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POST YOUR LIST Top Five Tasks to Keep a PC Running at Optimal


									POST YOUR LIST: Top Five Tasks to Keep a PC Running at Optimal Performance
Jason Hiner
Time to throw down the gauntlet for all the IT pros who pride themselves in being able to set up
the most rock solid PCs in the world (before users get a hold of them, of course *WINK*
*WINK*). What are the top five tasks that you would recommend for maintaining optimal
performance on a PC? This can include loading software programs, tweaks to the default settings,
login scripting funtions, or anything else that you can think of to help make a PC as trouble-free
as possible over a long period of time.

1. HMMMM, thre's so many!

Obviously though:

AdAware to clean out trojans and malware. (run it REGULARLY!)

AntiVirus software: AVG Free edition is no diferent than Norton, excet it's free and doesn't cause
problems that Norton seems to by hogging resources.

Regular defragmenting on a schedule.

Protect against brower hijacks with IESPY ad and Hijackthis.


Also if using XP,
Helpful for getting it to act a little better right from the start by removing all the junk that slows
down XP to begin with.

1.1. Updates

Just to add to that

Encourage your users to actually use the web update feature of ad-aware. You'd be surprised how
many don't use updated definitions.

Grisoft AVG is fine as long as a virus hasn't got into the computer. AVG cannot be run in safe
mode on XP computers and the DOS mode doesn't always seem to get rid of the viruses (if you
can fathom out how to access it in XP). For this reason I recommend as a freebe
for home, non commercial users - It does a good job in safe mode, will dig in deep if you want it
to, also it updates itself automatically. Updating AVG foxes some users!!!
1.1.1. AVG and DOS ?
Otto Roverts

Grisoft AVG Rescue Disk is normally larger than the 1.44Mb disk itself! So I've worked around
that by having AVG put all the Rescue files on a clean PC in a rescue folder on the local HDD.
Then burn a bootable CD (using Nero Xpress) and add the Rescue files to that CD. Boot up with
the CD on the infected PC, copy the Rescue folder onto the infected HDD, and run the AVG.exe

2. Maintenance

I will focus this post on the hardware side of things.

Clean the filters, fan blades, heat-sinks and case vents.

If you don't have positive case pressure, clean the floppy and CD drives.

Check cords and cables for signs of misuse and abuse.

Clean or replace the mouse and keyboard.



2.1. my list

1. Norton SystemWorks Pro (so you get Ghost, too). Run all tools within and update regularly,
and have an external HD to run the Ghost backup to.
2. Norton Personal Firewall - update regularly.
3. A combination of Spybot Search and Destroy 1.3 and AdAware SE (what one doesn't get, the
other usually does, but make sure you delete the quarantine file of one before running the other).
Update regularly.
4. Disable and Stop Windows Messenger Service in XP.
5.Windows Update - plug dem security holes! Turn off XP firewall if you have another. Don't
make 'em fight for control.

2.1.1. Your list is the same as mine....but

Your recomendations seem to be the ones that I also found work best.
I recently installed the SP2 from the IT site when it first was made availabe from Mocrosoft (the
full 277mb version) and for awhile thought it was the best thing to come down the 'Gates pike' in
years, but there was a problem with the 'run' commands, still not sure if it was something I
downloaded with 'Shareza' or 'kazaa' but when i tried to remove SP2 to do a repair of XP, my
system crashed and i lost over 5 years of material. Thank God I backed up most of my info on
So where am I now?.....A fresh install of XP Pro and when it came time to 'update' from
Microsoft, I got to the 'update page' and when it said it had to begin by downloading that little
program to inspect my pc, I stopped right there and continued without any 'updates'. Not even that
'system inspection' download.
I dont have any really important stuff on my pc so what the heck.....and with the exact same
programs that you recommended I feel its time to let the 'chit fly' without even the first update
originally released when XP Pro was first made available.
If you are interested, the pc is running excellent and I might add very fast.
I'll keep you posted if you wish.
This is just a small test.
dc WinPatrol a wonderful tool

I forgot to mention 'updates' of all software is always activated on my pc.
And another tool that every pc should never be without is 'Winpatrol' available free at
PS: I dont work for this company but it has proven an invaluable aid in keeping programs from
installing on my pc without knowing it and more. No more unwanted and mysterious programs in
'startup' at MSCONFIG. Systems infected with Spyware before install will crash hard on SP2 install

I've installed SP2 now on quite a few systems, and have had no real issues but one - if the system
in question is currently infected with any of a variety of spyware, SP2 will DESTROY the OS. It
will corrupt the Explorer.exe file or something lovely along those lines. This also holds true if you
install SP2 on a now-clean system that had any significant amount of registry damage or
alteration from malware.

The solutions, sort of:
- I find that the full administrative installation file for SP2 is a far better way to go than the
incremental automatic updates. I've had absolutely identical systems where the one using
automatic updates gets completely SNAFU'd while the one I updated via the single file went
beautifully. It is also overall a lot faster.
- If this is your personal system, or an important production machine, it will pay off in the long
run to pave and reload the whole thing. Back up your data, locate your installation CDs (or point
to your Administrative Install Point for you good SysAdmins ), and then pave the drive.
*** Remove the partitions, and install WinXP absolutely clean.
*** Install XP SP1a, if not already included in your XP build
*** Install Office and Norton AV (or whatever AV). Do this now, because SP2 wants to see
active AV, and you want the Office DLLs and such installed prior to SP2.
*** Run update to completely AV version, apply current Office Service Pack. Norton has issues
with SP2 unless current.
*** Ensure that the system is good to this point, with devices recognized, Office running
correctly, etc.
*** Install SP2 from Administrative install file (the big one).
*** Run Windows Update & Office Update to pick up last-minutes security patches.
*** Install other software and restore data.

The benefit to going through all this pain is a MUCH faster system. Once I had seen the effect
this had on a couple of client machines, I went home and did the same to my system. It took
several hours to be sure, but the difference is amazing and well worth the effort!! hmmm

Don't you think it is a little shortsighted to avoid security patches? After all, it is only with
security patches that the vulnerabilities are actually corrected. With as quickly as exploits are
released after vulnerabilities are identified, firewall and antivirus alone will not properly protect
your computer. My list puts critical patches at the top and my computers run as well as they did
day-1. Most of computer slowness tends to be resource related; unnecessary services, applications
that automatically start on boot, fragmented drives, large pre-fetch cache, etc. I think you will find
that a properly maintained machine will suite you better.

My List
1. Critical Patches for Windows and Applications - Installed after proper review of the patch.
Regular updates of security patches remove the vulnerability that future exploits could take
advantage of - it's better to close the door than to continue swatting the flies.
2. Antivirus / AntiAdware / AntiSpyWare - Always running with regular updates and scans.
Antivirus is great for preventing self inflicted wounds and protects yourself from unprotected
friends and co-workers who are may unknowingly “spread-the-wealth” by personally delivering
the virus to you. Although behind with the trends, Antivirus companies are implementing adware
and spyware detection/prevention. Ad-aware and SpyBot S&D are my favorite independent
application for detection and removal but they are not perfect.
3. Firewall - my preference is a true stateful, hardware-based firewall for bi-directional protection
/ prevention. When properly configured, a firewall will not only protect your system but may also
help prevent it from spreading a virus should you be unfortunate enough to be infected.
4. Proper role based access - It is not necessary to run all of your application with full
administrative rights. Minimize the affects of auto-installing adware, and spyware by limiting
your ability (and other family members) from unknowingly installing them. Also, if using Internet
Explorer, review the security settings for proper configuration - if in doubt, set to the defaults.
5. Reduce running Services and Applications - Know what services you need and what
application you require at start up. Unused services are not only a security risk but they also eat
up valuable resources as do application that auto-start. Identify what you need to start (i.e.
Antivirus) and configure the others to not run automatically. Anything running as a personal
account in task manager is fair game for examination. Also, regular evaluation of running
application should also reveal unwanted adware/spyware.

As with all things, keep a clear balance between convenience and necessity. If you find that your
system requirements are greater then your designated configuration, increase resource, like adding
memory. If you are meeting systems specs and truly maintaining your PC, I think you will find
that it has greater longevity with more satisfying results.
3. 5 tasks

Well, here are the five - most common:
1. proper OS installation - in respect of the demands of the OS needs (RAM, processor, HDD
2. mirroring is a good solution if used with sata HDDs
3. disable the diskete while under "any user" profile (except administrator)
4. setup the proper amount of the swap file size
5. defragment the partitions at least once a week

and other 5 to add to them :P

6. install and setup corectly a firewall
7. update and patch your OS - if needed (after a research on the net to know what the patch is
adding/fixing .. or not )
8. install a good spyware program - Oz gave some goos examples
9. limit as much as you can/know the users rights to "put their hands" on the computer, interfering
with its proper "behaviour"
10. .. well .. the 10th are the other tasks I have not mention here (backup, hardware maintenance,

4. My tasks

Assuming there is a fresh install and the Windows OS exists

1. Update the OS first with the latest patches and set it to
automatically update itself in the future.

2. Defrag the hard disk and schedule an auto event every
week for office computers, every 2-3 weeks for home

3. Set up McAfee's VirusScan, Personal Firewall Plus,
SpamKiller and Privacy Service. Test and configure each and
every component of the McAfee system. Set up auto-

4. Install all the necessary programs required for the
computer. Then tweak the OS and eliminate auto-startup of
certain unrequired tasks from within Control Panel >
Administrative tools > Services

5. Document and educate the user on the habits of using
the firewall, the disk writer for backup and the anti-virus
scanning of floppies.
5. Just the one

Switch to L***x....... :P)

5.1. Clean your Registery

sure anit-virus, firewall, pop-up blockers, spywares are important but make sure you also have
registery cleaning software (e.g. Registery Mechanic) which helps to keep your PC running

5.2. Ahhh Ha!

"There's no set architecture in Linux. All roads lead to madness". -MS

6. Cynical
Nick Weller

Don't let users near them!

6.1. Dilbert would agree

Scott Adams seems to be on the same wavelength - I'm still laughing about the Pointy-Haired-
Boss' laptop: when he asked how to reboot it, Dilbert gently reminded him to simply turn it upside
down and shake it...

7. These always worked for me!

I found that employees will make the computer the focal point of their desk and will often fiddle
with it, eat over it and generally play with it when they do not have other pressing work. I have
developed several subtle methods to minimize this non-productive playing with the result that the
employees use the computer only when absolutely necessary and for a minimum period of time -
keeping MTBF very high. Here's how:

1. Label every keyboard with the debilitating effects of carpol tunnel syndrome.
2. Install security software that changes the terminal access password every hour to an anagram of
the date. For instance, Thursday, September Twelfth becomes YARD SHUT BEET SPERM

3. Label every monitor with the following warning: "CAUTION - This Monitor emits 24 Milli-
GAUSS of Electro-Magnetic RADIATION - The Highest Levels are within 36" in front of

4. Flash a subliminal message every 4 seconds for 1/16th of a second that reads, "USE A

5. Change all of the .WAV files for activity sounds to 7 seconds of the sound of fingernails on a

These methods usually result in users making use of their computers as little as possible. I almost
never have to add the sixth method.......

6. Add a small warning sticker in the lower corner of the monitor that reads - "Regulations require
management to notify every user that video monitoring of office spaces is activated whenever
computer is powered on".

Try these and I think you will see that they really do work.

7.1. Copyrighted?

Excellent suggestions. Assuming I can use these free of charge, I think I'll implement them today.

8. Preparation

[1] partition drive in c: d: e: c=OS, d=data, e=hidden image of fresh installation. Move "My
Docs" to d:, along w/ other user data - mail, etc. This enables c: to be imaged over w/o having to
stress over loss of user's info. Obviously, only make the image when the setup is correct. In my
case I make 2 images, one with the OS, drivers, etc, in and 100%, and another with the previous +
apps. In both cases, user data is relocated to d: prior to imaging.

[2] Remove Internet Explorer. Replace with Firefox

[3] Remove Outlook Express.

[4] Lock users accounts down such that they cannot install *anything*; this sometimes results in
complaints, but its better to remote in and install the app [if its needed] than have to rebuild b/c
the errant user installed SpyWar3zExxxxTreme! or a variant thereof

[5] Defrag overnight. Turn off autoupdate in Windoze. Network A/v. [ok, so I cheated; its a list of
7, not 5...]

All of this assumes, of course, that the hardware was appropriate to start with and has enough
RAM, etc.


First and foremost, have an automated backup process for crtical files, or better, do a full disk
image. The process must be automated and it is easier if you have an external hard drive to do
this. The best products I have found for this are: BackUpMyPC and Powerquest Drive Image.

Second, and this is free, defrag you hard disk at least monthly. Before you do the defrag make
sure you clear Internet cache, delete all TMP files, and empty the Recycle Bin. Don't forget to
clear the Deleted Mail folder also.

Third, make sure you have at least TWICE the 'recommended' memory for your OS if you want to
execute programs more quickly. I always max out my computers with memory. It is relatively
cheap, anyone can install it, and when coupled with #2, can help you keep your computer for
another year or two.

Fourth, protect your computer from viruses, malware and pop-up's.

Make sure you have a virus protection program that starts automatically and has automatic virus
definition updates.

Don't spend a bunch of money for the malware protection. The Google toolbar with pop-up block
is free and works well. Ad-Aware for the individual is free and works well. Spybot Search
&Destroy (don't you just love that name?) for the individual is free and works well. I would run
Ad-Aware and Spybot S&D at least every two weeks. Make sure you check of updates before
running these programs.

Fifth, keep the OS, software products, and drivers/firmware up to date. If you have Windows, the
update process is well defined and somewhat automatic (critical only). Most newer software
products (Adobe, for instance) can be configured to check for updates automatically each time
you execute the software. Configure any products with the option to check automatically and that
will save you some time and effort. Many Driver updates can be accomplished by using the
Windows Update service. For firmware updates, you usually have to go to the product
manufacturer sites. I consider the BIOS update to be firmware and if you are updating to Win XP,
I would check to see if there is a new BIOS and install it BEFORE installing XP. Sony computers
are especially vulnerable in this area. Don't forget the firmware for external hardware such as
external disk drives and routers.

10. In all of the posts I didn't see chkdisk...

I think all of the posts are good ideas. I particularly like the nails on chalkboard wav idea, but I
didn't see any mention of checkdisk. They have hidden it well in XP. My Computer > right-click
the drive letter you want to check > Properties > Tools tab > Error Checking Check Now button
and check both options to fix file system errors and recover bad sectors. It will run upon reboot. I
usually do this then defrag.

11. Top 5

1 Good Anti-Virus set up to automatically update DAT's daily and run at least 3 times a week
2. Make larger swap file
3. Install Diskkeeper and set up for automatic defrag (Also run boot time defrag on setup)
4. Run windows updates on at least a weekly basis
5. Install Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, and JV16 Power Tools and run weekly

11.1. lock it down

pc's without cd, or floppy. os locked down with password for user unable to load anything. lock
out usb ports for input. Set up auto defrag etc. be available to put on anything that is required by
the user and allowed by the company.

12. Top 5 Tasks You`ll Ever Need To Do


13. Drink coffee.

1. Keep the PC software Up to date. (OS, AV, etc)
2. Garbage collection: Remove cookies, temp files, unused programs, etc. Drink a cup of coffee.
3. Check for users permissions, security policies, events, etc)
4. Backup critical information. (Critical docs and registry). More coffee.
5. Document realized tasks. (with tea)

14. Auto Updates

Many of the suggestions here mention auto-updates. These are so important, IMO, for the non
computer literate users.

For the single home user I recommend
1. XP SP2 with auto updates and firewall
2. Anti-virus updates automatically and traps emails well
3. Anti-spyware "a squared" seem most effective and has helped me
out where ad-aware, unusually, failed.
4. Remind users that their internet activity is logged somewhere deep inside!
5. Convince broadband users to pay for McAfee internet security

For soho:

1. Set up XP as above
2. Install Mcafee internet security but, as someone else commented, spend some time setting it up
and testing it - it does interfer with the e-mail from some ISPs, but, in my experience causes less
problems than Norton.
3. Show the user how to back up data to CD because one day, the computer will go wrong beyond
recovery - that's as certain as death and taxes.

For corporate - I leave that to others here with that experience


Create a partition on the backside of your hard drive for the users documents and other non static
files as well as a full ghost image of the original configuration right after you built it.

You could even provide the end user with instructions and a ghost boot CD to enable them the
ability to recover the original configuaration for themselves. All data is stored on the secondary
partition so a reghosting of the OS partition will not destroy all the users documents.

16. I think it starts before you buy Computer Components

I prefer to build my own computer. That gives me control over the quality and reliability of every
part in the computer.

Start by looking at the reliability of the chipset first
The chipset is the traffic cop on the motherboard. Poorly designed chipsets will have bugs that
could generate errors on a computer. Read reviews of the latest chipsets and pick the one with the
highest rating. Just type “chipset review” into a search engine. When you select a chipset, you
have also selected the brand of processor (AMD, Pentium, or Cyrix) that goes with it.

Find and read reviews of motherboards with your selected chipset on it
Look for motherboards by brand name reputation. Reviewers will do a comparison of
motherboards from different manufacturers, with the same chipset on each of them.

Avoid using a motherboard with integrated video. They use shared video memory.
The cheapest type of video is incorporated onto the motherboard and usually has no memory of
its own; rather it forcefully allocates (called sharing) a portion of the computers main memory.
The processor really can no longer use it for other processes.

I prefer a modem which has both DSP (digital signal processing), and an onboard controller.
Software modems do not have DSP or an onboard controller, or they may have one or the other,
but not both. Some software modems can place a huge demand on your processor and memory,
which can lead to lock-ups and errors if the processor and memory cannot keep up with demands.

Keep up with tech advances and don’t create bottlenecks
Avoid bottlenecks by not using obsolete tech. Don’t put a 2X AGP video card in a 4X AGP port
or a 8X AGP port. Get a motherboard with a PCI Express port instead of AGP. Avoid matching a
5400 rpm, UDMA 33 hard drive with a mother board capable of UDMA 133, or better yet use
SATA hard drives. If a motherboard is built to support PC3200 memory, avoid installing PC2100.

Power Supplies – After the chipset, the next most critical part of a PC
“you can tell someone is a computer geek because they spend more money on their power supply
then on their motherboard”

Use top-of-the-line PC Power & Cooling or Antec brand power supplies. The power supply is a
large contributor to the stability of a PC. Cheap power supplies are manufactured to very low
standards. The following links give results of a stress test performed on 21 power supplies.
Running a power supply well below its rated capacity is essential for stable and long-lasting
system and can save you from frustrating errors, hangs and freezes. Quality power supplies do a
much better job of smoothing out fluctuations, and maintaining a consistent supply of electricity.
A voltage spike or drop at a critical time such as a read or write to memory, or to the hard drive,
will introduce errors and lockups. It can also damage components. Some cheap power supplies
provide reasonably clean power when first turned on, but the quality degrades as they heat up.

This is another area where you do not want to skimp.

The following is an excerpt from Crucial Memory website.
“Generic Memory”
"So what happens to the parts that failed testing? Some get thrown out, but many are re-tested and
graded to lesser speeds and/or conditions (i.e. without guardbands). Others aren't even re-tested
(even though they might not have gone through burn-in). Yes, these lower-grade modules will
probably work today, but they're more prone to marginal performance and failures, especially
over time. DRAM manufacturers often sell this memory to third party vendors who then re-label
them with their own brand name. Third party vendors are often required to remove the original
DRAM manufacturer's name from the chips. This memory is typically referred to as "generic
memory." "

The following is another excerpt from Crucial Memory website.
“Who else manufactures memory?”
"There are only a handful of "true" manufacturers of memory - that is, companies who fabricate
the memory chips. These manufacturers sell their chips mostly to major computer manufacturers
for use in their systems. In the memory upgrade market, however, there are a number of vendors
who claim to be memory manufacturers, but the truth is, these vendors buy the memory chips
from a manufacturer like Micron, then, merely assemble the modules. Other vendors in the
upgrade market simply buy the modules from a manufacturer, repackage them, and sell them
under their brand name. We believe that Micron is the first true memory manufacturer to ship its
products directly to consumers. "
From: but you will have to drill down a few web pages to find the
exact page these came from.

Some "100 MHz - 10 ns" generic and discount memory may be labeled and misrepresented as
"PC100”, but must actually be 6 ns or 7 ns and 125 MHz or better to qualify.

The relationship between power supplies and memory
Cheap power supplies can't provide adequate well-regulated power to memory. Memory likes
higher voltage and cooler temperatures. If your power supply isn't providing sufficient ripple-free
voltage to the memory, it could cause problems.

Use adequate ventilation
Heat in the system can cause instability. If the system runs properly for a while and then becomes
unstable, you probably have a heat problem.

Always use a high quality UPS and/or surge protector!
A high quality Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) can save your system from electrical power
surges and sags. A high quality Surge protector can save your system from electrical power
surges and from indirect lightning strikes. Electrical surges and sags can cause data and OS

17. Top five:

Hasn't really changed much from OS to OS over the years:
1) Install and maintain virus protection.
2) Install software to block spyware and perform routine spyware scans.
3) Defrag the drive regularly, depending on usage.
4) Regularly delete .tmp files and clean up IE's cache.
5) Be EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS with files received via the Internet, whether by WWW, FTP,
P2P, or Email. Save to disk before viewing/opening, and scan all executables before use!

18. Top five tasks

1. Do not connect a new pc to the internet until you can stand it up behind a strong firewall. It
only takes an average of 20 minutes for a new machine to be compromised.

2. Run windows updates and download all critical updates first.

3. Install AV software and check that pattern files are current.

4. Install SpywareBlaster, Spyware Guard, BHODemon, Startup Monitor and Spybot Search and

5. Use Task Scheduler to schedule regular defrags and Windows Updates to schedule automatic

18.1. Those are the ones I'd do

That's exactly what I do.
1. Firewall (preferably hardware)
2. Update windows / defrag h.d. (use scheduler)
3. Antivirus (norton or mcafee)
4. Spyware (spybot AND adaware)
5. Remove junk from startup (folder & registry)

18.1.1. Spybot & Adaware

Everyone seems to mention both Spybot & Adaware to as a protective measure.
I know that there is a personal edition of Adaware which is free - but that is only "one copy of the
Software soley for your internal, non-commercial, operations on a single computer."

I support a small business network, I assume I'd have to pay to install Adaware...

On the other hand, Spybot S&D is totally free - it's always nice to get a license agreement that
includes dedications - and requests for prayers...



19. PCs for public use

If you need to set up PCs for public use-schools, libraries, Internet cafes, etc., I recommend a
great little product called "DeepFreeze" by Faronics. Every time you turn off or reset the PC, it
ghosts the PC back to the original image you set up, and it does it quickly. Of course, also lock
down the user's access with the WinAdmin Group Policies. Since I run a Novell Netware LAN, I
also use the user profiles there and Zenworks for DeskTops to further lock down user access and
privileges-much more user friendly and powerful than WinAdmin for this purpose.

Staff PCs do not get DeepFreeze of course, but are locked down to varying degrees with
ZenWorks, Netware and WinAdmin Group Policies.

As mentioned by many, good anti-virus program with regular updates, patches carefully applied
after research to be sure no conflicts, and lots of regular user education, communication about
safe computing practices.

20. Get the Best Performance from your current PC

I will focus on how to get the best performance from you current PC. There are many excellent
posts here, however none deal exclusively with performance issues.
So I will not discuss the single best hardware upgrade for performance is to add more system
I will not discuss the absolutely necessary tasks of protecting your computer with current
antivirus software, spyware/adware software, firewalls (both software and hardware based),
popup blockers, and spam filters, because lets face it, all of these necessary protection programs
really bog down our PCs.
I will also not discuss the absolutely critical task of backing up all of your PC data religiously,
and actually testing to verify if you can restore the data once in a while.

This post is about the TOP Five Tasks to keep a PC running at Optimal performance.

#1 - Software Updates. If you don't know this already, then let me break the news to you -- ALL
SOFTWARE HAVE BUGS, really! It's not just Microsoft. Since exploiting software bugs has
risen to the number one sport in the world, then if you do only one task, this is the one!
Software operates at many levels in your PC and each level may have software updates:
1) BIOS and Firmware - This is the software that run on Read-Only (flash) memory directly from
the motherboard. Check your PC mfg. tech support site for updates. BIOS updates are usually
required to support hardware updates such as faster Processors, power management, and new
peripheral standards. In some cases you may find firmware updates for your peripherals such as
printers, CDRW/DVD drives, and DSL/cable routers.
2) Operating System - For windows go to For MAC's go to For *nix go to the tech support web site appropriate for your distro.
However in many cases, a support contract is required to receive updates -- who ever said open
source was "free" software?
3) Drivers - One of the leading root causes of performance problems are buggy device drivers,
especially video drivers. First check your PC mfg tech support web site. For 3rd party or add-in
components check your documentation for its tech support web site. In many cases the windows
update site will have updates to certified drivers bundled with windows. Caution: Always use
extreme care when installing driver updates to ensure it is the correct one. The wrong driver can
render the PC unbootable, require a hard drive format, and in rare cases damage the hardware
4) Applications - For the 95% of use who use Microsoft Office you can go to to automatically detect and install the appropriate updates. Revisit the
site after each updates, as new updates may apply after the first set is installed. For all other
applications, visit the software publisher's tech support web site.

#2 - Minimize the number of programs running. Everyone can remember how quick their
computer ran when they first took it out of the box. However, each software installation, is like
adding another straw to the camel's back, and slows down the computer bit by bit. Here's a news
flash, your computer isn't getting slower, you are asking it to do more and more. Lighten your
computers load at two levels:
1) At the user level, simply don't leave windows open or programs running if you are not using
them. Common sense, but you would be surprised how many people leave web browser, Word,
Excel, and Outlook running in the background whether they need it or not.
2) The real problem lies at the system level where many unnecessary programs are running in the
background taking up valuable system resources. Evaluate each program carefully since many
perform useful functions you want to keep. If you are not sure of the programs function then leave
it in place. However, you can make a significant performance improvement by removing the ones
you are positive that you no longer need. These programs start from several different locations:
i) Some of these programs are visible in the windows system tray next to the clock. Some have
right click menus that allow them to be disabled, others exit only to be launched again on reboot.
ii) Some programs are launched automatically from the Startup group. Move or delete
unnecessary entries. Sometimes there are two Startup groups, one for all users, and one for the
currently logged on users. Don't remove items from the All User startup group unless you have
verified that all users no longer use the program.
iii) Disable unused Windows system services. Again, only those you are positive you no longer
need, if in doubt, leave it.
iv) The sneaky programs start from the RUN registry entries. Programs which typically have no
user interface launch from here. (this is also where most viruses, trojan horses, and spyware like
to insert themselves too!). Use regedit or Microsoft's best undocumented utility - msconfig. For
Windows 2000 users copy the XP version.

#3 - Optimize User Interface. Some people really get carried away in this area to personalize their
desktop, however there are some significant performance improvements that can be made by
turning off some of the "eye candy" of the Windows UI desktop. In Windows XP most of the
display features can easily be turned off in the Control Panel -> System icon -> Advanced Tab ->
Performance Settings. Select Adjust for Best Performance. For other Windows version use 3rd
party utilities Tweak UI or X-Setup Pro to fine turn your desktop features; A word of caution
about these utilities, you can really screw up your computer with them so be careful, and backup
your registry before using them.

#4 - Optimize Hardware settings. Many hardware performance values are set in the system BIOS.
Many system BIOS have a Load Optimal Settings to automatically set the best performance
values available. If you have problems then return to the factory default values. Caution:
Advanced users can tweak individual settings, but many values are interrelated, and you can
damage your hardware if set incorrectly. The most common misconfigured item is the IDE
interface for the hard drive. Be sure to enable DMA or UDMA in the BIOS if available. Also
verify DMA is selected in the IDE interface within the Windows Device Manager. Also be sure to
use an 80-pin IDE cable instead of a 40-pin from the motherboard to the hard drive otherwise, the
IDE will downshift to a much slower data rate. Sometimes a $3.00 cable can make a huge
difference in hard drive performance.

#5 - Hard drive maintenance. Although it is often over rated, proper hard drive maintenance can
not be ignored. Most versions of Windows will automatically run a scandisk / chkdsk in the event
of a system crash or improper shutdown, but you can also run it yourself if you need a warm
fuzzy. Opinions on Defrag vary great. My advice is fairly middle of the road. Your hard drive will
always have fragmentation and is designed to function that way. Severe cases of fragmentation
will impact PC performance but not as much as you are often lead to believe. The FAT file
system is much more sensitive to fragmentation so use NTFS whenever possible. NTFS is also far
superior in self repairing and crash recovery. The defrag utility that is included with Windows is
more than adequate to keep fragmentation under control. In most environments, running it once a
month is sufficient, but if it makes you feel better it doesn't hurt to run it more often.

I know I got carried away with this long post. Please forgive my poor grammar and typos, I
usually make a few. I really enjoy the wealth of information you can find at Tech Republic and I
hope the community here finds this info useful.

Ed Hanson MCSE+I, CISSP.

20.1. Suggest adding to paragraph 2) iii). . .

I might add to "2)iii) Disable unused Windows system services. Again, only those you are
positive you no longer need, if in doubt, leave it."
- Virtually all startups are listed on the web and can be investigated by typing the name into
Google. There are also several excellent startup lists. My favorites are:

For services that can be shut down:

Also I recommend that instead of using msconfig to shut them down use one of the following:
StartupList- lists all and every autostarting app on your system. Checks Autostart folders, the
Registry Run keys, Autoexec.bat, Stub Paths, ICQ Agent, Program extensions, Win.ini,
System.ini, Wininit.ini, Wininit.bak, Winstart.bat, Dosstart.bat, as well as checking for duplicate
instances of Explorer.exe and checking for superhidden extensions. Win
95/98/98SE/ME/NT4/2000/XP. Available at:

21. Registry cleaners
Nick Weller

Does anybody have much experience of registry cleaners and there good or bad results?

22. My top 5, or 6, or 7
Here's my top choices and options...

1. Correct account set-up to limit user's ability to really
screw things up.
2. Increase the swap file
3. Spybot S&D - Run the protect mode on IE
4. Norton AV - or AV of some sort!
5. Dump the cookies weekly
6. Dump temp files weekly
7. Defrag at LEAST weekly
8. Run Win Update every Wed AM
9. Threaten anyone who runs chat with flogging


You could just get Mac's and not worry with half this
(Sorry, couldn't resist!)

I'm 1/2 Mac - 1/2 Win... I have roughly 700% fewer
issues with the Mac's than the Win Boxes.

Users on the other hand... ARRRRRGH! Aren't they the
reason why we have Winchester, Smith and Wesson
and Ruger? (Jes' kiddin')

23. Set it up well to begin with

1. Create a regular FAT partition, and size it properly to hold the paging file. Don't forget to
change the Virtual Memory settings to use this drive - this really improves performance.

2. Turn off all unnecessary system Services and Applications that run at Startup.
Some that I really love to get rid of: MS Messenger application (but NOT the messenger Service,
be careful). And the Routing and Remote Access Service - if you're not using it, it can be a
resource hog and a security risk.

3. Run ScanDisk and then Defrag every volume (you don't need to defrag that FAT partition with
the paging file, if you created it).

There's plenty more, and I would encourage anyone concerned with performance to begin with
this and further research how to tweak the Services and Startup Apps.


24. Another Tasks for PC
Has anyone mentioned the defragmenter? This can be placed on a schedule.

25. very good subject...

very good subject

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