The Clymo Brief: make your PC faster

Wishing your computer had a bit more oomph? Rob shares 10 tips to speed-boost your PC.

Rob share some tips on boosting the performance of your PC (© image © Microsoft)

We all long for a super-speedy PC, but the reality is often a home computer that’s far less than sprightly.

There are a couple of key reasons for this. One is the specification of the machine itself, the other is the amount of deadwood data clogging it up.

While the former requires a bit of expense and fiddling around inside the PC casing, the latter can be sorted with just a little tinkering around your desktop. The 10 tips below should help get a sluggish machine back up to speed.

1) Free up disk space
Despite the capacious size of today’s disk drives, they remain remarkably easy to fill up, especially now we’re all using computers to store music collections, videos and countless photos.

A manual sort through obvious places such as your My Documents folder, as well as the often abused desktop, can allow you to delete old files to give your hard disk some breathing space.

2) Use Windows Disk Cleanup
A large amount of superfluous files can accumulate through everyday computer use, especially for internet users. Use the Disk Cleanup tool in Windows to remove temporary internet and Windows files, as well as other assorted fluff that’s no longer needed.

The utility will help identify which files can be sent packing and which you should keep. While you’re at it, don’t forget to empty the Recycle Bin.

Make a couple of changes and your PC could soon be zipping along (© image © Microsoft)

3) Carry out a disk defrag
The Disk Defragmenter tool performs a scan of your hard disk and patches up any fragmentation of files, and it should be used at regular intervals. A computer needs to work much harder when files have become fragmented and performance slows as it needs to scour the disk trying to match up disjointed data.

A disk defrag nails all those bits back together in a far more efficient fashion, meaning that your PC should start to perform more responsively as a result. It could take a while so bear keep that in mind if you’re expecting to power down soon after starting it.

4) Detect bad sectors
Another good idea is to run a weekly scan with the Windows Error Checking utility. This can help fix bad sectors, resulting in improved performance. Bad sectors are rather like no-go areas on your hard disk, and they can ultimately result in very slow hard disk performance.

Give your computer a speed boost (© image © Microsoft)

5) Carry out Windows updates
Don’t forget to download the latest software updates for Windows. Staying on top of security fixes and installing performance upgrades can help any PC, even older ones, zip along that little bit more.

6) Boost your memory
Windows Vista users might also want to investigate ReadyBoost to speed up their system. This feature means you can use flash memory (such as a USB drive or memory card) to beef up performance without having to physically add additional RAM.

Give your computer a speed boost (© image © Microsoft)

7) Make an archive
It’s likely that even after doing some spring-cleaning, there will still be plenty of files you simply don’t want to part with. These days, it’s cheap and easy to pick up memory sticks or DVDs which you can use to create an archive. This instantly frees up valuable space on your machine, as well as providing an instant backup of files.

8) Deal with spyware
Spyware cannot necessarily be entirely beaten because for every new fix there is someone figuring out a way around it. Nevertheless, it’s prudent to take precautions.

Microsoft’s Windows Defender (found in Windows Vista) can help in the fight against spyware, but there are also many third party options worth considering. Just don’t be too much of a skinflint and download one from a dodgy looking website offering the perfect solution. It won’t be.

Give your computer a speed boost (© image © Microsoft)

9) Secure your PC
Alongside using Windows own security controls, proper protection from a decent internet security suite can be a good idea. In my experience, some can hamper the performance of your PC at the same time as protecting you. It can often seem like you’ve replaced one irritation with another as the application scours your machine trying to spot rogue files.

The free AVG Antivirus software is a personal favourite of mine, but ask around and see what friends and relatives think. Personally, I think it’s a bit daft to have a full-on bells and whistles security package if you’re only checking e-mail once or twice a day, but preventing malicious files from getting into your machine must never be ignored.

10) Avoid dodgy websites
Type ‘make your PC faster’ into a search engine and you'll find lots of tantalising websites. While some of these are legitimate, there are many that pounce on the unsuspecting PC user and crawl all over your machine while they supposedly carry out a performance-enhancing scan of the hard disk. Remember to use only trusted sites or those that you recognise as legitimate.

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[Rob Clymo is a journalist employed on a freelance basis by Microsoft. The views in this article are those of the author and not of MSN or Microsoft. Microsoft is the owner of MSN Tech & Gadgets and Windows.]