Extend The Life Of Your PC

December 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

If your personal computer doesn’t seem as fast as it used to be, you may be able to postpone buying a newer, faster computer by doing a little performance tuning. Over time, your computer has taken on many more tasks than you may realize. With long-term repeated use, your PC must work harder to produce the same results that it did fresh out of the box. Let’s look at a number of items that are easy to change that may put the zip back in you PC.

Let’s look at a list of the things that can steal your computers resources and are easily remedied. They are:

- Insufficient memory.

- Unnecessary programs that load every time you turn on your computer.

- Multiple active user logins on the same computer.

- Playing music CDs while working.

- Advanced graphical features like fade in/fade out, visual drag and drop, special graphics themes, and intricate wallpaper pictures.

- Multiple antivirus programs.

- Internet trash that has collected over time.

- Fragmented hard drives.

Adding memory to your computer is simple and probably the best way to improve performance. Generally speaking, the more memory your computer has the better it will perform, within reason. With Windows XP, you should have a minimum of 512 megabytes of memory. If you require more than 4 applications to be open simultaneously you may want to upgrade to one gigabyte of memory. Insufficient memory is the least costly hardware remedy for slow performance, yet it is often the most overlooked solution.

After memory, unnecessary programs that load at startup rob more computer speed than anything else. The easiest method of identifying unwanted/unnecessary programs is to invoke the Task Manager screen in Windows, by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del simultaneously and clicking on the Task Manager button. Click the Processes tab and Task Manager will display a list of processes that are active, the total number of processes and the current CPU usage. The first item to check is the CPU usage, which should be very low (below 10 percent and normally around two to four percent). If CPU usage is significantly higher than 10 percent, look at the list of processes to see which processes are sapping your computing horsepower. You will identify the guilty process by the CPU usage number to the right of the particular process. Write down the name of the process and its corresponding usage for later use (note that the System Idle Process should always be high as this is the unused portion of your CPU’s capability). Also important is the number of active processes which should normally be between 25 and 42. The higher the number of active processes the greater the demands on your computer, and the more likely you are to have unnecessary programs running. If at this point you have identified that you have a problem and you don’t know how to resolve it, contact your computer service technician for assistance. Otherwise, remove the offending programs.

In addition to identifying any unnecessary programs, you can make some simple changes that will improve your computer’s performance. If you play music CDs, get a boom box. If you have more than one user login on your computer, before logging on, check to see that other user’s have not left programs running (Windows tells you this on the login screen where you click on your login name). If so, talk to your coworkers about exiting all programs before logging off the computer. Eliminate any visual themes that you may have added to your desktop, such as wall papers or fancy mouse pointers.

Now, restart your computer and see if your performance is noticeably better. If performance is still unacceptable, go ahead with your new PC purchase with the confidence that it is a necessary investment, but keep the above information handy and check your new system regularly to assure that you get the most bang for your buck.
Vol 3, Issue 11

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