Optimizing a Windows Computer PC
Increase Speed and reliability with your existing computer hardware is the main benefits of optimizing and tweaking your computer settings like turning off some start-up programs, and background services which are running.
Normally with chat programs like MSN/Windows live Messenger, YIM, AIM, etc, and other types of software like media players which can start up automatically during Windows start up which causes your PC to be slow. When you have too many start-up programs start-up during Windows start up, it can make Windows Start-up very slowly because of the increase workload on your RAM, CPU, and hard drive. Start-up programs also make Windows run very slowly when you are using Windows since when programs are open, they use RAM and CPU resources meaning there are fewer system resources you can use until you close them.
You can switch to the High Performance Power option by typing in Power Options in Windows Vista, or 7 startmenu toolbar, and clicking enter. Pick the High Performance Power Option, and click the close button. You can also change the power options settings to your needs by clicking the "Change Plan settings which is next to your Power plan which you are using where you can set how long it takes before your computer turns off its display, and goes into to sleep mode. To change more advance power settings related to your CPU, video card, USB, media streaming, etc, click on the "Change Advance settings" link where you can change your more advance settings. In my experience, it is usually pretty safe to change these settings,but you should keep a record of what you changed just in case you need to change a setting back. Also, if you are using a laptop, or netbook, plug it into a wall power outlet instead of using the battery if you can since a lot of laptops, and netbooks slow down the speed of CPU, video card, and other parts to save battery life.
Turning off your desktop gadgets like the clock, calender, and other widgets, add-ons, plug-ins found on your desktop background can increase your available RAM. You can also turn off Toolbarrs which you do not need on the Startmenu by right clicking the Startmenu Toolbar, going to toolbar, and unchecking all the toolbars which you do not need.
If you are doing a system resource intensive tasks, you can usually close the system tray programs like Chat programs, media players, etc by right clicking the icons on the system tray, and picking exit or close. You can also turn off icons from showing up by right clickina an empty place on the system tray, and picking "Customize Notification icons" where you can tell Windows to stop displaying icons like the clock, volume, network, power, action center by clicking on the "Turn System icons on or off" at the bottom of the program.
In Windows 7, you can type in Msconfig on the Startmenu text box, and go into the startup tab and uncheck startup programs checkbox like chat programs which you know you do not need when your computer startup. Do not uncheck antivirus, and firewall software since your security software might not work well after wards. In Windows XP and older, you go to run, then type in MSconfig. You can also disable services in the services tab, but make a list of services you disabled just incase you disabled a service needed for Internet connectivity, Windows Update, Sound, etc. Typically, it is safe to disable services related to disk defrag, indexing, windows search, remote registry, and Tablet PC.
You can also use Add or Remove Programs by typing in "Add or Remove Programs" in the Windows Vista or 7 startmenu search textbox. This program will let you uninstall programs which you never use, so you can claim back your disk space, RAM, and CPU resources if the program runs in the background when Windows starts up. You can also click the "Turn Windows Features On or Off" link to turn off Features which you do not use to make Windows use less system resources. I recommend unchecking the indexing service if you do not use Windows File and folder search much.
Regularly, scan your computer for virus and malware programs with an antivirus and antispyware program since virus, malware, and spyware programs can slow down your computer.
To speed up your computer shut down times, close all your programs like web browsers, office suites, games, and system tray icon programs like antivirus, firewall programs. Plus, remove your USB drives from your PC's USB ports before you shutdown your computer.
You can also Turn-off visual effects and animations in Windows by typing in "view advance system settings" in Windows 7 startmenu then click settings under the performance heading and pick "adjust for best performance" and click ok for your Visual Effects settings. Updating your Hardware drivers like Video card, sound card and chipset drivers can also increase your video performance when gaming. Also, you can turn-off your wallpaper by setting it to a solid color in Windows vista and 7 by right clicking your desktop then picking personalize, and click the "Desktop Background" link. From the Drop down menu pick a solid color." This will save you a small amount of RAM since your PC no longer have to load an image on your background everytime your computer is on. Turning off ClearType also make your computer use less system resources since your computer will no longer have to smooth out font. Some video cards have settings which you can adjust like AA (anti-aliasing) which can slow down your video cards performance if set too high, so you can try turning off AA to improve your video performance. Games, Adobe Flash Player, and other software also have a quality setting sometimes, so try setting your computer games to low or medium if your computer can't handle the high quality or Medium High settings when gaming.Changing your monitor and color quality to 16 bit will also increase your performance while gaming on an older machine.
Lastly, you can also disable, and delete scheduled tasks by going to Task Scheduler. Type in Task Scheduler in Windows Vista or 7 search box located on the startmenu, and press enter. Click on the Task Scheduler Library in the left sidebar. In the next window, you can right click the Task which you do not want to run, and click disable. I don't recommend you delete the task just in case you need it. It is typically safe to disable tasks like Disk Defrags, and software updates if you do them manually, but do not disable tasks related to your antivirus or firewall s0oftware. You also need to be log-in as an administrator to use Task Scheduler.
If you have a extra USB to use for ReadyBoost which cache your computer files for faster reads, you can use it in Windows 7 or Vista to turn on ReadyBoost when you plug it into a USB port. Windows will ask you if you want to use the USB drive for ReadyBoost, and you can agree. You can also right click your USB flash drive in the "Computer" section of Windows explorer, and pick properties then go to the ReadyBoost tab where you can tell Windows to dedicate a device for ReadyBoost, or use a certain amount of your drive for ReadyBoost. Windows Vista, and 7 recommends that you use a faster USB Flashdrive for ReadyBoost for better performance, I use and recommend a Patriot Xporter XT Boost 4 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive since it cost about 10 dollars on Amazon.com , and it has all the speed I need for ReadyBoost, and use for quickly storing big files.
You can also use Windows Device Manager to change the performance settings of your disk drives. Type in device manager in Windows Vista, or 7 startmenu searchbox, and click the [+] sign for the Disk Drives section, and pick the properties section from the right click menu. In your Disk Drive po;icies you can enable quick removal, or choose Better performance to turn on Write caching for youe USB flash drive for better performance. However, you need to use the system tray USB icon to safely remove your drive. This same trick also work for internal hard drive, but you also have the option to turn off Windows Write Cache Buffer flushing on the drive, but if your computer does not have a secondary power source like a battery or Uninterrupted Power Supply battery, and a power outage occurs you can have data loss if write caching is on and Windows Write Cache Buffer flushing is off.
You can also turn-off Thumbnail view for picture and video files by typing in Folder Options, then going to view tab, and checking Always show icons, never thumbnails which will make browsing folders a little faster since Windows no longer have to make thumbnails for you to view. You can also modify your search settings in the folder tab, so you can optimize it to your needs. When you are done modifying your folder options click OK.
Also, make sure your computer hard drive is not fragmented, and have at least 20% of free space, so your computer can defrag your files easily. You can also run a disk cleanup to free up some free space, or move files to an external hard drive to free up free space on your system hard drive.
Moving your Page/swap virtual memory file to a seperate hard drive which is not your Windows C drive if you have two hard drives installed on your computer can also speed up your computer a little bit. In Windows Vista or 7, you type "Advanced system settings" inside the textbox on the startmenu then click enter, and click on the settings button under the performance heading. Click on the Advanced tab then click the change button under the Virtual Memory heading.Uncheck the "Automatically manage pagging file for all drive. Click on C: pick the "No Paging file" seting then Click on the set button. Next, click on D: or another hard drive, and pick system managed size, and pick set.You can make your own custom size, but this can be risky, but you should atleast 1.5x amount of Virtual memory for the minimum, and maximum amount. Changing the page file on a computer with only one hard drive, but two partitions will not increase performance, but it will keep your Windows partition from getting fragmented too quickly because of your page file growing and shrinking as you use your computer.
I have been using TuneUp Utilities 2011 for tweaking and optimizing all my Windows, 3rd-party software, hardware, and other settings for increase performance. It also has a Turbo mode which turns off all un-needed services and background programs, so your computer runs faster. There is also a startup manager which is a lot easier to use then MSconfig for disabling startup programs from running. Tuneup has a program deactivater to deactivate programs instead of uninstalling them which will make your computer more responsive without uninstalling programs which you need like MS Office, but when you need to use them, TuneUp will automatically turn them back on again. TuneUP utilities also can be set to defrag your hard drive, remove temporary files, and clean up and defrag your registry every few days to keep your computer running at its best without the need to search for settings, and programs in Windows to tweak your system settings for optimal performance.
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If you are planning to upgrade your onboard/built-in video, sound, or network adapter with an expansion card which you install on a PCI, AGP, or PCI-Express expansion slot on your motherboard inside your computer, make sure to disable the onboard adapters for your motherboard after you uninstalled the driver software for them in Windows. You need to enter the BIOS/CMOS of your computer's motherboard during start-up and turn-off the adapter settings to off for the adapters which you no longer plan on using anymore. You can save a few MB of RAM and CPU cycles since onboard video adapters and sound tend to use some system RAM and CPU resources while dedicated video cards and sound cards use their own processor and memory which make games faster. Plus, it is not a good idea to have your onboard sound and soundcard or onboard video and video card both on since they can cause Windows errors, use more electricity, and make your computer slower, and unstable. Sadly, changing the BIOS and CMOS settings are not very easy for most people, but if you read CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, Seventh Edition (Exams 220-701 & 220-702) you'll learn everything you need to know about how to enter the BIOS and cMOS of your motherboard to disable built-in adapters, and stuff you do not need, and change settings for even more performance gains like learning how to set your Windows Hard Drive to be the first drive to boot to save you a few seconds since your computer will no longer look for a floppy, CD, or flash drive to boot from during computer start-up, and turning off diagnostic tasks during computer startup to check your RAM, and CPU health.
In some cases, I notice turning off, or unplugging USB flash drives, USB Tv tuners, and other devices which I am not using made my computer more stable (some USB flash drives I own tend to make my PC freeze when plugged into certain ports like the front USB port for some reason), and decrease hardware conflicts in software like Windows Movie Maker, etc when doing tasks like recording my voice since the device is removed, and not being mistaken as a microphone, so I can use my real mic instead of WMM thinking my TV Tuner is a mic. Plus, you might save a few minutes of battery life if you are using a laptop since many USB devices like USB flash drives, mice, etc are powered by the USB power from your PC.
Finally, make sure the inside of your computer or laptop case is not very dusty, and all your fans are running well since computers sometimes slow down your CPU, videocard, and other computer parts to prevent damage from overheating when dust clogs up your computer cooling fans and heatsinks. You can use a can of compress air to clean the inside of your computer case, but do not use a regular vacuum due to static from vacuum damaging your PC.
If you tend to leave your computer on a lot, use sleep or hibernate a lot, I recommend you restart your computer at least once a day or more to refresh it since over time your memory can have a bunch of programs which you are not using running in the background slowing down Windows.
You can also use Windows Task Manager by right clicking your startmenu toolbar's empty space and picking "Start Task Manager". With Task Manager, you can use it to stop programs which are not responding, or you are not using. If you accidentally stop something needed for Internet, Sound, etc to work, restart your computer and the task will be restarted again.