneSetup.exe – This is the Google Chrome browser. Geared for modern site coding (CSS and HTML5) this browser is very simple and awesome with great security features. I would highly suggest using this browser over all others…and it’s Google. Download it from http://www.google.com/chrome