Tweaking your PCNow, if you want your PC or Laptop to run fast and smoothly (and who doesn't!), there's lots you can do. Physically upgrading your system is best, as it's permanent, but I'll go into that later. For now, there are still lots of things you can change and 'tweak'. The following information is based on Windows XP, other versions will be a bit different, but hopefully you should still be able to follow the instructions.
Before we start on that though, we need to make sure that your data is safe! Windows and Programs can always be re-installed (not that you want to, but it can be done), but your documents, photos and other data are far more valuable & vulnerable! If you have more than one hard drive, keep all of your data on the non-Windows disk. For everyone else with just one, it's a simple matter of keeping your data separate from windows. Create a new top-level Folder in Explorer C: drive and call it 'Local Files' (or whatever you want) and keep it all there. Why? Well, if Windows should crash and you need to re-install it, it will wipe everything in the Windows created directories, which is where your data is normally stored - clever Microsoft eh!
Now, find all of your personal files and move them (drag and drop, using Shift or Ctrl & click to select) into this new folder. Many, if not all, will be in your 'My Documents' folder in Explorer, which is actually just a shortcut to a folder inside your 'C:\Documents and Settings' folder. If you don't know where they are, open one of your documents and select to 'Save As', then check the location where Windows was going to save it to by checking the location in the drop-down box at the top (click on the down arrow).
Once you've done that, right-click on your normal 'My Documents' folder (which should be empty now) and click on 'Properties', then 'Move'. Browse to find your new Local Files folder and click on OK. Then select 'Apply'. You will be asked if you want to (physically) move your files - select 'No', then 'OK'. That's it, your files are now safe(r) in their new folder, but you can still access them via your normal 'My Documents' shortcut.
Finally, backup all of your files to an external Hard Drive, Flash Drive, or the Web. Next, go to Start/ Programs/Accessories/ System Tools/System Restore and set a new System Restore Point - just in case! Oh, and remember to backup regularly!
So, where to start with improving performance? Well, everything you install, every option, shortcut link, or document takes up space and performance - just like putting too many people and luggage in your car! So, check to see what programs are installed and uninstall any that you don't use. The same goes for Icons on your desktop. Drag the ones you regularly use to the 'Quick-launch' tray (bottom left) & delete the rest; they're only shortcuts, you're not actually deleting any programs and you can still access them from the Start Menu. You might also want to remove that family picture from the desktop - it's costing performance!
We can also improve performance if Windows is asked to do less. Go to Control Panel/System and click on 'Advanced', then Performance 'Settings'. Unless you need all of the Visual Effects, select 'Adjust for Best Performance'. If you want the blue buttons and frames back, reselect 'use visual styles...' at the bottom (in XP), then click 'Apply'.
Next, select the 'Advanced' tab at the top and click on 'Change'. Here, you can adjust the 'Virtual Memory' - the amount of space on your hard drive that the CPU uses to store data when it runs out of memory. Select 'Custom Size' and enter twice the amount of memory your PC has in both the min. and max. boxes (in megabytes. 1GB = 1024MB) & click on 'Set', then 'OK' your way back out and reboot.
These small changes all add up - depending on how much you actually changed - and will make your PC much more responsive. Next time, I'll go into more settings and using Utility Programs. If you can't wait, go to Sekureit.com and select 'Articles'.
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