Is your computer running slower than it used to? Is it acting up or misbehaving? What could be causing it?
Several things can slow down your computer. Malicious software like viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, and adware are often the primary reason for a computer slowdown.
In addition to outside attacks, your system will naturally build up various internal problems. Over time several types of temporary files accumulate in massive quantities and bog down your hard drive. Errors and garbage accumulate in what's called the "windows registry file," slowing you down and sometimes causing bizarre errors. You may never have heard of the registry file, it's the file that your computer uses to keep track of all your hardware, drivers, software information and instructions; if it develops errors and garbage, your whole system starts to fall apart.
Your system has RAM or physical memory in the form of one or more memory sticks. These are usually in multiples of 256MB ranging anywhere from 256MB to several gigabytes of memory. This acts just like your own temporary memory, your computer needs it to process everything it does. When your PC runs out of this memory it slows because it starts to use virtual; memory on your hard drive which is much slower. This is your PC's back up plan, it is called a "Page" or "Swap" file, kept on your hard drive. It used this as an extension of your RAM. As your hard drive fills up, it develops fragmented files and a lack of contiguous space. This prevents your page file (also called a swap file, or artificial memory) from functioning properly. I'll discuss this more later.
With just a small investment of time and money, there are things you can do to help your system work better and make your life less stressful. You can do it yourself and save time, money and frustration.
First, let's deal with malicious software. Depending on the nature of the malicious software, all you have to do to get infected is open an email, visit the wrong web site, connect to an infected network computer, open an infected file, it's not hard.
- First things first - if your computer is in bad shape, you should back up all your important files on a disc cd-rom, dvd-rom, memory stick, external drive, or a backup service like Mozy or Carbonite. You don't want to risk loosing important or meaningful files. If you are unable to do this, because your computer is too far gone, either hire this out, or take a risk on loosing data. There is also Windows backup, backup software from various companies but best of all, inexpensive online backup services such as Mozy.com and Carbonite.com.
- Use a good, up-to-date anti-virus (AV) program. Remember, even the best anti-virus program won't catch everything. Norton AV does a good job, but it is a resource hog (meaning it will slow you down on a daily basis). McAffe AV is often rated highly, but also uses a lot of memory, as do most AV programs. If you don't already have an AV program you like and want to keep, I recommend AVG Antivirus for three reasons: it seems to be as good as any other AV program out there, it requires much less memory to run, and it's free to home users! Check out their other free stuff wile you are there. They frequently release a new version, so keep on top of it. They will notify you when this happens. When they do look for the small print link for the free version unless you want to buy it. But be aware that you the free version comes with no support. If you want support, buy the software, it's not expensive. PC Tools AntiVirus is also a good option and it's always free!
- Before we go any further, be aware that some of the utility programs below (such as Spybot and AdAware) make significant changes to your system in attempting to disinfect it. Whenever you use any utility program pay attention to the options you are presented with. If you are given a chance to "backup your registry" or create a "restore point" you should do it. This saves the configuration of your computer so you can go back to it if a major disaster happens. Also - always reboot when you are asked to, and always reboot every time you remove malicious software. Rebooting is like a good sleep, your computer will awake refreshed, working better.
- Get rid of spyware and adware. There are several programs you can use, and you may need more than one if you are badly infected or can't dislodge some mal-ware. You may also have to run some of these utilities more than once before they tell you they have found no more bugs. Most of these below are freeware but you can also buy software to do the same type of cleanup. I recommend a few later on.
Note, freeware will only remain free if you donate to the ones you like and use, the geeks who provide these handy programs can't live and work in a cardboard box!
- You could start with Adaware (free version), Dump this once your computer is clean.
- Next you might use Spybot Search & Destroy (freeware, immunize every time you update). again dump when clean.
- Finally I install and scan with a program that is active all the time such as Spyware Doctor.
If you have AOL, you can use the
AOL Anti spyware software, but i'm not crazy about it.
- You can also use Microsoft's Windows Defender which is free from microsoft - but it's a hog.
- Spyware Doctor Has gotten some top ratings and I like it.
- Google Pack offers a free version of Spyware Doctor along with other goodies.
Continue to Max's Tips part 2