optimise   Optimising your computer

Tips & Hints

Posted 11 November, 2000

Over time your computer will slow down. When you add a program it will add items to your system, even if you uninstall them not everything is removed from the system. Ideally you would reformat your computer every six months or so, but do you really want to lose a weekend and possibly some of your data you forgot to back up?

Windows users can do the following to speed up their computers. But remember the cardinal rule of computer maintenance: If you don't know what it does, leave it alone.

1. Delete your temp files

Close all your programs, then search for files that finish in tmp. Click start, find, files and folders, type in the Named box *.tmp, make sure that My Computer is chosen in the Look in box and that the Include subfolders is ticked. Delete everything that appears.

2. Clear the history lists.

The history lists can cause some problems and slow the computer. If you do delete these be aware you will lose the lists of files you have recently used. Click start, settings, taskbar & start menu, start menu programs and click the "clear" button. You may also need to re-enter your passwords.

3. Clean up your temporary Internet Files

Even if you don't use Internet Explorer the temporary internet files can build up and cause problems. To clear them, click start, settings, control panel, internet options and in the general section click the button to delete the temporary Internet files. It is also a good idea to click the settings button and set the maximum size to 10Mb or whatever the lowest setting the sliding scale will allow.

4. Create a permanent swap file

From the desktop, right-click My Computer and select Properties from the menu that appears. Click the Performance tab and select the Virtual Memory button. In the minimum box, change this to two and a half times your physical memory (if you have 64Mb, then set it to 160Mb). If your computer has more than 32Mb of RAM you can give your machine a further boost by selecting the File System button and chosing Network Server as the typical role for your computer. If you don't know what you are doing do not play with anything else in the properties section.

5. Rename your config.sys file

Unless you are running some ancient software or hardware, you should not need a config.sys file. This file is used to load older software and hardware drivers and has the effect of slowing down Windows 95 and 98 machines. Click start, programs, MS-DOS prompt. A DOS screen will appear, type cd\ and press enter, then type ren config.sys config.old, this will rename the config.sys file. Type exit and press enter, then restart your computer and check all your software and hardware works. If it doesn't, repeat the steps and rename config.old back to config.sys.

6. Remove unnecessary startup files

Most computers have unnecessary programs starting with their computers. Windows 98, ME and 2000 users can click start, run, type msconfig, then click the startup tab. Everything unnecessary should have the tick on it clicked off. Regular things to remove are fastfind, msoffice, Office Startup, Iomega Tools, Realtray, anything with MSN in it (unless you are an MSN user) and Irmon (unless you use infrared devices). Remember that if you don't know what something does leave it alone.

7. Disable the Journaling function (Microsoft Office 97 users)

The journal is a great idea: It keeps track of all the documents you open, the e-mails you send and the tasks you carry out in Outlook. The problem is that over time it reduces a computer to a pathetic crawl. To disable, it open Outlook, select tools, options, click on the journal tab and take the ticks off everything.

8. Clear your password list.
Warning, you will lose your saved passwords. Make sure you remember them before taking this step.

Even your stored passwords can slow your computer. Search your hard drive for *.pwl files and delete them. You will have to re-enter any saved passwords on your computer after doing this.

9. Defrag and Scandisk your system

Running Scandisk will correct any errors on your hard drive. It may even warn you of impending disk failures. It's best to defragment your drive after running Scandisk. Both can be found under System Tools in the Accessories section of your Start Menu.

If your computer is still running slowly

It may be time to clean up your hard drive, upgrade your memory or to buy a new computer. A lot of people try to get by on old computers that can't deal with the latest software. Sorry, but if you are trying to run Windows 98 and Office 2000 on a Pentium 100 then you really can't complain about the speed (if any) of your computer: It is time to buy a new one.

Updated 30 June 2002

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