PC Tune Up

Category: Hardware

Most people can tell when their cars need a tune-up. Odd noises, sluggish acceleration, and white smoke from the tailpipe are easily recognized signs. Computers also get out of tune and need minor adjustments to perform their best again. Here are some signs that you need a PC tune-up, and how to go about it...

Does Your PC Need a Tune Up?

If your computer seems to be a lot slower than when it was new, it's possible you've picked up a computer virus somewhere along the way. If you don't already have up-to-date anti-virus protection, here is my list of the best Free Anti-Virus Programs.

Annoyingly long boot-up times are a sign that your operating system is having trouble finding and loading all the software components it needs to get started. Some of the driver or system files loaded during startup may be missing or corrupted. Another possibility is that you have too many programs loading at start-up time. Here are things you can do to tune up the boot process:

Make sure you have installed the latest updates and patches for your operating system. For Windows users, that means a trip to the Windows Update website which will scan your system and recommend updates to download and install. You can also set Windows Update to automatically check for, download, and/or install critical updates when you're connected to the Internet.
PC Tuneup

A hard disk integrity check can find and attempt to fix corrupted files, broken file directories, and bad sectors on a hard drive that are difficult or impossible to read. Windows users can run a disk integrity check by right-clicking on a drive letter on the My Computer window, then selecting Properties > Tools > Check The Drive For Errors. You'll have to restart Windows so the disk check can run before Windows is loaded.

Defragmenting your hard drive once a month or so puts the pieces of files scattered all over your hard disk back together so that they load faster. The "defragment" option is also on the Tools tab of a disk's Properties window.

More PC Tune-Up Tips

The msconfig utility in Windows has a "startup" tab which displays all of the files that are loaded during startup. Just type "msconfig" in the Search box under the Start button to run this utility. Unchecking the box next to an item disables loading of that file during startup. Be careful not to disable essential system files.

Temporary files can clutter up a hard disk and make it take longer to find necessary files. Temporary files are created during the installation of new software; creation of new documents; and many kinds of Internet activity. Run Windows Disk Cleanup utility to see how many unnecessary files you have on your drive and, optionally, delete them. You can find the disk cleanup option by right-clicking the drive icon.

Drive performance is not the only part of a PC tune-up. If applications are crashing suddenly or you get the "blue screen of death" that shuts down your computer, you may have a glitch in your RAM chips. Most often, tuning up RAM is as simple as reseating the RAM chips in their slots; they can jostle loose, especially in a laptop. You can also download and run memory-testing software such as MemTest to see if any of the circuits in your RAM are bad. If that's the case you may need a new RAM chip.

Display calibration is a subtle thing that can get out of tune over time. Things displayed on-screen will be slightly "off" in color and aspect ratio. Make sure you have the latest driver for your monitor, and check the monitor manufacturer's site for a display tune-up or calibration utility.

What's on your PC tune-up list? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "PC Tune Up"

Posted by:

07 Dec 2010

Maybe just my opinion... so posting for your comment.
It seems to me that some folk burden their system by packing a large volume of files on their Desktop. (C:\Documents and Settings\username\Desktop\files or folder name... It's easy to let it happen, since many installation routines try to default to save to Desktop... and then stuff just accumulates. Plus some folks think it is easier to gain access to saved files, e.g. My Resume', My Favorite Family Pictures, etc.

It may only be a lag when booting, but I think it is a poor idea to use the Desktop for file storage. Icons with shortcuts are just fine, but saved files can be a drag on the machine.
Thanks again for your excellent newsletter and technical tips.

Posted by:

07 Dec 2010

Thanks for the tips, I did what you said, but it was not possible to 'repair' my HD because the system said she was 'in use' altough she was not, I had the same problem with my external HD so, I could not proceed the process.
Thankx for the nice recommandations and tips you give us, and sorry my English language

Posted by:

Robert DiGrazia
14 Dec 2010

Re "Temporary files can clutter up a hard disk and make it take longer to find necessary files."

This, along with the assertion that a fragmented disk slows performance, puzzles me.

Is the file system on Windows so bad that it doesn't know how to search directories? Getting directories into memory, and running binary searches, ought to be independent of disk fragmentation. Of course, loading many directories, or huge directories, into memory is an issue, since searching could churn the page file.

Let us distinguish between a fragmented disk and fragmented files.

I claim a fragmented disk is not an issue. But fragmented files that are read often can drag the system, since the drive has to bounce the heads around. And if files are not fragmented, the activity of many applications can bounce the heads among many files.

Proper software design, with grouped and sorted IO commands, would ease the issue, but do typical apps and Windows do that?

Posted by:

14 Dec 2010

My two cents worth . . .

I'd recommend including Secunia's PSI as a PC maintenance tool. It checks if installed software and drivers and up to date and patched, if necessary.

Also, please suggest to readers that they get in the habit of doing a full image backup (not just system restore) before tweaking the system.

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