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What to do if your Computer is running slowly.

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What to do if your Computer is running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:40 am

What to do if your Computer is running slowly

(written in conjunction with NonSuch, askey127 and silver)

We get a lot of people coming here complaining of slow running computers, and posting HijackThis logs for us to look at. They suspect that an infection is causing their problem. In a great many cases, Malware is not the cause of the problem, and a few simple procedures are all that it takes to resolve things.

Computers need regular maintenance, I know this comes as a shock to some of you, but it's true nonetheless.

Now before you start to panic, don't worry. I'm not going to be asking you to start ripping off the covers of your machine and fiddling with the circuit boards, and I'm not going to be asking you to start following some arcane ritual known only to TechnoGeeks. What we're going to do is simple enough for anyone to do.

It's best if we break things down into two sections, the first are those that should be done regularly, the next are those that only need to be done once, or very infequently.

First, the tasks that need to be carried out regularly

  • Clear out your Temporary files

    During the normal operation of your computer, Windows and your other programmes create an awful lot of temporary files. For the most part they are just that, temporary. But for any number of reasons, when they're no longer needed they don't get removed by the programme that created them. So over time their number builds up, and unless you clear them out they can slow down your computer noticeably.

    In the case of your Browser, the problem can be worse. All browsers cache the web pages you visit. The original reason was to make loading pages faster. When everyone was on dial-up this was quite a good idea, but with modern fast connections it's mostly unecessary now. However browsers still cache webpages, and unless cleaned out regularly they build up to a position where they can have some pretty dramatic effects on how your browser works. Any number of wierd browser problems are caused by nothing more than an overfull cache.

    So once a month, or once a week if you're a heavy user, it's a good idea to clean out your Temporary files.

    How to clean out your Temp files

  • Defrag your Hard Drive

    Every time you write a file to your Hard Drive, the drive controller has to find space on your drive. It will often break files into fragments, so that it can use the available disk space efficiently. However over time files can become very fragmented because of this, and your drive controller has to work harder to find all the fragments and re-combine them so that a programme can use it. This slows things down, depending on the amount of fragmentation of your files, it can slow things down a lot.

    So once a month (for heavy users), or once every 3 or 4 months (for light users), it's a good idea to defragment your hard drive.

    This will re-arrange the fragments on your drive so they form contiguous entities which are much easier for your drive controller to deal with.

    It's a time consuming operation, usually taking several hours, so best to do what I do, and start it going before you go to bed.

    How to Defrag your Hard Drive

Next, the ones that you only need to do once or very infrequently.

  • Reduce the number of programmes that are Auto Starting

    Pretty much every programme you install these days is set to auto start when you boot up. The programme manufacturers tell you it's for your benefit, but the truth is for most of them it's just not necessary that they do so. Lots of auto starting programmes will severely slow down your startup time, and having lots of unecessary programmes running in memory will slow down the running speed of your computer as well.

    Luckily it's not hard to prevent unecessary programmes from auto starting. Doing so does not mean you can't use the programmes, you start them by double clicking on their icons, just as you always have, it just means they won't be running when you're not using them.

    Of course programmes like your Firewall and Anti-Virus need to auto run, so we won't be touching them at all.

    How to disable unecessary programmes from Auto Starting

  • Do you have a Hosts file installed?

    If you are using one of the pre prepared Hosts files to block unwanted and dangerous sites (eg MVPs Hosts or Bluetack) then if you are not part of a domain, and notice a slowdown, you will need to disable the Windows DNS Client Service.

    How to disable the DNS Client service

  • Disable your Indexing Service

    This service does what its name suggests, it indexes all your files, in order that you can find things faster when searching.

    It does it on a continuous basis, using up a great deal of CPU time and working your hard drive for no real good reason. As a result, although it may speed up your search times, it slows down your computer at all other times.

    I don't know about you, but I know where most of the files I want are located. For the number of times I have to run a search I'd rather have a faster computer than a faster search, so I turn this one off.

    By default this service is not installed in Vista, if you see it on your Vista then it has been deliberately added for reverse compatability reasons, leave it alone.

    How to disable the Indexing Service

  • Check the amount of free space you have on your Hard Drive

    Windows (XP and Vista) needs a certain amount of "overhead" (free disk space) if it's to operate efficiently. If it doesn't have that space, your processor has to "page out", which will slow everything down considerably.

    Ideally you need at least 15-20% of your disk to be empty, if you don't have 15% then it's time to start freeing up some disk space.

    How to check your free disk space

  • Presuming you don't have enough free disk space, here's a couple of suggestions for freeing some up

  • Remove unecessary programmes

    OK, time to be honest with youself, are you really using all those programmes you've got installed, or are there some that you haven't used in a lifetime. If there are, then why not get rid of them and free up some disk space. Your hard drive will thank you for your efforts.

    How to remove unused programmes

  • Reduce your System Restore Points

    Windows creates System Restore points on a regular basis (every 24 hours), they take up a great deal of space on your hard drive (upto 12% for XP, 15% for Vista). If your computer has been running without problems (other than the slowness) for some time, then you can free up a lot of space by reducing the number of System Restore points to one (the latest).

    Windows will continue creating more RPs, but it'll take some time before you need to thin them out again.

    How to remove all but your last System Restore Point

Links to additional subjects related to speeding up Windows

These are very much optional, use at your own risk.

Tidying Up After Installing SP2 by Alex Nichol
Disabling unecessary Services XP SP3 Vista SP1
Removing unused fonts
Adjusting the Visual Effects in Windows XP
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Gary R
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:47 am

How to clean out your Temp files

For users of XP

  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
  • This will bring up the Disk Cleanup window.
  • Check the following entries.
    • Temporary Internet Files.
    • Recycle Bin.
    • Temporary Files.
  • Click OK.
  • When prompted whether you're sure you want to do this click Yes.

For users of Vista

  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
  • This will open the Disk Cleanup Options window
  • Choose:
    • My files only
      or
    • Files from all users on this computer
  • Click Continue
  • Select the drive you want to clean up
  • Click OK
  • Check the following entries:
    • Temporary Internet Files
    • Recycle Bin
    • Temporary Files
  • Click OK
  • When asked if you're sure you want to delete these files, click Yes.

Get into the habit of doing this about once a month, or more frequently if you use your computer a lot.
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:47 am

How to Defrag your Hard Drive

For users of XP

  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter
  • Click on the Analyze button.
  • Let the analyzer run, it takes 5-10 mins or so, sometimes longer, depending on your disk size.
  • When finished it will pop up a window telling you whether you need to defrag or not.
  • Microsoft are notoriously conservative about Defragging, so don't take the recommendation you get as gospel. Have a look at the graph produced when analyzing, if there's more than about 10-15% showing red, then Defragging will improve your disk performance.
  • If you need to Defrag
    • Click the Defragment button.
    • The defrag process can take hours, so go do something useful, or if you've followed my advice and done this before bedtime, go have a good sleep and it'll be done when you wake up.


For users of Vista

  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter
  • Click Continue
  • A window will open
  • To set up a regular schedule to defragment your hard drive
    • Check Run on a schedule (recommended)
    • Select the time of day and day of the week that works best for you
    • Select the volume (drive) to be defragmented
  • To defragment right now:
    • Click on the Defragment Now button
    • Select drives to defragment
    • Click OK to begin the defragmentation process

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Gary R
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:48 am

How to disable unecessary programmes from Auto Starting

For Inexperienced computer users.
  • Download StartupLite by Rubberducky to your Desktop.
  • Doubleclick StartupLite.exe to launch the programme.
  • Ensure the Disable box is checked.
  • Click Continue.
  • A pop up message will tell you the unecessary startup items in your list have been disabled and ask you to restart your computer.
  • Re-start your computer.


For experienced users
  • Download and install WinPatrol By Bill Pytlovany.
  • Doubleclick the Scottydog icon in your taskbar to launch the programme.
  • Click on the Startup Programs tab.
  • To stop a programme starting automatically at startup, click on it to highlight it, then click the Disable button.

    (It will be up to you to research items first to see whether they should be disabled)
  • Exit WinPatrol.
If you've disabled something you later wish to re-enable, do the following.
  • Launch WinPatrol (as described above).
  • Click on the Startup Programs tab.
  • Click on entry you wish to re-enable.
  • With a disabled entry, the Disable button will turn into an Enable button.
  • Click Enable
  • Exit WinPatrol
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:48 am

How to disable the DNS Client service

For users of XP
  • Click Start > Run type services.msc into the Open: box, then click OK.
  • This will open the Services window.
  • Scroll down to DNS Client and double click on it.
    • Click the Stop button to stop the service.
    • Set Startup type to Manual.
    • Click OK
  • Exit the Services window.


For users of Vista
  • From Start, in the Start Search box, type services.msc
  • Give permission to continue.
  • Scroll down to DNS Client and double click on it.
    • Under Service Status, click Stop
    • Under Startup Type, choose Disabled.
    • Click Apply, OK
  • Exit the Services window.
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:49 am

How to disable the Indexing Service

For users of XP

  • Click Start > Run type services.msc into the Open: box, then click OK.
  • This will open the Services window.
  • Scroll down to Indexing Service and double click on it.
    • Click the Stop button to stop the service.
    • Set Startup type to Disabled.
    • Click OK
  • Exit the Services window.


For users of Vista

This service is not installed by default. If it is present it has been deliberately added for reverse compatibility reasons. Leave it alone.
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:50 am

How to check your free disk space

For users of XP
  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter
  • Look in the last column (top right) under % Free Space
  • Exit Disk Defragmenter


For users of Vista
  • Click Start > Computer
  • A window will open
  • Information for your Hard disk drive(s), including the exact amount of free space available, will be displayed in the uppermost portion of the window.
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:50 am

How to remove unused programmes

For users of XP
  • Click Start > Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs
  • Click on the programme you want to remove to highlight it.
  • Click the Change/Remove button and follow any instructions given.
  • Repeat for all programmes you wish to remove.


For users of Vista
  • For Control Panel Home view - Click Start > Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features
  • For Classic View - Click Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features
    • For either option, to uninstall a program, select it from the list and then click Uninstall.
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Re: What to do if your Computer's running slowly.

Unread postby Gary R » September 5th, 2008, 2:51 am

How to remove all but your last System Restore Point

For users of XP
  • Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
  • This will bring up the Disk Cleanup window.
  • Click the More Options tab.
    • In the System Restore field, click Clean up
    • You will be prompted if you want to remove all but the most recent Restore Point.
    • Click Yes.
  • Click OK.
  • When prompted whether you're sure you want to do this click Yes.


For users of Vista
  • Click Start > All Programs > System Tools > Disk Cleanup
  • Select Files from all users on this computer
  • Click on Continue
  • Select the appropriate drive letter (usually C:)
  • When the Disk Cleanup window opens, select the More Options tab
  • Under System Restore and Shadow Copies click on the Clean up button
  • All but the latest restore point will be removed
    • Note: In some editions of Windows Vista, the disc might include file shadow copies and older Windows Complete PC Backup images as part of restore points. This information will also be deleted.
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