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Ok, I'm at my last straw. Do I need to reformat

Ok I will say this. I am not a computer expert but I'm pretty good with them. I have a Dell dimension 8250/60GB HD/2.4GHZ/768MB RAM/stock NVDIA MX420 I think? My computer always ran well, but now its slower then dung.

I have done adware, spybot,cr=p cleaner, msconfig (always done this so virtually nothing auto starts on startup), hijack this, defrag, a million different regcleaner type programs/cache/cookies/etc cleaner.

I have done these all 50+ times in regular AND safe mode. After all that, my computer will run good for a night then next day its slower then dung. I used Mcafee for a long time (free through comcast) but recently switched to avg and it seems a lil better, though my system is so slow it's hard to tell

I have done some reading and I think I need to just reformat. I have thousands of family photos and videos/music on my computer and need to take them off. Nothing elseSo a few questions for you tech guys.

1st, do I really need to reformat? (I'm fairly certain this is a yes)

2nd, Easiest way to get pics/video/music off the HD (I have a CD burner but last reformat 4 years ago it took forever to do this, I think I ended up burning about 10 of them and I haev 10X the stuff now. Should I get an external HD? thumb drive? I dunno anything about that stuff.

3rd, I have access to a Vista disc. With my system, should I install vista or absolutely not. XP has never done me wrong. I don't want to waste anymore money on RAM or other upgrades since my puter is 6 years old and Dimension Ram and parts are a rip off compared to new prices.

I play mostly light games (online poker, spades etc) and do a ton of WORD/Internet browsing/video editing. BUT I do occasionally like to play video games (Soldier of Fortune, Battlefield Vietnam, Diablo II etc).

What say you CNET.

Your advice will be much appreciated

P.S. I guess I struggle with the idea that these programs are supposed to remove the "bad stuff" but sometimes you "just have to reformat". If it got to the bad stuff, how is it that it will be any better once I "start over". Is is just after so many years you can't get to/see all the things bogging it down?

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you might try...

In reply to: Ok, I'm at my last straw. Do I need to reformat

Sounds like you've tried just about everything. There's only two things I can think of to try. One is your hard drive might be too full. How much free space do you have left? If your free space is less than 6 GB then I think that might be the cause. Second, if the hard drive isn't too full and your computer was running fine a short period ago, you might think about a system restore.

To get all your photos and other data off, an external hard drive would make it extremely easy but expensive. Do you have a second computer connected on the same network as the one that is going slow? If so, google how to share files between computers, and you should find plenty of articles describing how to put files and folders on a network in which case you can simply transfer them from the slow computer to your other computer without any external source like cds or external hard drives. If not, a thumb drive could work, be less expensive, easier than cds, but a tad more work than an external hard drive.

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In reply to: you might try...

I have 20% of my HD available. I just don't understand if these "tools" can't remove the junk now, how can they when I reformat and go for it.

I dunno, I guess with all my downloading, surfing, playing games etc over time it just "builds up", whatever that means. Should I switch to vista or just keep with XP until I buy a new computer someday? How is a thumb drive "a lil more work"?

I don't have any other computers, it just mine in my place with Cable internet.

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If it were me...

In reply to: o

I'd just set aside a big chunk of time and backup to CD or DVD-- and make 2 copies of every disk. I'd also verify every disk. I know that's a lot of work. I've done it myself. But it sounds like your data is not replaceable, and a full backup is really the best solution.

In addition to this (not instead of it), I'd buy the external hard drive and transfer the files over to it. This gives you an easy way to replace the data once you're finished working on your computer. You will still have your backup on disks and you will have a nice external hard drive to keep your data on. I have one and I find it very convenient.

This is what I would do.


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In reply to: o

hmmm... Then your hard drive isn't too full.

I would definitely stick with XP. Even with SP1 out for Vista, it still isn't nearly as stable or compatible with as many programs. Plus, it sucks more resources.

A thumb drive is a little more work than an external hard drive because you can backup your entire your hard drive onto it with one action whereas a thumb drive would require several backups because its so small.

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Just one other thing,

In reply to: Ok, I'm at my last straw. Do I need to reformat

and not automatically a solution to your slow performance question, but always a good idea...

When was the last time you opened the case and removed all the dust from the air vents, fans, and everywhere else inside the box? I did my yearly clean out yesterday. The dust build up always surprises me! Happy


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If you ask me

In reply to: Ok, I'm at my last straw. Do I need to reformat

If you ask me, you don't NEED to format, but it's probably going to be faster and easier in the long run.

I will also say, that McAfee will do wonders to slow your system down. McAfee VirusScan has got to be the single worst example of software engineering I have ever seen. It will sap 25-33% of your system performance, right off the top, just as a part of its normal operations. It's absolutely dumbfounding to me how they can continue to get away with this.

While I'm on a good rant, I'll toss in that Comcast is particularly inept as well. All cable Internet companies have been overselling access to their network, well beyond what it can reasonably support, while pushing all these high bandwidth features like streaming video and VoIP phone service. They've been very slow to upgrade the capacity for their networks to handle the additional load from these things. Then they go on a witch hunt and penalize only P2P users.

If you use the Internet for much more than light web browsing and email, you should probably look into getting DSL service. Cable Internet is shared bandwidth. You share some finite amount of bandwidth going to some hub that provides service for usually everyone within a couple of city blocks. So everyone in the service area of that hub is all sharing a finite amount of bandwidth going in and out of that hub.

DSL is dedicated bandwidth, so it doesn't matter if your next door neighbor is downloading high quality porn all night, it won't affect your speeds.

Anyway, getting back to your issue at hand... To answer your questions:

1: No, but it's probably faster and easier

2: It depends on how much data you have really. If you had 10 CDs worth before, and you now have more data than that, I'd look into the external hard drive idea. Only problem is, there's a chance that whatever's on your system now will find its way onto your external drive, and then back again after you format. So just be sure you have a virus scanner installed and all operating system updates applied before you think about trying to recover the backed up data. Then, look into establishing a backup routine for yourself.

3: On that system, I'd say absolutely not. Unless you want to at least quadruple the RAM and get yourself a better video card. Though you don't have to buy the RAM from Dell. It's not like only RAM sold by Dell will work in Dell systems.

If you play some occasional games, it might be worth adding a little more RAM. I wouldn't be surprised if that system could only handle a maximum of 1GB of RAM, but you would likely see an improvement in game performance as well as video editing.

And finally, here's my list of tips for keeping a smooth running system.


The more of these suggestions you follow, the fewer problems you should have. They won't solve any existing problems you have, but if you follow them all you should be able to avoid virtually all problems in the future.

Things you should NOT do
1: Use Internet Explorer (1)
2: Use any browser based on Internet Explorer
3: Use Outlook or Outlook Express (2)
4: Open email attachments you haven't manually scanned with your virus scanner
5: Open email attachments you were not expecting, no matter who they appear to be from
6: Respond to spam messages, including using unsubscribe links
7: Visit questionable websites (e.g. porn, warez, hacking)
8: Poke unnecessary holes in your firewall by clicking "Allow" every time some program requests access to the Internet (3)
9: Click directly on links in email messages
10: Use file sharing or P2P programs
11: Use pirated programs

Things you SHOULD do
1: Use a non-IE or IE based browser (4)
2: Always have an up to date virus scanner running (5)
3: Always have a firewall running (6)
4: Install all the latest security updates (7)(8)(9)
5: Delete all unsolicited emails containing attachments without reading
6: Manually scan all email attachments with your virus scanner, regardless of whether it's supposed to be done automatically
7: Copy and paste URLs from email messages into your web browser
8: Inspect links copied and pasted into your web browser to ensure they don't seem to contain a second/different address


(1) Sadly sometimes this is unavoidable, so only use IE when the site absolutely will not work with any other browser and you cannot get that information/service anywhere else, and only use IE for that one specific site.
(2) Outlook and Outlook Express are very insecure, and basically invite spam. Possible replacements include Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, The Bat, and dozens of others.
(3) When it doubt over whether or not to allow some program, use Google to find out what it is and whether or not it needs access to the Internet. Otherwise, denying access is the safest course of action, since you can always change the rule later.
(4) On Windows your options include: Mozilla Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, Flock, and Safari. It doesn't matter which one you pick so much as that you pick one of them and use it over IE.
(5) AVG Free and Avast are available if you need a decent free virus scanner
(6) XP/Vista's firewall is probably good enough for 99% of all Windows users, but other options include ZoneAlarm, Outpost Firewall, and Comodo. If you have a router with a firewall built into it, there is no need for any of the aforementioned firewalls to be running.
(7) Microsoft's usual system is to release security updates every second Tuesday of the month.
(8) Use of Windows Update on Windows operating systems prior to Windows Vista requires Internet Explorer, and is thus a valid exception to the No IE rule.
(9) Service packs should ALWAYS be installed. They frequently contain security updates that will ONLY be found in that service pack.

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In reply to: If you ask me

WOW, just awesome information guys, thank you so much. Well to touch on a few points, As originally stated, I'm fairly good with computers so I will try to cover all the points made here.

I have used Comcast for many a few years and its ok, but very expensive. In my area there is no Cable internet competitors, and was recently looking into DSL but I am afraid (for some reason) of being slower. I only use a cell phone, so the DSL would cost me almost much as Cable but I will have to consider it b/c it can be fast/slow/fast and very buggy. (45/month too, which is kinda nuts to me for intertubes lol)

Second, when I did reformat way back in the day, it was amazing for a long time. My computer was reborn again, as I did have a virus that time. I don't use a lot of "heavy" programs so my computer is actually fast (enough for me) when not bogged down. My parents bought the same system back in the day, and have only 256 RAM (they hardly ever even turn it on) and when I was over there visitng it was like twice as fast as mine turning on, starting up stuff.

Ok to the important stuff. To your list, I have followed all those rules except P2P, which I rarely do (hear a song on the radio and snag it up ya know?). No IE, No outlook, no pronz ;-), no pirated programs etc. It's strange cause my IE actually takes like 2 mins to start up now. One in a while I get a message about my SP2 disc needing to be inserted b/c something was changed. This only occurs when I'm installing something. I have the service 1a pack disc lol. So I can't change or satisfy this pop up screen.

What is strange is I tried firefox, loved it for a week, then it got bogged down and slowed down big time. Yes, I cleared the cache, cookies, passwords, etc. It is just OK right now. Tried Safari, loved it for a week, now it is slow as well. I have spybot, avg running at all times. I use adware, CrupCleaner, Hijack this, etc one in a while. I also use gmail which is awesome at sifting junk mail (Comcast email makes my eyes boil). I think the reformat is best. I do have a question. When these posts say "transfer my disc" I believe was the terminology, I really only have pics/video/music to move. All others are games/online gaming sites/ applications I can just re-install. Maybe that is just the terminology? Can I compress/zip some files so more of them fit on a burned CD?

Once I reformat, should I jack up the Windows firewall for max protection? Also, you mentioned I need IE to get the updates. Those just usually pop up on the bottom right of my screen without using IE. Are those the same updates? Do I need to manually go to the Microsoft website. Oh yes, also the RDRAM (?) for Dimension are expensive, and video cards. I might bite the bullet, but when running smooth it is good enough for me. The max is 2GB for these things, though $200+ bones a stick b/c they are getting more hard to find all the time, since that type of RAM was abandoned.

Awesome info guys, thanks so much. I hope I hit up all the questions/responses.

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In reply to: ....

Well, the file types you mention are already compressed, so you'd get very little additional space savings if you tried putting them into some kind of compressed archive.

I'd consider getting an external hard drive for making regular backups to AFTER you've cleared out your system as well as the immediate need. Maybe also think about a DVD burner instead of just a CD burner. DVDs hold around 4.3GB when it's all said and done, vs about 700MB for a CD. Dual layer DVD burners are cheap and easy to come by, but dual layer DVD discs are still pretty expensive.

As for the rest... That system must be one of the last RDRAM based systems made. I didn't think any P4 2.4GHz chips used RDRAM chipsets. In which case, upgrading the RAM would likely be quite expensive.

And if you use the automatic updates in Windows you don't need to use IE for anything. Technically, behind the scenes, Windows is automatically using IE (or a part of it anyway) to download those updates, but it's only going to the Windows Update site, so unless someone hacks the Windows Update site, it's probably safe.

The main thing you should probably do, is keep track of all the things you do, and try to pinpoint exactly when your system starts to show signs of slowing down again. Hopefully it won't after this, but keep some kind of a record of all the changes you make, programs you install, etc. That way you can trace back to try and figure out where the problem is coming from.

Finally... I feel your pain. I recently had to put up with Comcast's inept service for a couple of weeks, and finally just ordered DSL service through AT&T. Even though the Comcast service is included in my rent, it was practically useless. Quite the hassle to get the DSL hooked up, since Comcast has apparently taken to disconnecting the AT&T lines at the junction boxes. Highly unethical IMO, if not possibly illegal. There's no guarantee the DSL service will be any better sadly, since all the deregulation Regan started and every republican president since has expanded, means that there's very little in the way of competition. AT&T has largely put itself back together, and I think Verizon is about the only major piece left of the former AT&T empire that was broken up way back when. Same thing has been happening with cable companies. The bigger ones buy up the smaller ones, then jack the prices up while offering less service, and lower quality service for what is offered. They even go so far as to completely ignore smaller communities, and then sue those small communities when they band together to come up with their own broadband solution.

I'll end the rant there, because otherwise I'd probably go on for quite some time. It'd be nice to have a government that was actually looking out for the average person instead of whichever interests have the biggest lobby slush fund. However, such is not our lot in life at the moment. I'd just seriously consider anything but Comcast, which is incredibly inept in my experience.

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