Cleaning Up a Computer
On the TAIRA mailing list, someone recently asked for advice on where to bring his XP and Vista computers for maintence. He said that the computers were both running more slowly than they should be.
After my post, another Tsukuba resident mentioned that these shops will probably just offer to wipe your operating system and reinstall it, which is true. They generally deal more with hardware problems than software issues, so if you think you can reinstall the operating system yourself, you should probably just do it yourself and save a few thousand yen.
Other things to try before bringing it in to the stores:
- Try to use System Restore to revert your computer to the state that it was in a few months ago.
- Install an anti-virus package.
- Use programs to get rid of any spyware/malware that might be affecting your performance. Spybot and HijackThis were mentioned as good candidate for this job.
If none of these has the intended effect, you should probably just wipe the drive and reinstall the OS.
Another Tsukuba resident followed this up with an extensive list of things to try. I am reprinting his post here in its entirety (with the permission of the original author) so that it can be referenced in the future.
Nearly always a fresh install is the best thing to do. In some cases its the ONLY thing that will help. Before going to all that effort though you can try some basic clean up techniques that will reduce the amount of work your computer has to do.
A common culprit is the number of programs you have running in the background. They are usually visible in the bottom right hand corner of the screen in windows software as little icons. The number of programs here should be as few as possible as these increase load-up times as well as take up precious memory. “Spybot S&D” has an advanced function that will let you edit your start-up programs and here you can disable all those little icons you don’t need from appearing.
Next best thing is to clean your computer from temp files and registry inconsistencies. Use a program called “CCleaner”. For maximum effect you may want to uninstall some programs you don’t use anymore before cleaning. CCleaner also has a handy built in uninstaller wizard to help you speed up uninstalls.
Next up is to run antispyware software. I always think free is best so the programs I use are Spybot S&D and Lavasoft Ad-aware. Please be careful here as there are a lot of phoney spy-remover programs about that try and trick people into installing them. Stick with programs which are recommended either by magazines or professionals. After cleaning with Spybot its also a good idea to use the ‘immunize’ feature to tackle future problems. Most of the immunisations are for flaws in the IE internet browser which are common targets for hacks. If you can I would recommend a different browser other than IE, such as “Firefox”, which has far fewer people trying to exploit its flaws.
Next up is make sure you have antivirus software and that your computer is clean. Again if you want a free one then I recommend “AVG antivirus” which is free for personal use. Get it from the AVG website but it can be hard to find as they tend to hide the links to download the free version behind all the pay for products. Look hard and you’ll see its there.
Windows XP and Vista has a firewall built in. Firewalls are vital as they act as gate-keepers to your computer. Every computer comes with a number of ‘doors’ or ports which are gateways for information between the computer and the internet (only one physical slot however). If these ports are left unguarded then all kinds of uninvited stuff will flow from the internet to your computer. Due to a lack of foresight Windows XP has all the ports automatically open on install and hence the need for a firewall to protect your ports. Since Windows XP SP2 a firewall is now standard on all windows products however its not that good but it is automatic. If you know little about computers then the best step would be to just make sure that you have the windows firewall working. If you want to know more then I would
recommend ZoneAlarm firewall. Make sure you get the free product. It’s a bit tricky at first. Remember that if you get your internet connection through a ‘router’ or a wireless transmitter then you don’t need a software firewall as the ‘router’ or wireless transmitter is already a physical firewall. If in doubt, get a firewall.
Finally after you have done all this I would recommend as an option to use AusLogics disk defrag, which is also free. Defrag stands for defragmentation that is to gather all the fragments of data that are on your hard drive, organise them into the correct piles and then put them all at the front so that the hard drive can find them faster. Hard drive read speed is currently the slowest process in your computer so it makes sense to help it as much as possible. Read the AusLogics website for a more detailed argument but basically download the program and run it. If you do eventually go for a re-install then it is also quite important that you run this program after a fresh install because windows installation can be messy.
That’s it. If you have no speed improvement after this then you need a fresh install. Remember to back up your data to an external hard drive or DVD.
As a final note, I personally never use Windows Restore to solve gradual decline in hardware performance. System restore I think was designed to overcome hardware problems that happen suddenly when you buy some new kit or you install some new device drivers or upgrades. I could be wrong but I’m not sure it would help much in this case.
Sometimes people in Tsukuba complain that TAIRA is only good for sales, but exchanges like this make me appreciate the list and its contribution to our little community. Thanks, TAIRA!