Free software helps to speed up your Windows PC
Jun 6, 2009, 12:47 GMT
Washington - Keeping your Windows PC speedy means ensuring that it remains free of clutter.
That's not an easy task, since it's all too easy to wind up with a system full of free or low-cost software that seemed necessary and useful at the time but ended up being more of a nuisance than a gift.
And it can, at times, seem almost impossible to prevent applications you need from installing all kinds of 'helper' applications that slow down your bootup process and increase overall system sluggishness.
Luckily, among the many free applications out there are some that can help restore your PC to the zippy state it was in when you first brought it home.
--- Get rid of applications
The best way to start decluttering your computer - and thereby speeding it up - is to remove any programs that you no longer need. Windows, of course, provides the Add/Remove Programs feature - also called Programs and Features in recent versions - that gives you an Uninstall option for most applications you have installed.
But Add/Remove Programs is notorious for leaving bits and pieces of applications behind - including empty directories and registry entries that, cumulatively, can lengthen your PC's bootup time. Thankfully, the VS Revo group has created a free utility called Revo Uninstaller (http://www.revouninstaller.com) that improves on Windows' Add/Remove Programs utility in several respects.
Revo Uninstaller loads faster than the standard Windows application removal tool, and once it's loaded, it provides you with several levels of uninstallation that Windows' own uninstallation program does not, including 'Built-in,' 'Safe,' 'Moderate,' and 'Advanced,' with each level doing a bit more to root out all traces of an application on your computer, including identifying and removing registry entries. The uninstaller itself does a good job, but the tool also provides several other features that help you expunge unnecessary files from your computer. The Junk Files Cleaner, for example, will clean up stray files left behind by running applications.
--- Speed up startup
Why does it take your PC forever to boot up, and why does the problem of slow booting seem to get worse over time? The culprits are applications that load automatically when Windows starts. All sorts of programs - from antivirus applications to word processors - install optional utilities that load automatically each time you start your PC.
The slowdown comes when Windows tries to load all of these optional utilities at the same time during the bootup process. There's no way, of course, for your hard drive or your processor to keep up with so many simultaneous requests for startup, and the result is that you have to wait a long time before you get control of your computer. The time increases as you install more applications.
The folks over at R2 Studios have thought a while about this problem, and they've come up with an elegant, free solution in the form of Startup Delayer (http://www.r2.com.au/software.php?page=2&show=startdelay).
This little application will show you, at a glance, exactly which applications and applets are scheduled to load each time you boot up your Windows PC. Once you see what's going to load, you have two choices: specify not to load the application by deselecting the box next to its name, or establish that the program or applet load a certain amount of time after Windows starts - hence the 'delayer' in the application's title.
Use Startup Delayer to look through the list of startup programs on your PC, and you're bound to see applets that you simply don't need, as well as ones that you don't need immediately when you start your PC. You'll probably find scheduling applets, perhaps an Acrobat speed launcher, some update clients, and various other little tools that add precious seconds to your bootup time. If you run across a startup program with which you're not familiar, a simple Google search will likely reveal what its purpose is and to which application it belongs.
With Startup Delayer, you can easily specify how long after bootup time these programs should be started in the background. Get them out of the way up front, and your PC will start faster.
--- Squeeze your data
There's nothing that'll slow down a PC faster than a hard drive that's almost full. To keep your Windows computer speedy, you need to maintain at least 20 per cent free space on your hard drive. If you're getting close to that, consider allowing Windows to compress your data.
Automatic data compression is one of those once cutting-edge features of Windows that has been all but forgotten. It's still there, however, and it does essentially one thing: compresses files that haven't been used in a while. To turn on file compression, simply open Windows Explorer, right-click the drive you'd like to allow compression on, and click Properties from the pop-up menu. From the General tab of the resulting Properties dialog box, select the checkbox labeled 'Compress this drive to save space, and click OK.
Windows will compress only those files that you have not used within a certain amount of time. When the compression routine is finished, you should see considerably more free space on your hard drive, and the files that were compressed will still be accessible. They might take a fraction of a second longer to retrieve, since Windows must decompress them in the background, but with today's fast computers, the decompression occurs almost instantaneously.