How to keep your Windows 7 computer running fast (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jun 1, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - So you bought a new computer to run Windows 7, and you're happy with the new PCs speed. It's fast and responsive. But here's the challenge: how to keep it that way?
It's not as easy as you think. If you've spent much time at all with PCs, you know that over time, your computer seems to run slower, takes longer to boot up, and might even start to exhibit erratic behaviour. But you can fight back by adopting the following guidelines for keeping your PC running its best, regardless of whether you're running Windows 7 or an earlier version.
--- Install only the essentials
Installing too much software is the primary reason that computers get slower over time. So if you're starting fresh with a new computer or a new operating system installation, commit to installing only the applications that you use or need on a daily basis. The other programs - including freeware or shareware that you download just to try out - should be installed first on another machine until you figure out whether they earn the right to make it to your primary PC.
And if that approach doesn't sound feasible, then enlist the help of a program such as Revo Uninstaller (http://bit.ly/16Omp) that monitors program installations so that offensive applications can be removed entirely if you decide they're not worth keeping. Windows' Programs and Features utility, which is what people typically turn to in order to uninstall an application, too often leaves behind files, registry entries, and other system-cluttering debris.
There's another reason to keep your system free of unnecessary software: your hard disk. Assuming you use a conventional drive rather than a solid state disk (SSD), your hard disk will become sluggish as it fills up with data. That's because the read-write heads have to travel farther as programs and files fill the platters that make up a hard drive.
--- Install using 'custom'
Whenever you're given the choice by an installation program to choose between 'standard' and 'custom,' choose custom. Doing so typically allows you to decide which specific components of an application to install. Avoid installing anything that will likely slow down your computer when starting up or when operating. Schedulers, toolbar add-ons, or components of suites that you're not sure you need - get rid of them all during installation. If you're not sure whether you need a particular option when installing an application or suite, just do without it. If you find you need it later, you can always reinstall the program or use the Programs and Features module in the Windows Control Panel to add it later.
--- Reduce or hide fonts
You have 1200 fonts installed, and now your computer takes forever to start up. The reason: Windows reads those fonts each time you start you computer. The solution in versions of Windows prior to 7 was always to keep to a minimum the fonts you have installed. That's still good advice, but you have another option as well.
The new Windows 7 font manager, accessible by typing 'fonts' in the Start menu, now includes a Hide option. 'Hidden' fonts are still technically installed in Windows 7, but they are unavailable to applications, and they don't have to be read into memory, which will speed up your startup time and overall system performance. To hide fonts, simply select them in the font manager and click Hide. To unhide them, select the fonts, and click Show.
--- Look for slimmed-down versions
'Full featured' applications today are almost synonymous with bloatware - software which, thanks to the plethora of features and add-ons that have accumulated over the years, is almost guaranteed to slow down your computer. Avoid bloatware, and look instead at scaled-back versions of critical applications. Many companies, for instance, are putting out 'essentials' versions of their software. These slimmer versions typically do everything that most people need and have a much smaller footprint.
Also, look for programs developed specifically to be lightweight and fast. Instead of the full Adobe Acrobat product, for example, which installs all sorts of toolbar buttons and extra menus into your applications, consider turning to the free CutePDF Writer (http://www.cutepdf.com) - perfect for the person who only occasionally needs to produce a PDF file. Similarly, many people swear by the Foxit PDF reader (http://bit.ly/CtaPl), which bills itself as the 'no bloat' reader.
The same approach can be used to keep your PC free of other software that has a reputation for bloat, such as CD and DVD creation tools. If all you need to do is burn an occasional CD, for instance, turn to a slim application such as CD Burner XP (http://cdburnerxp.se) - or learn to use Windows' built-in tools for performing the same task.
--- Allow for setbacks
No matter how rigorous you are in keeping your PC lean and mean, you'll eventually break down and install something you wish you hadn't - and which your uninstaller can't seem to get rid of. In those cases, remember Windows' System Restore utility, which can roll back your computer to a prior state. Just remember to specifically create a 'restore point' before installing something you might regret. Type 'create restore point' in the Start menu, and the feature will pop right up.