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How do I get my PC back in shape?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 26, 2007 5:18 AM PDT

To my online virtual family of help, I'm in the spring cleaning mood and I've cleaned my house already, but now it's time to face the chore that I have been dreading for a long time. That is cleaning up my two-year old Dell computer with XP, which I think has 200MB of memory, but I'm not absolutely sure. I need to face the music and do this because it is getting slower and slower every time I attempt to use it. Programs take a long time to load and just booting up Windows takes an eternity. I'm not a technical person, but I'm a fast learner, so your assistance would be most grateful. I need some straightforward guidelines (not too technical if possible) on how I can clean up my computer to make it run faster, and once I clean it up--do whatever it takes to continually keep my computer in tip-top shape, so when the spring season comes around again, I'm not looking at a chore that I hate doing again. Thanks for your help.

Submitted by Sandy H. of Des Moines, Iowa

Answer voted most helpful by our members

Yearly Maintenance

Excellent question Sandy. Many computer users do not realize that just like your automobile, a computer needs routine maintenance to keep it in good working order. I would recommend maintenance a little more often than once per year, but a good spring cleaning is certainly better than nothing.

I think I have to start by saying that there is a fine line between a computer needing a little spring cleaning and actually being in need of repair. A computer that is starting to boot and run slowly could be a result of something as simple as some unsolicited spyware floating around, a virus infection or even a misbehaving program or driver. But it could also be an indication of something more serious such as a failing hard drive, especially if your computer is 4 or more years old. You indicated that your computer is about 2 years old, so I am going to assume, for now, that your hardware is in good working order.

If your computer has experience a major slowdown suddenly and there is nothing physically wrong like a bad hard drive, here is a quick list of the common, recent problems that I have run into. You may want to check a few of these before performing all of the steps listed below.

? Infected ? Your computer is infected with Viruses, Spyware or other malware and needs to be scanned and cleaned. (See Below)

? Norton Antivirus Misbehaving ? Norton can get out of sorts and cause all kinds of problems. I suggest uninstalling it to see if it is the cause of your problem. You can always reinstall it afterwards or install some other antivirus software.

? Google Desktop ? Some computers experience a major slowdown when Google Desktop Search is installed. This program constantly indexes all of your files on your computer and can really slow thing down. Simply Uninstall.

? Internet Explorer 7 ? Microsoft?s new Internet Explorer 7 can cause major problems on some computer. If your problems started after this was installed, try going back to IE 6 by uninstalling IE 7 through ADD and REMOVE PROGRAMS.

? Kodak Updater ? Some versions of Kodak software has been known to cause a real slowdown. Uninstall or update from the Kodak website.

? Windows Update ? Occasionally a Windows update can cause a problem. If the slow down started just after a Windows Update, remove the update.

Before I get going on actual maintenance procedures , BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP? I know, we all hear this all the time but it is especially important to backup prior to performing any service. So I will say it again. Backup everything that is important to you.

With that out of the way, let?s get started with what I would call ?Yearly Maintenance?. I am basing this on Windows XP but is similar for other operating systems:

1. BACKUP - Backup up all your data. (Enough said)

2. SET RESTORE POINT ? Before you start any maintenance, I always suggest setting a Windows Restore Point. This will give you a possible way back from a problem. No guarantees, but could help. Click on START > ALL PROGRAMS > ACCESSORIES > SYSTEM TOOLS > SYSTEM RESTORE > Select Create a Restore Point > Enter a Description like ?Before Maintenance? > Click on CREATE > When complete, Click on CLOSE.

3. TAKE INVENTORY ? Now is a good time to take an inventory of what you have and to write down some of your system parameters so that you have some data to compare next year or when something goes wrong. Check the following and Write it down. If you are handy with Excel, you can start a spreadsheet to track this information.

a. GENERAL INFO ? Write Down your computer Make, model, serial number, when you purchased it and any upgrades or repairs you have made to it over the years. I would also make a list of all the programs that you use on a regular basis. This will help you later on when you are trying to decide what junk to remove.

b. DISK DRIVE ? Take note of the total size of your hard drive as well as how much space you have used and have left. If your drive is almost full, this can account for a major slow down in system performance. Double Click on MY COMPUTER > Right Click on your C: Drive > Select PROPERTIES > Click on the GENERAL tab. You can also use this information over time to track the amount of data that you are creating to help plan for backups as well as to aid you in possible new computer decisions.

c. MEMORY ? You had mentioned that you thought you might have 200mb of memory, this is probably incorrect because memory is usually installed in multiples of 128mb and on a 2 year old computer usually in multiples of 256mb. So you would typically have 256, 512, 768 or 1024 (1gig) and so on. Check the amount of installed memory by Right Clicking on MY COMPUTER > Select PROPERTIES. The type of processor and the amount of memory will be listed near the bottom of the GENERAL tab window. You may have to wait a moment for the information to appear. Note: The amount of memory listed can be off from what I mentioned above depending on the type of graphics adapter you have. Some video systems share the main memory thus showing less memory than expected. In any case, if you are running Windows XP and have less than 512mb of memory, I would strongly suggest upgrading your memory. It is fairly common for XP computers that are 2 or more years old to have only 256mb of memory. This might have been Ok at the time, but add Service Pack 2, 80+ Windows updates and resource draining Security software such as Norton and 256mb just does not cut it. In any case, write down the memory listed and compare this to what your original invoice stated. I have seen situations where a module can go bad and you are suddenly working with only half the memory.

d. PROCESSES ? I like to take note of the total number of processes running on my computer. This gives me a benchmark to work with for future comparisons. Processes are all the little programs and services that are running in the background. To view Processes: Right Click a blank section of your task bar and select TASK MANAGER > Now Click on the PROCESSES tab. This will display a list of all the processes running on your computer at this time. Depending on your Computer and what you have installed, this number can range from about 22 to 75. Your ultimate goal is to reduce this number as much as possible, leaving only necessary processes running. But for now you are going to just write down the total number of processes running. NOTE: It is best to initially check processes after rebooting your computer and waiting about 10 minutes. This number can vary up and down depending on what the computer may be doing at that exact moment. Some programs could be requesting updates from the internet or maybe running a virus or spyware scan. If you are interested in learning more about some of these, simply enter the name of the process into a Google search.

e. TASK BAR ? Being aware of the items on your task bar can help you stay on top of what is going on. Other than the standard notifications about the status of your network connection or letting you know that there are updates available for Windows, keeping an eye on the task bar may allow you to catch potential problems before they become a major issue. I can?t tell you how often I run across someone who has ignored a big red X through a Norton Antivirus Icon only to end up with a virus infected computer and later find out that Norton had expired or stopped working the previous year.

4. INSTALL OR UPDATE TOOLS ? Now that you have taken some notes about your system we need to either download some tools that we will need or update the tools that you already have. You want to have all your tools installed and updated before starting the cleaning process. This is what you will need:

a. ANTIVIRUS ? You will need one good Antivirus program. If you already have one installed then you will need to run its updater to make sure it has the most current virus definitions. If it has expired or is not working correctly, you can download a free program from Grisoft called AVG Free If you prefer to purchase one, I would recommend Nod32, Kaspersky, PC-Cillin, AVG, E-Trust or McAfee. Make sure you uninstall your old antivirus software before installing a new version.

b. FILE CLEANER ? Cleaning out temporary junk files can be performed manually, but I prefer a little program call ATF and best of all it is free.

c. ANTISPYWARE ? You are going to want to have 3 or 4 Antispyware type programs installed. You can purchase one such as Webroots Sp Sweeper which is good or you can download some free versions. I would suggest Grisoft AVG Antispyware (formerly Ewedo), Spybot, AdAware, Microsoft Defender. Many of these can be downloaded from Defender is at

d. REGISTRY CLEANER ? This is optional, if you happen to already have one installed, that is fine.

5. SCAN DISK FOR ERRORS ? Click on START > MY COMPUTER > Right Click on your C: drive and select PROPERTIES > Select the TOOLS Tab > In the Error Checking window click on CHECK NOW > Check off both boxes > Restart your computer and the your drive will be checked for errors when the computer restarts. This can take a several hours.

6. RUN VIRUS SCAN ? Now that you have all your tools installed and updated, I recommend disconnecting or turning off your internet connection before starting the process. Run a full virus scan using whatever software you have chosen to install.

7. UNINSTALL PROGRAMS ? Go through your list of programs (START > ALL PROGRAMS) and look for any programs that you no longer use or have never used. It is best to leave any that you have questions about. When you find one that you no longer need, use the uninstaller listed for that program, if uninstall is not listed, write down the name of the program to remove later. Some programs will ask you to restart the computer after uninstalling. Go ahead and do this. It is a good idea to restart your computer even if you are not asked to do so.

8. ADD OR REMOVE PROGRAMS - Now you want to remove the programs that did not have an uninstaller listed. Click on START > CONTROL PANEL > ADD OR REMOVE PROGRAMS. Start going down through the list of installed programs and remove any that you no longer need or want. Again it is best to leave any that you are unsure of. Restart your computer after you uninstall each program, even if you are not asked to do so.

9. DELETE OTHER JUNK ? Now is a good time to go through all your data in MY DOCUMENTS and delete any that you no longer need. You could also use this time to reorganize your files by moving individual files into meaningful folders. The same is true for email. If you are using Outlook or Outlook Express for email, then you might want to go through your emails and delete and reorganize.

10. DELETE TEMP FILES ? You can delete all your temporary files manually by running DICKCLEAN and then going into Internet Explorer and deleting Internet Temp files, History and cookies. But I prefer to use ATF and let it do most of the work for you. NOTE: If you delete Cookies (Which I suggest at least once per year), you will loose some of your saved login names for some websites.

11. ANTISPYWARE SCANS ? Next you want to run full scans with EACH of your Antispyware type programs and remove any problems that they find. You may have to restart your computer and scan again to remove some of the more stubborn problems. If you have multiple user accounts on your computer and depending on what software you are running you may need to run each scan while logged into each users account.

12. STARTUP PROGRAMS ? There are a bunch of programs and services that are set to run whenever your computer starts. Some of them are necessary such as antivirus programs and Firewalls and then there are others that do not really need to be started like Quicktime and Realplayer. You can access some of the startup list by clicking on START > RUN > type msconfig in the run box > Click on the STARTUP tab > you will be presented with a list of startup items. You can uncheck the box for any item that you do not want to have start. If you want to lean more about each entry, simply enter the name into a Google search. Again if you are unsure of any entry leave it checked. You can always go back and recheck any items. Reboot your computer.

13. WINDOWS AND OFFICE UPDATES ? Now that your computer should be nice and clean and running well, your should run Windows update and if you are using Microsoft Office, install updates for that too.

14. DEFRAG HARD DRIVE ? Even though many claim that defragmenting in Windows XP is not required, I still like to run this after I have performed all the previous steps. START > ALL PROGRAMS > ACCESSORIES > SYSTEM TOOLS > DEFRAGMENTER.

As far as keeping you computer clean on a regular basis between yearly maintenance procedures, the main thing is to make sure all of your Antivirus and Antispyware software is always up-to-date, install all Windows Security Updates and delete your temporary files monthly. If you have any manual scanners such as AdAware or SpyBot, you need to run these monthly as well.

There are some all inclusive software packages such as Norton 360, Microsoft One Care and McAfee Total Care that can perform many of these tasks automatically for you, but if your computer is less than state of the Art and has limited memory, many of these can really slow your computer down to a crawl.

There are many other things you can do to tune and tweak your system for better performance but this is already getting too long so I will stop here. However, I should mention that there is nothing that compares to a complete reinstall of Windows for cleaning out the cobwebs. I personally do this about every 2 years.
Also, during your spring cleaning, you really want to remove any dust that could be interfering with the proper cooling of your computer. Turn off your computer and unplug the power cord before cleaning. Remove the side cover and Vacuum out all vents and using a can of compressed air, blow out any dust that has accumulated on any heat sinks and fans inside. Note: You can damage the fans by spinning them too quickly with compressed air, so it is a good idea to stick a pencil in between the blades to keep them from spinning. Just don?t forget to remove the pencil before you turn your computer back on.

Good Luck!

Wayland Computer

Submitted by Dana H. (aka waytron)

If you have any additional advice or recommendations for Sandy, let's hear them. Click on the "Reply" link to post. Please be detailed as possible in your answer. Thanks!
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by gingersnapto / April 27, 2007 9:01 AM PDT

Try System Mechanic. Although it costs, it's certainly worth it.

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Spring Cleaning
by jbuck814366460 / April 27, 2007 9:05 AM PDT

Wow, you are definitely doing the right thing by deciding to clean your computer. The first thing you should do, is reboot your machine in safe mode to load XP with the minimum number of programs in memory. To do so, hit F8 when your system boots up as it tells you it is loading XP. You'll be presented with a number of options, ask it to reboot in safe mode (or safe mode with networking if you need to use the internet to do research on viruses or download a system utility).

Once you're in safe mode the first thing to do is break out Disk Defragmenter, located in Start --> Accessories --> System Tools --> Disk Defragmenter. The number one reason why your system causes programs to load slowly and windows to boot up is because it is fragmented greatly. See, Windows' method of storing files on the computer is inefficient and from time to time it will lose track of where files are stored on the computer, scattering the pieces around the hard drive. This causes your computer to have to work extra-hard to find all the pieces and put them back together for a program to run. Defragmenting cleans up the computer, finds all the loose pieces and puts them back in order, resulting in great improvement.

The process of defragmenting is two-fold. First, you need to tell Windows to "analyze" the disk, in which case it will scan the disk and find all the fragmented pieces, if any are there - you will need to have at least 20 percent free space to do so (it needs the extra space for putting back the fragments later). Once analyzing is finished (which doesn't take long), you can hit the "defragment" button. It's a process which can take several hours so the recommendation here is to defrag at night while you're sleeping.

Next, you should scan your computer for spyware and adware that could slow the computer down. There are a number of tools that can do the job which are free of charge. My favorite is Lavasoft's Ad-Aware Personal Edition SE, which can be downloaded from CNET's It will allow you to scan the machine for adware and spyware and quarantine or remove them completely (quarantining puts whatever is found into a special area of the hard drive, kind of like a maximum-security prison, preventing them from doing anymore damage). I'm sure other members could recommend other software but this is the one I use most often. Oh, Spybot Search and Destroy is a good choice too.

Thirdly, you should check your machine for viruses. This can be done using any commercial virus-scanner such as those provided by Symantec or McAfee, but you can also use some free programs for this purpose too. I like to use Avast! Home Edition which is free but you have to re-register once a year with them. It's a very nice piece of software, it can be found in's archives as well.

You also mentioned wanting to be able to keep it running stress-free. For that you need automatic defragmentation, which does it in the background on a regular basis so you don't have to worry so much about remembering when and if to defrag. I absolutely recommend Diskeeper for this. It's not free (but is located at and a couple of their editions provide, in addition to defragmenting automatically or manually, a process called Boot-Time Defragmentation. Windows has system files that can fragment easily and which are not accessible to normal defragmentation processes. So, boot-time defragging reboots your computer, and then defragments those files BEFORE your system loads Win XP. Doing so often can result in VASTLY improved start-up times.

I hope these recommendations and software will help you in your fight against slow computer access (I sound like Power Downloader here don't I? LOL). Good luck Happy

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iTunes, Yahoo! Music Engine Are Memory Hogs
by Tuxedo_Junction / May 12, 2007 1:02 AM PDT
In reply to: Spring Cleaning

I recently removed iTunes and Yahoo! Music Engine from my computer. I also deleted all of the files both stored in their own folders in Windows XP's "My Music" folder.

The result: My percent of free space jumped from 39% to 53%.

I don't need to store podcasts, webcasts, etc. on my computer because I can view those I've been storing on their corresponding web sites, such as Amber MacArthur's and Leo Laporte's.

Moreover, iTunes uses QuickTime. I have MP3 programs I prefer to QuickTime, but QuickTime always manages to set itself as my default MP3 player, even after I uncheck it in QuickTime's settings. QuickTime offers nothing I want and, to me, is a real pain.

Yahoo! Music Engine isn't offensive like iTunes, but I really don't need it. My own big band web sites offer feeds to anyone who wants to use them in a podcatcher, but that's not really necessary, because you can just as easily visit my sites:

The Palomar -
Big band radio broadcasts, live concerts, and soundtracks

The Saturday Swing Shift -

NOTE: This is but one page on my web site, Tuxedo Junction:
Big band articles, photos, and more than 1,000 MP3s.

I realize that the appeal of podcatchers is that they allow you to subscribe to all of your favorite feeds in one place. If you don't mind storing podcasts on your computer, or if you will delete old podcasts from time to time, or if you will store old podcasts on CDs or DVDs to free up space on your computer, then iTune and Yahoo! Music Engine are fine.

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Format and Re-install
by scaryhobo / April 27, 2007 9:07 AM PDT

Best way to get your system running smooth again is to do a fresh install of windows XP. So i would back up all my important documents, DRIVERS!, music etc on USB hard drive or write them to a CD/DVD. Search google for how to do a fresh XP Install its pretty easy. Basic idea is that you boot to the install disk, choose the complete install (format) option and go thru the wizard it trashes your drive and puts on a fresh copy.

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by TSStrat / May 11, 2007 8:21 PM PDT
In reply to: Format and Re-install

How does one back up a driver? In my case, 'right click on the driver, then . . ." would be too general, because I'd need to know where to find the ones that I don't have on discs. Thanks.

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Use a utility
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / May 11, 2007 8:34 PM PDT
In reply to: Drivers

Toni H, a Moderator here, has a great utility on her web site, and this searches your system for all drivers, lists them and groups them into sub-folders. You can then copy and burn this to a CD/DVD or save them to external media as you wish.

At the web site page, scroll down to WinDrivers Backup PE, and download the exe file "wdrvbck1.exe" to a temporary location, virus scan it, (you should always scan any downloads for viruses), and then double click to run/install the program.

I've used it often.


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by clarkcollegestudent / April 27, 2007 9:25 AM PDT

Building your own computer is not hard at all. A basic computer only has 6 basic components 1-box 2-mother board 3-processor 4-ram 5-video and sound card 6-hard drive.
5 if you get an integrated mother board with video and sound which most oem's are providing these days anyway.

With the advent of plug and play, you can put a computer together in about 30 minutes or less and it will all work on start up unless you buy some off market stuff that not even Windows XP works with.

Or even better build your own and load Linux and learn about a real computer.

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DIY computers
by reng2005 / May 10, 2007 2:24 AM PDT

I would like to have a go at doing exactly as you suggested in this posting. However, I am not very technical and think I would need some guidance such as step by step guide and exactly what components,.... and costings. I would also like to use Linux. I would be very grateful for any suggestions you may have. Many Thanks

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I fully understand your hesitation
by btljooz / May 12, 2007 6:52 AM PDT
In reply to: DIY computers

I'm only a few steps ahead of you. Building a computer as was described in the post you replied to is really as simple as that. Wink

Now, for picking which flavor of Linux you would like to start with:

I've done a bit of research and have decided that I'm going to try Kubuntu from Disk-boot first and then possibly/probably continue to use it from dual-boot with Windows (so I can keep my favorite, but few, older Win based apps. I've been told that there is a Linux app that'll even let me run those in Linux instead of having to fiddle with booting into Windows just for those few, but I need to verify that). Kubuntu is Ubuntu with the KDE UI (IMHO Kubuntu is 'prettier'). I've also had people suggest PCLinuxOS. These three flavors of Linux are said to be the most user friendly than most other flavors of Linux to the newbie Linux user that's more addept at Windows (like us).

I suggest you use your search engine(s) and look up/research those flavors and any others you run across that may interest you and learn about them (like I did, I've been at it off and on for about six months or so...yeh, I can be sloooow at times! LOL Laugh ). Once you decide what you'd like to try, then find a Linux User Group in the area where you live so you can talk to them about your options and get other help that you may need in setting up your computer (I've found a Linux group near where I live, but have't been able to go to any meetings. yet Sad ).

I've been told (on another discussion [site] board) that the older the hardware you use to run Linux on the better chances are that you'll be able to find drivers for it. I'm fortunate in that I have several older puters laying around to fiddle with. All of this equipment is at least three years old and older.

I know this is very little info for you at present but at least it's a START Silly .

Good luck! Happy

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DIY Computers -I fully understand your hesitation
by reng2005 / May 18, 2007 8:39 PM PDT

Thank you for your help which I will be following up I have also put my name down for a CNET Newsletter 'Build Your Dream PC', I guess it will all take time and research but this is a new hobby for me. Good luck with your efforts too.

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You're quite welcome
by btljooz / May 19, 2007 5:21 AM PDT

It sounds like you're heading in the correct direction. I'm glad you found the CNet course on how to build your dream PC. I took it just so I could learn how to re-configure some of what I already have. It was a HUGE help! Happy

And a bit of advice: Copy and paste to whatever type of .doc (i.e.: Notepad, WordPad, Word...) you have available EVERYTHING you see and learn while taking that course. The information can be an invaluable tool for future use. Wink That's what I did and I burnt it to CD so I'd always have it for reference even if I'm unable to connnect to the net when I need it.

Have FUN and, again, GOOD LUCK! Grin

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Speeding up your computer
by rockiemo / April 27, 2007 9:46 AM PDT

Click on "My Computer" (There's a "monitor" icon on the desktop, click on that, but if not, click on "Start" and a menu will pop up and you'll see My Computer icon, then click on that) and then right click on your C drive, a little menu will pop up, click on "properties" and you'll see your current drive capacity. There is a software called "System Mechanic" that will clean up your computer for you and keep it maintained as per schedule and it'll run a bit faster. Ascentive has ActiveSpeed software that will speed up your computer by over 30% for a subscription of $9.95 per month and I think it's worth it. You could also consider WebRocket and WinRocket softwares for a bit more tweaking. Hope this helps your situation...

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Slow Computer
by JEB-1 / April 27, 2007 9:47 AM PDT
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CCleaner - the free alternative.
by GavinSmith / May 4, 2007 11:18 AM PDT
In reply to: Slow Computer

Hey John,

I don't know if you missed this alternative, but I've used Window Washer - found it useful, but not even nearly as good as the free CCleaner ( If you do a lot of web surfing you'll find that CCleaner can clear multiple GB's of hard drive space on its first run - even thereafter, significant amounts of space. I just ran it today after running it a week ago and cleared over 500MB, not including my Firefox cache as I usually don't clear that.

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CCleaner + winapp2.ini
by Warren Keith / May 4, 2007 1:51 PM PDT

CCleaner is an absolutely AWESOME program to use for cleaning all sort of temp files, internet files as well as your registry. However, if you want the maximum clean-up capabilities, be sure to download and install the winapp2.ini file which contains all the additional programs. It can be found on the CCleaner Forums (here the direct link):

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Well! What can I say . . .
by snodinn / April 27, 2007 9:51 AM PDT

First off you didn't mention whether you are on a regular basis using the clean-up tools provided with XP. Are you? If not that would be a good start.

First you might want to head into Program Access by clicking on Start then click on Set Program Access and Defaults. In this area you can go into change or remove programs. Check out all of the programs that are there and remove the ones that you are no longer using, or can't remember anything about them! LOL You want to do this before you do the next two things . . . i.e. Disk Clean up and Defrag, so they will get a chance to organize the hard drive without the junk in the way.

To do Disk Clean up . . . Click Start - All Programs - Accessories - Disk Clean-up - Say yes to all. Once that is finished then . . .

Click Start - All Programs - Accessories - Defragment. Don't bother to analyze . If you haven't performed these duties regularly then start this at night and let it run throughout the night. I would suggest to prepare for defragging that you end all of the programs that you can that have been opened and are in the notification area on the taskbar. Generally this is at the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Right click on these little icons and then exit the program one by one.

Once defrag is finished your computer should be performing a bit better. Then you might want to do some file clean up.

One of the most important things you can do is put a little thought into naming your folders and then the files within the folders. I had to learn the hard way and I am still cleaning up the mess. A hint here is to start your folder names out with the year then month i.e. 2007-04-27 and if necessary the day. This means your files will all be in order.

If you have a lot of junk that needed to be deleted after what disk clean up does automatically then once you delete you might want to run through the system cleaning tools again.
Hope this will help.

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spring clean
by colin1935 / April 27, 2007 9:53 AM PDT

Four of us with XP and Tiscali BB have gone through hell this last month we have found getting rid of Nortons has been a cure we are now
running AVG and so far problem free and when posting an Email only one copy departing instead of multi mails upto 137cascaded one person got
off me...The biggest problem is finding where your troubles stem from
be it Msoft,Hotmail.Tiscali,BT or our own computers

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Spring clean it!
by lynk / April 27, 2007 10:03 AM PDT

Here's what I do to keep my system running fast and efficiently. First download and run Clean Up to get rid of all your temp files..this is a freeware utility. Then run Ad-Aware, then Spybot Search and Destroy to get rid of spyware, etc. Now I go into system tools and run Disk Cleanup, then finally I run my Disk Defragmenter. You should now find your computer running as good as new. After running these utilities it's a good idea to back up your system now that it clean.

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Why not System Works?
by MegsL / May 11, 2007 8:52 PM PDT
In reply to: Spring clean it!

Don't laugh (I know some of you will) but I run Norton Systemworks every two or three days. Apart from major disasters which had quite other causes, this seems to have kept things at least functional for me over nine years and three PCs.
Norton Utilities seems a straightforward program and I like the way it describes, on screen, what check-ups it is doing at any point. This has encouraged me to look things up in books and computer mags and to find out, I think, more about the workings of my PC than I ever would have found out otherwise. I'm a silver surfer - Meg.

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System Works ???????
by waytron / May 12, 2007 6:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Why not System Works?

I have to say that some people have good luck with Norton Products. But for me, basing it on an average, Norton products can cause more problems then they fix. Their products have been going down hill for the past several years and I refuse to use them anymore. They software is usually a Real power and resource hogs as well.

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by flogmaster / April 27, 2007 10:19 AM PDT


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Keep C Drive for OS only
by PhotoMan / May 4, 2007 3:33 PM PDT

Instead of adding more Gigs to the "C" drive, try moving ALL non OS material off the drive, leaving "C" (plus a dozen or so Gigs for elbow space with Windows) with only the operating system extra clutter to worry about.

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Another tip
by PhotoMan / May 4, 2007 3:53 PM PDT

If you have a lot of downloaded photos, music or projects saved, burn them onto a CD or DVD and use that for some (most?) of your personal storage. Exterior USB drives and flash memory are also very good alternates as you can easily update or add new files to them. Anything to free up space on the HD.

I'm into graphics and last week transferred off the HD over 60 GIG's worth of files onto a USB drive. I also burned them onto DVD's for archival storage at another location. This way, should anything happen to my home, computer or USB drive, copies of my important files can be easily reloaded if necessary.

Another safety precaution is all my install CD's for my apps are kept in a box in the closet by the front door...quick grab'n run if necessary.

BTW: I've grabbed the box three times in the last five years...whenever the fire alarm went off in my apartment building. Thankfully, all false far

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Speeding Up Your Computer
by Acaykath / April 27, 2007 10:23 AM PDT

There is no guarenteeing that you can speed up your computer again, at least without wiping your hard disk and reinstalling windows, but there are several things you can do that are likely to help, even if they will never restore your computer to its original speed.

1. Use a good anti-virus program. There are many anti-virus programs out there, and not all are created equal. There are paid ones, and free ones, bloated and minimal, fast and slow, full programs and internet scans.

It is a good idea to have your AV program running at all times, unless you never do anything that could compromise your computer. For some people's habits, but only the safest ones which does not include the vast majority of people, it can be safe to not have a real-time virus scanner running constantly and can speed up a computer by as much as a full ten percent depending on how bloated their AV is.

Most people require the constant protection of an AV though, and you will wan't a good one. gives a good indication of how the best AVs are performing on a monthly basis.

Even with the best Anti-Virus app, you will want to scan with another one once or twice a year, to make sure that all viruses have been spotted. Using an internet scanner like Trend Micro's House Call or it's freely downloadable scanning engine Sysclean, is adequate for this task and doesn't leave excess files on your computer when completed.

2. You will want to run multiple spyware and malware scanners. Spybot S&D, Ad=Aware, and Windows Defender are applications I use for this purpose. It is definitely not necessary to have their real-time scanning agents running unless you are an extremely dangerous surfer, but scanning your computer ofted can cath many programs that will steal your computer's resources for malicious purposes.

3. Remove any unused programs. Unused programs not only take up space on your computers hard drive, which can increase the time it takes your computer to locate information on disk, but also often adds registry keys that can cause slow downs as your registry reaches massive size. Remember to use add/removove programs in your control panel for this if it has an entry, or its uninstall program, rather than just deleting the containing folder, or there may be a lot of excess foles left hidden away in your folders and registry that otherwise would have been removed.

4. Stop unneeded programs from launching at startup. There may be several programs launching when you start up your computer that you do not even know about. Spybot S&D provides a handy tool to see and disable these and as such I use it after I scan my computer.

5. Use a good registry cleaner such as jv16 powertools (You can use the free trial since it is not recommended you do this more than once or twice a year, and perhaps less than that). This will reduce your registry size, sometimes considerably, reducing the number of entries your computer has to scan through when looking for these commonly used values.

6. Disk Cleanup, Error check, then defrag your hardrive(s). (In the properties of the drive.)

Short of a complete reinstall, following these steps will speed up your computer as much as possible without doing a full reinstall. Either way, It will take almost a day to complete it all.

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Spring Cleanup
by botanique / April 27, 2007 10:27 AM PDT

Run 'Disk Cleanup' and then 'Disk defragment', found in the System Tools. Plus you might want to dump some cookies!

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by vijayaraghavank / April 27, 2007 10:45 AM PDT

Sometimes you may have to disable SATA mode (via the BIOS very likely) or have a SATA driver on a CD/floppy when installing XP. If you disable SATA and install XP, you can reinstall the SATA driver and then reenable SATA. Most likely, your SATA chip might be an Intel one. The driver's for it (confusingly called the INF utility) can be obtained at IBM. Just pick the T60 drivers.

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Slow XP System
by brownbuffalo1 / April 27, 2007 10:48 AM PDT

If you really only have 200mb of memory, get more, sounds like your mobo uses integrated chipsets. Also do a 'Google' on Registry Cleaners, check everything out, and ask people for advice before making up your mind what to do. Use your system tools too,Defragmenter & Scandisk. Scandisk & Defragmenter don't like Firewalls running, so you'll have to turn them off before doing your checks, same with some Anti-Virus'. Hope this helps!.

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Sandy H.
by dsrenato / April 27, 2007 11:10 AM PDT

This is what you can do to improve the speed of your PC. the basics OK.

#1 defragment your system.
#2 get AD-AWARE SE from CNET.
#3 got to "START" open my computer, right click on local disc (c:) then go to properties and do a disk cleanup.
#4 go to PCPITSTOP.COM and do a full test. It will tell you what to do next.

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Backup First!!!! Get a good disk image program.
by willby281 / April 27, 2007 11:24 AM PDT

If you don't feel comfortable making changes or have valuable data that you don't want to lose, BACKUP to external hard drive or to recordable DVD disks. You can use CD's but that may be quite a stack of disks. I use Acronis True Image 10 as backup software. Make sure you create a bootable disk of True Image 10. You can now boot without using windows or your hard drive. If you use a external hard drive you can make an image of your hard drive at different stages.

1. Make an image of your disk just as it appears now. You can always get it back to the way it was.

2. You can make seperate images of your email, data, application preferences, or your complete computer.

3. Make a image after you reinstall Windows or use your recovery disk to bring your computer back to it was when it first came out of the box. Now delete all of the "Crapware" and trial software that was on the original setup. Make sure you Turn on Firewall and Update Windows with all patches.

4. Reinstall any programs that you have use and have the original disks and license numbers. Restore mail, application preferences, data, bookmarks or favorites from your browser.

5. Make another hard disk image. Now you can get back to any step along the way. Experiment all you want and if something doesn't work simply restore the last backup. This is also a great way to recover from virus, spyware and malware infections. Backup frequently and restore from last good backup.

The rule of thumb is: Users don't backup until they have a hard drive fail or seriously damage Windows. Then they become a believer.

I normally make a complete backup of 40 Gigs of data in about an hour using a external USB 160 Gig. drive. 30 min for backup and 30 for verification of image. About the same to restore the disk.

Tucson Bill

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Two year old Dell Computer
by hengineer / April 27, 2007 11:24 AM PDT

Ah Old thing that's good about PC's is that they are easily upgradable. You say you are not tech-savvy, so I'll attempt to talk to a "layperson" here...
1: Upgrade your RAM. This should be the first thing you do. I doubt your computer has 200 MB of RAM, as RAM sticks come in 128/256/512/1012/2024 increments. One way to tell how much RAM you have is to open up "My Computer" (usually not defaulted on the desktop for WinXP, but it can be accessed from the default start menu), and select "Properties". It should tell you how much RAM you have. I'm not advocating you maximize your RAM all the way up to 2 GB, 1 GB should be just fine for most home users.
2: I'm not sure what you do to periodically maintain your computer, but you should definitely do the following:
*Virus Scans (you should ALWAYS have an Anti-Virus program, I
recommend AVG anti-virus free edition, should be good for home
*Spyware Scans (Without getting into the tech-geek flame war over
it, Windows Defender should be good for home users as well)
*Disk Defragmenter (this is a biggie! Your hard drive is broken up
into segments, and Windows stores information in "chunks" of data
at a time, and when a chunk is bigger than the amount of space
left in the segment, it will store it on another portion of you
hard drive, sometimes "fragmenting" your files all over your hard
drive. This isn't necessarily a problem per se, yet it really
slows down your computer when it has to check all over the hard
drive when accessing a file, Under "My Computer", right click on
one of your hard drives, and select "Defragment now" under Tools.
If you can't find it there, look under:
Start Menu > Accesories > System Tools > Disk Defragmentor
3: Windows Registry.... Now this is more for advanced users. If you mess up your registry, you run the risk of Windows not even booting at all! I would recommend a reformat of your hard drive and re-install of Windows XP before I recommend tweaking your registry unless you are absolutely sure of what you are doing (even if you use those "registry cleaner" programs).
4: Cleanup of Windows Startup menu. Previously I mentioned Windows Defender, it has the ability to really adjust the programs that load when Windows boots up. I recommend using this only if you are absolutely sure of what you are doing. Most of the programs that load with windows are fluff and not needed (do you REALLY need Windows Live Messenger to load when your computer starts?), but even still, be careful when adjusting the startup list.
5: Cleanup of old programs you no longer use. Under Start Menu > Control Panel, open up the "Add/Remove Programs" Dialog. Check for programs that you never used or think you will no longer need. Do you really need that "AOL Preload" that came with your computer even though your ISP is something different...? Please be careful when removing programs though, you still want to be able to function normally! (You never know when you remove something it could come back to haunt you when you try to load that favorite game, or when you're trying to tweak that picture you uploaded from your camera only to find a "missing .dll" or "Windows needs to look for a program to open this file".

I am not a "Computer Scientist", a genius when it comes to computers, nor an IT geek. This has come from 2 decades of playing with computers, tweaking and adjusting, my own as well as my friends (I was the "computer guy" back in college..heh, my major was mechanical engineering). Please take my advice with a grain of salt, that being said, I hope I've helped you. Happy

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