Sometimes it may not seem like it, but each version of Windows has many of the best minds in computing working on ways to make it faster, smoother and more reliable. One of the features these guys added in Windows XP is called the "prefetch." Numbering sometimes over 100 files, this bit of programming gives XP a head start in starting up, and is supposed to reduce boot up times.
At least, in theory that's what it does. In practice, files in the prefetch can become corrupted. And that mean achingly slow boot times or even the occasional startup crash, which many XP users have become all too familiar with. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes to clean out the old prefetch files for faster load times.
Prefetch from Scratch
You can usually find prefetch with your Windows files, so search for C:\Windows\prefetch (or replace C with whatever drive you've installed Windows on). When you open the folder containing prefetch files simply select them all - then delete them all. Please note: clean the slate sparingly. Although it's perfectly safe, and recommended, to delete these files, I would only do so about once or twice a year - most computer experts think that gathering all these prefetch items is a bit taxing for your hard drive.
Strange but real reasons your PC might be going a bit a slow:
Your PC doesn't get enough fresh air.
No, I don't mean you should do all your work on your PC al fresco. But you should keep the vents on your computer clean and free of dust, hair, carpeting and dirt. Air is needed to keep your PC cool, as overheating can affect performance - and even damage the heat-sensitive electronics inside. Regularly vacuum around the vents or use compressed air to clean them.
Your laptop is on your... lap. Or any other soft surface, like your bed, the sofa, or cushions. Soft material can block the vents and cause your computer to overheat. And as we know, that can lead to sluggish performance and even hardware damage. Always work on clean, hard, flat surfaces if you can help it. And for men, having a lot laptop on your lap can decrease your chance of being a father! (See this Discover article.)
Things are loose on the motherboard.
This is especially likely if you've gotten a memory upgrade, but even computers direct from the factory can come with loose memory chips. If you don't feel comfortable opening up your PC and checking to see if the chips are plugged in, bring your PC to the store you bought it from (or to a trusted technician) and see if they can put them in place.
A messy desktop is not simply an aesthetic problem. Items on your desktop use up a bit of your PC's memory. Organizing your files is one of the easiest ways to free up a bit of wasted computing power.
Turn off life-support for crashing programs.
Windows generally is like a sensitive doctor who has a hard time letting programs go. Usually when a program is non-responsive – something that happens a lot with slow PCs – Windows, by default, gives it a ridiculously generous 20 seconds to respond. This lag can cause other programs to stall, triggering a cascading collapse of other apps. You've got to be tougher than Windows, and have it automatically close any program that stops responding.
(CAUTION: the following directions involve tampering with the registry. Always make a backup before changing the registry, and proceed with care.)
To have Windows automatically close unresponsive apps, click on Start, go to Run, and type regedit. (If a window asks if you'd like to continue, click Yes.) Next, find the correct key on the left sidebar of the new window. It should read HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop. Now, the last step: double click AutoEndTasks, and then bump the value from 0 to 1. Presto: no more life support for crashing programs.
The Windows operating system has a tragic flaw: the registry. The registry is an area that keeps records of changes to your system. Over the lifetime of your computer, it fills up with dead or corrupted entries that squander memory, cause slowdown and can sometimes crash your computer. Worse, malicious programs love the registry, as it's a great place for them to hide while they work their voodoo on your machine. (Goofing around with the registry can cause permanent damage to your computer, so it's generally hard for anti-malware software to go in there to find the bad guys.)
No wonder then, in the last couple of years, registry cleaners have proliferated, and are now one of the most-downloaded types of software. Once controversial, numerous studies have shown that using a reliable registry cleanser can result in real improvements for most computer users. The trick is, of course, finding the right one.
What to look for in a registry cleaning product
- Safety features. A good registry product will make a complete backup of the registry before doing anything else, and it'll give you the option of restoring any erased or fixed entries to their original state. This way, on the off chance something goes wrong, you can fully restore your system.
- Log keeping. Again, the registry is really sensitive, so you want accurate records of any changes made in there in case you want to fully restore the registry to how it was before the cleaner started its work. As an extra precaution, the best registry products will keep careful records of all registry activity.
- Entry repair. In addition to wiping out junk entries left by discarded programs (or malware), you'll want a registry product that helps repair good entries that have become corrupted. Many computer researchers believe that fixing damaged entries of commonly used programs is one of the keys to improving PC performance.
- Detailed reports. Find a program to shows detailed reports of each registry key it will fix and what's wrong with that key. Many programs find false-positives or inflate the error count to make you think you have more problems than you really do.
- File management. To get the most bang for your buck, choose a registry product that includes speed-enhancing extras like a defragmenter for your hard drive, a disk clean up tool that helps you locate and eliminate unwanted programs, or a startup manager that lets you choose what programs run when your PC boots up.
Nothing's more frustrating than a slow internet connection. Sadly, there's often not much that can be done about it. A page that's slow to load usually indicates something wrong with its server, not yours, and experts say that at times of heavy virus activity – with malicious programs leaping from one machine to another – the whole internet can feel like it's crashing down.
Nonetheless, while you obviously can't fix the whole internet, there are a few things you can do on your end to keep your connection going as fast as possible:
5 Fixes for a Faster Internet Connection
1. If you're using wireless, make sure your router is password-protected
This is a no-brainer, but any time I turn on my Wi-Fi finder, I'm always stunned by how many people leave their routers unsecured. If your network isn't protected, you're losing precious bandwidth to any wandering wi-fi poacher. So before you do anything else, lock up your network with a password.
2. Break down redundant firewalls
The firewall is one of your best defenses against malicious programs. Yes, it can slow web browsing, but it's essential to have one up. However, you only need one. Often users unknowingly run both Windows firewall and their anti-virus program's firewall (such as Norton's). So, turn off one of those firewalls, and enjoy the speed boost.
3. Delete browsing history and saved cookies
When you surf the web, each page you visit is stored as a temporary file on your computer. Over time, these accumulate and take up disk space. If your computer is running out of disk space, this can cause browsing speed to slow down. So it's a good idea to clear out these files regularly.
If you're using Internet Explorer, simply go to Internet Options, and choose Delete Browsing History. A window will pop up. Check the box asking if you want to delete stored files, and your IE will be good as new.
If you have Firefox, go under Tools, and select Clear Private Data, then check off all the things you want deleted.
4. Remove physical obstacles
Wireless users should try to keep their computer near the access point, with few physical obstacles in the way, such as walls and doors. Devices such as microwaves and cordless phones that emit certain kinds of signals can also interfere with a wireless connection, so make sure they're not in the same room as your router and PC.
5. Switch browsers and remove add-ons
Internet Explorer is the default browser on Windows, so it's the default option of most Windows users. While recent upgrades have made it one of the more secure web-surfing programs, its many features make it also one of the more resource-hungry. If you really need speed you might want to consider switching to Firefox or Google's Chrome, which tend to do better in speed tests. Alternatively, you can remove some of the bells and whistles - the Yahoo Search Bar, among other things - that are such memory hogs.
To remove Internet Explorer add-ons, go to Tools, Internet Options, the Programs tab, and choose Manage add-ons. This opens a tool where you can see – and remove – all the extras that have been added it IE.
This spring, you'll probably be getting rid of clutter that just gets in the way – and nowhere is this more important than on your PC with Vista. Many users who have switched to Vista, or have bought a machine with Vista pre-installed, find their computer frustratingly slow, especially when booting up. But don't despair: by turning off or getting rid of a few unwanted features, PC experts have shown you can say hasta la Vista to slowdown:
1) Jettison Trash Apps
Vongo? Xaudio? You probably haven't heard of these junk programs, but more likely than not, your computer comes from the manufacturer full of gimmicky software that gets activated when you start up your computer. And each garbage program activated means it takes that much longer for your machine to get going.
To sweep out the clutter, and lower start up times, click on Start, and there type msconfig in the Search bar. Click on the msconfig app, go to the tab called Startup, and then un-check the boxes of all the programs you don't need. You can also use 3rd party program like My Faster PC to remove startup items that slow your PC.(Note: be sure not to deactivate essential Microsoft programs, your firewall or anti-virus software. Before making any changes, it's always good idea to make a system restore point in the System file – found on the Control Panel – in a feature called System protections. Once there, simply select the drive you want to make a restore point for, and hit Create.)
2) Get Out of Hibernation
A huge memory sink is the "hibernate" feature – a kind of sleep function that saves power. It's useful if you have a laptop and you don't have many chances of plugging in your computer throughout the day. But hibernating has a serious drawback: it requires Vista to take a "snapshot" of your computer's state before hibernating, and this eats up massive amounts of memory. If you don't use hibernation – or if you have a desktop – disable it! To do so, click on Start and type cmd in the Search box. Right-click on the cmd application, and select, Run as administrator. In the old-school command prompt that pops up, type powercfg -h off, and press Enter. (To turn hibernate back on, simply type powercfg -h in the same command prompt window.)
3) Stop Searching
Arguably, Vista's most hated new feature is "indexing." Windows indexes, or tags, virtually every file on your machine to make it easier to find during a search, but indexing can really slow down your computer, especially if you don't have a lot of RAM or you like to keep multiple programs open.
But you can still keep your search feature while making Vista run much faster by limiting what files Windows can index. Simply open the Control Panel, and look under Indexing Options. While there, uncheck the boxes of all the programs you seldom run searches on. (If you never use search or are really hankering for a speed boost, you can disable Windows Search altogether; to do so, simply just type Services in the Start Search bar, scroll down to and right-click on Windows Search. Under Properties, go to Startup, and switch it to Disabled.)
4) Lose the Fonts
Like Thoreau said, "Simplfiy, simplify" – the basic rule for speeding up your computer is eliminating or disabling all the stuff you don't use. And surprisingly, one of the biggest memory guzzlers is – fonts! Vista only needs to recognize about 200 or so fonts for optimal performance, but many computers can recognize almost 500. For those who don't feel like erasing all those fonts by hand, computer expert Sue Fisher has designed a free program, The Font Thing, that can help you reduce your fonts to a manageable number.
5) When All Else Fails, Buy More RAM
RAM is your computer's "working memory." It's what your computer uses to keep track of all the active stuff it's doing, like the game you're playing or the document you're editing. Vista has a lot of bells and whistles, but all those little features come at a cost – Vista has a monstrous appetite for memory. Some budget computers come pre-installed with Vista despite only having 512 MB of RAM, well shy of the 1 GB recommended by Microsoft (some experts even think 2 GB is a more accurate minimum requirement). If you've tried all the above tips and still have a slow computer, you might want to consider splurging on a RAM upgrade.