Originally written for the site I normally post at. The original link can be found here: LINK


Alright, it’s been awhile since I’ve written an article. I’ve also seen many a request from people for trying to answer the question “why is my PC running so slow and how do I make it faster?” Well fear not, my PC-ridden friends, I’m here to help you out. This guide will give you some hints and tips to get your PC running a little bit better.

Ok let’s get down to it. If you’re running a PC you’re more than likely running a Windows OS. This guide will assume that you are running a Windows operating system. If you’re not then this tutorial probably won’t be of much use to you so just go ahead and go to the forum and…well…do something. The pictures in this tutorial will also show how these things look like in Windows XP professional (the OS I am running). Also keep in mind you don’t need to do all these steps, you can just do one or a few of these but it’s recommended to try to do as many as you can to maximize the cleanup and efficiency effort.

*Note: If you have a virus or something strange happening that you think could be attributed to virus or trojan activity shut off your system restore option (if its on) before you start cleaning. To do this right click on "My Computer", click on the tab "system restore" and enable "Turn off System Restore on all drives". Another note: Virii and spyware tend to load at normal startup and that bogs down the system hard. When cleaning you should start your computer in safe mode. You do this by pressing F8 as the system is booting up (before the Windows logo appears). Here are the instructions on how to do that if you need details:

http://www.microsoft.com/resources/d..._failsafe.mspx


Step 1: Getting rid of unnecessary applications
Step 2: Cleaning up Spyware
Step 3: Killing the Pop ups
Step 4: Cleaning out the cache
Step 5: Defragmenting your drive
Step 6: Antivirus Protection
Step 7: Windows Updates



Step 1: Get rid of unnecessary applications


Click on start button and go to Control Panel. There open up Add/Remove Programs. Go ahead and remove any applications/programs that you DO NOT use. Also, many a time when I’ve gone to clean up systems I’ve seen people with apps installed by spyware programs such as Bonzai Buddy. I also recommend getting rid of any of those “free” games that you get off the ‘Net. More than likely they had spyware attached to them. If you’re not sure about what to remove feel free to PM me in the forum to double check (my username is CuseMMA). Now that you’ve gotten rid of unnecessary programs you may have installed yourself, get rid of defaulted Windows crap that gets installed that you won’t need. The biggest thing to get rid of is MSN Explorer program (unless you actually use MSN network, then just ignore this). While still in the Add/Remove Applications menu click on Windows Components on the left-side menu.

PIC 1

PIC 2

Scroll down the menu here until you find MSN Explorer. If it is checked off then go ahead and uncheck the box. Also if you’re not going to be using your computer as a server or testing locally developed web pages, I suggest you uninstall Internet Information Services (IIS). This should free up close to 30 or 40 MB of space on your drive. If you don't do a whole lot of searches on your PC then I'd recommend removing the indexing service as well.




Step 2: Cleaning up spyware


Now to REALLY get rid of some other crap on your system. Open up your browser and head over to www.downloads.com . The two best programs I suggest for cleaning up spyware on your computer are Ad-Aware and Spybot: Search and Destroy. You can either just download one of these programs or download both for maximum protection. After you install both programs go ahead and run their scanning systems to check to see if your system has any spyware on it. Word of warning, however: These programs consider cookies spyware. For those who aren’t familiar with cookies, they are text files saved on to your local PC that stores such information as passwords and usernames to websites. These spyware programs will ask to delete all cookies on your system meaning that if you erase your cookies, those websites that you asked to remember your password will no longer have your password saved. I hope that makes sense. Another word of warning: If you’re going to use these programs make sure you keep them up-to-date. Run the program every other week or so and before you run the scan make sure you click on ‘Check for Updates’ or any equivalent of that button you can find.

PIC 3

PIC 4

Ad-Aware can be downloaded here - http://www.lavasoftusa.com/support/download/
Spybot can be downloaded here - http://spybot.safer-networking.de/en/mirrors/index.html
Microsoft’s new anti-Spyware (beta) can be found here - http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/d...displaylang=en




Step 3: Killing the Pop Ups


If you’ve ever been to Sherdog.net (or any porn site) then you know just how annoying pop ups can be. Well let’s get you some popup protection! If you use Internet Explorer then I highly recommend using Google’s toolbar which comes with a nice pop up blocker. This tool is free and free of spyware and can be downloaded at http://toolbar.google.com. Word of warning however some sites certain pop ups are necessary. For example here at our forum if you have a pop up blocker on and it is not set to allow pop ups for this site, you will not see the pop up box show up telling you that you have private messages. Don’t worry, our site doesn’t suck so you can allow pop ups for us. How do you do this? Well if you have Google’s toolbar it’s quite easy. Once you get to this site (specifically the forum) just click on the button on the toolbar that says X pop ups have been blocked. By clicking on the button you are telling Google that this site is safe and that pop ups are allowed. It’s that easy. If you use Mozilla Firefox it has a built in pop up blocker so you’re good to go right away.

PIC 5



Step 4: Cleaning out the cache


Ok so many of us have heard the term cache but some are still in the dark as to what it really is. Well to shed light on this mystery the cache is simply a folder that saves all the temporary files for quicker access in the future. In this case we’ll be cleaning out the cache for the system. In this cache it’s full most likely full of files leftover from previous installations of programs. Click on your start button, and then go to Run. In the textbox type in %temp% then click on the OK button. A folder should pop up with a bunch of folders with filenames and folders that my or not make sense. At this point, who cares what they’re labeled as, just select them all (Either press Ctrl+A or from the menu bar go to Edit à Select All). Once you’re done with this close the folder. Now empty your recycle bin to get rid of everything.

PIC 6
PIC 7

There’s also a cache for your internet browser (which I will assume is Internet Explorer). Like the system cache this keeps all the files that are used when browsing web pages. This allows for the browser to just pull up these cached files in the future if you visit the site again and the site will load a bit faster because it doesn’t have to re-download those files. Anyhow if you open up Internet Explorer go to the Tools menu from the menu bar up top and select Internet Options. Under the Temporary Internet files section click on the button that says Delete Files. If you do a lot of browsing on the net or downloaded streaming videos (that means you, porn fiends) then those files are kept here and are taking up space and resources on your system.

PIC 8

If you’re using Mozilla Firefox (probably the 2nd most popular browser amongst our users) you go to the Tools menu, Options and then click on the Privacy section in the box that pops up. This section is denoted by a Lock with the word ‘Privacy’ underneath it in the left hand menu. In here there are several options, each with a box to the right of it that says “Clear”. Click on the Clear box that is next to the Cache option. If you’re worried about security or whatnot feel free to clear the other options as well by clicking on Clear All button.

PIC 9




Step 5: Defragmenting your hard drive


You’ve probably heard a bunch of people tell you “Oh, just defrag your hard drive to speed things up” to which you probably just nodded your head not knowing what the hell they were talking about. Here’s Defragmenting in a nutshell: Your hard drive stores information in sections. What happens is that as things get added and removed from the disk there are different gaps in these sections. So what happens is that the more you delete stuff, the more gaps you create. These gaps are later filled in by other stuff you add to the hard drive. The thing is that the more the system does this the slower the response time is because the system has to look everywhere to bring together all the information that it wrote to the drive. Like I said before it writes to the drive in sections so in theory you can install a program and one half of the program will be written to one portion of the disk and the rest will be located on another part so the program will run a bit slower than it should because it has to access different portions of the drive to function. What defragging does is it takes all those gaps and rearranges them so they are all located at the end of the disk so that future programs/files/etc. are written there in concurrent spaces for faster access. It also takes all the current sections that are related and moves them around so they now located next to each other on the disk so that the system can get to them faster in the future without having to search all over for them. Get it? If you don’t, sorry I can’t simplify it more than that.



Anyhow go to the Start menu, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and then select Disk Defragmenter. This will start up the defragmentation program. Fire it up and let it defrag your C: or whatever your main hard drive is. This could take awhile if it is your first time ever doing it or if you have a huge hard drive. Once you complete the defragmenting of your drive restart your computer. To keep your system running nicely I suggest a defrag about once a month or so, maybe even every week if you're really anal about it.

PIC 10



Step 6: Antivirus Protection


One big thing I’ve noticed is that many people don’t have adequate protection for their PC’s. The major thing I recommend is getting a solid anti-virus solution. For this I highly recommend you go with either McAfee or Norton Antivirus. There are two ways you can go about this: The first is you can go and buy yourself a subscription to their service. I currently pay for and use McAfee’s Antivirus Online subscription which I believe costs about $30 or $40 a year. The nice thing about this option is that it updates itself, protects email and downloaded files and also can be configured to automatically scan your system at a time you want (If you keep your computer all the time just set the scan to sometime that you know you won’t be using your computer like 2 am or something). Also since it’s always on and protecting it will automatically quarantine virus infected files for you if you happen to have some.


Your second option, which for legal reasons I technically can’t “recommend” but I’ll tell you for informative purposes only and that is that software can be attained through less than legal means. To be honest I have a hacked copy of Norton Antivirus with free updates until the year 2130. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s nice. No, it’s not legal and no I don't use it. One popular method of getting programs and such is Bit Torrents and you can learn about that from the first tutorial I wrote: LINK HERE Word of warning that the RIAA and other large, angry corporations are cracking down on bit torrent sites so a good source of torrents will be harder to come by in the future. You’re probably better off looking around mIRC for stuff but that will be taught in another tutorial. Now you’ve probably seen “free” antivirus solutions floating around. I strongly recommend AGAINST going with these. Yeah, they might be free but they are also most likely bundled with a bunch of spyware (how else do you think they make it free for you?).

***UPDATES***

Apparently there IS a free anti-virus solution that is spy ware free and has been tested and recommended by a fellow poster (thanks Inha). The name of the software is Avast Antivirus which can be found at http://www.download.com/avast-Home-E...ml?tag=lst-0-1


Another good free anti-virus solution is AVG . This suggestion comes to us by way of Striek (Antionline member). In his words:
It works admirably - I install it for clients when they refuse to pay for Norton or McAfee (i.e. they want me to pirate it for them). It's auto-update feature is top notch.


Step 7: Windows Updates


The other big thing I’ve noticed is that people ignore the Windows updates. Newsflash people: they’re made for a reason. Stop ignoring them. Hell if you’re lazy, which you probably are, you can make it so that the updates download and install themselves. This option is available on all versions of Windows XP. If you have Windows ME kindly throw your computer away. I’m kidding…sort of. If you’re one of the sad souls that is stuck with Windows 98 or Windows ME you can’t install the updates automatically but you will be told that they are available by a little globe icon on the bottom right hand of your screen (next to the clock).

One of the easiest ways to check for updates is by clicking on the Start button, All Programs, and the Windows Updates option should be available right above the first item in your menu. If you click on that Internet Explorer will open up and take you to the Windows Update page where it will start scanning for updates for you automatically. Make sure you install all the critical updates that come up. Another thing to keep an eye out for is updates that come up under Hardware. Sometimes the makers of some of your hardware will release a new driver or patch and it will be available through here. You can also get to this page through Internet Explorer by clicking on the Tool menu then going to Windows Update in the menu. Make sure to check for updates at LEAST once a month. Some of these updates greatly improve stability, security and performance for some applications and/or operating system. I cannot stress enough how important keeping your system up do date is.

PIC 11
PIC 12




*NEW* Cleaning the Registry

This section is a little advanced and a little more in-depth. If you read this and still have reservations about messing with the registry then I suggest airing on the side of caution. I am obligated to inform you that manipulating the registry incorrectly could lead to programs or system failure(s). Proceed at your own risk.

This section is being added thanks to the input of the fine folks at Antionline.com . Now that you've cleaned up the system doing the above methods lets get into the guts of your system a little bit and make sure everything's cleaned up in there. Oh and I suggest if you're going to be messing with the registry that you do a backup of it beforehand in case you mess something up. *puts on surgeon mask and latex gloves*

Ok the registry; what is this magical and mysterious thing that whenever you mention to someone they pretty much immediately yell "DON'T MESS WITH THAT!"? Admit it, it's happened. Rather than go into it myself I'm just going to provide you with a quick article that's already been written about it.

Source: http://antivirus.about.com/cs/tutorials/a/registry.htm
Windows is what is known as a "graphical user interface", allowing users to point and click their way through various icons to change settings via various checkboxes and menus. However, there is another way to customize virtually everything in the operating system all from a single point - the System Registry. In fact, some options can only be set via the System Registry - the choice simply doesn't exist in the graphical menus.

Almost all software installed on the PC will impact the System Registry. Preferences regarding hardware, options, and other software settings will all be added to the huge database of the Registry. Thus the System Registry isn't just the central nervous system for the Operating System (OS), it's the central nervous system for the OS and any applications installed to that OS.

The System Registry is also where malware "registers" itself to run on the system, or makes other modifications that can have a critical impact on the functioning of your PC.
Thus, familiarizing yourself with the System Registry is not just a good way to tweak your PC, it's essential if you wish to be able to manually defend it.
The System Registy operates much like Windows Explorer. That is to say, top tier items are folders known as keys which, when expanded, display various second tier items, also known as keys. Additional third-tier keys may also be contained within second tier keys, etc. In other words, just as Windows has folders and subfolders, the registry has keys and subkeys. Within those keys are values. To see the values a particular key contains, you first select (highlight) the key in the left pane, and the value(s) will appear in the right pane.

When a key is collapsed - that is to say, all the other keys within it are not visible - a + sign will appear to the left of the key name in the left pane. Clicking the + sign will expand that key. The key will now have a - sign to the left of it and second tier keys will be seen below it. When a + sign appears to the left of a key name, it means that other keys are contained within it.
If you follow the link to that article there are also some links to other registry-related topics that I'm not going to get into here. Anyhow moving on. So we now know that the registry keeps all information about software and hardware and is the puppet master behind your system. The reason you need to keep the registry clean is that the registry basically tells the system where and when resources should be alloted. Here's an analogy I came with recently to explain to a non-tech friend what resources are and how they work on a system.

Think of your system's resources as a giant parking lot and each parking spot is a "chunk" of resource. Now think of a process (everytime you open a program, run a command, etc.) as a car in that lot. Whenever that car needs to goto work it needs to find a parking place to work. Keep in mind some processes will be taking up more spaces than others. Well when you have a bunch of cars in the parking lot all looking for spots there's going to be some issues. What the registry does in this scenario is act as a parking attendant that points the car into their respective place and makes sure everyone gets parked correctly. Not only does the registry tell them where and when to park it also tells them when to leave the lot so other cars can park. Sometimes you'll have two cars try to run into the same parking spot and they crash. When they do that's when you see blue screen errors or other such errors that refer to system resources.

I'm sorry for laying on the metaphors kinda thick, hopefully its somewhat understandable. Anyhow back to the topic at hand, CLEANING the registry. There are quite a few free programs out there that will clean your registry for you. Going back to the metaphor from above basically these programs check to see if anyone abandoned any cars on your lot and it tows them away (read also: deletes references to them from your registry).

RegCleaner is a free download that's compatible with XP (as far as I know). You can get it here: http://www.worldstart.com/weekly-dow...cleaner4.3.htm

Cemetric wrote on Today 10:18 AM:
If it's a regcleaner you want ...there is a freeware version available that also works with XP and can take backups ..it's called RegCleaner and you can download a copy at THIS
link.

RegClean is a free cleaner that can be used for systems running Win95, Win98, or WinNT/Win2k. Note: I'm not sure if this one is XP compatible.

Originally posted here by Striek
Regclean, available at pcworld.com and download.com does a good job. It's written by Microsoft, so it's definitely safe and compatible. It's not supported anymore, though.

The product description says that it was built for Windows 95, but I've used it with Windows 2000 successfuly. I'm not sure about XP though.

It's pretty idiotproof. I remember being surprised at how untechnical it was. It should be a good addition to your tutorial. Not something most people consider when tuning up their PC's.
Also for you brave souls there's a free registry editor called RegCool.

Originally posted here by Cemetric
I've been using THIS ONE lately and I'm quite pleased with it ...best of all it's free and works with Windows XP.

It can do anything another registry-editor can ...just check the webpage for more details.

C.

Again use these programs at your own risk. Sometimes the registry cleaners tend to do "blind" cleans and on occasion delete keys for valid programs you actually use. So again I warn BACKUP YOUR REGISTRY BEFORE HAND! If you need help doing this you can find some good resources at Google:

http://www.google.com/search?sourcei...ng+up+registry





Well that’s pretty much it for now. There are plenty more tricks and tips you could do to speed your system up many of which can be found (for Windows XP users mainly) at http://www.tweakxp.com . I must warn you though, if you go that site and attempt to apply those tweaks you are doing so at your own risk! Also keep in mind that the hardware you have (amount of memory, speed of processor, etc.) greatly affects how your system performs. If you don’t know what you are doing then I suggest you just stick with what I covered in this tutorial. If you have any questions regarding this tutorial or just have a question in general with cleaning up your system feel free to contact me either via the forum (I post under the name CuseMMA) or you can use AOL Instant Messenger to IM me at the screen name SyracuseMMA. Hopefully this tutorial will alleviate some of your PC woes, good luck!

Discussion about this article at Upstanding ****ing Citizens