My PC's a Garden Snail
You can't stand it anymore; it was zippy at first and booted up without so much as a hiccup. Now that you've comfortably broken in your PC like your favorite spot on the sofa, it seems to flow like molasses: it's slow, bloated, and overflowing with 30-day trial software that has long since expired. If you're like me, you always want your box to behave like the instant gratification machine it once was. Remember when your PC was an hour old? Boy, it was quick, wasn't it? Like every type of machine, your PC may require upgrades and maintenance to keep it running like a champ. There's an array of techniques that you can use to put the spring back into your PC's step.
Organizing the Entropy:
Applications are installed and uninstalled, carving out or vacating territorial portions of your hard disk. Precious files, small and large, are created, shuffled around, shuttled to and fro and are relegated to the recycle bin. Defrag to bring order to your hard drive. Some experts suggest that defragging an XP box doesn't really increase performance because of today's faster hard drives and XP's efficient NTFS file system, but it does improve performance on older systems. Still, one should still defrag their XP system to cut down on the heat and power consumption that can occur when accessing a fragmented disk.
You should run a “Disk Cleanup” at least once a month to improve your system's performance. Inside the property dialog box of your hard drive, click the “Disk Cleanup” button to activate the process of deleting temporary files.
Obnoxious Spyware can intercept precious resources, hindering system performance, putting your PC in a bad mood. Free programs such as AdAware and SpyBot can hunt down and eradicate these annoying pieces of code once and for all.
Some Programs Stick Their Tendrils Everywhere:
Some applications have no manners. Once installed, some programs will secretly plant services that ride in from disk and into memory at boot time, even if you don't use said program very often. Did the program ask you if it could load up a bunch of services at each boot? Probably not. Over time, if you install a lot of these sneaky applications, the interval it takes XP to boot up and get itself into a usable state will steadily increase, bogging down your PC to a crawl. It's time to take charge and be the master of your machine.
Do a “Windows Key+R” to bring up the “Run” box, and type in “msconfig” to fire up the “System Configuration Utility”, a nifty little guy that can do a lot of neat things. Navigate to the “Startup” tab, and you'll see a list of services that are loaded at startup. Uncheck anything that looks suspicious: RealPlayer has an annoying habit of loading its obnoxious advertising service at boot time, and Adobe Acrobat somehow thinks I need its “Adobe Reader Speed Launch” service residing in memory, even though I hardly ever use Acrobat. The point is this: if you don't use any of these applications or their accompanying services most of the time, why have XP allocate RAM for them every time you start your machine? Go ahead; give your system a good pruning.
Give Your PC a Little More Elbow Room:
You wouldn't work on your car in the cramped confines of an elevator, would you? The more free space you have, the more room you'll have to comfortably maneuver under the hood; the same is true for your PC. The more memory you have installed, the more “workspace” your computer has to work with. Compared to your PC's memory, hard drive access is a turtle with a broken leg; it's slow.
When you increase the ability for your PC to work with instructions in expeditious RAM, you'll notice a considerable performance boost. 1 GB memory configurations are now the norm, and I shudder to imagine the drudgery of running an XP box with a scant 256 megabytes.
Before upgrading your RAM, you'll need to grok your motherboard's specifications to find out its memory capacity and the type of RAM it'll except. Most recent mobo's use PC3200 DDR SDRAM or the quicker DDR2. If you have an older motherboard, it may still use the cheaper PC133 or PC100 type of memory, which, compared to today's higher end RAM, has noticeably slower performance. Either way, once you upgrade your memory, you'll give your PC the leeway to work with more speed and efficiency.
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