Here's my empirical opinion on the subject of peak computer performance.
A new computer or a newly formatted one is the ONLY cure for the non-tech oriented person.
I can hear the sighs now from every person out there who has made themselves knowledgeable about their computer system. Relax. You'll still have plenty of friends still asking you questions.
Here's my radical solution. Keep a list of every program you load on your computer and store it with the CD of the original program. Do this with ALL programs--even programs download by burning them to a CD. Yes, printer drivers are programs.
Keep all your data (yes, everything) in one place on your hard drive. This is without a doubt the hardest part of my solution, but can be done. If you think it's easy, think again. In my humble opinion, Microsoft and others seem to make this very difficult-maybe on purpose. Default locations for data (eg. Outlook .pst files) are embedded and stored in weird places. All the stuff you create like word processing documents and photos are easier for you to place where you want them.
Buy a large external hard drive.
Create a complete copy of all your data on this external hard drive. THE SOLUTION TO PEAK PERFORMACE IS TO DO A CLEAN INSTALL. You can now reformat your main computer's hard drive and have all your data available to reload. Reload all your software.
This is as pain free as possible. Simply put, you are being proactive and planning for a complete system restore. Which most gurus I know like to think of as the LAST answer, but they all know it is the only real answer to peak performance, especially with a broken system.
Here's my top 10 other radical tips.
1. Don't use virus software! Just never open any e-mail attachments and you'll be fine-really. Don't surf porno sites. That's where trouble often begins with adware and malicious scripts.
2. NEVER upgrade your operating system. Look at it as if you are stuck with what you got when you bought your computer. With this said, I'd highly recommend Windows XP with Service Pack 2-it's much different than earlier Windows versions.
3. Don't load more than 5 of your own programs on your computer. If I haven't risen to the level of heresy yet, I just crossed the line. Think about what you really need. Don't load anything that is not core to what you do. You be the judge.
4. Never delete anything! Why is it people feel they know what is on their computers? What is an, ''unnecessary file?'' Obviously, I'm not talking about that ugly photo you don't want or that first draft of a word document. If you don't know, don't delete it. This holds true for using, ''Uninstall.'' If you loaded something you don't want or don't use, leave it. If it's causing problems, I think you know my answer.
5. Don't use a wireless router. Plugging stuff in works better and is more secure. If your router is wireless-make sure the encryption is on. Almost all come unencrypted as the default.
6. Make sure XP's built-in firewall is on.
7. Make sure Remote Assistance is turned off.
8. Set your Internet Explorer Privacy setting to at least Medium High.
9. Create two e-mail accounts, one private and one public. And never use your ISP?s e-mail address. If you don?t own a root domain name, use Google?s gMail.
10. Did you know you never have to receive ANY spam? Just use an E-mail ''challenge service'' like Mailblocks. No computer generated spam will EVER get through-none, really.
THE ABOVE SUGGESTIONS ARE ACTIVE STEPS YOU HAVE TO TAKE. Defaults (the way they come from the factor) for these items are set wrong. You must change these items by yourself. And he's the moral of the story; You are on your own. Create a plan that works for you.
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