My Guide to Basic Windows Maintenance
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Thread: My Guide to Basic Windows Maintenance

  1. #1
    Senior Member wiskic10_4's Avatar
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    My Guide to Basic Windows Maintenance

    Hey AO,

    If you've been repairing computers for as long as some of us have, you have probably come up with your own methodology for what you do when a user complains of a "slow computer".

    I am a member of another forum (ComputerForum.com), and there several times a day a noobie will post up, begging to know why his PC is running so sluggish.

    I had a "Slow Computer Rant" saved, and I would usually just copy and paste it to reply to such threads. I thought I ought to make a webpage on the subject - a "Slow Computer Rant" page of sorts...

    So I did.

    Any questions, comments and criticisms are appreciated. Let me know what you think.

    http://www.jeremydeanonline.com/tips/goFast/goFast.php
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    Super Moderator: GMT Zone nihil's Avatar
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    Hi wiskic,

    Pretty comprehensive, but there are a few subtleties I would suggest:

    1. Run CCleaner FIRST...............I have seen it remove over 2 gigabytes of junk, and there is no point in defragging that...........also you will get a better defrag.

    2. Run the anti-malware in SAFE MODE, it has a better chance then. Also, I would use Spybot S&D and A-Squared as they all tend to find different things.

    3. Windows desktop operating systems and some of the software that runs under them were never intended for always on operation..............reboot at least once a day.

    4. I use Auslogics (only works with XP and later). In the defrag application, click the little arrow next to the "defrag" box and select defrag AND optimise It takes a long time, but is worth it. Not only is your HDD optimised, but this slows down the subsequent fragmentation process. I run CC and defrag daily..........your AV and other interactive anti-malware updates daily, and checks against its pattern files.........so do this in SAFE MODE, when they are not active.

    5. IIRC, msconfig doesn't install with NT4 either? (that's contemporary with 95/98). You can add it to Win 2000 though.

    6. Get the EUSING registry tools (and anything else of theirs that you fancy) It is the most comprehensive free registry cleaner I have seen. Also, get the Registry Defragmenter...........a fragmented Registry will certainly slow your system down.

    You get a pop-up asking you to donate/register.........just click on the "skip" button and run them; unless you are feeling generous.

    7. Auslogics is a better defragmenter............run it in SAFE MODE. I have tried it against Diskeeper Lite (basically what ships with Windows?) and it will get files that DL won't...........and DL then reports zero fragmentation, so it agrees?

    (haven't comparison tested on Vista or 7 yet)

    8. I leave Windows automatic updates on, but only let it download. For customers I let it do the lot, because you cannot trust them. You can set it to run at a specific time, so I just tell them that their machine will update then, so leave it alone. Remember that MS use "patch Tuesday" so the next Wednesday of the month is good...........don't go surfing until you have updated as the patches are usually followed by a rash of exploits If you let it download, you are warned of out of schedule updates, which are usually the most critical.

    9. I use Avira as it is the most configurable free AV I have seen, and is resource friendly compared to some! One thing I always do with an AV (if possible) is turn off the scan on file close. If it hasn't spotted it by then it won't anyway.

    10. Regular cleaning is particularly important if you have dogs & cats. Cheap artists' brushes are good for dislodging crud from fans, PSUs and the CPU heatsink prior to vacuuming. WATCH THE VACUUM!!!.......they generate static, so use the thin plastic nozzle, not the bare aluminium.

    11. Feet!?...............the only ones I have ever bought started life holding in the contents of a bottle
    DON'T use your laptop in bed.........the sheets block the ventilation and if you fall asleep it will hit the deck and won't work anymore. Despite their name, they are fundamentally flat surface devices.

    12. Slow? try using the marvellous Winders feature of user accounts. Set up an offline account (remember to disconnect from the net) for gaming and offline activities. Then you don't need AV and a shed load of stuff that would normally run.

    13. Non-essential services & applications. I would normally do this in the registry by setting them to manual or off, but WinPatrol from BillP Studios is a nice user friendly application that lets you enable or disable things without screwing up.

    14. Sill slow?..................*SYMAN*EC* or *NOR*ON* ??? or at least don't run more than one interactive scanner doing the same job..........conflicts and deadly embraces can be a problem that is characterised by coming on all of a sudden.

    15. Software updates?............Get File Hippo's Update Checker and Secunia PSI. For graphics and sound, only install the software from your computer or card manufacturer..........the latest may well not work with your equipment.

    That's about all I can think of.
    Last edited by nihil; March 6th, 2011 at 02:28 AM.
    If you cannot do someone any good: don't do them any harm....
    As long as you did this to one of these, the least of my little ones............you did it unto Me.
    What profiteth a man if he gains the entire World at the expense of his immortal soul?

  3. #3
    Senior Member wiskic10_4's Avatar
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    Hey nihil - thanks for your feedback.
    1. Run CCleaner FIRST...............I have seen it remove over 2 gigabytes of junk, and there is no point in defragging that...........also you will get a better defrag.
    I agree - that's why CCleaner (as well as Auslogics Registry Cleaner) are part of "Phase 3," which comes before "Phase 4 - Defragment and Update". Although, technically, I should probably have the updates before cleaning up, as I know many times they leave behind junk files and broken registry entries.

    2. Run the anti-malware in SAFE MODE, it has a better chance then. Also, I would use Spybot S&D and A-Squared as they all tend to find different things.
    I'll have to add that - however, in my practice, if I don't see anything that looks "weird" in msconfig, and if the user hasn't reported any suspicious activity aside from the computer being "slow", I'll usually just run a Quick Scan with mbam in normal mode - if nothing comes up, I move on. What do you think?

    3. Windows desktop operating systems and some of the software that runs under them were never intended for always on operation..............reboot at least once a day.
    Is that a fact or just an opinion? My folks leave their Windows XP PC on for days, weeks or even months at a time. No hibernate/standby/etc. Just runs the screensaver when idle. That PC runs fantastic (as far as eight-year-old Sony Vaio's go). I used to have a laptop running Vista, and I don't think I rebooted it for several months. Of course, I killed the battery by leaving it plugged in 24/7, but the lappy ran as stable as ever.

    I agree, a reboot will kill any hung processes or reset any programs that have "memory-leaks". But the question is, why were there hung processes and memory leaks to begin with?

    4. I use Auslogics (only works with XP and later). In the defrag application, click the little arrow next to the "defrag" box and select defrag AND optimise It takes a long time, but is worth it. Not only is your HDD optimised, but this slows down the subsequent fragmentation process. I run CC and defrag daily..........your AV and other interactive anti-malware updates daily, and checks against its pattern files.........so do this in SAFE MODE, when they are not active.
    Excellent advise. I never knew that - I'll definitely add that.

    5. IIRC, msconfig doesn't install with NT4 either? (that's contemporary with 95/98). You can add it to Win 2000 though.
    In all honesty, if you're running NT4, you should expect a slow computer. :P And I should add a link to download msconfig (for Win2K) - I have it on the same server! (See Software Picks)

    6. Get the EUSING registry tools (and anything else of theirs that you fancy) It is the most comprehensive free registry cleaner I have seen. Also, get the Registry Defragmenter...........a fragmented Registry will certainly slow your system down.

    You get a pop-up asking you to donate/register.........just click on the "skip" button and run them; unless you are feeling generous.
    Duly noted. Will add. Thanks!

    7. Auslogics is a better defragmenter............run it in SAFE MODE. I have tried it against Diskeeper Lite (basically what ships with Windows?) and it will get files that DL won't...........and DL then reports zero fragmentation, so it agrees?

    (haven't comparison tested on Vista or 7 yet)
    Well, that's good to know - I knew I liked it better, I just didn't know *why*.

    8. I leave Windows automatic updates on, but only let it download. For customers I let it do the lot, because you cannot trust them. You can set it to run at a specific time, so I just tell them that their machine will update then, so leave it alone. Remember that MS use "patch Tuesday" so the next Wednesday of the month is good...........don't go surfing until you have updated as the patches are usually followed by a rash of exploits If you let it download, you are warned of out of schedule updates, which are usually the most critical.
    No, certainly you can't trust the users to update. I used to leave automatic updates alone - then (about a year ago?) I noticed that the Automatic Updates service had a huge memory leak (I noticed this in XP - can't remember if other OSes were affected). I don't remember the details of it - just that I pulled up taskmgr on several XP boxes in a short time, and all of them had svchost running at over 80,000K. Disabling Automatic Updates solved the problem, and from there on I haven't trusted Automatic Updates. But since I recommend users follow the steps in my article once every month or so, that should keep them up-to-date.

    9. I use Avira as it is the most configurable free AV I have seen, and is resource friendly compared to some! One thing I always do with an AV (if possible) is turn off the scan on file close. If it hasn't spotted it by then it won't anyway.
    Yeah - I love it too. Great advice on turning off the scan on file close - I usually just leave the scan settings to default.

    However - I had a lappy yesterday that wouldn't "take" Avira. So aggravating. It was a brand new Dell from Best Buy. I got all of the updates, uninstalled McAfee and ran the McAfee uninstall/cleanup utility. But Avira would not install! The first little window would come up, the progress bar would load and then - nothing.
    I got fed up with it after an hour and put AVG on it instead.


    10. Regular cleaning is particularly important if you have dogs & cats. Cheap artists' brushes are good for dislodging crud from fans, PSUs and the CPU heatsink prior to vacuuming. WATCH THE VACUUM!!!.......they generate static, so use the thin plastic nozzle, not the bare aluminium.
    Good advice on the artist brushes. I don't know about the UK, but here in the good ol' US of A, everything's made out of plastic. (even the people?)
    I haven't seen a metal vacuum cleaner since... I don't know - ever? I may add that though... just to be on the safe side.

    11. Feet!?...............the only ones I have ever bought started life holding in the contents of a bottle
    DON'T use your laptop in bed.........the sheets block the ventilation and if you fall asleep it will hit the deck and won't work anymore. Despite their name, they are fundamentally flat surface devices.
    Amen to that. I was surprised that I don't see more feet available for sale... and why - *WHY* do we have fans and exhaust vents on the bottom at all!? :/

    12. Slow? try using the marvellous Winders feature of user accounts. Set up an offline account (remember to disconnect from the net) for gaming and offline activities. Then you don't need AV and a shed load of stuff that would normally run.
    That sounds like a pain in the ass IMHO. I like to use the same account for everything. It would be effective though.

    13. Non-essential services & applications. I would normally do this in the registry by setting them to manual or off, but WinPatrol from BillP Studios is a nice user friendly application that lets you enable or disable things without screwing up.
    Awesome. I'll check it out.

    14. Sill slow?..................*SYMAN*EC* or *NOR*ON* ??? or at least don't run more than one interactive scanner doing the same job..........conflicts and deadly embraces can be a problem that is characterised by coming on all of a sudden.
    I cannot believe I forgot to say to DESTROY anything that says Symantec or Norton on it. That's how my old "Slow Computer Rant" started out. Good catch. I'll definitely add that.

    15. Software updates?............Get File Hippo's Update Checker and Secunia PSI. For graphics and sound, only install the software from your computer or card manufacturer..........the latest may well not work with your equipment.
    Cool. Never heard of it. I'll give it a go.

    Thanks a bunch nihil. Your insight is always appreciated.
    My Corner of the Intarwebz: Jeremy Dean Online

  4. #4
    Super Moderator: GMT Zone nihil's Avatar
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    Hi wiskic,

    I'll have to add that - however, in my practice, if I don't see anything that looks "weird" in msconfig, and if the user hasn't reported any suspicious activity aside from the computer being "slow", I'll usually just run a Quick Scan with mbam in normal mode - if nothing comes up, I move on. What do you think?
    I guess that depends on your environment? I live in a seaside resort so quite a few of my customers are in the tourist trade. Naturally they have their e-mails on several "trade" websites, online directories etc. That means that the harvesting spider bots pick them up pretty easily, and the spammers know its genuine because of the source.

    Of course they can't afford to be as suspicious of incoming mail as others, because it is potential business, and the loss of one prospect in a hundred is as bad to them as a success of 1 in 1,000 is good to a spammer

    Basically, I know that I will have a load of garbage to get rid of anyway.

    Is that a fact or just an opinion? My folks leave their Windows XP PC on for days, weeks or even months at a time. No hibernate/standby/etc. Just runs the screensaver when idle.
    Sure, if it isn't actually "doing anything" all that is happening is that you are wearing out components and wasting electricity. If you use it very regularly then you will get memory leaks over time. Also remember that you need to boot into safe mode for a lot of the apps you suggested to work properly, so it isn't really an added chore?.

    Case in point: a couple of hours ago I ran Auslogics disk defrag on a Win XP SP3 box. Normally you would get 2% fragmentation or so...................in safe mode it found 14%, simply because it could access a lot more files because they weren't locked. It is the same story with registry tools.

    I tested Registry cleaning tools on Sunday..............CCleaner found 13 items, Auslogics 16 and EUSING 255 (after I let CC get rid of its 13). It sort of reminds me of a free version of Registry Mechanic.

    In all honesty, if you're running NT4, you should expect a slow computer.
    Not really; Remember that it is a business/office desktop workstation OS. It isn't that resource demanding (compared to Win ME) and can use more resource than Win 98SE. I still have it on a PII 333MHz with 384MB of PC133 SDRAM..................it goes pretty fast on that rig. Obviously I prefer NT5 (Win 2000) because it supports USB.

    I noticed that the Automatic Updates service had a huge memory leak (I noticed this in XP - can't remember if other OSes were affected). I don't remember the details of it - just that I pulled up taskmgr on several XP boxes in a short time, and all of them had svchost running at over 80,000K.
    I haven't noticed any problems with it, but I tell it to run at a certain time and then it closes. svchost (all instances) is currently running at 34,000K on this machine

    FireFox is currently at 116,844K and I only have 3 tabs open.

    I haven't seen a metal vacuum cleaner since... I don't know - ever? I may add that though... just to be on the safe side.
    Over here, the actual cleaners (non-industrial) are also plastic. The metal bit is a length of aluminium pipe at the end of the hose, to which you attach the brushes and plastic nozzles. That will generate static due to the airflow, so just be sure to add one of the non-conducting attachments.

    I was surprised that I don't see more feet available for sale... and why - *WHY* do we have fans and exhaust vents on the bottom at all!? :/
    I guess that people who think about it get a cooling plate instead? I just checked my new Compaq and it has its fan/vent at the side..........and its a "grey import" from Alabama!!!

    That sounds like a pain in the ass IMHO. I like to use the same account for everything. It would be effective though.
    Well so do I, but that is because of what we do. I was thinking of Gaming, Home Entertainment, Net entertainment and so on. You really don't want to be checking for software updates, running printer, scanner, and camera software, and if you are not on the internet, quite a lot of security software?

    It is easy enough to set up and no problem in switching users. Although I must admit that I haven't bothered with my new desktop............Win 7 Ultimate, and I haven't seen the CPU usage dial go above 5% more than a half dozen times. It gets 7.4s and 7.5s on the Windows Experience rating......for what that's worth.............I am not worried about it running slow.
    If you cannot do someone any good: don't do them any harm....
    As long as you did this to one of these, the least of my little ones............you did it unto Me.
    What profiteth a man if he gains the entire World at the expense of his immortal soul?

  5. #5
    @ΜĮЙǐЅŦГǻţΩЯ D0pp139an93r's Avatar
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    Two comments:

    Safe mode can prevent malware from actively hiding through certain kernel mode attacks such as call interception and injection, but it *will* prevent the heuristic engine from working properly.

    Vacuums are not all bad. Toner vacs work especially well, but compressed air is still the best cleaner you can get. I haven't even seen metal in attachments for quite some time.
    Real security doesn't come with an installer.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator: GMT Zone nihil's Avatar
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    Safe mode can prevent malware from actively hiding through certain kernel mode attacks such as call interception and injection, but it *will* prevent the heuristic engine from working properly.
    I would certainly agree with that. However I think that we are just talking about a general slow computer malaise (whine ) here?

    You could always run in both modes, but when I suspect any heavy duty malware I would tend to go for a live external medium or a HDD docking station.

    I guess my main reason for going the Safe Mode route is that it pretty much has a dedicated environment so it runs faster............I still deal with quite a few older single core systems

    If you cannot do someone any good: don't do them any harm....
    As long as you did this to one of these, the least of my little ones............you did it unto Me.
    What profiteth a man if he gains the entire World at the expense of his immortal soul?

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