Introduction

Computers are electronic machines and, just like any other machine, they tend to run slower if not properly maintained, and also with time and age. The main reason why computers slow down in performance is the unnecessary installation of applications, keeping large junk files in the hard disk, installing add-ins that becomes obsolete over time without uninstalling them, and sometimes malware may infect the computer without the user’s awareness. This useless baggage often gobbles up the computer’s storage space and other resources. So let us iterate the possible problems again:

  • Unnecessary installation of applications,
  • Keeping large junk files in the hard disk,
  • Installing add-ins that become obsolete over time and not uninstalling them

It’s a matter of time before the user will have to wait an additional ten seconds before an application can launch, each folder/file to open, long delays before printing, and slow loading of web pages. Though a ten-second delay might seem inconsequential to basic computer users, to computer geeks and professionals who value their time, a ten-second wait is like a one-minute wait. Having to wait for one whole minute for an application to start up would probably give a geek high blood pressure!

With faster output and better productivity in focus, this article will provide a list of steps that can be taken to ensure that your computer operates at peak performance. Windows OS will be prominently featured because Windows is the most used operating system, both by corporate organizations and personal users worldwide, as opposed to other operating systems such as Macintosh and Linux. These suggestions apply to Windows, Vista, Windows 7 and 8, though with slight variations in terminology.

1. Free Disk Space

This is often the simplest step one can take to free up memory needed to boost any device’s performance but it is also one of the hardest things for people to do. It is not uncommon to find PCs with 80% used disk space. How the owners of such computers expect their system to run fast with hardly any space in their hard disk is an irony. Even though users hardly open or use 70% of the files on their computers for a very long time, when asked to delete some files, users instantly develop headaches.

When required to delete old files, you may consider deleting some of the items below:

  1. Movies you have watched.
  2. Songs you hardly listen to and can easily be downloaded online.
  3. Installation/exe files of apps you no longer use.
  4. Clear the downloads folder after moving important files.
  5. Old documents you no longer need personally or officially need.

2. Uninstall Moribund Applications

Most computers comes pre-loaded with trial applications and software that are no longer needed by the user and are still being allocated memory each time the computer is turned on. These moribund apps also take considerable hard disk space. To reduce boot-up time, free up more memory and improve other applications’ performance, one must uninstall applications that have become moribund and no longer in use.

In theControl Panel,selectPrograms and Features. ClickUninstallprogram. A box with the list of all installed applications will open. Right click on each moribund application and selectUninstall/Change. Tick appropriate answers to questions if required to complete the uninstall process. System restart may be required to complete the un-installation of some applications.

Figure 1

3. Reduce the Number of startup Programs

To make a computer boot up faster, it is best to keep the number of startup applets to the barest minimum. This is done in various ways in Windows 7 and Windows 8. In windows 7, run the system configuration (Ctrl+R, type in “msconfig”, and hit enter; you can search “msconfig” from the Start Menu). In the startup tab, un-tick/disable the boxes of the applications you do not require at start-up.

Figure 2

For Windows 8, right click on theTaskbar in the desktop and selectTask Manager. In theTask Managerdialog box, click on theStartuptab, right-click any unnecessary program, anddisableit. Restart the computer again and you will be surprised at the speed it would boot up.

3. Rebuild Search Index

If you use the search bar to search a keyword and it takes several for Windows Explorer to bring up files related to the keyword, there may be issues with the computer’s file index. The searching process can be speeded up by deleting and rebuilding the computer’s file index.

In theControl Panel,searchIndexing Options.SelectAdvancedand clickRebuildas seen in the picture below. If prompted for confirmation or administrator password, provide confirmation or the password. However, this process may take several hours, depending the size and speed of the hard disk and amount of files stored in it. It is better to do index rebuild overnight or when you have a lot of free time.

Figure 3

4. Download Apps With Care

Many times users are tempted to try out some utilities and applications that promise to add value to the computer. This might make one download and install several applications in a bid to find the one that meets one’s requirements.

However, uninstalling the other applications that did not meet the criteria can be a daunting task. When an application is uninstalled, it leaves garbage—residual files and folders in the computer. Marauding dlls of uninstalled apps that no longer have any specific function will continue to trouble the system unnecessarily. As seen with the uninstallation of Freedom Fighters in figure 1, uninstalling the app will only remove it, the game’s folder and residual files will have to be deleted manually.

One can useWinTasks,a Windows utility, to help identify processes that are unnecessary and delete them. If you are unsure of which process to delete, you may block the process and then run the computer normally. If the computer is not affected by the blockade, you may go ahead and delete the process.

5. Defragment and Run Disk Cleanup

Defragging is a way of repairing the hard disk and consolidating files in the hard disk. Regular defragging will help the computer run better with easier access to one’s files. To perform disk defragmenting, right click on the disk drive in the computer and select properties. Click the Tools tab, selectDefragment Now, select the drive you wish to defragment and clickDefragment Disk.

Figure 4

Disk cleanup will search the hard disk for temporary files, thumbnails, unnecessary large files, moribund installation files, and other useless clutters. To clean up your disk, in the computer, right-click on the hard drive, click/select Properties, and selectDisk Cleanupas shown below.

Figure 5

5. Shut Down/Restart Computer Regularly

Some people run their computers for many months without restarting or shutting down. This often results in memory leak, a situation in which a closed application holds on to memory allocated to it instead of giving it up. As a result, the computer will run out of memory (RAM and cache space) faster. To avoid this, it is recommended that you shut down or restart the computer periodically in order to avoid memory leak, recover memory from closed programs, and improve computer performance.

6. Refresh Windows Installation

This is a last-gasp option for computer systems that are severely bogged down by poor performance after all other options have failed. This tool will reinstall Windows on the computer while preserving all user data and most of system settings. In theControl Panel,searchRecovery, select/click recovery. In Windows 7, clickAdvance Recovery Methodsand run the process. This task requires windows installation disk.

Figure 6

7. Buy a New Computer

While it is good to tweak your computer to perform maximally, over time, spinning parts of the computer and hard disk will eventually begin to throw up one or two problems that require it to be shipped to a tech shop for repairs. Constant breakdown and repairing of a computer can be frustrating. So, if the computer is over four years old, it is better to buy a new and more powerful computer.

However, do not rush to buy a new computer simply because it comes pre-installed with a new version of Windows. I will recommend you wait for about seven months after the release of a new Windows version before you try it out. This is because there could be bugs in the new release that you could find unpleasant. For example, the Windows 8 interface is hard to use and is also notorious for memory leak issues. This made a lot of users format their system and revert to Windows 7.

Computer Acquisition Cost Management

Many prospective new computer buyers are reluctant to purchase a newly released computer with advanced specs because they are often very expensive and over-priced. A fully customized high-end workstation, when initially released, costs over $6,000. On the other hand, a workstation with the same specs, but without a monitor, costs just about $1,000. When other essential components are purchased for the less expensive workstation, the total costs would be around $3,000. This represents about 50% cash saved.

The same goes for high-end laptops loaded with specs that most PC users hardly need. It doesn’t make sense for someone who only does word processing and Internet surfing to purchase a core i5 PC when dual-core or core i3 will do the job just fine. If you are not into tasks that require much processing power, such as media editing, web/app development, gaming, and voluminous data processing tasks, it wouldn’t make sense to purchase a new computer with high-end specs, except you have the money to buy a “Lamborghini” that you’ll only take out for a spin once in a blue moon.

Conclusion

Computers have become an indispensable tool for many people. To have a computer that performs well and fast will increase productivity and can also boost a company’s ability to handle multiple service requests at once. Given the fact that computers play important roles in helping us get our tasks done, it is good to keep the computer operating at peak performance at all times.

Reference

*Improving PC Performance without Upgrading Your Hardware: http://www.liutilities.com/news/articles/article17/

*J. Carlton Collins: Boost your computer’s performance: http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2015/sep/how-to-boost-computer-performance.html; September 1, 2015

*Justin James: Increase any PC’s performance with these 10 steps: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/windows-and-office/increase-any-pcs-performance-with-these-10-steps/; July 2, 2012

*TJ McCue: 12 Tips for Increasing Computer Speed: In Technology Trends 30; http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/06/how-to-increase-computer-speed.html; Jun 25, 2014

*Ways to improve your computer’s performance; http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/improve-computers-performance#1TC=windows-7