DT&G Design Department
Current Location: Graphic-Design.com / DT&G Magazine / Business Department / Annual PC Maintenance  

By Wesley Warren is CEO of Vexcom Inc, and Webmaster of DesignQuote.net

Annual PC Maintenance: A quick Tune up for your computer

By Wesley Warren

Is your PC not running like it used to? Bogged down by too many startup items, slow to load, slow to restart? Maybe it's time for your annual end of the year PC tune up!

These tips can be done anytime, and even as often as every couple months if you like, but you should do them all at the bare minimum of once per year! So here are some essential tune-up tricks to speed up your PC. Best of all they are all free!

This tune up guide will walk you through the following steps to get your PC running speedy again. Most of these steps take only a few minutes to complete and make a big difference in your computers performance. I have used everyone of these and they all work great.

NOTE: Registry Cleaner
NOTE: Updated Virus Software
NOTE: Spyware Checker
NOTE: Disk Defragmenter (Defrag)

Your computer works hard for you all year, and just like a car it needs periodic maintenance. These four tips will help your computer keep running smooth and behaving like it should. The whole process can be done in under an hour, and most of it can be done while you are multi-tasking and even using under other applications or surfing the web. I do not count the HD defragment process here because that should be done when the computer is not in use as it takes hours.

Ok so without further ado, lets get started:

1. Slow Startups? - Clean that registry!

Your Windows PC loads a bunch of tiny programs everytime you start up the machine. Some of these programs are actual applications and some are little programs used by the system. Every time you install a new program or update your OS you create a new Registry entry. The System Registry is a todo list for your computer. If your PC is a year or older, chances are you have installed (and uninstalled) lots of software, sometimes (like when visiting a website requiring a plug-in or a spyware application) without even realizing it!

The Registry list can get cluttered and filled with bogus, removed and out-of-date entries that the computer has to check every time it starts up. I ran this cleaner on one PC and found over 1500 registry items that were no longer there. For everyone of these items the system has to look and see if the item is where it is supposed to be, then if it isn't it skips to the next one. A single item doesn't take very long but they can add up quick!

Fortunately the nice people at Eusing have created a free Registry Cleaner. This is from their website:

Problems with the Windows Registry are a common cause of Windows crashes and error messages. Registry problems can occur for many reasons, including references left behind after uninstallation; incorrect removal of software; missing or corrupt hardware drivers; or orphaned start-up programs. This will significantly increase the Registry size and slow down your computer, because Windows will need more time to load, search, and read data from the Registry.

So go download and install Free Registry Cleaner 1.6. (EFRCSetup.exe)
After installation the default is to have the program run. The first thing you see will be a prompt window to register and support Eusing software. To register click the registration button and its only $15 for a great handy piece of software. Or you can click the skip button and proceed with trying it out first. First scan your registry and it wil show you how many broken entries are there.

This may take a while depending on how old your computer is and how many entries you have. After the scan, back up a copy of your current registry (under file menu). Next click Repair and viola, your registry is clean.

2. Is your PC sick? - update your virus software!

Most people who buy a new PC get a trial version of virus software such as McAffe or Norton Norton. These are great products but they do require a registration fee and subscription. So maybe you let it lapse and decided not to pay for it. Well good news again! The wizards over at Grisoft maintain an awesome virus protection application called AVG Free. It updates almost everyday and keeps you up to date with the latest virus definitions. They also offer some other great products such as anti-spam and anti-spyware. Download AVG and run a scan, it will clean up any viruses that have penetrated your system. You can upgrade to the full version which includes a lot of extras for a very reasonable price.

3. I Spy Evil Software! Spyware Checker

Remember that silly free cartoon screensaver you just had to have, or that great "free" music sharing program you installed. Well guess what, there is a good chance that you have installed software that has some nasty secret software in it called spyware! Spyware can send back your private information to people you probably do not want to have it. you may have noticed a bunch of new pop-ups, or your home page has suddenly changed, or maybe you have so many toolbars now you barely have room to view webpages? Time to run Windows Defender, free from.. gasp! Microsoft! That's right Microsoft is giving away free software, hard to believe I know, but its true. They will check to make sure you are running a valid (eg not pirated) version of Windows before you can download it.

Download and install Windows Defender, then let it update and run, it will make sure no nasty spyware has wormed its way onto yoru computer.

4. Last but not least - the dreaded defrag

This is a super important system tool that has been around for many versions of Windows. As files get copied and moved around your computer they sometimes get broken up into smaller pieces. This can make certain programs or files run horribly slow! You should do a little prep work before you defrag your drive. And because a defrag of a large drive (even 60 gigs) can take several hours! So heres what you should do.

A. Empty your web browser cache folder.

B. Remove old programs you don't use anymore (especially old games which take up a lot of room).

C. Empty your recycle bin. Delete any other old files to make as much free space as possible and so you dont end up wasting time defragging some old dancing baby video you don't even want.

D. Change your energy saving / screensaver settings not to sleep or shoutdown for at least 4 hours. (Right click desktop > properties > screensaver tab)

Ok now I recommend you wait until you are done using your computer for the day, like right before you leave the office or go to bed, before you start your defrag. the defrag tool will use alot of the computers resources so its hard to do other things when its running. Defrag comes with Windows, just go under
Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmeter.
Click Analyze to see of the computer recommends defragging, if so, continue and it should be done when you get back. Just make sure your done for the day, because its much better to leave it run without pausing, as you may be moving a critical file.

Well thats about it, this should make a big difference if you are experiencing slow load times and general PC problems. If you like dthis article, please share it with a friend. You can post this article on your blog or website as long as you leave all the links in place.

Wesley Warren


Annual PC Maintenance ©Copyright 2007-2008 - Originally Published 12/05/07 Wesley Warren - Founder and CEO of Vexcom Inc. Wesley runs several blogs and sites including MYOFB, Ninja Freelance and Freelance Designers. He lives in metro Atlanta and has been developing interactive web sites and programming since 1995.

Return to the Business Department, or back to the Front Page

Do you like DTG? If you have found benefit from the content found here, why not help by becoming a Friend of the Design Center? You'll be helping us continue our ten-year tradition of quality content on the web.

Participate in your Design Center

Lots of fun and information for all... don't forget, any community is only as good as the participation of its members. We invite your tips, tricks, comments, suggestions and camaraderie.