Marshall Adult Education




TECH TIP:  Improve Your Computer’s Performance – Part 2

Is your computer running sluggishly lately?  Here is part 2 -  tips on how to improve your computer’s performance.  Here are the next five tips - most are free – some will cost you a few bucks.


6.  Update Your Operating System Regularly

If you use Microsoft’s operating system (Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 98, etc), you should regularly get the free updates that are available for your computer.  These updates, sometimes called patches, help seal security leaks that can put your computer in danger of getting a virus.  You can update your computer by going to the Windows Update website.


You can also set your computer to automatically check for updates on a schedule that you specify. (Start -> Settings -> Control Panels -> Automatic Updates)


Here’s an article that tells you that you can get a virus in an unpatched computer in just 18 minutes.


And here is a neat video that shows just exactly how it works - how you get a virus in an unpatched computer.  You need QuickTime to watch this video.


7.  Don’t upgrade if you don’t have to.

Every software company comes out with upgrades for their software.  The problem is, the upgrades always require more memory and more hard drive space.  Do a little research – find out if the upgrades have significant improvements to justify the increased memory and space requirements.  Here’s an example:  Microsoft Office 2002 (sometimes called Microsoft Office XP) is a significant improvement over Microsoft Office 2000 – go for it.  Microsoft Office 2003 is not a significant improvement over Office 2002.  There is no reason to upgrade to this version for the average consumer.  I’ve used both – I wouldn’t upgrade.


8.  Reduce the Size of Your Temporary Files in Internet Explorer

Every time you visit a website, everything on that webpage – text and graphics, is saved (stored) on your hard drive.  Your computer allots 10% of your hard drive space by default to temporary internet files.  If you have a 40GB hard drive, that’s 400 MB of temp files that may be stored on your hard drive.  (80 GB hard drive – 800 MB)  Wow!  Your poor CPU has to keep up with all these files – index them and maintain them.  So here’s what to do.  First, dump those temp files you currently have on your hard drive.  Second, reduce the amount of space your computer allots to internet temp files.  Here’s how:


Step 1

  1. Open Internet Explorer
  2. Click on the Tools menu
  3. Click on Internet Options
  4. Click on the General tab
  5. Click on Delete Files
  6. Click on Delete all offline content
  7. Click OK
  8. If you have never done this before, go get a cup of coffee, read a book, and call you mother.  It’s going take a while to dump 400 MB of temp files.


Step 2

  1. Click on the Settings button (it’s right next to the Delete Files button).
  2. Set the “amount of disk space to use” to around 30 MB (drag the slide to the left or just type it in the box).  A little more or less won’t hurt.
  3. Click OK
  4. Click OK again.

That’s it – you freed up your computer from a load of pretty useless files.


(Here’s a trick – you can get to that Internet Options window by clicking on Start, then Settings, then Control Panel, then click on Internet Options – this is a cool tip for dial-up people).


9.  Use anti-virus software

You wouldn’t dare run your computer without antivirus software – would you?  I didn’t think so.   I like Norton Antivirus.  If you are into FREE, Grisoft AVG is excellent.  Without antivirus software, the average surfer will very quickly pick up a virus, spyware, adware, or other malware.  It doesn’t do you any good to have antivirus software and not update your virus definitions.  You should update at least weekly. 


10.  Trivial enhancements

Ah, those cute screen savers and wallpapers that change hourly or cute little cursors – they eat up your system resources and slow down your computer to do the real tasks that you need to do. So does that Weather Bug that sits in the Startup items of your taskbar.  I did a Google search for “free cursors” and came up with 231,000 websites.  Yes – there’s lots of tempting fun things to do.  Weigh those cool enhancements against improving system performance – which one will you choose?


OK – that’s it – get your computer running at peak efficiency so you have more time to do drink coffee and read books – and call your mother!


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