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How do I bring new life to my older Windows laptop?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 10, 2012 8:38 AM PDT
Question:
How do I bring new life to my older Windows laptop?


I have a Sony Vaio laptop running Windows- 4 yrs old. It's been great.
Now for several months very slow to start, upload and get web pages. I
don't use this computer for pictures, videos, music etc. Plenty of hard
drive space available and RAM. Had a geek clean it up. He installed:
Superantispyware and Loaris Trojan remover. Said I had lots of
spyware and Trojans on my computer. Surprised as I have a Kapersky
program on that says I am clean. His clean up and mine = no
improvement at all. What is my next step? I am a retired nurse and am
more computer literate than my contemporaries, but way behind the
curve with you younger people. I'm on a fixed income and in this
economy would like not to have to buy a new laptop. I am a writer and
have a book contract - so really need a fast and reliable laptop. I
see web sites that promise speed ups but don't know if they are
trustworthy?? Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
It's bad when you are getting old and slow, and your laptop is getting
older and slower than you are!!

- Submitted by Julianna R.

Note: This post was edited by its original author on 08/17/2012 at 9:50 AM PT
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Julianna - have you thought about using UBUNTU? I did...
by ERICfm / August 10, 2012 9:26 AM PDT

Hello Julianna,

I have two older laptops and was suffering with the same issue you have with your 4 year old laptop.

I tried out the UBUNTU Operating System which is based on Linux. If you are not familiar with Linux, it is developed from a base software called UNIX, which is the same base that Apple uses for their OS X operating systems!

Linux / UBUNTU is very secure "naturally" and is also very friendly to users! Its interface is very similar to Windows, so there really is no learning curve. It even comes with its own "Office Suite" of software that is compatible with Microsoft Windows.

You may need your Tech buddy to install it the first time, but it is very friendly and worth taking a look. Happy

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Ubuntu for the WIN!

Ubuntu Linux is the way to go. I am a Linux geek, and have used it for years to put new life into old AND new computers-whether it be with 256 MB of RAM, or a person who owns a brand new gaming rig, but can't keep from downloading everything he finds online, and I can't keep his computer cleaned up from the viruses he gets!
Computer slowdowns are caused by TONS of things BESIDES viruses-registry errors (which will build up over time, I guarantee you), unused programs, startup applications galore, Windows updates (yes, Windows updates can and will slow your system down), and having bad hardware (hard drives going bad do inhibit the performance, although you shouldn't jump to conclusions yet).
However, on Ubuntu Linux, you don't have to worry about these! Viruses=nonexistent, registry errors=no registry to have errors, unused programs=easy to uninstall, startup applications=easy to disable, updates=no slow downs, and bad hardware=gives you warnings (it will tell you if you have a bad hard drive BEFORE it dies-and usually at least a month before it will die).
Anyway, the really nice thing about Ubuntu Linux is that it requires only 0.5 GB of RAM/memory, and there are plenty of desktops available-you can use the built in Unity environment, or add a new environment like KDE, GNome, Cinnamon, LXDE, XFCE, and the list just goes on and on. The best thing about it? IT'S TOTALLY FREE!
Now, to get this wonderful OS, you need to backup any data you want to keep (of course). Then, go to http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop . Download either the 32 bit or 64 bit, depending on what your computer uses (if it has less than 4 GB of RAM, go for the 32 bit, just to be safe-if it has 4 GB of RAM or more, use the 64 bit). Then, burn a CD. Now, all you need to do is boot into the CD, and there will be an option to Try Ubuntu Without Installing. Then, you can decide whether you want it or not. If you want it, select Install Ubuntu (don't use the Wubi installer on the Ubuntu website-if you want to keep Ubuntu for a long time, you will have to manually migrate from Wubi to a new partition, and trust me-that isn't fun, as I have had to do it).
If you need any help with Ubuntu, just post on the Ubuntu Forums-it's a very helpful place where I like to help out frequently (I am Ubun2To on the Ubuntu Forums).

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Linux is Good! BUT....
by btljooz / August 11, 2012 9:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Ubuntu for the WIN!

It is NOT "immune" to viruses. Plain

Don't just take my word for it. See what Jack Wallen of TechRepublic has to say about the subject in this article in the Linux.com website. Then do some more research on your own. Wink But that said, Linux is a MUCH smaller target than Windows.

In addition, one can also have two OSes on the same drive if it is a very minimum a 40 gig drive. This configuraton is called a dual boot. This is a good way of having the best of both worlds! Cool

Hope this helps clear the mud on the subject! Happy

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Did you read what I wrote?
by Awesomeguy123-22971387919307797703293656502350 / August 17, 2012 9:54 AM PDT
In reply to: Linux is Good! BUT....

I never said it was immune-I just said that there are no viruses targeting it at the moment.

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Yes, I read it....
by btljooz / August 17, 2012 11:31 AM PDT

along with everyone else.

Quote: "However, on Ubuntu Linux, you don't have to worry about these! Viruses=nonexistent,....."

What does that look like to the uninitiated? Confused

...just sayin'...

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Significan performance increase tweak for an older system
by tumbleweed_biff / August 19, 2012 3:26 PM PDT
In reply to: Yes, I read it....

To all: Please take note. The following procedure will almost certainly increase the performance of any system more than a few months old. I posted this down below as part of another comment, but this is important enough that I wanted to get it as close to the "Top of the Pile" as I could and given the lack of mention previously, it seems like most are unaware of this tweak:

Now, here is a little trick which will greatly help your system performance. The backstory is that the hard disk defragmentation programs cannot defrag a lot of system files, particularly things like the windows swap file ... the virtual memory. As the windows swap files grows and shrinks, it too becomes fragmented and has a serious drain on performance. To truly optimize the hard drive, you need to also defrag the swap file and MAKE SURE THAT IT STAYS THAT WAY. To do this you have to a) turn off the swap file function and reboot to safe mode, b) delete the swap file, c) defrag the drive d) recreate the swap file but DO NOT let windows manage it, set it as a fixed size: 2 times the amount of physical RAM you have in the machine (in most cases). If you have 4 gig of RAM, set the swap file to 8 gig. If you have 2 GB ram, set the swap file to 4GB. Now reboot into Normal Windows.

(note: These are the correct steps for Windows 7. There may be some minor variances with XP, but I don't have an XP system available to double check. The process is the same, but the first step or two might vary a little.)

Steps to turn off the swap file:
Start -> Right click My Computer -> Properties
On the left, select "Advanced System Settings"
On the next window, in the Performance box, click Settings
Next window, Click the tab labeled "Advanced" and in the window that says "Virtual Memory" click "Change".
Remove the check mark from "Automatically manage your paging file ..." and then click to enable the option "No paging file" in the middle. When turning this back on, you will select "Custom Size" and then enter the value for twice your physical RAM in both the Initial and the Maximum size boxes.
Click "Okay" on all the windows and reboot.

As the system starts to boot, before you see "Starting Microsoft Windows ..." press the F8 key. If you have problems catching Windows at this point, it is easiest to turn the machine off, turn it back on, and then start pressing F8 once a second or so. When this is accomplished you will be blessed with a text screen which offers, among other options, the ability to boot Windows into SAFE MODE. Select this option and continue from step b) above.

Turning off the pagefile function may delete the file, but I am not certain and I recall having to manually delete it in the past. This is a hidden, system, read-only file on your hard drive which windows normally prevents you from seeing/touching. To delete it do the following:
After booting into Safe Mode,
click Start -> Run -> and type CMD <ENTER>.
This will give you a black window with a blinking cursor, common referred to as a command prompt or DOS window. Make certain you are at the root of the drive by typing: CD \ <ENTER>
You should now be at the C:\> prompt.
Type: ATTRIB PAGEFILE.SYS -R -S -H <ENTER>
If it says "file not found" then it was apparantly deleted when you turned off the pagefile function.
Now type: DEL PAGEFILE.SYS <ENTER>
(note: CAPS are not requred, they are just for clarity. <ENTER> means press the <ENTER> key.)

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My Defragger
by Hforman / August 28, 2012 3:09 PM PDT

I use Smart Defragger from IObit. It defrags all of the system files but it does that as part of a reboot cycle.

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Jack is wrong on many points.
by YACU_yetAnotherCNETuser / August 20, 2012 2:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Linux is Good! BUT....

I read the article, and am surprised that the author works for a technical publication. Linux does not have viruses, and in spite of intensive efforts, virus writeres have been unable to create a sucessful virus. Period.

It is in part because of the points made, but it is much, much more than that. It is not, as the Microsoft FUD suggest, because of the number of Linux desktop users being insignificant. In the US, Linux desktop use is an increasing percentag, with millions of users. In other countries, Windows is a smaller fraction.

Linux is designed from the ground up to be a secured system. There are obviously threats which exist even for Linux, but these are typically addressed with the default installation and configuration. Viruses, however, are not one of these!

Another point, Ubuntu is not the best Linux distro out there. There are a lot of 'bests' out there depending on who you are and what you need. OpenSUSE is probably easier to work with, and has more software in the repositories. Linux Mint is beloved by many, and reviews for its desktop experience have been a lot more favorable esp. compared to Unity. Fedora is grand.

This is the curse/blessing of Linux. You get choices. Which distribution is only part. You can pick a range of GUI desktops which again appeal to different types. With a light weight desktop like Xfce, my Pentium M with 0.7GB does email, word processing and web.

You should, as the article says, scan email so you don't accidentally forward a windows virus. But, there are no Linux viruses.

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Well - as far as that goes....
by JCitizen / August 20, 2012 11:42 AM PDT

It has been a long time since I saw a Windows virus that worked on a limited Windows account. There are some malware that can takeover the operating system using application or operating system vulnerabilities, but that is what the criminals have very intelligently decided was the smarter way to go. Worm and replication features that define a virus are really obsolete - the attackers have a vast world wide bot-net to disseminate their minions.

Viruses are dead as a threat - I haven't caught one in my honey pot lab(that could do anything) for years.

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Sorry, Jack
by Hforman / August 20, 2012 3:14 PM PDT
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Ubuntu is terrific, but don't expect wireless!
by hiloguy37 / August 17, 2012 11:44 AM PDT
In reply to: Ubuntu for the WIN!

For years I worked with Ubuntu. I ran it on four of our wired-to-the-network office computers and loved it. For anyone who needs a computer in an environment where going wireless is not important, I recommend Ubuntu. We even ran Adobe PhotoShop on our office machines without a glitch.

The caveat: We could NEVER get reliable wireless performance on any of our office laptops. Some were brand new, others a few years old, all were Dells, and all had very common wireless hardware installed. For two years I went back and forth with the good folks on Ubuntu Forums for a solution, and all I ever got were suggestions like, "well, this might work," or "here are two long pages of cryptic code that you can spend a few hours trying to make work, and I think it might work."

I asked, time and time again, how come that by now there is no KNOWN way to get these most common laptops to go wireless, but there never was a solution. Any time somebody comes up with one, I'll give Ubuntu another go. I spent too many hours learning the tricks and processes to give up, but I need reliable wireless!

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I use wifi with ubuntu/xubuntu/lubuntu on multiple laptops
by jgip / August 17, 2012 12:52 PM PDT

I agree that instant wireless is not guaranteed with the *buntu family of distros, but I've always been able to get them working with a quick google search. I've run numerous linux distributions on everything from an 8 year old dell laptop to a 2012 macbook pro. When wireless hasn't worked right after install, it's only required a couple of lines typed into the terminal to get it up and running. However, most regular, non-geek users will not want to go through this and will see it as a hassle.

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I agree
by kmkrreeves1 / August 17, 2012 1:16 PM PDT

and with all hardware, if the driver that ubuntu picks doesn't work very well...too bad, it is very complicated to manually install driver software, they don't make the little windows programs for you, you have to use terminal. Other than drivers I like the idea of ubuntu, but it asks for you password everytime you do anything as simple as change the wallpaper.

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Everything, everything works, even wireless
by KPACOTKA / August 17, 2012 2:08 PM PDT

Wireless is amazing and it is smarter than WIndows,

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Ubuntu is terrific, but don't expect wireless! - New!
by casawyer / August 18, 2012 1:31 AM PDT

I use Ubuntu on my laptop, have it partisioned with windows 7 on the other. The only complaint I have with it is that it doesn't recognized my head set mic. But it works just great with my wireless router. I use Ubuntu for most things, unless I need to print something faster, then I go to windows 7 for printing some of my MS office projects. Although most of it can be viewed and edited with LibreOffice. I wish Cnet would have a Linux/Open Source newsletter.

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Mic/headset
by pgc3 / August 18, 2012 1:40 AM PDT

You likely just need to go into sound settings to use your mic/headset unit, I use mine quite a bit w/Linux, no problem. If you are new to Linux you just need to learn how to use the tricks tweaks and patches, it can be daunting but it is FUN! There are so many features within the os it is amazing. What can be really tricky is setting up DVD/CD burning, sort of a challenge but it is doable and once set up, works great!!

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mic headset
by casawyer / August 24, 2012 10:45 AM PDT
In reply to: Mic/headset

I have checked my sound settings, it isn't there. It only recognizes the built in mic. Although it does recognize the headset for speakers. Not sure but was told it could be a driver problem that isn't open to fixes. I did a search on Google, for information, and found others with the same laptop had or have the same problem. A few other laptops as well.

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One should really shop for hardware that is compatible...
by JCitizen / August 24, 2012 2:58 PM PDT
In reply to: mic headset

Although todays hardware is mostly already there. Look at Tom's Hardware and have a gander!

As far as Windows users, I should warn that malware can and will take over monitoring of video and audio use. The results of this can be troubling. The only real solution to this is to be aware, and use blended defenses before the fact.

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I have not had a problem with wireless
by Goldcds / August 23, 2012 6:42 PM PDT

I have installed on many laptops (mostly Dells and a few Sony's) and have not had a problem. Kinda weird that you are having a problem. I am sure you have tried stuff like hooking up with wired and installing updated drivers.

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wifi, and even mobile wireless modems, work great on Ubuntu
by selujzednanreh / August 31, 2012 11:46 AM PDT

I find Ubuntu better than Windows in recognizing my hardware. Wireless works great out of the box - I didn't even have to install a driver to get it to recognize my mobile wireless broadband modem! Contrast that with Windows 7 - I had to install my provider's provided software to connect to my mobile wireless provider! All this on an Acer laptop that is approaching six years old.

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sometimes...
by kmkrreeves1 / September 1, 2012 1:02 PM PDT

Yes, out of three computers, one of my wireless cards work great (made by intel). another (made by broadcom) you have to go to the restricted drivers list, enable it, restart, and it still disconnects every few minutes if you can get it to connect at all. I also have an edimax usb wifi adapter (made by realtek) that you have to restart the entire computer a few times to get it to work, and then it will disconnect every few minutes. although the wifi tethering on my samsung phone works great.

The problem with ubuntu is the average user cannot install a driver, you have to use terminal and all kinds of sudo codes and passwords if you can even find a driver to download in the first place.

Ubuntu does an amazing job with supporting almost any computer out of the box, but if something isn't quite right, your stuck.

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Ubuntu
by tarekmg / August 19, 2012 7:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Ubuntu for the WIN!

I have old acer aspire 3500 and removed windows and installed Ubuntu and it is working fine with fairly good speed. It is good for Internet surfing, watching movies, do school projects.

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Linux is NOT UNIX !!!
by pebear / August 17, 2012 10:23 AM PDT

Linux was created to mimic Unix and so much source code has been swapped between the two. The Kernels remain separate and distinct. So don't go out and say Linux is UNIX, it's not. Just like the GNU project is not the Linux project. Both are open source but are different and different licenses. GNU stuff shows up in UNIX and Linux OS's. I would say that UNIX is a Kernel and LINUX is a separate kernel and both are developed separately.

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Wow, you are genius
by KPACOTKA / August 17, 2012 2:07 PM PDT

I had exact problem as Julian reported, my old Dell laptop became so slow, so any start program took about 5 minutes, I could drink coffee or visit bathroom, but when I came back program was still in starting stage. So I installed Ubuntu. And first I was think maybe I was drugged, or just sky fell down. Any command was executed in matter of subsecond. Maybe even in matter of millisecond. I was under impression somebody just did a joke for me and replaced my old Dell by super Cray . I am so happy now, and I got lot of benefits over Windows. I do not need any more look for codecs, or some software. Everything bundled and it is so easy to install. Everything just works, just works with speed of light. How is it possible? I think Bill Gates has hidden agreement with hardware manufactures to make system specially super slow to push us buy new laptop every year. Anyway I do not blame him, he is a smart guy, and unfortunately not my husband.

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I agree, I switched and love Linux
by Goldcds / August 23, 2012 6:35 PM PDT

I agree, I switched and love Linux. I started with Ubuntu but really dislike unity so I switched to Xubuntu and really like it also. I see that some people have problems with wireless, I have not had a problem with Dell or Sony laptops. You might need to hook up wired and install updated drivers but that is about it. Everything else works fine and I dual booted just in case I wanted t ever use Windows again and there is no way I would ever go back unless I am in a weird situation where a website has to have Windows which is rare.

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(L)Ubuntu
by gvnmcknz / August 10, 2012 9:51 AM PDT

From a fellow (impoverished) Nurse

My brother is very happy with Ubuntu on his old Dell Laptop.
I find Lubuntu better, ultra simple and (even) faster still.

If you don't store much on your laptop try an SSD as well.
Get your geek to fit one, really cheap these days, (compared with a new laptop).
You can always go back to your Windows hard drive if you hate it, (but I doubt you will).

Lubuntu including Browser of choice plus LibreOffice will run happily in 8GB.
Store stuff that you only need infrequently online in the cloud, (safe even if the house burns down).
Secure for your book contract stuff also,(use UbuntuOne as well as Google Drive, both give 5GB free).

Even Win7 with minimal programs, but including LibreOffice will run in 32GB.
64GB and you have room to spare.

Save money on Kaspersky-like stuff, it's all built in and free, (or not even needed with Linux).
Regards, gvnmcknz

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Every method has a Catch 22 !
by andrewbaggins / August 10, 2012 10:07 AM PDT

The very best way to speed up your Sony laptop is this:

1. Save all your work, documents, manuscripts, photos, music, internet bookmarks/favorites, videos etc.onto one or more USB flashdrives or, if you have a lot, buy an external hard drive with USB connector and save your data on that.

2. Use your Windows Restore discs (or Restore partition on your hard drive) to restore everything back to way it was when you first bought it. You'll be amazed how quick & snappy the system feels. Better still, buy an SSD drive that includes a laptop upgrade kit and Restore onto that. The SSD will make your laptop run significantly faster - seriously ! If you don't need a lot of space you can get by with a 64GB or 90GB or 120GB capacity SSD (a 120GB SSD costs around $89.99 on sale this week).

3.Install a good anti-virus program such as Avast or AVG. The free versions of these are very good and the paid versions offer some extra protection.

4. Now run Windows Update (or wait for Automatic Updates to kick in) and get all the security updates for Windows. There may also be many Optional updates, but only install them if you know you need or want them.

5. Install your programs/applications afresh and get updates for them if required.

Now your laptop should be fast as lightning and secure, too !!

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Much faster now; hope it lasts
by jthelw / August 10, 2012 1:26 PM PDT

I agree with andrewbaggins five steps for restoring Windows, but honestly I wonder if it isn't the Windows updates that have to be added on at this point that are responsible for slowing the computer down.

My 3 year old Acer was lightning-fast just after the restore process!

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Your suspicions are well founded...
by JCitizen / August 10, 2012 3:33 PM PDT

but I have a laptop made in 2005 that is still pretty zippy. I've never refreshed it, but I think it could use it, because Microsoft is always coming up with better MSI installers between service packs. This can not only result in better update installs, but also makes supported applications run better after a refresh - providing the newest application version is installed as well.

I run my lappy on 1.5 Gbs of RAM, and 2Gbs would be even better really. I think one reason it is still useful is the good blended malware defense I'm running on it as well. Many of today's malware are virtually undetectable, so better solutions are needed to alert one of possible hidden activity. Of course running as a restricted user and religious use of CCleaner goes a long way!

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You have a point, I think.
by Zouch / August 10, 2012 8:26 PM PDT

I agree, at least to some extent. Restoring a PC from the recovery disks does usually result in a machine that is as fast as when it was new. Then you run all the Windows updates on to it (particularly older operating systems, like XP, because it was so good and therefore ling lived and got lots of updates and three service packs) and the machine slows down again - but is still better than before you started.

Some of the slowdown can be due to the later service packs, SP3 will run in the same memory as vanilla XP but it does make a difference to add a little more RAM. But then Julianna says she has a reasonable configuration, so it may not be too much of an issue. For reference, I run both XP and Win7 32-bit versions in 3 GB RAM and they are perfectly happy with that.

The other reason I think (but haven't any quantitative proof) is that all the Microsoft updates and updates to updates, do "clog" up the system somewhat. I've successfully used slipstreaming techniques to bypass this problem and a slipstreamed up to date clean install does (subjectively) appear to be faster. It also save the laborious task of bringing a backlevel clean install up to date - a couple of hundred patches does take a while!

I doubt slipstreaming is within the range of Julianna's comfort zone but her tame geek should be able to do it.

One final word of warning Julianna, at risk of being boring, there is a lot of great advice in this tread but before you embark on any of the suggestions made, do mane absolutely sure that you have AT LEAST TWO good complete backups of your date and also that you have the distribution disks for all the applications you need to install, if you opt for a clean install.

One caution about a move to Linux. OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice are very good office suites and free, of course but if you use any Microsoft Office Macros, you will find the Linux offices not fully compatible.

Good luck!

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