The computer helper: System cleanups for better performance
By Jay Dougherty Mar 27, 2007, 6:58 GMT
Washington - You'd be surprised at just how much better your computer can run when it is freed from the digital clutter that piles up on your hard drive over time.
In some cases, your PC can go from sluggish to snappy without your having to reinstall everything from scratch.
The only difficulty is finding all of the digital debris that needs to be removed. Read on for some tips.
Q: I've heard that when you delete files from your computer, they're not really gone. Does that mean they continue taking up space?
A: It's true that when you delete a file from your hard drive, an expert could recover it, assuming that it hasn't been overwritten by additional data. It's also true that in Windows, recently-deleted data is kept track of by the Recycle Bin, which allows you to restore the files to their original state and their original location.
The files kept track of by Recycle Bin do take up space - in some cases, a lot of space - and they can potentially slow down your computer by hogging disk space that would otherwise be used by your operating system to perform its best. If you don't manually empty the Recycle Bin periodically, over time you could find that deleted data is actually taking up gigabytes worth of space.
So your first stop in attempting to free up hard drive space should be to empty the Recycle Bin of data. To do so, right-click the Recycle Bin, and from the resulting pop-up menu, click Empty Recycle Bin. The process could take some time, depending on how much data is being kept track of.
Remember that when you empty the Recycle Bin, the files that are retrievable through it are probably lost to you for good. That's just another reason why it's a good idea always to have backups.
Q: My computer is running slower than it used to. Will uninstalling programs help?
A: Probably. Uninstalling unneeded software programs should be one of the first things you try when attempting to revive a system gone sluggish.
Removing unnecessary software is a good idea not only because it frees up hard drive space, which can be used by your operating system as virtual memory, allowing it to run faster.
It's also a good idea because many software programs install memory-resident applets or tiny programs that start up whenever your computer does. These programs sit in memory the entire time you're using your PC, consuming clock cycles that otherwise could be used to give you the performance you expect.
So from time to time, visit the Add/Remove Programs section of the Windows Control Panel and remove unnecessary software. After you remove lots of software, it's a good idea to reboot your computer to make sure everything still works as it should.
Q: How do I find any temporary files on my computer that can be deleted?
A: Temporary files are created by your operating system and applications while they are running. Later on, they are not needed. Unfortunately, temporary files sometimes are not removed, as when a system crash occurs. The result is lots of additional data that, over time, can take up a great deal of hard drive space and slow down your computer.
Thankfully, it's pretty easy to find temporary files. In Windows, click Start, Search, and in the All or Part of the File Name text box, type *.tmp. Select My Computer from the Look In drop-down list box. Click More Advanced Options, and select 'Search hidden files and folders.' Now click Search.
When the search is complete, select all of the files found by opening the Edit menu and choosing Select All. Now just press the Del key.
It's also a good idea from time to time to clear out the temporary files created by your Internet browser. In Internet Explorer, open the Tools menu, and click Internet Options. Click the Delete Files button, and in the following dialog box, select Delete All Offline Content. Click OK, and the removal process will begin. Don't worry about losing data you might need. These temporary files can all be retrieved again should you revisit Web sites.
Once you've removed all of the unnecessary data cluttering your hard drive, you should notice improved performance.
--- Have a computer question? Send it to the Computer Helper at email@example.com.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur